TV revivals became an industry trend a couple years ago, but Veronica Mars was, once again, ahead of its time.
The cult UPN series—about a whip-smart high schooler moonlighting as a private detective (Kristen Bell)—signed off in 2007 after three seasons, only to return in 2014 as a feature film funded by fans through Kickstarter. Now the series has been revived a second time, as an eight-episode Hulu series (it dropped July 19) which finds Bell’s Veronica back in her hometown of Neptune, Calif., investigating a series of Spring Break bombings.
And if creator Rob Thomas has his way, the series still has several more lives in it. He spoke with Adweek about how Hulu ended up getting namechecked in the new season, why he hopes the streaming service schedules the show differently going forward and why the season’s shocking finale (spoiler alert: the bomber’s final victim is Veronica’s longtime boyfriend and now husband, Logan, played by Jason Dohring) was necessary to set the series up for a long future.
Adweek: There’s a scene early on where the characters watch Harlots on Hulu. Did you have to put that in because of your show’s new home?
Thomas: It’s funny, because I’ve read a couple of negative comments like, “Product placement!” We chose Harlots because of that word. The joke is that Leo [played by Max Greenfield] came over and [Veronica and Logan] are giving each other a little shit about it, and Logan says, “So, what do you want to watch, Harlots?” That’s the joke; it was not there because Hulu wanted us to put a show mention in there.
If this had come together a year later, the studio, Warner Bros TV, would have probably pushed you toward its own streaming service, HBO Max.
It’s funny, maybe they would have. I’m just in the process of setting up a show there now, and we took it everywhere. They didn’t really push me to HBO Max, yet here we are, landing there. So now that I’m thinking about it, have I been worked? I don’t know. I guess because it wasn’t set up when we took out this pitch, it was never in discussions.
So if the show does continue, will it stay on Hulu?
Oh yeah, definitely. I’m almost certain Hulu has the option on it.
Did you come into this revival thinking you’d like to do more than just this one season?
Kristin and I, I think both of us would love to be in a position where when she has a window and I have a window, we can go knock out eight episodes and it can just be this living thing. It’s the reason I made the big decision that I needed Veronica single moving forward: We want to make these for years. We want it to be a thing that we can come back and do more episodes of, and we think that the odds for that happening are much better if it is a pure detective show, rather than a detective show crossed with the high school teen soap that it was 15 years ago.
Was killing off that character part of a reaction to the “fan service” criticism about the movie? After all, you can’t get more opposite of “fan service” than that ending.
I would not have killed Logan in a fan-funded movie, I will confess. With the movie we thought, this is a very good shot this could be our last go-around. And when I thought it was going to be our last go-around, Veronica sitting back at her dad’s desk, and her and Logan back together again—that felt good to me. If it had ended there, I was satisfied with that ending. In a world where Kristin and I are now talking about, let’s try to keep doing these from time to time, this is a kick-ass detective franchise, let’s keep it rolling. That’s why we killed off her high school boyfriend; we think it needs to exist as a mystery show.
What are your broader plans for the series going forward?
I think it’s going to be more pure mystery, something like [BBC’s] Sherlock. It’s going to be focused on a mystery. Each season, I think, will have a new set of players, with the guest stars having big, meaty roles in it. I want to lean very hard into it on the next one. All my ideas have tended to be these Agatha Christie, murder in a country manner sort of thing. I will update that premise, but I keep thinking, can I do a murder on a boat? How much does a boat set cost? They’re in a beach town. They can just sail out towards Catalina and something happens on the way, a very Natalie Wood-style mystery. Those are the things I’ve been thinking about.
Very few shows have existed in both the linear weekly format and the binge format. What were the biggest differences in crafting a season that might be consumed in just one day vs. the usual eight or nine months on broadcast?
We only learned they were going to put out all eight at the same time about midseason. So [the season’s storylines] were already well-broken. I don’t know that it would have made any difference. I will say that maybe the next time, I [will] lobby for it coming out weekly, because with the internet, when you’re doing a mystery show, it gets spoiled so easily and so quickly. I think what their algorithm says about the viewership may determine it more than my request next time. But yeah, that’s the one thing that’s bothered me about it: Within a week, it’s no-holds-barred on the Veronica Mars whodunit and the big plot twist.