On Veronica Mars

Reality on Mars and Neptune

By Jesse Hassenger

Television isn’t realistic. That much we know. New york city apartments are not cavernous; friends, rivals, and in-laws do not trade quips on a daily basis; doctors are not uniformly attractive; vampires do not exist. Even the genre called “reality” isn’t particularly believable, unless you’re frequently afforded the opportunity to eat yak testicles for money.

Once in awhile a show will come along and display a modicum of realism; usually, swift punishment is in order. Television professionals look on in horror as shows like Freaks and Geeks or I’ll Fly Away begin a death march almost as soon as they premiere; the terrified result is that even many of the best shows traffic in some degree of implausibility–from storytelling conveniences to the physical attractiveness of the characters–if you snap yourself out of the sexy fun spell they cast over you. In a way, these leaps of faith are even more audacious than the well-documented feats of ridiculousness performed by hollywood movies, because television can demand a recurring suspension of disbelief of up to six, twenty, or 200 hours, depending on how long your program of choice manages to survive. That survival, in turn, may depend on how well a show can entertain

The largest amount of people for the longest amount of time without going too far over the top–which leaves some shows scrambling desperately to float in some kind of mid-air compromise between entertainment and restraint.

It should come as no surprise that this recurring suspension can leave viewers  …

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