There are people out there – they know who they are – who’ve never really gotten over the end of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

Introduce them to Buffy’s spiritual successor, UPN’s “Veronica Mars.” Veronica could use them. Hell, she could use anybody at this point because 2.4 million viewers a week isn’t enough to guarantee a future, even on UPN.

I realize that for people whose allegiance to the Buffyverse was written in blood, Veronica might fall a little short.

No superpowers. No “one girl in all the universe” mythology. No tortured-vamp boyfriend.

Neptune, the wealthy beach town where Veronica lives with her police chief-turned-private eye father (Enrico Colantoni), isn’t built on a Hellmouth, like Buffy’s Sunnydale, but hellish things nevertheless happen there.

Veronica’s best friend, Lilly Kane, was murdered a little more than a year ago. Her father, Keith Mars, lost his job, and apparently his wife, because he was inclined to blame Lilly’s father, the fabulously rich Jake Kane (Kyle Secor) for Lilly’s death. Lilly’s brother, Duncan (Teddy Dunn) broke up with Veronica at about the same time – maybe not such a bad thing because there’s a teensy possibility Jake Kane might be Veronica’s father – and Veronica, who as Duncan’s girl had been a popular kid, ended up being drugged and raped at a party.

Cheerful, huh?

In less skilled hands than executive producer Rob Thomas’ (“Cupid”), this might be grim fare, but thanks to some of the snappiest dialogue since “Buffy,” and the acting chops of Bell (last seen as a deceptively innocent hooker on HBO’s “Deadwood”), “Veronica Mars” is instead a weekly celebration of one young woman’s resilience, strength and sense of humor.

“I think that this is a very, very realistic depiction of what it’s like to be a loner,” Bell said last month, while admitting that her own high school years, as a beautiful girl who could sing and act, were a far cry from Veronica’s.

“”Alias’ and “Buffy’ are fantastic to be able to show the strength of a woman, but … how many of us really are going to be a CIA agent? And how many of us really are going to fight vampires?” she said. “The reality of outweighs” the occasional credibility-stretching touches, like Veronica’s part-time employment as a private investigator, she said, “which is what sits with you at the end, going, “I really watched a girl.”‘

This girl? Well worth watching.



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