Veronica Mars, the beloved 2004-2007 CW series about the titular teen detective, wasn’t the first cult-favorite TV series to get a revival in the streaming era. (Arrested Development beat the 2014 Kickstarter-funded film to it by about a year.) In the years since, we’ve seen the original cast of a slew of series return for new episodes—Will and Grace, Roseanne, Murphy Brown, The X-Files, 24, Gilmore Girls, Twin Peaks, and more have all seen similar revivals—but Veronica Mars, created by Austin native Rob Thomas, is the only one whose fans personally invested their own money ($5.7 million of it!) into ensuring that they got to see these characters again.
That enthusiasm for the movie meant that a small-screen revival was always in the cards—it just took another five years to actually happen. But happen it has, with Hulu’s Veronica Mars Season Four coming July 26 (Hulu also announced that it would stream the first three seasons starting July 1). The series reunites Thomas with series stars Kristen Bell–who pulls off the rare move of headlining two series simultaneously, as she’s also the protagonist of NBC’s The Good Place—along with Enrico Colantoni (who plays her dad), Jason Dohring (perennial love interest Logan Echolls), and Percy Daggs III (her best friend, Wallace). While Bell wasn’t able to attend Saturday morning’s ATX Television Festival panel on the revival, the men of the show took to the stage at the Paramount to bring fans a detailed discussion of the new season—and a look at what it’ll entail. Here’s what we learned.
The new season is more adult than the previous three.
The clip audiences saw at the start of the panel announced clearly that this is a new era for the show, with Veronica and Logan flirting in a way that you can’t get away with on a network. (Colantoni, who hadn’t seen the clip yet, recalled reading it in the script and assuming it would be cut. “Well, welcome to Hulu…” he said.) Despite the Logan thirst trap that drops in the first episode, though—and the fact that Veronica is playing a grown woman in her mid-thirties, rather than a teenager—the series isn’t quite as adult as Thomas originally envisioned. He told the Paramount that he wrote it with the intention of it getting a TV-MA rating (the same that, say, Game of Thrones carries) before Hulu suggested that he take it down to a TV-14, so teenage fans watching old seasons could comfortably binge the latest, too. The original script included 18 F-bombs, he said, a re-writing problem that was solved by having Veronica and her dad make a bet to see who could go the longest without saying the word. (She says “cuss” a lot instead, presumably because “fork” was taken.)
Thomas is nervous about the new season dropping all at once.
As a fan, Thomas admits that he’d be excited to binge an entire season of Veronica Mars at once. As a creator of a season-long mystery, though, he’s nervous. “I’m worried that the big reveals will be spoiled, because not everybody watches at the same time.” Thomas knows from spoilers—he made the mistake of tweeting “Poor Robb Stark” the day after HBO aired the “Red Wedding” episode of Game of Thrones—and we’ll expect Veronica Mars to get an anti-spoilers campaign.
The cast for the new season really is great.
Most of the guest cast has already been announced, and it includes some big names—Patton Oswalt and Oscar winner JK Simmons (who was a recurring character on Thomas’s short-lived Starz series Party Down) headline the newcomers, along with The Good Place‘s Kirby Howell-Baptiste. But the new season also goes deep into the series’s vault for returning characters, with everyone from high-school hacker Max to Logan’s Season Three girlfriend Parker popping back up—as well as, in a visit to Chino Prison, a slew of characters that Veronica put away in the show’s early seasons. One character who won’t be back? Piz, the later-season boyfriend who appeared in the film as part of a Team Piz/Team Logan controversy that saw fans overwhelmingly prefer Logan. “Piz is doing very well on This American Life,” Thomas said of the character, who was seen working on the radio show in the movie.
The plot was inspired by the Austin bombings of 2018.
Thomas, still an occasional Austinite, followed the bombings very closely. (His cousin serves in the Austin Police Department.) When looking for a story to tell, his awareness of what was happening in his hometown helped shape the story that’ll be taking place in the fictional California beach town of Neptune. “There will be bombs in Neptune during spring break,” he told the Paramount.
Those Austin roots run deep.
The original concept for Veronica Mars wasn’t about a girl, and it didn’t take place in California. Rather, Thomas explained, he conceived it as a book about a boy at Westlake High School. The concept, he said, became more poignant with a girl in the lead, and exploring that poignancy is still a big part of what he’s interested in with the new season. “There’s a part of growing up for men where they face a choice between marriage, commitment, and kids, or freedom and no responsibilities,” Thomas explained—and that’s the journey we’ll see Veronica on, too, where she has to decide what kind of life she wants to choose as an adult.
Thomas considers this season an experiment.
Season Four of Veronica Mars is a miniseries but one with potential to come back—if enough people watch it to persuade Hulu to give them another season. But Thomas talked thoughtfully about the inherent challenge in taking a series that was conceived as a story of a teenager and making it work with an adult protagonist. “She doesn’t kill vampires or kick ass like Alias,” Thomas said of Veronica. “Her power is telling other people to fuck off. Does that still matter now that she’s 34?” He described finding the answer to that question as “the experiment of the show,” to see if that dynamic is as meaningful when the hero is no longer a teenager. According to one fan during the Q&A, who addressed this concern directly, that’s not an issue—and the joy of growing up with Veronica certainly has the potential to be its own reward.