A gifted actor, Teddy Dunn enjoyed considerable screen success before stepping away from the camera. Born June 19, 1980 in Torquay, Victoria, Australia, Edward Wilkes "Teddy" Dunn grew up in North Car...
"Who is this Veronica Mars chick and why is she all over Twitter?"
It's a question that must have struck many Internet-savvy folks after Wednesday's Kickstarter project to raise money for the former UPN/CW crime drama's followup film took over social media. But Rob Thomas' Veronica Mars isn't just "some chick" all over Twitter, the teen series is an important piece of television history, and one whose light was snuffed out far too soon after being cherished by too few TV fans back in 2007. To put it simply, Veronica Mars is wildly significant, whether or not you were lucky enough to experience its magnificence.
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I get it. Not everyone was glued to UPN on Wednesday nights, clamoring to see what bad assery Veronica (the impossibly loveable Kristen Bell) would pull this week to solve the next piece of a season-long mystery. If they were, we'd probably still be following Mars through her post-collegiate sleuthing adventures. The San Diego-based teen sleuth wasn't your cheesy caricature of a young detective, like some schlocky version of Harriet the Spy hits puberty. She was a complex, dark character who towed the line between the dark recesses of gang life and petty crime worlds and the equally dark realm of high school, and one who did so with all the pithy charm of Lauren Graham's Loreli Gilmore. In a landscape of teen dramas where the biggest problems were parents' rules and moody boyfriends, Veronica Mars gave us a series about high school that didn't talk down to us, that trusted its young audience with a truer, gritty depiction of the hell that is teen life.
Veronica Mars: Feminist Hero?
It wasn't just the realm of high school drama on television that got a boost from Veronica Mars. The realm of pop culture heroines got a bit of a payout from her entry into the television lexicon too. True, Veronica had her share of boyfriends - including rich boy with a heart of gold Duncan Kane (Teddy Dunn), rich boy with a penchant for bad behavior Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring), and for a short time the persistent young cop Leo D'Amato (Max Greenfield) — but even when that romantic drama was drawing us in (and leaving us gasping in terror when the final episode ever left the Veronica-Logan question unresolved), Mars' true draw was her wit, wisdom, fearlessness, and intelligience. Veronica really could do anything, and not because of some super power or element of uncanny access (if anything she had a lack of access as she and her private eye father lived in a cheesy San Diego apartment building on the wrong side of the tracks), but because of her lightning-fast brain and street smarts.
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Veronica is a character who solves the age-old problem of a strong lady sleuth overwhelmed by elements that undermine her abilities in many of the same ways Buffy Summers' vampire aggression did for teens in the horror genre. Even Alias' Sydney Bristow (Jennifer Garner) occasionally fell prey to the sexy femme fatale element of sleuthing that Bell's character manages to sidestep. Yes, Veronica was a sexually active character, but she is truthful to the truth of the teenage experience without wearing her sexuality on her sleeve. Her clothing of choice was a light jacket over a t-shirt and jeans, leather boots and her ever-present messenger bag. Even while her high school cohorts were tempting boys with short skirts and low-cut tops, Veronica was all business. At the end of the day, she was more concerned with helping her school mates and finding the truth than wearing the right clothes to attract some drooling dolt (one of whom was played to perfection on the series by the ever-present Ryan Hanson).
It's an element that allowed Veronica, who was very much a high school student, to feel relevant to more than just teen audiences. The gritty reality of Veronica's character was something that could appeal to viewers from every demographic, even if the cheesy promos didn't do their best to draw those folks in.
Is that Veronica, or Phillip Marlowe?
One thing that drives careful TV viewers crazy is a mystery for the sake of a mystery. With the sheer number of crime shows on television, it's impossible not to be a whiz at solving a CSI or Law & Order mystery halfway through the episode (or if you're really good, five minutes into each episode). The beauty of the season-long and one-off mysteries on Veronica Mars is that they truly were mysteries and oddities. The answers were never predictable, but without the big reveal dropping in like the world's most obnoxious red herring. Mysteries on Veronica Mars didn't carry the schlocky feel that the word itself seems to contain; they felt real and immediate and most importantly, there was never a moment in which Veronica's journey ever felt safe. At any moment, our spunky blonde pixie could find herself in a world of hurt at the hands of Irish gangsters, weathly crooks, or even serial campus rapists. Veronica's uncovering of the truth never stopped short of the uncomfortable reality of her education-adjacent profession, the series consistently presented a more truthful reality for Veronica's chosen life.
Critics and even horror writer Stephen King compared the critically acclaimed series to beloved mystery writer Raymond Chandler and Thomas' teen sleuth to Chandler's hero Phillip Marlowe (famously portrayed by Humphrey Bogart in The Big Sleep). For any work of fiction aimed at mystery-solving, this is just about the highest compliment anyone could pay.
Sure, it could be argued that a hell of a lot trouble came upon this teenager, but much like Walter White asks for every bit of drug world drama he finds himself in, Veronica relentlessly goes looking for deeper, darker, and more dangerous mysteries. Also, her father is a P.I., so it's kind of her God-given mode of operation.
Most Importantly: It's Fun
Ideas of feminist progression and the high-minded praise of the series' eye for mystery aside, Veronica Mars is simply the best kind of entertainment: the fun kind. It combined the entertaining class-warfare of Fox's The O.C. with Chandler-level mystery and quippy dialogue that would make Amy Sherman-Pallidino (Gilmore Girls, Bunheads) proud. The audience draws were stacked, so much so that I still can't understand why more viewers weren't tuning into the impeccably-written drama.
Veronica's cohorts including her father (Enrico Colantoni), her best friends (Percy Daggs III and Tina Majorino), her nemeses (Ken Marino, Steve Gutenberg - yes, really - and Michael Muhney), and even guest stars (including Greenfield, Jessica Chastain, Amanda Seyfried, Krysten Ritter, and Dianna Agron, to name a few) were all fantastically complex characters too with their own mysterious backstories and skeletons in their respective closets. And some of them, namely Daggs, Marino, and Greenfield, were almost as hilariously witty as Veronica herself.
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Naturally, when this fantastic, teenage-experience-defining series ended abruptly with a cliffhanger and no hope of future resolution aside from a disappointing faux-trailer on the final season's DVD that teased Veronica heading off to join the FBI, fans were left writhing in withdrawal. If you can't understand the fervor from a place of experience, we understand, many a Veronica Mars fan was lonely in their praise of the short-lived series. But hopefully, with a little context, the outpouring of joy all over the Internet after the Veronica Mars movie met its $1 million goal in just a day finally makes sense. And if we (and Warner Bros.) are lucky, it just might give you the push to accept Veronica Mars, the incomperable spitfire, into your life too.
Of course, if all this pontificating isn't enough to convince you, you could always enjoy this compilation of great Veronica moments, complete with the full Dandy Warhols-provided theme song and everything:
Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler
[Photo Credit: The CW]
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S2E10: It’s funny. I was just saying how Angela might very well be my favorite character on all of Boardwalk Empire. And then, this happens...
“How them new shoes be fitting these days?” – Chalky
“A little tighter than expected.” – Jimmy
After only a few weeks of unofficial reign over Atlantic City, Jimmy Darmody has managed to lose the favor of just about every character on Boardwalk Empire. This week’s episode, “Georgia Peaches,” makes an effort to explore the friendless world that the man has built for himself. It seems that a poetic justice has imparted itself unto Jimmy in return for his betrayal of Nucky. Last week, we saw hints that even Richard might be beginning to lose his worship for Jimmy. This week, we see both the “up-and-comers” (Al Capone, Meyer Lansky, Lucky Luciano and Mickey Doyle) and the business heads (Eli Thompson and Jimmy’s father, the Commodore, included—and to a subtler extent, Mr. Whitlock) express an antagonism towards their far-from-competent leader, Jimmy.
Capone and co. are unhappy with Jimmy because, thanks to Nucky’s secretive business dealings, none of them can sell any liquor in Atlantic City. So, they are forced to high-tail it elsewhere (heading to New York, Chicago, Philadelphia…and Jimmy, as we learn at the end of the episode, heads back to his college town, Princeton). Also sparking some animosity is Jimmy’s dismissal of Meyer’s and Lucky’s proposal to sell heroin—a plan in which they are both heavily invested.
“Do what we’re paying you to do. End this.” – Business head
The business heads are meanwhile fed up with Jimmy’s inability to handle Atlantic City’s black community’s strike, provoked last week by a plan set forth by Chalky White and “new friend,” Dunn Purnsley. Jimmy suggests the businessmen give into their salary demands and offer nickel raises—however, just about no one is on board with this. Eli proposes a far more popular violent reaction: the strikers are attacked by Billy-club waving bandits, who also impart some wrath onto Deputy Halloran for his none-too-savvy conversation with Esther Randolph last week.
We also get a taste of the black community’s distaste for Jimmy, courtesy of his conversation with Chalky. When Jimmy fails to meet just one of Chalky’s demands—that is, “justice” brought to the men responsible for the described violence—Chalky insists that the strike will continue through and beyond tourist season.
And, finally, there’s Manny: Jimmy’s number one enemy right now. Manny knows Jimmy was behind his attempted murder. And Manny was already pretty put off by Jimmy’s refusal to pay his debt. So, when Mickey Doyle shows up with an alcohol delivery courtesy of Jimmy, Manny strangles Mickey until he reveals where Manny can find his boss, so that he might take some revenge.
“What’s so fascinating?” – Angela
“That fellow. Not a care in the world.” – Jimmy
Now, before we get into the last bit of misfortune for Jimmy, I think it’s interesting that this episode is notable in its absence of Jimmy’s mother, Gillian. Gillian is at once an incredibly supportive and an incredibly destructive figure in regards to Jimmy. While she is unwaveringly in his corner, she is also responsible for provoking some of the less favorable choices he has made, most notably shooting Nucky. Gillian is only mentioned in passing this week—by Angela, she’s babysitting Tommy—which is funny in an episode that is almost entirely about the devastation that is becoming of Jimmy. My first thought was, the show wouldn’t want to include any character that might be “pro-Jimmy,” in this episode (even Richard is barely seen this week). And that might very well be the reasoning. But maybe we’re also supposed to accept that Jimmy has become his own destructive force. When we met Jimmy in Season 1, he was an entirely promising individual—intellectually and ethically (at least, within this world). Recently, we’ve seen the effect his mother has on him. But now, we’re perhaps intended to understand that even in the absence of Gillian is Jimmy without hope of redemption. He has become what pulls him downward, he no longer relies on his mother for that.
“The most important thing in life, darling…your health. Your husband did this to you.” – Manny
Now, the “big ending.” As I said, Angela might well be my favorite Boardwalk character. And because of that, the scene she shares with Jimmy this week is one of my favorites in a long time. Jimmy acknowledges how unhappy she is, and what thoughts she might have of him. But he promises to make things better for her soon—this is just before he heads to Princeton (the town where he started on his bright path—he’s going back there to corrupt it…some fun symbolism there), and not long before Manny Horvits breaks into their house, killing Angela as payback for everything Jimmy has done to him.
It’s actually the saddest a Boardwalk episode has made me in some time—first, the heartbreaking scene between Jimmy and Angela really wrenches, because we understand (as do they, beneath it all) just how hopeless it is for the two of them to be happy. And then, this tragic figure who still, despite all her tragedy, wants to live…if only for her son…gets killed, thanks to the misdoings of the husband to whom she has been sadly, fearfully and devotedly attached. “Georgia Peaches” really gets to me.
“What would you do, Arnold?” – Nucky
“No one likes a longshot more than a gambler.” – Rothstein
Onto Nucky and family. Nucky’s business in this episode largely concerns his search for a new lawyer—he fires the lawyer whose hairdo we have come to admire for his inadequacy in making Nucky’s case work in any way to his benefit. He then heads to New York to meet a tricky, silver-tongued lawyer named Fallon, recommended by Rothstein.
More personal matters involve the worsening condition of Emily, and Teddy’s jealousy of the attention his sister is getting. When Nucky tends to Teddy to remind him that his mother still loves him, Teddy reveals that he knows that Nucky burned down his old house—but that he’ll never tell. Meanwhile, Margaret revisits her faith in order to pray for her ailing daughter. She even taps into her stowed away money, donating it to the church in order to earn God’s favor, so to speak.
“What should I make sure I never, ever do again?” – Eli
Finally, Esther (free of quips, but still fantastic) rehearses a testimony with Nelson Van Alden, and offers a jailed Eli a deal if he’ll cooperate in the trail against Nucky (which I truly don’t see why he wouldn’t, considering the lack of brotherly love, unless I’m missing some way that this can harm him).
I always prefer when Boardwalk episodes pay tribute to one character in particular as opposed to forwarding six or seven plotlines. “Georgia Peaches” doesn’t offer that much in the vein of new information or developments (with Angela’s death as the exception), but we really needed to see an episode devoted so strongly to Jimmy’s catastrophic downfall. There are suppositions on the rise that he might not be around much longer—but then again, the Princeton tease at the end might indicate otherwise. Either way, getting an illustration of a desperate Jimmy (one so worn out as to be as vulnerable as he was with Angela) is something I highly appreciate.
A gifted actor, Teddy Dunn enjoyed considerable screen success before stepping away from the camera. Born June 19, 1980 in Torquay, Victoria, Australia, Edward Wilkes "Teddy" Dunn grew up in North Carolina. Having dreamed of becoming a lawyer all his life, Dunn took a detour on his path to law school when the world of acting opened up. Spotted by a manager at a talent showcase, Dunn scored his most famous role on the cult favorite "Veronica Mars" (UPN, 2004-06; The CW, 2006-07) as Duncan Kane, who is not only the brother of the murdered Lilly Kane (Amanda Seyfried), but the ex-boyfriend of Kristen Bell's titular teen detective. Bringing an alluring intensity to his troubled but charming character, Dunn proved a powerful "one who got away" in the "Mars" mythology when he left during the show's second season. Outside the series, he also booked spots on "Gilmore Girls" (The WB, 2000-06; The CW, 2006-07), "Grey's Anatomy" (ABC, 2005- ) and "CSI: NY" (CBS, 2004- ) as well as supporting film roles in "The Manchurian Candidate" (2004) and "Jumper" (2008). Although his last screen credit came in 2009 and he was not officially attached to the project, many fans hoped that star-crossed soulmates Veronica Mars and Duncan Kane would receive some big screen closure when the long-desired "Veronica Mars" feature film was greenlit, thanks to a successful Kickstarter.com campaign, wherein fans donated money toward the feature's budget.<p><i>By Jonathan Riggs</i>