Dear Evan Hansen, Crushing Disappointment, and a Likely Fruitless Plea

Dear Evan Hansen

Everything I’m about to write reeks of middle class privilege. Apologies in advance.

This story starts with Nicole. Nicole is a former writing student of mine with whom I’ve kept in touch. She’s a fearless female who’s done ballsy things I wholeheartedly admire. She’s also a theater geek in the best possible sense. About a year and a half ago she posted on Facebook that she’d seen an Off-Broadway  musical that made her ugly cry.  “This show is everything,” she wrote.

That fall,  Dear Evan Hansen opened on Broadway.  (If you’re unfamiliar, check out Playbill’s three-minute recap.) A couple of months after that, I started to listen to the soundtrack. A lot. My best friend Wendy discovered some tracks through the Broadway channel on Sirius XM. We talked about how much we liked the music.

Okay, let me pause here to say that is a complete understatement. I loved the music. The songs spoke to me on a deeply personal level. That’s another post for another day, but suffice it to say I felt connected.

And I wanted to see this show. Badly. My husband and I talked about getting tickets for February. Last year we’d eschewed Valentine’s Day in favor of a day trip to NYC to see Hamilton (tickets purchased at face value the previous June). Maybe we could do it again?

I found two face value tickets. I hemmed and hawed on whether or not to buy them. The timing was perfect. The cost was close to my comfort zone. But a quick Google search told me that Ben Platt, who played the titular lead, would likely be leaving the show in November. I could get tickets for the fall, but they would cost a whole lot more.

So I bought the February tickets…and immediately regretted it. If you’ve ever watched a video of Ben singing “Waving Through a Window,” you’d understand why. Here, see for yourself:

 

 

I talked about it a lot. How much I regretted not spending the extra money to ensure I’d see Ben in the role he originated.

Here’s something you should know about me. I can be really, really cheap frugal. I don’t drive a fancy car. I don’t buy designer purses. I color my roots with dye from a box.

I save money so I can invest in experiences. I take annual birthday trips with my best friend. I go on a beach vacation with my family for a few days each summer. I send my stepdaughter to camp. These things are important to me.

The Saturday before the Tonys, my husband and I were driving to Trader Joes. I told him that Ben Platt was a lock for Best Actor and that after he won there’d be no way to get tickets to see him perform. I told him (again) how much I regretted not springing for fall tickets. I told him how every time I watched video of this man performing this part, I got chills and cried.

“Sounds like a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” my husband said. “You should go for it.”

This set off a flurry of texts to Nicole. Should I do this? I should do this, right? Is there any way to get cheaper tickets? What are my options? What if I spend the extra cash to buy tickets specifically to see him and he ends up not performing? What then?

Nicole told me that when that happened, theaters typically allow you to switch your tickets or get a refund. This was common and normal.

In between texts, I kept saying to my husband, “This is crazy. I can’t do this. We already bought tickets for February.”

We’ll sell them, he told me. You have to do this. It means a lot to you.

That night, I searched for tickets. They weren’t plentiful, but they were available. I found several in the first few rows of right or left orchestra. They were definitely outside of my comfort zone, price-wise. My husband and I talked about how we could cut back the next few months to make up the difference in price. I waffled. I was a nervous wreck.

Do it, he said again and again. You deserve this.

He wanted me to take my best friend. That going to plays was really our thing and that Dear Evan Hansen meant more to her than it did to him. Have I mentioned that my husband can be a total saint?

More texts, this time to make sure Wendy was free. I found incredible seats, third row right orchestra. I checked the Jewish high holidays. I figured if Ben took off for Rosh Hashana, then surely he’d be back for the Saturday immediately following. The price tag was steep enough to make me suck in my breath. But like my husband said: once in a lifetime.

In the end, he had to push the purchase button for me.

Afterward I was giddy. Like, seriously giddy. Wendy and I exchanged excited GIFs the whole night. I talked about it with everyone. I introduced the music to my stepdaughter, who still asks if we can listen to it whenever she gets in my car. My almost-two year old decided he liked the soundtrack, too. For a while, it played on constant loop.

And then earlier this week my aunt texted to me to see if we were available to celebrate Rosh Hashana with her and my uncle on the 22nd or 23rd. I told her it would be tough because we had tickets for the 23rd and were planning on taking an early train into the city. And then immediately I panicked because hadn’t I checked the dates before buying the tickets?

That’s when I saw the e-mail. The one Telecharge had sent on September 1st, the one with the subject line “DEAR EVAN HANSEN: Ben Platt Out Wednesday and Saturday Matinees.”

I started to cry even before I called Telecharge to see if I could exchange my tickets. I could not. The show was sold out. It had been sold out for weeks before the announcement. There were literally no tickets available for any shows between now and November 19th, the Telecharge rep told me. The best I could do, he said, was e-mail requesting a refund.

“I don’t understand,” I said more than once. “I did everything right. I bought the tickets before the Tonys. I checked the holidays. I did everything right.”

“Sorry,” he said. “I can’t help you.”

I felt gutted. That’s really the only word I can use to describe it. Gutted.

This all happened when my husband was putting our son down for a nap. When he came in the office, I told him what happened. I cried on his shoulder. I felt stupid crying over this. There was a hurricane ripping up people’s homes. It was the eve of the anniversary of 9/11. And I’m crying over theater tickets?

But it meant so much to me. I can’t even put it into words. My teenage self wept. My middle-aged self cried along with her.

There wasn’t much I could do, but I reached out to a few people to see if they might be able to help. Most said no. One said maybe. I searched in vain for tickets. Comparable seats to non-matinee shows were running $1,200 or more for a single ticket. Even I am not that crazy.

Here’s the thing: I don’t want to see Ben Platt perform this role because he won the Tony. I don’t want to see him perform the role so I could say I saw the original cast.

I want to see him perform this role because he IS this role. Because the pain he projects when he sings is visceral and wrenching and because watching someone do something they so obviously love and do it so well has always felt transformative to me.

Like my husband said: it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Now it’s an experience I’ll never have.

I’m tearing up as I type this. I can’t go back in time and pick a different set of tickets. It kills me because I could have. I looked at a bunch. But I chose a matinee because it gave us time to take a train into the city and also for me to get home in time to put my kid to bed.

So here is my plea: If you know someone who has tickets to a non-matinee show before November 19 who just wants to see an incredible show – who doesn’t really know who Ben Platt is or care who the part of Evan Hansen is played by – can you send them my way? I am happy to do a trade or pay for them with my refund.

I know that writing this post isn’t likely to get me anywhere. I know I should be in bed. My alarm is going to go off in about five hours and I will be zonked tomorrow. But I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t stop thinking about this missed opportunity. So I’m putting my words out into the universe, crossing my fingers, blowing dandelion clocks, and wishing on heads-up pennies.

Sincerely, Me.

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The winter of Swift and Who.

Taylor Swift Because Bow Ties Are Cool

I had a pretty rough winter, for reasons I don’t really feel like going into right now. Maybe later. But it’s safe to say that it was one of the worst on record, and this includes the winter immediately following the death of my mother.

Two things saved me during this Season of Suck:

Taylor Swift and Doctor Who.

Let me start with the latter. My husband is a huge Doctor Who fan. New series, not the original flavor. We’ll have been together 8 years come June, and over the course I’ve our relationship, I tried to get into Doctor Who with him several times. I remember a few of the Rose Tyler episodes. I remember none of the Amy Pond years. When the Impossible Girl came on the scene, I started half-watching the show with him on a regular basis. And by the end of this most recent season, I was mostly watching every episode.

During Christmas break, we usually pick a series to binge on. One year it was Downton Abbey. Another (or was it the same?) we watched the first season of Awkward. This year, I decided I’d go Who, starting with Christopher Eccleston and straight on through to Peter Capaldi.

When Joe realized I was attempting to do this on my own, he was all, “Nuh uh, no way, I’m getting in on this Who action with you.” So, we watched it together. There were still some episodes I had difficulty concentrating on. Sometimes the plot would get too out there and I’d find my attention drifting. But mostly I enjoyed it. Not just because I’ve always appreciated good sci-fi, but because it was a good bonding thing. Doctor Who had always been HIS territory, not mine. And now I was finally sharing it with him.

And then came Season 5, and with it the introduction of A) fish fingers and custard and B) Miss Amelia Pond. I fell in love with her instantly. She was just so cool. (Much cooler than bow ties, and BOW TIES ARE COOL.) It didn’t hurt that I’d loved the actress playing her, Karen Gillan, on the short-lived sitcom Selfie. But honestly? I would’ve loved her regardless.

Doctor-Who-Amy-Pond-Wearing-Round-Glasses

Amy Pond kicks ass. Period.

And then there’s Rory, her hopelessly devoted love interest. Rory, who’s almost always getting himself killed or otherwise in trouble. Rory, who starts out as a punchline but ends up being this romantic hero of epic proportions. Their love story grows on you – or, at least, it grew on me. And when they exited the show, it was in an equally spectacular fashion that broke my heart into a million pieces. I literally sobbed, and not just when I watched it. I was heartbroken for days.

I’m getting off point here, and that is this: what I liked best about my Who binge (besides Amy Pond, that is) was how the show had this relentless optimism to it. Not quite Star Trek: Next Gen-level, but still. (Light bulb moment: this is one of the things I’ve always loved best about Quantum Leap – the optimism in someone’s destiny being to put right what once went wrong. But I digress. Again.)

At a time when I needed it most, the Who-niverse lifted me up. And now I’m a convert.

So, what about my Tay Tay obsession?

I’ve always liked certain songs of hers. I was a ninja listener, buying a track here or a track there on iTunes. But then “Shake It Off” came out, and I got a little obsessed. It’s a catchy song, yo. And it was so upbeat. You can’t help but smile when you hear it.

And then “Blank Space” dropped, and I was like OH MY GOD, WHY AM I SO OBSESSED WITH THIS ONE, TOO? Not only did I buy it, but my husband and I once spent a forty-minute car ride listening to it over and over and over again. Yes, that’s right – my death metal- and pirate rap-loving spouse adores Taylor Swift as much as I do. And yes, we’re both well into our 30s.

Anyway.

I bought the rest of 1989. And then I bought the rest of Red. And then I bought the rest of Speak Now. For the past several months, what I mainly listen to is those three albums on shuffle. No, I’m not joking. It’s All Taylor, All the Time.

To switch it up, sometimes I’ll listen to the Taylor Swift station on Apple Radio. But it can run too country or too High School Musical, and then I’m like, “Let me go back to my own Taylor Swift station” (three albums on shuffle).

I’ve stopped trying to hide my affection for the musical stylings of Miss Swift. In fact, after a recent frustrating day at the office, my coworker April kept saying, “Just think about Taylor. Think about Taylor!”

Because Taylor Swift makes me smile. Her music makes me dance. Yeah, I know she sings about heartbreak, but even that stuff sounds sweet and happy in a weird way.

So here’s the best part: If you Google “Doctor Who and Taylor Swift,” you will find some of the most random isht you can imagine, including this gem:

Rose Tyler Taylor Swift

So maybe I’m not the only one who’s ever had a winter of Swift and Who. Maybe?

The most wonderful time of the year…

IMG_3125

You know those people who live for summer? The ones who spend every free second outdoors, and who somehow manage to maintain a Chicken McNugget tan year round? Who delight in discovering new ways to prepare food on the grill? Who start wearing shorts well before last frost, when it’s still so cold they absolutely have to pair them with a sweater or sweatshirt lest they freeze to death?

I am not one of those people.

It’s not that I hate summer, per se. It’s that I hate being hot and sticky. I hate getting bitten up my mosquitos. I don’t do sleeveless anything. I dread battling my husband over mowing the lawn. Grass is my number one allergen; I spend the months between April and October requiring a variety of prescription and OTC medications to manage the itchy-scratchy-stuffy-watery hell that happens every. single. day.

So while millions mourn the loss of summer, and the salt life death knell of pumpkin spice everything, I grow infinitely happier the deeper we dive into September. As summer lovers head indoors, I head out. Chilly nights are perfect for walking. Cool, crisp mornings beg for a hot beverage in a travel mug.

Ahh, the harbingers of fall! Leaves turning. Cider mulling. And yes, pumpkin spice everything. I can’t be the only one who rejoices at the return of sweater weather, can I?

Even though we had a relatively mild summer here in Delaware, it’s been warm enough that fall was pretty far from my mind. Sure, I’d eaten the first ceremonial Reese’s pumpkin. Joe brought home not one but two pumpkin pie donuts from Dunkies.

EW Fall TV Preview 2014Then on Friday, it arrived. The new issue of Entertainment Weekly. My favorite of the entire year: the Fall TV Preview. As an unabashed fan of television both good and trashy, I love reading up on the new offerings and deciding which ones merit my viewing time. Plus, there are teasers for returning favorites (can you say The Good Wife?)

Friday night, the BFF and I walked off the most delicious ghee-and-cream-laden Indian dinner evar (at India Palace). It was a gorgeous night – no mosquitos, no humidity, a little bit of breeze. And someone in the neighborhood had a fire going, so the air smelled like wood smoke. (Seriously, is there anything better?)

The next day, the hubs and I made our monthly sojourn to Trader Joe’s and were greeted by a huge bin of pumpkins. We filled our cart with the spoils of the season. Brussels sprouts, a sugar pumpkin, lots of squash (butternut and acorn). Yes, I know I can get these things year round – and sometimes I do. But now they’re in season. Now is the time of year when food turns hearty, warm, and comforting. And oh! The best part of all: the return of TJ’s Organic Canned Pumpkin. Have you had this stuff? It puts Libby’s to shame. Seriously, it tastes fresh, not canned.

Finally, I was flipping through a magazine that had a fashion spread on plaid. Plaid. Plaid. I love plaid. I love plaid skirts with tights and black sweaters. I love plaid pajamas. I love plaid flannel shirts. I mean, if fall tastes like pumpkin, and smells like bonfire, its uniform is undoubtedly plaid.

I know people are already talking about what a long, hard winter we have coming. And the price of home heating oil is enough to give me a minor-league heart attack. But you know what? We’re so close to full-on fall that I can’t even care.

Yep, I’m falling in love with fall all over again. Worrying about winter will have to wait for another day.

Girl Meets Stereotype

Girl Meets World Like many adults of a certain age, the announcement that the Disney Channel had ordered a reboot of the ’90s family sitcom Boy Meets World filled me with a fair amount of nostalgia-fueled excitement. Cory and Topanga had a 13-year-old daughter! And she was getting her own show!

But then we all saw the pilot of Girl Meets World, which had undergone the typical Disney Channel homogenization process (can anyone over the age of 10 tell these shows apart?). Even so, I continued to DVR the show – hoping, I suppose, that it would get better. My desire for this show to be good (or, at the very least, palatable) has a lot to do with my mom, who used to watch and adored the original series in syndication. It was her voice in my head, critiquing every corny moment of the new series; as the credits rolled, I could hear her final assessment: “Eww.”

So I watch, and my husband ninja-watches, and while Girl Meets World bears little resemblance to its predecessor, both Joe and I have to admit, the show has a certain cuteness to it. Well, except for the fact that Sabrina Carpenter, who plays titular character Riley’s best friend Maya (the reboot’s version of Cory’s BFF Shawn) looks like a miniature adult. Aren’t you supposed to be 13, you Britt Robertson doppleganger, you?

Anyway, I was warming up to the whole thing. Until I saw the August 15th episode titled “Girl Meets Maya’s Mother,” that is. I found it so completely disturbing, and here’s why:

The episode opens with Riley and Maya in art class. This is notable for many reasons, not the least of which it’s the first time we see the kids in a class other than Cory’s history one (because of course Cory became a Mr. Feeny. Of course he did). In the background, we see an enormous banner that reads CAREER DAY TOMORROW.

The girls draw their classmate Farkle, who poses as a live model dressed in what looks like a swimsuit from the 1920s.

“Maybe we’ll become famous artists,” Riley muses. “We’ll go to Paris, drink coffee in outdoor cafes.”

There’s a dumb joke that involves Lucas, Riley’s love interest, speaking fluent French, which I mention only because it comes into play a little later.

Next, Art Teacher (she never warrants a name, apparently) comes around to view the girls’ work. “Oh my gosh,” she says, in a breathy voice that lets us know she’s impressed.

“See?” Riley says, grinning ear to ear. “I am an artist. I am finally something.”

But it’s not her work that has their art teacher all frothed up, it’s Maya’s. She declare’s Maya’s sketch – Farkle in a big bird’s nest on the branch of a tree (“It’s a work of surrealism,” Art Teacher informs Riley) – “brilliant.” She tells Maya about an upcoming school art exhibit and how she’d like her to submit a piece to it.

“What about my piece?” Riley asks, smiling and hopeful.

Her teacher replies, “That’s a cute top.”

Strike 1 for Riley’s self-esteem.

At home, Riley tells her baby brother Auggie that their parents have been lying to him. “Your artwork wouldn’t hang on a single refrigerator outside this apartment,” she informs him.

Auggie turns to his mother (Topanga), and says accusingly, “You said I was a little genius!”

“Oh, you are a little genius,” she reassures him.

“You said I was a little genius,” Riley reminds her.

“Well,” Topanga replies, clearly uncomfortable. “I had no one to compare you to, honey.”

Strike 2 for Riley’s self-esteem.

“Maya’s going to be a famous artist,” Riley laments, “and everybody speaks French but me.”

To underscore this point, five-year-old Auggie busts out (en Français), “My sister Riley. You’re a very simple girl and people like you.”

Duly impressed, Topanga turns to her precocious moppet of a son and, with a near-reverent look on her face, tells him, “You are going to change the world with your brilliant mind!”

The camera cuts to Riley, who flashes her mother this Sad Meets Pained look on her face. To which Topanga responds, wide-eyed and in a voice oozing condescension, “You have such a cute top.”

Strike 3 to Riley’s self-esteem.

In four minutes, not one but two adult females – including Riley’s own mother – have reduced the poor girl to a fashion choice.

Riley turns to her father for support, but all Cory cares about is eating mashed potatoes. Desperate for something – anything – to hold onto, Riley asks her parents about their talents, and if she may have inherited one from them. We are told that Cory has a gift for “close-up magic” (who knew?). He demonstrates this by “magically” transferring salt and pepper shakers into Auggie’s shirt pocket. “Why aren’t you famous?” Auggie demands.

“See?” Topanga tells Riley. “You come from a very talented family.”

But Riley doesn’t love the close-up magic bit. After all, her mind isn’t on party tricks – it’s on her future. (Remember, it’s CAREER DAY TOMORROW.) “Mom,” she pleads, “can you please help me out with something I can use? Do you have a talent?”

She’s Topanga! She’s a brilliant lawyer! Of course she has a talent!

So what exactly IS this talent?

“Your mom’s hips don’t lie!” Cory tells his daughter excitedly. Topanga springs up from the dinner table to chant “Ay, yie, yie, yie” and swivel her hips in a circle. Riley – who I’m starting to thing is the smartest one in the room, despite her mother’s advanced degrees – puts her head down on the table in defeat.

The next day at school (CAREER DAY), Topanga shows up to Cory’s history class in a black skirt suit (paired with a fuschia top, because of course we have to feminize the business suit in some way, as if Topanga’s curtain of honey hair wasn’t enough). “Oh great,” Riley mugs. “Shakira’s here.” (Second best line of the episode.)

Maya’s mother is notably not in attendance, though she told her daughter she would be. This distresses Riley, and ten minutes in, we realize the focus of the show is going to shift to her more worldly BFF. This isn’t surprising; after all, the episode is titled “Girl Meets Maya’s Mother.” But also: seven episodes into the series and, much like Rider Strong’s Shawn did before her, Sabrina’s Maya manages to steal every scene she’s in.

Then Minkus, Cory and Topanga’s dorktastic classmate from the original show, appears (I just *knew* he was Farkle’s father). Minkus runs the wildly successful Minkus International, which learn is successful because Minkus is late due to “helicopter problems.”

“Do YOU have a helicopter?” he asks Cory, who shoots back, “Do YOU have a Topanga?” thereby reducing his childhood sweetheart to a trophy he’s won.

Minkus and Topanga engage in some competitive banter and my-kid-is-better-than-your-kid one-upmanship. Then Minkus meets Riley and Maya. He’s under the false impression that the two girls vie for his son Farkle’s affections and not the other way around. Farkle asks the girls to play along and Riley, being the nice simple girl whom everyone likes, does. Maya adds, in a deadpan voice, “We hope that one day one of us will be lucky enough to become the future Mrs. Farkle Minkus and have a lot of baby Minkii,” thereby uttering the best line of the episode.

After the commercial break, the second act of the episode focuses on A) Maya’s art, and why she won’t enter the school art show (“I’m fine believing that nothing much is going to happen for me,” she tells Riley) and B) Maya’s complicated relationship with her flaky mother.

Maya and Riley Talk It OutThe girls have one of their signature heart-to-hearts on the window seat in Riley’s bedroom. Maya, already jaded at 13, tells Riley that she doesn’t share her friend’s expectation that good things happen and that people (like Maya’s mother) will “show up.” But Mama Katy DOES show up, one day too late, clad in a vintage-y waitress uniform, speaking in a bizarre Southern accent and spinning a yarn about delivering a baby in the Colorado River that turns out to be the plot of a soap opera she auditioned for (and didn’t get).

After thoroughly embarrassing herself and Maya, Katy runs out of the classroom. Riley chases her down, determined to “fix” the situation for her friend. “I was raised by Topanga and Cory Mathews,” Riley tells her. “They’re maniacs. They’d walk through an avalanche for friendship, for the sake of family. I got that from them. I got a talent. How ’bout that?”

Riley tells Katy about the art show and that she expects Katy to “show up” for her daughter. “Sure,” she says, and we know she’s lying but Riley, bless her heart, does not. She goes behind Maya’s back and signs her up for the art show anyway, which leads to a fun paint fight in class the next day.

“Why won’t you leave this alone?” Maya demands.

“I don’t know how!” Riley tells her.

Of course, Mama Katy bails, fulfilling Maya’s expectations and dashing Riley’s hopes. Maya’s painting tells the story best: It’s of a diner, with a sliver of blond waitress appearing on one side. “Why can you only see half of her?” Farkle asks, before Lucas stifles him.

But Riley, true to what she said earlier, can’t let it go.  Now that she’s figured out what her talent is (fixing people, making them happy), she can’t NOT go after Maya’s mother. She heads to the diner to confront Katy, who unloads her sad life story on the unsuspecting tween. She points out that Riley’s parents are successful, while she is a waitress. “People tend to stay at the same level as their parents, and I want more for [Maya] than coming home with those little arms of hers covered in pancake syrup.”

She gives Riley a tuna melt, which we later learn is Maya’s favorite, and that she gave it to Riley knowing that the girl would share it with her daughter. But first, Riley must apologize to Maya for interfering. Maya, however, won’t have it. After all, Riley forced her to show her work, and she was surprised to discover that people liked it. “It made me feel like I could be something someday,” Maya tells her.

“You will be,” Riley assures her. “You are now.”

Okay, so let’s forget about Maya’s sitch for a minute, because even though it’s thoroughly depressing, we see that despite having crappy parents, Maya’s smart enough and talented enough that she’s going to be okay. We’re confident that her self-esteem will improve eventually, because she’s got the Matthews family and, most notably, Riley for a best friend.

But Riley. Oh my god, RILEY. She’s a legit member of the Matthews family and, in this episode at least, that doesn’t amount to much. All Riley wants to do is figure out what she’s good at (CAREER DAY TOMORROW puts a kid into that “Who am I going to be?” frame of mind). Instead of bolstering her, the adults in her life tear her down. The “lesson” she ultimately learns is that her role in life is to be a fashionable fixer: “I may not be much, but what I am the girl who can make YOUR life better. Oh, and I buy supercute tops. Apparently.”

And yes, I get that the Riley put-downs were made for cheap laughs, and I get that a lot of people who read this (if anyone actually DOES read it) will write off my rant as an adult over-thinking a cheese puff of a tween TV show. But I also have an almost-10-year-old stepdaughter who watches shows like this on a daily basis. I don’t want her ingesting messages like “you don’t have to be talented if you have cute clothes.” She’s going to have enough pop culture messages attacking her teenage self-esteem over the next eight-plus years; does she have to find them on Disney as well?

Girl Meets World went on hiatus after this episode; it returns this Friday night. And I’ll watch it, only this time it won’t be for the nostalgia factor. This time, I’ll be watching to see if the messages the show sends to its female viewers has gotten any better.

A long time ago, we used to be friends.

Veronica Mars movie posterI’m not ashamed to admit it: I’m one of the 91,585 backers that funded the new Veronica Mars Movie through Kickstarter. When the show debuted in 2004, I wasn’t just an early adopter; I was an immediate one. Why? Because years prior, when I was earning my MFA at Emerson College and falling in love with the young adult genre, I read a little book called Rats Saw God, which as many of you know was the debut novel of one Rob Thomas (a.k.a. the guy behind the marshmallow).

So when I heard that there was this new show about a teen detective that was penned by one of my favorite authors, I was all in – and I wasn’t disappointed. For me, Veronica Mars was instantly appointment television, even though I did have my first DVR by then. I talked up the show to anyone who would listen, bonded with bloggers who shared my appreciation for the series, and even got my mom hooked. If we weren’t watching the show together, we were dishing about that week’s episode over the phone.

That first season was near perfection. I remember going on and on about how immaculately plotted it all was, and how when I first saw “A Trip to the Dentist,” the penultimate episode of Season 1, I was so gobsmacked that I immediately had to rewatch it (again: gotta love those DVRs!).

Here’s where it gets a little strange.

I say “I remember” because in all honesty, I haven’t watched the episode since that night almost 10 years ago. Or any episode of Veronica Mars, until earlier this week, when I rewatched the pilot with my unitiated husband (more on that in a bit). And for this, I blame E.T.

Like many kids born in the mid-’70s, I was obsessed with E.T. I saw it in the theaters at least three times (possibly more); my 7th birthday party, held at the Christiana Skating Center, was E.T.-themed (complete with an E.T. cake that had the creepiest blue gel eyes that *no one* wanted to eat). So, five years later, when the movie finally came out on VHS, I had my first tweenage fangasm.

And then I promptly fell asleep watching it.

This was devastating to me. How could E.T. – this movie that loomed so large over my entire childhood – actually bore me so much that I conked out in the middle of it? How?

mscl-ep9-glasses - croppedAfter that, I developed an aversion to going back to something that, in my head, is so completely perfect. Why ruin that pristine experience? This philosophy, if you can call it that, has extended from movies into books and TV shows. There are a few that I’ve granted multiple viewings/readings: My So-Called Life  (everything but the Nicky Driscoll espiode – that isht was dreadful the first time around), Joe vs. the Volcano (I still discover new things every time I watch it!), Douglas Coupland’s Life After God (a.k.a. the book I dubbed my “bible” back in college).

But for every one of those titles I could reel off a dozen more than I can’t make myself revisit because I’m so afraid it won’t live up the second time around.

This is why I’m pretty sure I’ll never be considered a superfan of anything, including Veronica Mars.

Watching the movie last week, at an AMC fan event in Bensalem, I was both thrilled and unsettled. Thrilled because there was that unforgettable trademark wit, the crackling banter between Veronica and the various men in her life;  hanging out with these people for a couple of celluloid hours felt like coming home again. Unsettled because for every Easter egg I recognized, there were two more I can guarantee I didn’t, and I was surprised by totally random things, like that Josh from Being Human was in the movie (he’d appeared on the actual show – I just didn’t remember it).

There are a lot of things you forget when you don’t see something for the better part of a decade.

This was never more apparent then when I introduced the pilot to my husband. He’d actually accompanied me to the Bensalem fan event, which was really cool in that he enjoyed the movie even though he knew absolutely nothing about the TV show (to him, Kristen Bell is Jeannie Van Der Hooven, if you can imagine that). There was a part of me that was nervous, of course, for reasons stated above, but still: we watched.

(Allow me to step into my flame-retardant suit before I say another word. There, that’s better.)

The first thing that struck me was the pacing. It was off. A little lumbering, even. The copious flashbacks were jarring. The plot felt unnecessarily overloaded (a murder! a date rape! a bad breakup! a corrupt sheriff, a menacing motorcycle gang, a new BFF!), like something from a novel-writing workshop wherein the author hasn’t yet learned you don’t need to cram all of the good stuff into the first 20 pages.

Teddy Dunn is the poor-man's Jason Street

The second thing that struck me is that I’d gotten a lot of things mixed up in my brain. Like, for some reason I totally thought that Duncan Kane had been played by Jason Street, when in reality, he’d been played by the poor man’s Jason Street. (I know, I know – how could I have screwed that one up? I’m still not sure.)

The third thing that struck me? I was completely clueless about the whole “Marshmallow” thing. I thought VM fans were called that because “Marsh” sounded a little like “Mars,” and when Veronica says it in the movie, I thought it was a wink to the fanbase. Then, at the end of the pilot, during Wallace’s “marshmallow” speech, I was like, “Oh, snap! I know absolutely nothing about anything.”

And so, in the end, the whole thing was a bit of a letdown instead of the magical experience I’d been hoping for.

Don’t get me wrong; I still liked the show. I was just struggling to understand why I had loved it so much.

The answer, of course, likely lies in watching the rest of that stellar first season. Pilot episodes can often feel wonky precisely because the creators are trying to cram all of the sexy into that first episode. The cast hasn’t found their true rhythm yet. Some of the best shows spring from really bad pilots. Exhibit A: Friends. Exhibit B: Parks & Rec. Exhibit C: Seinfeld. (Notice a trend? Maybe it’s just NBC that makes bad pilots for ultimately great series.)

So that’s the plan. To watch the rest of Season 1 (including rewatching the pilot, on the off-chance that it was my mood that dictated that reaction, and not the show itself) after May sweeps. The hubs and I have a summer tradition of binge-watching either one long or a couple of smaller series. In previous years we’ve inhaled Battlestar Galactica, Fringe, and Breaking Bad; last year was the summer of Netflix, and we went the Orange is the New Black/House of Cards route.

[Side note: the Summer of 2012 we attempted Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but only got about halfway through Season 3 before abandoning that endeavor. Even though my BFF is a certified resident of Buffonia, all of my previous attempts to immigrate have been thwarted by a general lack of enthusiasm. I don’t get it. I mean, Buffy’s fine and all, but really? I don’t get it. (Good thing I’m still wearing that flame-retardant suit, huh?)]

And now for my final confession: While I adored the entire first season of VM, I was extremely disappointed by the second. The season-spanning “mystery” of the bus crash felt like a lame attempt to recreate the whole “Who Killed Lilly Kane?” phenomenon. By Season 3’s shift to Hearst College, and the introduction of the much-maligned Piz, I was feeling kinda over the whole thing. In fact, while I own Season 1 on DVD, I’d never bothered to buy the subsequent two, because I never planned on watching them again.

So go on – kick me out of the club. I’m sure I deserve it.

That said: keep in mind that even though I’m not a superfan, I’m still a fan, and was long before Veronica Mars achieved its indie  darling cult status (or whatever we’re calling it these days). Does “early adopter” help me retain any cred?

Yeah, didn’t think so.