I was recently watching the FOX 25th Anniversary Special, where they showed clips from shows both successful and failed. There was one show which seeing only a tiny clip almost reduced me to tears. That masterpiece?
The O.C., bitch!
It was 2003. I had heard ads on my radio station for a few days about some new FOX show. I just knew in the ads some Ian Ziering wannabe belted out “Welcome to the O.C., bitch. This is how it’s done in Orange County.” I had no plans to watch it. I didn’t even pay attention to when it would be on.
I found myself that night with my TV on FOX at 8pm. A show began with a teenage boy in a car his older brother was stealing. The car crashed and the police arrested them. The teenage boy met with his lawyer with large eyebrows. He was released into his dysfunctional mother’s custody. She took him home, just to throw him out of the house. The teenager stands at a bank of payphones (imagine!) calling everyone he knows. As his options run out, he calls his lawyer’s cell. “California” by Phantom Planet builds, as the teenager and the lawyer travel from the gritty darkness of Chino to the blinding wealth of Newport Beach in Orange County.
What followed is the best pilot I have ever seen. I always say it could stand alone by itself as a mini-movie and feel complete. The characters stayed true in the series that followed to their personalities in the pilot. Sure, their characters evolved. But their weren’t radical changes or recasting (save for Kaitlin Cooper). Heck, the actress who played friend Holly probably thought she was done for after the first season, not appearing in season two or three, only to be brought back as an almost regular in season four.
I have to admit that Oliver was the worst character on The O.C. I guess Josh Schwartz thought the show needed a villain, but ugh. Later, I also would not like Volchok (Cam Gigandet). But that is what he was supposed to be—skeezy and slimy and bad.
Sometimes I get to the Oliver episodes and skip ahead to season four, which is the awesomist season ever! I could totally be happy if all my other O.C. discs evaporated and I could just watch the pilot and season four. I didn’t realize that I didn’t really like Marissa until she was gone. She seemed so ESSENTIAL. Until she wasn’t. It was worth it to sit through three seasons of her to be able to watch Ryan’s pain in the first episode of the fourth season, title “The Avengers”. Ryan has sunk so low that he has moved out of the Cohen’s pool house and is living in the back room of a bar. And cage fighting. All bloody and sweaty. And hurt and wounded and needy. Thriving on the physical pain as the only way to cope for his mental pain. All to the sound of “Running Up That Hill” by Placebo. And he has a Jeep Wrangler. Mmmmm…Down girl:) Of course, it gets all resolved with a Seth comic book (graphic novel). Cage fighting and comic books, you say? In the magical world of The O.C., it really all worked and was very logical. I feel as though The O.C. really hit their stride in season four. Too bad everyone but me had given up on it by then.
I like Taylor Townsend. She is needy, teacher’s pet, a goody-goody, clutching on to even the tiniest bit of affection and blows it out of proportion. She is not a character that anyone should like. She slept with the evil Dean of Discipline and made the Core 4’s (I hate that term) life a living hell. When it comes down to it, she is a big dork. But I do like her. Because if I was zapped through my TV into their Orange County, I would be Taylor. I would be the one not as cool as everyone else. The one who has never been to a high school party or played seven minutes in Heaven. I probably wouldn’t run off to France and marry a French writer. But I digress. Taylor has an apocalypse kit. She isn’t afraid to don a groundhog suit to stalk the one she loves. I love that she had the courage to tell her mom she is a bitch in the alt-universe. Because she is a bitch.
I love things that come full circle. I love scenes that harken back to earlier ones. I love scenes that pay homage to the series mythology that already stands. This was common on The O.C. Ryan carrying Marissa was a big one. He carried her in the pilot into the pool house while she was passed out to the sounds of “Into Dust” by Mazzy Star. He carried her in Tijuana when she overdosed on pills out of the back alley to the same haunting song. Ryan carries Marissa again after the car crash that will result in her death, but this time to “Hallelujah”. “Hallelujah” was a commonly used song on The O.C. during the scenes of loss, especially the version sung by Jeff Buckley. As Ryan carries her from the burning car, they actually fade the Pool house and Tijuana scenes into the current one. They often return to the shot of Marissa standing on the sidewalk in the cul-de-sac waiting for Luke, as Ryan looks back at her (from when he leaves Newport in the pilot, only to return again in episode 2). They make reference and return to the site of “The Model Home” several times, lastly the night of Marissa’s death. The series final episode uses the actual score from the pilot (I must admit I never noticed this. I learned it on the extras.). My favorite is how this episode shows Ryan in the future approaching a kid who appears in distress at a similar bank of payphones as seen in the pilot and offers him assistance. The scene is beautifully perfect. Except that no one has payphones anymore.
I bawled like a baby for like an hour the night The O.C. went off the air. You might not understand why, but let me try to explain. TV always felt like my family. A huge piece of that was the show Friends. Every Thursday night, there were my Friends. The O.C. came along just as Friends was ending. I had new friends. So, when The O.C. ended, I cried not only for The O.C., but also for ten years of Friends. And all the TV that had come before that was close to my heart. I felt like my empty life was crashing down on me. I felt empty and alone. It was almost indescribable.
One more thought: I always thought of One Tree Hill as a crappy second-rate O.C. rip-off (Truth: I have never watched One Tree Hill in my life). So how did The O.C. get cancelled after four seasons and One Tree Hill is still on? As Seth said, “Turn this into a body swap comedy, we could have squeezed another year or two out of this.”
If you want to see my Ultimate O.C. Playlist, click on over to the I’m not stalking you. Facebook page.
And now, I present to you…
100 Reasons I Love The O.C.
1. Benjamin McKenzie is hot as Ryan Atwood.
2. While Ryan Atwood was only supposed to be like 15, Benjamin McKenzie was almost the same age as my husband.
3. About half the music on the show was awesome.
4. Regis Philbin’s daughter was one of the show’s writers.
5. They actually brought up the fact that Peter Gallagher has freaky big eyebrows. Like twice.
6. Summer’s “Ew”.
7. Summer’s “You wanna pee? I gotta pee.”
8. The fact that four members of the cast of “Twilight” were on The O.C. Three all in the same episode, “The Heavy Lifting”.
9. Todd the waiter in the pilot gets to be a major player in the finale.
10. The use of everything is circular/comes back around.
12. The fact that Ryan finally fell in love, but unsuspectingly with his guardian’s illegitimate step-sister. (I don’t like that this prevented them from being together.)
13. Hercules (Kevin Sorbo) played Ryan’s father.
14. While I hated Gary Grubbs on Growing Pains, he was excellent as the Bullit (Bang!) on The O.C.
15. They went a step further for the season four Christmas episode than a simple “It’s a Wonderful Life” rip-off. They made an entire alternate universe.
16. The reoccurring homeless guys in season four.
17. The never-ending stream of social events.
18. The Area 51 alien rave.
19. Atomic County and Kid Chino (and Little Miss Vixen, The Ironist, Cosmo Girl…)
20. “California” by Phantom Planet.
21. I stood behind Phantom Planet in the cafeteria line at work.
22. “Maybe I’m Amazed” by Jem.
23. “Running Up That Hill” by Placebo.
24. Julie Cooper-Nichol-Cooper-Bullit-Atwood.
25. The tobacco-chewing, thong-wearing, Julie living in a trailer.
26. Taylor Townsend.
27. Summer dressed as Wonder Woman.
28. Anna saying “Oh my God. I made you a comic book. What am I, eight?”
29. Kirsten running the Newport Group.
30. Julie running the Newport Group.
31. Caleb running the Newport Group into the ground.
32. Sandy suing the Newport Group.
33. Ryan interning at the Newport Group.
34. Seth burning the Newport Group to the ground.
35. Taryn – Head Newpsie.
38. The Six-Pack Pack.
43. Hailey Nichol.
44. Jimmy Cooper, who couldn’t do anything right, no matter how hard he tried.
45. Both Kaitlins.
46. China-“It’s just not right for a little girl to love a bald pony.”
47. Ryan and Seth’s reaction to the new Kaitlin.
48. Summer’s reaction to Marissa’s death (“The Metamorphosis”).
49. Summer realizing her environmentalism isn’t just a phase.
51. “Lazy Eye” by Silversun Pickups.
52. The Diner.
53. The Bait Shop.
54. The bi-sexual bartender at The Bait Shop.
55. The mall.
56. El Paco Quapo.
60. The Summer Breeze.
63. The pool house.
64. “lil’ bitch” carved on Sandy’s car.
65. Sandy Cohen.
66. Kirsten Cohen.
67. Kirsten’s drunk driving accident with the garbage truck.
68. Kirsten’s intervention.
69. Kirsten and Julie starting New Match.
70. Team Atwood vs. Team Bullit.
71. Kirsten finding out Julie turned New Match into a prostitution ring.
72. Julie having a case of “The Franks”.
73. Ryan and Taylor’s 7 minutes in Heaven.
74. Taylor stalking Ryan and keeping an “esthetically pleasing scrapbook” of all the details.
75. Luke’s gay dad.
76. Kirsten announcing she is pregnant (Oh, shut up! It isn’t a spoiler when the show has been off the air for four years!).
77. Mail truck! Mail truck! Mail truck!
78. Hello Kitty calendar.
79. Mermaid Inn.
81. Dawn Atwood.
83. “You know what I like about rich kids…” BAM! “Nothing.”
84. [My hand hurts.] Ryan’s Jeep Wrangler.
85. The model home.
86. “Marissa has only one true love. And he looks a lot different in a wife beater.”
87. The Nana.
88. Ryan carrying Marissa.
89. “Hallelujah” by Jeff Buckley.
90. “Into Dust” by Mazzy Star.
91. Harbor School.
92. Chris Brown’s bad acting.
93. Seth Cohen.
94. “Night Moves” by Bob Seger.
95. Holly’s beach house.
96. Anna Stern.
97. Yakuza Prep – “I watch it every night before I go to bed. It helps me unwind.”
98. How Benjamin McKenzie acts by looking out the corner of his eyes the entire first season. Many, many times per episode. It would make an excellent drinking game.
100. “Welcome to The O.C., bitch. This is how it’s done in Orange County.”