News Column

Let's hear it sort of for the Internet remaking Hollywood

July 23, 2013

YellowBrix

July 23--I was wrong. A common enough occurrence, to be sure (so, to be accurate, is its opposite). But the more I think about Rob Thomas' upcoming "Veronica Mars" movie, the more it seemed to me that it really didn't matter a hoot and a holler if the bloody thing were any good at all when it opens in 2014. The fact that a movie was financed this way -- by TV fans from a Kickstarter campaign -- is glorious, truly glorious.

And then I saw the "Veronica Mars" trailer online that was shown last week at the beginning of the current Comic-Con convention in San Diego.

That's it. I'm sold. It looks pretty good -- rather more full of Veronica's boyfriends and male suitors than I'd prefer, but, hey, all those Kickstarter contributors no doubt ponied up their offerings because they wanted to see more than a little about her post-pubescent social life.

I was enormously fond of the show for Veronica's precocious rat-a-tat wisecracks -- as if TV had given us a sort of weekly mini-Jean Arthur -- but especially for the way she bounced those off of her father, Keith, played by Enrico Colantoni with the delight of a father who has discovered that his daughter is the cleverest, pluckiest and most delightful person he knows.

For those who never watched "Veronica Mars," it went like this: Keith Mars was a disgraced ex-cop and private investigator, and Veronica was his teen daughter, de facto business partner and the possessor of wiles and resources that would be utterly terrifying in a family if they weren't all turned to helping poor struggling Dad out.

The essential charm of "Veronica Mars" was her relationship with her father, not with her spoiled-brat beaux and male groupies. But then, obviously, I was looking at the show through the eyes of a father with a clever, plucky and delightful grown daughter.

So, no, that can't really be duplicated when the movie rejoins a grown Veronica still played by the wonderful actress Kristin Bell, whose best-known role these days is the hard R-rated consultant on Matthew Carnahan's "House of Lies."

But sometimes you just have to stop dead, look at the ceiling and spend a few minutes contemplating the criminally obvious.

Like now, for instance.

How bloody cool is it, after all, that the writer/creator and cast of a TV cult favorite can decide that their characters need another run through the spin cycle and that the fans will joyfully pay for it?

Imagine it. Here is a Hollywood where every week seems to bring us some new CGI-packed extravaganza costing at least $150 million ("The Wolverine" is the one opening Friday for those who can muster up any interest) and where Steven Spielberg, no less, is actually warning that all those blockbusters could yet lead to wholesale industrial catastrophe if too many of them tank in a row without saving international box office (as "The Lone Ranger" has).

Amid all that, fans -- fans no less -- can cough up enough bucks to see the characters they love come back to show what adulthood has done to them in a low-budget movie.

And that, I must admit, is what appealed to me the more I thought about a "Veronica Mars" starring a thoroughly grown-up Bell. Catching up with a grown woman who was once a giddily precocious child is so much more creative than traipsing after 80 percent of the CGI critters and zombies from film to film. And, to think, it was paid for by enough people opening up their checkbooks and kicking in a few bucks apiece.

I wish they'd asked me to contribute a few bucks to see another "Harry O" movie in the 1970s. I'd have been there in a flash.

It's the new digital world where the Internet is giving us new things none of us could have begun to imagine 10 years ago.

Take the Emmys, for instance.

"House of Cards," the American remake of the British political series starring the consummately cold-blooded Ian Richardson, was one of 14 Emmy nominations for Netflix, even though it, "Arrested Development" and "Orange Is the New Black" have nothing to do with networks in any way, shape or form.

Traditionally minded folks can now get the first 13 chapters of "House of Cards" -- the complete first season nominated for all those Emmys -- in a four-DVD set from Sony.

But the idea that the old TV business model -- networks parcel out shows to us once a week -- can be so blithely smashed to smithereens for fun and profit is an upheaval whose implications, frankly, I still don't think anyone has sufficiently contemplated. (There is, I think, some wisdom in seeing weekly "series" that way, just as there was in reading great novels in regular magazine installments.)

Lord knows we've seen the chaos and destruction that the digital world and the Internet can visit upon all manner of technologies in what Marshall McLuhan called "The Gutenberg Galaxy," but it's hard not to love a world where fans of a TV show can kick in a few bucks to see what a TV show's creators can cook up for a second life -- and whole seasons of TV series can suddenly show up in your mail.

email: jsimon@buffnews.com

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