Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What Makes The O.C. Great

by DionysusPsyche
When I originally started watching this show, it was because someone who'd graduated from my high school (someone I actually knew and had spoken to) had been cast as a guest star in the series. The decision to actually sit down and watch the show had been a hard one for me. It wasn't that I didn't want to watch it because it was a night time soap or because I thought it would be terrible or because I was unconsciously afraid of being mocked if I actually liked the show. It was all three.

Yet because someone I knew was on the show, I felt that it was my duty to watch the show, or at least that's what I told myself. My other friends were also going to be tuning in along with a lot of other people from our school, and their opinions were varied. One of my friends harshly reported that if he ended up on a show like this, he'd have to kill himself. Upon saying that, he added that our mutual acquaintance was supposed to put in a good word for him. Being a famous actor is being well known, for whatever the reason. We were all going to watch, just so we could say we did.

Networks in those days (and to some extent now, but especially then) disliked starting television shows during the summer. Everyone is vacationing, at summer camp, or otherwise occupied. Unlike other series during those days that began during the summer, The O.C. had proven successful. The show revolved around four high school students who are friends who eventually go off to college together and the drama that surrounds them in their hometown of Orange County. Why anyone called it The O.C. as opposed to just O.C. is something that has always sort of irked me. Despite my hesitations, I tuned in to the show to point to my mom and say, "See that guy? I know him."

The first episode when I wasn't thinking "this show is convuluted," or "where IS he?" I was thinking "this isn't as terrible as I thought it would be." The part was supposed to be 2-3 episodes, but the producer liked him so much that he had a reoccurring role all season. Somewhere in between, I became obsessed with the show (until third season) and actually went as far as to buy the first season and watch all the episodes that didn't have the guy from my high school in them.

Without further ado, I will explain to you what makes this t.v. show so great.

If You're Not Born Rich, No Problem!
The first episode, a lawyer takes a case of a teenage boy with no dad, a deadbeat mom, and a jail-bound brother. Before The Blindside, there was The O.C. (except the show is full of white people). Identifying with this boy who could do so much if only someone saw the potential in him, the lawyer, Sandy Cohen (Peter Gallagher), decides to take Ryan (Ben McKenzie) under his wing. You know, just for now. Upper crest society that once looked down their nose at Sandy think he's crazy. What first could be viewed as an "up yours" to his culture in South California, becomes more when Sandy, Kirsten (Kelly Rowan), and their son, Seth (Adam Brody), welcome Ryan into their lives.

If everyone was JUST stupidly wealthy, we would have had ourselves a precursor to Entourage. But because the Cohens welcome an outsider and make him part of their family, it becomes so much more. You'd resent them if you weren't so busy wanting to be the kid they take in! Everyone wants their own pool house.

A lot of times the show likes to point out how everybody's got problems and secrets and oftentimes no one fits in. But mostly just if you're that poor kid from Chino.

The Ultimate Parents
They aren't exactly the Cleavers, but Sandy and Kirsten are a solid duo supporting their family and friends throughout the chaos that occurs each week. They are truly an inclusive family, so even though Sandy may not care for his father-in-law, Caleb (played by Alan Dale who plays basically the same guy on Lost), and even though Kirsten dislikes her neighbor Julie, they are part of their lives. "We're family" is said frequently.

They are active parents who encourage their kids and welcome their sons' girlfriends with open arms. With the Cohens, the more, the merrier. They try to teach their kids good life lessons, and even though the parents look like 10-15 years older than their kids, Sandy is usually home for dinner and Kirsten keeps a clean house (we never see or hear of a house keeper...). They're not without their faults. Sandy forgets their anniversary and stays out too late during a case. He often criticizes his father-in-law for not caring about anyone but himself. Kirsten can't cook and sometimes drinks too much. Yet, they're loving and always looking out for the ones they love.

The Comic Book Nerd Sidekick
Over there! On a skateboard! He's nerdy, he's quirky, heeeee's Seth Cohen, the best friend on the show who eases the tension and cushions the ugly blows (sometimes literally) to everyone's lives. Seth's comic relief earn him the best quipped character on the show although sometimes it's close. Seth is eternally optimistic and tries to help everyone have the most amount of fun by creating things like Chrismukkah and comic books starring he and his best friends. He doesn't always make the best decisions, but the ones he makes are more reasonable than say, Marissa's or Julie's. I occasionally wonder when he's going to stop being obsessed with Summer and start dating Rory from the Gilmore Girls so they can have a contest on who can say witty things faster.

The Girl Next Door
Marissa (Mischa Barton) is more than a pretty face that lives in proximity to the Cohen house. She is quite literally the girl next door. Yet, Marissa deals with her own brand of drama like rebelling against her mom, underage drinking, questionable boyfriends or wannabe boyfriends that aren't Ryan, and shoplifting. She's a hot mess, mess being the keyword. Marissa is perfect for Ryan, because she makes him look good! Also, he can pull knight and shining armor with her while teaching after school specials like "don't hang out with a crazy guy," "shoplifting does not help you fit in," and "don't worry about the bad decisions your parents make, just worry more about yours." Marissa doesn't really fit in either, and she's lived there her whole life. She doesn't really make the show GREAT, per say, but she does propel the drama. You gotta feel bad for the girl whose mother is more like an evil stepmother.

The Snake
Julie (Melinda Clarke) may be straight out of the 80's show Dynasty, but her conniving ways keep things fresh. She can turn a situation in a tornado of evil and sometimes that's just her in an evening dress! I think there's one episode where she fights someone else in a pool (wait, maybe I am thinking of Dynasty...no, pretty sure that's happened in both). Everyone still spends time being nice to her, and some of them even succeed in bringing out the best in Julie Cooper.

Her manipulations aren't on par with chess masters of other series, but you can certainly imagine her looking in a mirror every morning asking who the fairest of them all is. She likes to bury dynamite and walk away in heels while it blows underneath her. Julie doesn't get away with all her bad behavior, but a lot of it she does. It's not that she doesn't get caught, it's just that she doesn't care. She looks out for herself, and she's all about looking fine while doing so. Jimmy says this to her, "Jules, you're still beautiful...and we both know you were never nice."

The Writing
As I've said earlier, the characters are humorous, and it's quite well written. From therapy and rehab to characters getting shot, the show throws all kinds of curve balls. Yet its magnetic and pulls you in--even if you're only watching to hear Seth's thoughts and pop culture references. You have to give it a couple of episodes so you know what's going on, because it takes a few shows to get used to the backstory). The characters on the show can be fickle or dependable, but for the most part they stay true to who they are. They can be deep or surprising (Captain Oats, anyone?). There's always a dance that no one wants to go to, but then things change and they all go, so you get to see all the hotties on the show dressed up. There's always a fight, so that the portion of the audience who drinks can count on taking a shot.

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