There were two TV shows that had their characters graduate from high school in 2006, the same year as myself. Veronica Mars (which I’ll discuss down the line) and The O.C. The plot of the show in a nutshell. Ryan Atwood, a smart kid from the wrong side of the tracks gets kicked out of his home after ending up in jail. Public defender and all around moral compass Sandy Cohen is appointed to his case and sees the potential behind Ryan’s anger. Feeling bad for him he brings him home and introduces him to his nerdy introverted son Seth and suspect, but good-hearted wife Kirsten. From there he meets girl next door and booze hound Marissa, her best friend and Seth’s boyhood crush Summer. Today I’m going to look back at the four seasons of this show and how it went from a huge hit in it’s first season to it limping through it’s fourth season.
-Welcome to The O.C., Bitch!-
Premiering on the tail end of the summer before my sophomore year The O.C. was being hyped as FOX’s major new show of the year. And I have to say, it worked. In spite of some very heavy handed writing the show drew me in. I finally understood why older women couldn’t miss a single episode of “their stories”. While plots got crazier and further out there (How could nobody besides Ryan and Luke see Oliver was a nutjob?) it never got boring. With a 27 episode first season the show ended with us wanting more. Especially since Ryan moved away and Seth went on the lamb.
-Give us More of the Same-
Once they brushed over an excuse to get Ryan back living with the Cohen’s (Theresa lying about miscarrying) the series got back to what it did best, DRAMA! Everyone found themselves a new boyfriend or girlfriend (one character even had both) to stir up the plot. I think the greatest thing I found out about this show was that writers never had a plan and were just making things up as they went along. I got to speak with a former cast member once and they revealed to me that the plot twist of Lindsay being Kirsten’s half sister was never planned from the get go. While I could see the cracks in the show I still didn’t care. It was entertainment.
-Behind the Scenes Problems-
Into season three we go and this was around the time you could feel something shifting. The character of Taylor Townsend was introduced as a frenemy to the core gang and Marissa was forced to go to *gasp* public school! From here we got some boring throwaway characters who were discarded around the middle of the season with the exception of Volchok. Ryan’s new antagonist who made Luke look like a gentleman in hindsight. As usual more drama happened and this season ended with the death of Marissa. Rumor even has it that producers were not happy with Barton’s attitude of being “over” TV acting that they wanted her gone as much as she wanted to leave.
-End Not With a Bang, But With a Whimper-
In spite of losing a core character the show moved into a fourth (and final) season. With Volchok in hiding after Marissa’s death Ryan is out for revenge. Much like every other season they dealt with the previous season’s fallout quickly and moved onto new stuff. Taylor and Kaitlin were positioned to fill the gap Marissa left while more throwaway characters were brought into the fold. Honestly, I think season 4 is an improvement over season 3. While 3 got bogged down in an overload of melodramatic subplots 4 felt like a return to form. It’s too bad cast members didn’t feel the same way. Then unknown actor Chris Pratt joined the show in a recurring role as Che. He’s spoken out in interviews about how many of the younger cast members were “checked out” of the show by this point. And so, what started as a cultural phenomenon was now eking towards the finish line. I’ll admit, by this time I was in college and didn’t even watch the full season until it came out on DVD.
Was The O.C. more than a snapshot at what mid 2000’s television was? I’d say yes as for a moment, it was the one major series that almost every teenager tuned in for. It got a lot of up and coming actor’s faces out there and many of them now have careers thanks to it. So, what are your thoughts? Did you watch The O.C. back in the day? Do you (like me) own all 4 seasons and occasionally watch them?