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“The O.C.”: A Look Back
Well, it’s been over three years since a so-called ‘soap opera’ about living in Orange County California hit the airwaves. The show, which drew much attention and garnered solid ratings, spawned a new format of semi-copycats (most notably “Laguna Beach,” whose slogan is ‘The Real O.C.’). But “The O.C.” collapsed in the ratings department this season and Fox decided to end it with the series finale that aired February 22nd.
The program was created by a 26-year old Josh Schwartz, “the youngest person in network history to create a network series and run its day-to-day production,” (Wikipedia). Schwartz’s soapy primetime drama about young adults became a hit when it debuted in 2003. A lot of people (well, more guys than girls) came to think of it as a prominent guilty pleasure, kind of like “Desperate Housewives,” only it was more of a punching bag on television for often being melodramatic.
In an AOL News Poll, when asked the question, “Are you sad to see ‘The O.C.’ go?,” 69% said ‘I don’t care!’ But, 19% said ‘Yes, I love that show!’ and 12% said that the cancellation was deserved because the show had gotten bad. “The O.C.” featured a group of rich, attractive high schoolers (except for the last season, where some go off to college) growing up in Newport Beach, California. In Season 4, the show continued to lose viewers, though critics reviewed the season well, far better than the moderately depressing Season 3. The series ratings began to slide downhill after Season One.
Unknown alternative bands also gained much popularity by having their music featured throughout the show; their albums were announced at the end of each episode. As I once read, some might say that “The O.C.” sometimes seemed like a “one-hour music video.”
The major female character of the show, Marissa Cooper (portrayed by Mischa Barton), went from being a seemingly perfect, straight-A student who chaired events at her exclusive prep high school to getting expelled, in the aftermath of a shooting (I won’t say who fired the shot). She dated Ryan Atwood (whom she met when he moved in next door) on and off for a year or two, and things started out okay, but things ultimately didn’t work out. Eventually, Marissa, in a painful transformation, after resorting to stealing, overdosing on drugs, and learning she’s an underage alcoholic, was boldly (SPOILER alert) killed off in the Season 3 finale. This is not a place many shows are willing to go with a character so major and centric throughout the series’ run.
“The O.C.” followed the numerous escapades in the lives of Ryan, Marissa, and their friends Seth and Summer (who both provide great comic relief), and of happenings with families in the community. That brings us to the main family of the show, the Cohens. There’s super-dad Sandy, loving mom Kiersten, and son Seth, who take in an outsider from a poor California community (Chino), and adopt him as part of their family, Ryan. Ryan (Ben McKenzie) is a good kid, but was steered down the wrong path, somewhat from his bad influences of his older brother, and soon develops a bond like a brother to Seth.
Seth (Adam Brody) blossomed from a corny nerd into a much cooler, comfortable, yet still snarky, nerd who ends up dating the girl of his dreams, Summer Roberts (Rachel Bilson) whom he never thought he stood a chance with. Funnily enough, Brody and Bilson date each other in real life.
For awhile, the Cohens were the family that held Newport Beach together amid all the plastic surgeries. But that was before Kiersten (Kelly Rowan) went off to rehab for alcohol abuse, Seth smoked pot, and Sandy got caught-up in a big real-estate scandal.
And let’s not forget Julie Cooper, Marissa’s mom, one of the best-played (by Melinda Clarke) and scandalous characters on “The O.C.” She divorced soon after the series begins. For a while, Julie was the character you love to hate, the ‘villain’ who’s enormously entertaining to watch. She was a conniving, selfish gold-digger who is more interested in fooling around with Marissa’s recently-dumped boyfriend than taking care of Marissa and her sister, Kaitilyn. But, by the end of Season 3, Julie (after a marriage to ex-neighbor Kiersten’s wealthy dad) had transformed from a scheming lioness into a sweet and friendly woman who genuinely acted kindly. She even starts a dating service, with Kiersten (“Ki-Ki”), who used to always be at odds with each other.
In Season 4, Autumn Reeser’s splendid tightly wound character of Taylor joined the cast as a regular. Throughout the program’s tenure, “The O.C.” showcased popular trends for teenagers in slang (such as “Chrismukkah”, Seth’s new holiday) and fashion accessories (think “wife-beaters”).
Says creator Josh Schwartz, “This feels like the best time to bring the show to its close…we have enjoyed our best season yet, and what better time to go out than creatively on top.” Well said.