Category Archives: Veronica Mars

“Just Remember Me When…” – The Uncertain Legacies of the Veronica Mars Kickstarter

Screen Shot 2014-03-15 at 10.04.31 AM

Exactly a year ago today, I wrote a piece about the experience of the Veronica Mars Kickstarter where I explored the meanings of “following” a Kickstarter campaign as it reaches its goal, arguing for that twelve-hour period as a key space of meaning for fans of the franchise. I framed that experience as the queue for an amusement park ride, but the metaphor had one problem: in this context, what constitutes the ride?

Kickstarting Veronica Mars: A Moment in a Movement – Antenna: Responses to Media and Culture

“As with some theme park rides, the line between the queue and the ride will be blurry in this case: does the ride begin when the Kickstarter reaches its goal? Or when the film is released next year? Or when the film goes into production this summer (since viewers were supporting not the project being released but rather the project existing at all)?”

Around the same time, I was invited by Bertha Chin and Bethan Jones to participate in a dialogue regarding the Veronica Mars Kickstarter, crowdfunding, and fan labor for Transformative Works and Cultures. Within that conversation, which took place in the weeks following the campaign’s success, fellow panelist Luke Pebler rightfully highlights the way uncertainty framed any and all conversation surrounding the Kickstarter around that time.

Veronica Mars Kickstarter and crowd funding – Transformative Works and Cultures

“A recurrent theme in these discussions seems to be, how will it all look once it’s over and the thing kickstarted is complete and released? Will backers ultimately be happy? Will producers be happy? Will it all have been worth it? It’s going to be an excruciatingly long wait to find out, in many cases.”

Ignoring for a moment the subtle irony that we had to wait almost as long for our conversation to be published as Veronica Mars fans had to wait for an entire movie to be funded, produced, and distributed (and Transformative Works and Cultures is fast by academic standards, and should be lauded for its belief in open access publication so I can link non-scholars reading this post to the conversation in question), the uncertainty evident in both my and Luke’s commentary has been the greatest takeaway from the Veronica Mars Kickstarter experience. Until the film was released yesterday, the Kickstarter existed in this state of receptive limbo, and even after the film’s release the questions of value and fan agency discussed in our conversation remain fluid as Warner Bros. struggles to manage digital distribution controversy.

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Kristen Bell and ‘Heroes’: A Double-Edged Sword

In case you missed the big news from very late last evening…well, okay, very late for me four hours ahead of pacific time…

From Variety:

NBC is adding former “Veronica Mars” star Kristen Bell to the cast of “Heroes.”

Peacock has snagged Bell for a key multiepisode arc of its sophomore sensation. Casting is a major coup for NBC since Bell — who plays the title character in Judd Apatow’s upcoming “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” — was reportedly being sought for several TV gigs, including a part on ABC’s “Lost.”

Now, I admit I’ve been too busy to be blogging about this entire saga, but Bell was apparently approached for a gig on Lost, a more substantial one than a “multiepisode arc,” but turned it down. According to TV Guide’s Michael Ausiello, this was because she didn’t want to move to Hawaii and was perhaps lining up a Broadway run in Legally Blonde.

This announcement is, however, a double-edged sword. On the one hand, I love seeing a talented actress whose series struggled in the ratings be recognized as just that: a true talent capable of continuing on in television. I have to admit, though, that I am concerned about a lot of things in this development.

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Detention: Rob Thomas departs ABC’s “Miss/Guided”

News has broken today that Rob Thomas, creator of Veronica Mars, has split from ABC’s midseason comedy “Miss/Guided” only a month after agreeing to run the show.

Zap2it.com – ABC’s “Miss/Guidance” Seeks New Guidance

No, it doesn’t appear to be in order for him to devote more time to that Veronica Mars comic book; rather, the split appears to be for a variety of good reasons.

Okay, so let’s recap this entire situation for just one moment:

Step 1:

ABC picks up comedy pilot, Miss/Guided, starring Judy Greer, for midseason at the last minute. The pickup was a bit of a surprise, but seemed like a decent pilot at first glance.

Step 2:

Rob Thomas, newly available after Veronica Mars went under, is hired to run the show as an executive producer. This was hailed as good news, considering it kept a great producer on television.

Step 3:

ABC, deciding that it doesn’t have enough generic comedies premiering this year (Carpoolers, Cavemen), turns the show into a more straightforward comedy. More specifically, ABC are dumb and are turning the show into That 70s Show: Modern Edition by bringing in that show’s producer to run things.

Step 4:

Rob Thomas leaves the show, citing creative differences. More specifically, I believe his real reason is something along the lines of “ABC doesn’t want a good show, and I don’t want to be part of a bad one.” That’s my assumption, anyways.

So after this entire saga, the question remains: what does this mean for both Thomas and the show?

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For Your Consideration: Lead Actresses – Mary-Louise Parker and Kristen Bell

[In Week Four of Cultural Learnings’ 59th Annual Emmy Awards Nominations Preview, we’re looking at possible contenders for the Lead Actress awards in both drama and comedy. Today, we present our fourth set of candidates. For complete listings for all Supporting and Lead Actor candidates from the past four weeks, check out our For Your Consideration index]

Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

Mary-Louise Parker (Nancy)

Weeds

It has now been about a week since I started watching Weeds, which perhaps makes it difficult to put the show in perspective compared to others. I finished both of the show’s seasons in the span of about a week, and I think that this should be seen as a testament to the show’s quality. However, let’s be honest here: while the supporting performances of Elizabeth Perkins, Justin Kirk, Romany Malco, Kevin Deacon are all great, the entire show hinges on Mary-Louise Parker’s portrayal of a suburban widow turned drug dealer. I think that a single episode could survive without her subtle and engaging portrayal of Nancy Botwin, but the series as a whole requires us to feel for Nancy, understand Nancy, relate to Nancy and to a certain extent judge Nancy on her actions. What Parker nails each and every time is a character who has no idea what she’s doing; every time she tries to assert herself, her character finds things moving too fast, and she’s forced to fall as she always invariably falls. But we always want to pick her back up: we want Nancy to succeed at selling drugs just as much as we would want the Dillon Panthers to win the big game on Friday Night Lights. As individuals living in a legal system that frowns upon this, we should see it as somewhat subversive…and we do, but just the right amount. That is the work of Mary-Louise Parker, and it is work that is worthy of Emmy consideration.

What I like most about Parker’s work is that there is that constant awareness of how dangerous what she is doing really is, and yet also her ability to get swept up in it all. The constant fear that her children will figure out what she does for a living was real for Nancy, especially in the case of young son Shane. Nancy got herself into hot water this season: her DEA agent beau found out about her occupation of choice, she married him to gain protection from the law, her grow operation was threatened by Armenians, her elder son figured out her position (And got his girlfriend pregnant), she realized how screwed she was in her sham marriage, and pretty well everything spiraled out of control in the season finale. And through it all you saw Parker both being overwhelmed by the emotion of it all and getting absolutely giddy as Snoop Dogg digs her “M.I.L.F. Weed”.

While Perkins and Kirk have the real “comic” roles, Parker’s core storyline forms the show’s entire dramatic construct. Without a deft hand, these storylines could become too dramatic, or perhaps even too comic. Instead, Mary-Louise Parker always gives Nancy Botwin qualities we find funny, charming, and just enough to make us sometimes forget the mistakes she’s made. And that is a performance that should garner her an Emmy nomination.

Episode Selection: “Mrs. Botwin’s Neighbourhood” (Aired September 11th, 2006)

“I have fires in two houses, Mr. Botwin…Mr. Scotson.” This line perfectly demonstrates why this episode is a strong submission for Parker: she is faced with conflict on both sides of her life (Mother and Pot Dealer/Grower). Silas’ girlfriend Megan is pregnant, and she tells her parents on her own…and then stops talking to Silas, who had wanted her to keep the baby. Meanwhile, Nancy has to deal with four Armenian pot growers in her neighbourhood who are more than a little hostile and her newly established growhouse, so she turns to her sham DEA husband (Mr. Scotson) for assistance. Combine this with a hysterical attack from Elizabeth Perkins, and you have a woman who is struggling to keep her head above water. She lashes out, attacking Megan’s father for hitting her son and just delivers a great performance in the process. This is Nancy at her lowest with a glimmer of hope in its conclusion, and it is an engaging performance worthy of consideration.

YouTube“Mrs. Botwin’s Neighbourhood”

Lead Actress in a Drama

Kristen Bell (Veronica)

Veronica Mars

Let’s be honest: Kristen Bell will not be nominated for an Emmy award. The show is too lowly rated, and struggled too much creatively in this its third season, for it to ever be considered a serious contender. However, I cannot help but continue to be engaged by Kristen Bell’s characterization of this young woman struggling with pretty well everything around her. She smart, intelligent, savvy, and yet is in many ways just as damaged as the rest of us. While her character has lost depth in the past two seasons, I still think that Bell remains the show’s highlight: without her turn as Veronica, I don’t know if the show would have ever engaged fans in the first place. As she moves on from the now cancelled Veronica Mars, I believe she has a bright future ahead of her. However, before she moves on, I think it is important that we at least bring attention to the fact that without her strong performance, Veronica Mars wouldn’t have lasted half a season. With wit and charm, Kristen Bell brought sophistication to the realm of teen dramas that it had not seen before: the result was a performance that, to hell with reality, is worthy of Emmy consideration.

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For Your Consideration: Lead Actors – Tony Shalhoub and Enrico Colantoni

[In Week Three of Cultural Learnings’ 59th Annual Emmy Awards Nominations Preview, we’re looking at possible contenders for the Lead Actor awards in both drama and comedy. Today, we present our second set of candidates. For complete listings for the Supporting candidates from the past two weeks, check out our For Your Consideration index]

Lead Actor in a Comedy

Tony Shalhoub (Adrian Monk)

Monk

For the past two years, Tony Shalhoub has won the Emmy Award for Leading Actor in a Comedy. And every year, arguably, someone else probably deserved it more. I am not sure if the same will happen this year, but I want to make something clear: despite believing that Shalhoub perhaps isn’t better than some of his other candidates, he is an adept comic actor who infuses Monk with 90% of its charm. As a procedural dramedy, ostensibly, Monk is entirely reliant on Shalhoub’s performance of OCD-riddled, paranoid, uncomfortable and brilliant Adrian. While the show can be uneven, Shalhoub’s performance is always incredibly strong; very rarely do you ever become annoyed by his antics, even as the show sometimes loses sight of its proper goals. Considering his long string of nominations, Shalhoub is clearly a man who gives consistently great performances. And, while I might not select him to win, it’s hard not to consider his portrayal of Adrian Monk for Emmy Awards attention.

In the hands of a lesser actor, I believe that Monk would be an insufferable pain in the ass that we couldn’t imagine anyone actually liking. However, Shalhoub gives him an everyman quality: disconnected from society in so many ways, Monk is much like any other social outsider struggling to find his place in the world. And as he solves crimes in his brilliant fashion, it’s hard not to be charmed by his simple ways and genius mind. What Shalhoub does is make the comedy more pointed, the drama more humorous. Even as the show fails to live up to its potential through stupid stunts such as Monk chasing after a fighter jet (And catching it), Shalhoub always gives a performance that makes you keep watching. And that, although maybe not worthy of beating Steve Carell last year, is worthy of Emmy consideration.

Episode Selection: Mr. Monk Gets a New Shrink (Aired August 11th, 2006)

This episode features the best of Adrian’s qualities in one episode. Faced with the thought of his long-time therapist Dr. Kroger (Stanley Kamel) ending, Monk has to face his own personal problems in an accelerated fashion. Desperate for guidance, he goes to his house and attempts to solve the murder in Kroger’s office in order to bring him back to work. It features most of Monk’s best qualities: his feud with fellow patient Harold, his insecurity about his mental health, his reaction to a new therapist with only one arm (Not symmetrical), and his broad comedy. It is a tour de force comic performance, highlighted by his speedy trip through the stages of grief that is basically an Emmy reel in itself.

YouTube“Mr. Monk Gets a New Shrink”

Lead Actor in a Drama

Enrico Colantoni (Keith Mars)

Veronica Mars

I was somewhat surprised to see that Veronica Mars’ Enrico Colantoni had submitted in the Lead Actor category, as I really never saw his performance as being on that level. Sure, I love Keith just as much as the next fan of the show, but he’s being classified a lead actor purely due to his acting pedigree. In reality, I’d call Jason Dohring more of a lead actor this season than Keith was, but I have to go with what was submitted. It’s really not that hard, however, to make a case for Colantoni’s Emmy worthiness. Keith is a memorable television father whose love for his daughter faced many challenges over three seasons but never waned. As the show comes to an end, it is unlikely that it will be garnering Emmy attention as it doesn’t seem to write Emmy bait episodes like other series. However, there is something about Colantoni’s performance that simultaneously portrayed Keith as kind, concerned, protective and pretty darn cool: and that’s worthy of Emmy consideration for the Veronica Mars actor.

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ABC’s ‘Miss/Guided’ Gains ‘Veronica Mars’ Creator

Judy Greer is perhaps best known to television comedy fans for her stint as receptionist Kitty on Arrested Development. Rob Thomas is best known for creating Veronica Mars, the beloved UPN/The CW drama that was recently canceled. Combining these two elements seems like good science, and apparently all parties think so. A last-minute addition to the ABC Pilot lineup, “Miss/Guided” was seeking guidance and has found it in Thomas, who will lead Greer and Co. as showrunner starting at midseason according to E! Online.

This means a few things: first, yes, Veronica Mars is definitely canceled. However, I think that fans (and everyone else) should look on the bright side knowing that Rob Thomas is still in television. While I think that he has yet to prove himself a consistent showrunner over multiple seasons, and the fact that he hasn’t created the show is certainly going to make for a different experience, the first season of Veronica Mars was some of the most exceptional television of the decade. If Thomas can develop his vision and keep it from spiraling out of control, I believe that he is the right person for this job.

Second, I’m now that much more excited for Miss/Guided. I was happy to see it picked up, considering Judy Greer is both very engaging and very funny, but now the series has a great deal of potential. The show is certainly not all that original, actually seeming to play just a little bit like Ugly Betty in a public school, but I think that this type of fish out of water story is exactly the type of thing that Thomas is good at capturing. The best parts of Veronica Mars were when she was a total outcast, struggling not to fit in but to survive not fitting in. Much as Veronica developed her own way of doing that, I believe that Greer’s Becky Freeley can do the same.

So, while it is perhaps no consolation for losing Veronica Mars, I look forward to seeing what he is able to cook up for Miss/Guided. Perhaps with a creative resurgence the sitcom might actually get a timeslot confirmed; if it replaces Cavemen (Which better not succeed), I shall be most pleased.

For a clip of Miss/Guided from its pilot episode, head to ABC.com’s Fall Preview.

Also of Note: Christina Applegate comedy “Sam I Am” is now listed as “Untitled” on ABC’s fall preview. Looks like changes are afoot on more shows than one over at ABC.

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‘Veronica Mars’ Fans Go Down Fighting: Why Fan Movements are Never Valueless

When I blogged about the efforts to save Veronica Mars last week, they were fairly insignificant. There was no real momentum, no real content, no real drive, and it felt like an attempt to copy the successful campaign for CBS’ Jericho. However, while there is certainly inspiration to be found within Jericho’s triumphant defeat of network executives, the two situations are not the same, and Veronica Mars fans are likely fighting a losing battle. Despite what is perhaps a cynical perspective, I want to make something very clear: I believe that fan movements are never valueless. And as the campaign formed into an extensive Mars Bar, Snickers and Marshmallow Fest over the weekend, I guess I became a bit more nostalgic about it.

BarsForMars Campaign Info

Website: http://www.barsformars.com

Stage One: Purchasing Mars Bars from The Indian Food Store, later becoming Snickers bars when Mars Bars ran out (Note: We in Canada have plenty, and they’re good. Really good). Later, deciding that Marshmallows tied in with the series, fans began to send the poofy treats as well.

Stage Two: Fans are instructed to order the show’s season finale, ‘The Bitch is Back’, on iTunes on Tuesday June 12th in an effort to raise it to the top of the charts and show support for the show. There are no current plans to bulk purchase David Bowie’s ‘Life on Mars?’, but considering that it is both an awesome song and that international viewers can’t buy TV shows from the store, I think it might be cool.

There has been criticism that fans are “wasting their money”, or squandering their time; I would argue that this could never be the case. Television is a medium that people connect to in a way that just doesn’t occur with movies or books, and the result is often a sense of fan support that creates a community. That community is something that, for better or for worse, has been part of those people’s lives, and television is something you talk about. Chatting about an episode, a character, is something that brings people together with a common goal in a way that politicians can only dream of.

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Why Saving ‘Veronica Mars’ is Different Than Saving ‘Jericho’

In the wake of the impressive ‘Nuts for Jericho’ campaign, Herc over at Ain’t it Cool News is calling out to fans of another canceled show, Veronica Mars, in an attempt to bring them together to bring back their own favourite show. Now, the amazing success of the Jericho campaign is something that should be inspiring fans of all sorts of canceled shows, and I believe that this is both natural and productive. And, as a fan of Veronica Mars, there is little I would enjoy more than to be able to enjoy one of the most enjoyable TV shows in recent years on a weekly basis again. However, all of this being said, I have to make something very clear to fans getting on this bandwagon:

Veronica Mars is not Jericho.

Jericho was a freshman drama which opened with strong numbers and due to a variety of factors lost those numbers after a midseason hiatus. It was booted from the schedule without really getting a fair shake: it never had a chance to rebuild, facing off against American Idol, and even CBS admitted they never gave it the proper treatment it deserved. As a result, after enormous fan outcry, CBS is giving it a chance and giving it a chance to prove itself at midseason.

The problem for Veronica Mars is that this situation happened…two years ago. When, after weak ratings in its first season, fan support from sites like TelevisionWithoutPity and the show’s creative potential convinced UPN head Dawn Ostroff to save the show from cancellation and give it a better spot on their schedule. It was in the same situation just last year, when Ostroff again saved the show in the move to The CW, pairing it with Gilmore Girls in a last-ditch effort to boost the show’s ratings.

In other words, Jericho and Veronica Mars were in the same position, yes, but Veronica Mars has gone past that point. It has had two years to show UPN and The CW its potential, and both times out it has failed to improve its ratings. As a result, fans of the show can’t claim (As Jericho fans could) that the show wasn’t given a fair treatment, and deserves a fourth season. In fact, I think that they have to admit that Veronica Mars had two more seasons than its ratings dictated. And, as a result, fans need to go into this with lowered expectations: Saving Veronica Mars will not be easy, and it certainly isn’t the same situation as the one CBS faced for the past three weeks.

However, this does not mean I believe they should stop fighting, or that I won’t be fighting with them. Instead, unlike Jericho fans, I believe that Veronica Mars fans should be focused on getting resolution and resolution only. Left with a finale that was meant to lead on to bigger things, fans want to know what happens next. They were left wanting more, and I don’t think it is unreasonable that they should get it. I just don’t think that the show’s ratings, or its three previous lives, dictate another kick at the can entirely.

Rather, what fans need to be fighting for is the opportunity for the show to conclude with a TV-Movie or, preferably, TV Movies. Veronica, as a character, has a lot of life in her. She is complex, youthful, energetic, intelligent, and yet is able to also handle more dramatic work thanks to the deft acting of Kristen Bell. She is powerful and unique, and for me represents a fantastic character to analyze further. And, I believe that the TV Movie genre, something that The CW’s corporate family member CBS enjoys greatly, might just be where Veronica can find a home.

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The Midseason Contenders: The Shows You Might Be Watching in January

It’s now been two weeks since the glut of Network Upfronts coverage, and I guess you could say I’m a little nostalgic for it. Gone are the days when breaking television news hits every hour, which is really quite unfortunate. However, in recent days there’s been some news about the one thing that networks are always unwilling to talk about: the midseason substitutes.

You see, each network knows that they’re not going to actually be able to hold on to all of their fall dramas and comedies, but publicly they need to talk about how awesome they are and how they’ll run for years and years and years! In reality, they’re quietly organizing possible replacements that could be plugged in by January. While some networks have actually scheduled shows at midseason, there is still the possibility that new pilots or existing shows could be picked up. So, let’s take a gander at all of these possible contenders to see where they might fight in should a space open up.

The Contenders

CBS

Swingtown

What is it: 70s-set drama about an apparently quiet suburb that, as new residents discover, is actually a swingin’ sex haven.

Where will it go: It will be scheduled at 10pm somewhere, based on its subject matter. Chances are that it would be a good fit on Sundays, but we’ll see how Shark does in the timeslot. Shark is a show that could easily be moved to fill in for a struggling drama, so it could give up its spot to the new show.

Chances of Midseason Placement: High. CBS is only saving the show until midseason so it can air uninterrupted through to May.

Jericho

What is it: Post-apocalyptic drama turned town survival drama that garnered a strong enough cult following to result in the Nuts for Jericho campaign of the past few weeks.

Where would it go: I really, really don’t know. This is a tough one: technically, the spot guaranteed to open up (Wednesdays at 8 after Kid Nation ends) could work well, but it’s also going to run right back up against American Idol. Meanwhile, there isn’t a whole lot left in terms of timeslots. If CBS really wants to try to take its cult following with it, they could plug it in on Fridays and hope that people show up. Still, it wouldn’t be easy.

Chances for Midseason Placement: The ‘Save Jericho’ movement is still fighting, and the campaign is gaining steam daily, but the deadline is two weeks before CBS loses the cast to other projects. That’s a short amount of time to convince CBS to make a huge commitment, and a late fall miniseries might be the more likely option at this stage.

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Filed under ABC, FOX, Jericho, Law & Order, Lost, Medium, NBC, One Tree Hill, Reality TV, Sarah Connor Chronicles, Television, The Amazing Race, The CW, Upfronts, Veronica Mars

The Results are In: Nielsen Ratings Data for 2006/2007 Season

This list is long. This list is extensive. And I really want to know what this list means. Nielsen (Via The Hollywood Reporter) has released their data for every single TV show that aired in America this past season. It tells us where our favourite shows ranked, where much maligned shows ranked, and how scripted drama did against reality programming.And, it raises a lot of questions about this data that I think Nielsen might not want to answer.

For instance, does this list include repeats in its viewers averages? Because that’s the only way CSI (#4) should be beating Grey’s Anatomy (#6) in total viewers by my calculations. If so, this gives a distinct advantage to shows without repeats (Reality Shows, Lost, Heroes, etc.) or those shows which repeat extremely well (House, CSIs, etc.)

The major thing to watch for in the list is the difference between 18-49 numbers and viewership rankings. It rises many shows into positions of being picked up, even with lacklustre performances in viewers. Some show, like 30 Rock, are in the doldrums in terms of total viewers but shoot up into the Top 75 with adults 18-49, which got it renewed for a second season.

After a few formatting errors, I’ve realized that getting it to highlight canceled shows would drive me crazy, so just refer to your memory. And, either way, some will seem a bit strange. However, remember that these are averages, and don’t reflect ratings dropoff in their later episodes.

This is the case for Jericho, which clearly performed better than many canceled shows. However, CBS did cancel the better rated Close to Home airing on Fridays, so it’s not as if Jericho was the only victim of CBS’ extremely highly place high bar. It might as well be a pole vault at this point.

With the 2006/2007 season over, the industry trades are going right for ratings as their barometer of success. Outside of this post, I’m unlikely to do so as I go into my own year in review season. For now, check out the ratings for all of the dirt, and stay tuned for less quantitative analysis at Cultural Learnings.

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Filed under 30 Rock, ABC, American Idol, Dancing with the Stars, Gilmore Girls, Grey's Anatomy, Heroes, House, Lost, NBC, Ratings, Reality TV, Scrubs, Television, The Amazing Race, The CW, The Office, Veronica Mars