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Veronica Marvelous

By RD Heldenfels Published: September 15, 2006

Sometimes getting to see shows ahead of time can be frustrating. In July, a bunch of us saw a new episode of ''The Shield.'' It was really good. But the show doesn't come back on the air until January. So there was considerable whining about having to wait to see more. It was like getting an appetizer at a banquet, then having to sit through hours of speeches before you get the rest of the meal.

So two episodes of  the third season of ''Veronica Mars'' arrived in the mail yesterday. And since I had a break between writing my DVD column and covering Leonard Nimoy, I watched them. Now I'm sitting here, knowing that ''Veronica's'' third season doesn't start until Oct. 3, and I've also seen the Oct. 10 telecast and, well, I WANT TO SEE THE OCT. 17 EPISODE AND I WANT IT NOW.

Regular readers of this blog know that I am a ''Veronica'' fan. But I had some fears going into the new season. Veronica and her peers have gone off to college, for one thing, and that's a significant change to deal with. And instead of doing a season-long story, the show will have three shorter serials, so new viewers can join in easily. And, in its third season, ''Veronica's'' characters have so much history -- both chronological and emotional -- that it still has to walk the high wire between being too obscure for potential new fans and being too obvious for people who have memorized every detail.

I am pleased to report that ''Veronica'' gets two out of three. The shift to college starts off very well; imagine, for starters, how Veronica might do in a criminology class. The show recognizes the ways that college can be just like high school, so there are similarities in the characters' interaction. But it's also a place where someone like Veronica has to realize that she didn't learn everything in high school; the two episodes refer more than once to how well people judge others' character, and that's an issue for Veronica and for her father, Keith.

The shorter story arc actually feels better than the longer ones of the first two seasons. By the end of the second episode, it feels as if things have moved very fast and that more revelations are coming soon -- a big reason why I WANT TO SEE THE OCT. 17 EPISODE AND I WANT IT NOW.

The one flaw may be in trying to bring new viewers up to speed. There is a lot of explanation and even introduction woven into the first show, relationships sketched, references to the past. If, for example, you don't know what a jerk Dick Casablancas has been, you get ample new evidence.

But the many layers of ''Veronica'' can't all be covered in a show that is still moving rapidly forward, so I suspect some new viewers will be unclear why Logan is so sad, or where Kendall fits into everything. But I urge those viewers to watch because soon enough they will see that ''Veronica'' is funny and clever, dramatic and surprising. And those of you who have been watching should need no more convincing -- only a painful cry of ''Is it Oct. 3 yet?''

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