Tag Archives: The OC

An ode to The OC, finally available to stream after all these years

About a week ago, the CW’s streaming platform, CW Seed, started streaming every episode of The OC. Josh Schwartz’s first show aired from 2003 to 2007, and its first season still evokes wistful odes about the practical perfection of its awesome zeitgeist-seizing power and unparalleled hipness from pop culture journalists. And far be it from me to argue with them: I came to the show late, stumbling on an all-day marathon of its first season on the embarrassingly-but-accurately-named SoapNet, and was immediately seduced by its shiny, Chanel-clad wiles. I spent probably seven hours holed up in my parents’ bedroom drinking in the antics of Ryan, Seth, Marissa, and Summer, not to mention the grown-up but still wacky charms of Sandy, Kirsten, Julie, and Jimmy. Later, in college, I bought the complete box set, which I still break out on rainy days (read: when I’m bored at home and my internet is down).

I was too young (or too culturally ignorant) to be on the 90210 bandwagon during its heyday, so I don’t totally understand why The OC was considered such a revelatory reimagining of the teen soap genre. But even without that knowledge, it’s incredibly impressive that Josh Schwartz, at just 26, created such a fully realized world, with its own language, wardrobe, and (most important) soundtrack that burned through plot faster than a super-dramatic meteor streaking through the atmosphere.

Granted, some things don’t hold up very well; there are some pretty now-insensitive LGBT plots, and the characters’ utter inability to just freaking be upfront with one another starts to feel more frustrating and more like wheel spinning with each rewatch. What’s just as good today as then, though, is the rhythm of the show and of the characters’ impossibly witty dialogue. Scenes of the Cohens standing around in their gorgeous kitchen swapping quips about Yogalates over bagels and schmear made me long for a family whose sense of humor and words-per-minute powers of speech were so perfectly in sync.


Nowhere would you find the inarticulate mumblings of My So-Called Life or Freaks and Geeks (Ryan’s inability to drop the L-bomb notwithstanding); nor would you get the overstudied, tongue-twisting SAT test of a Dawson’s Creek or the Wikipedia-breakingly thick pop culture references of a Gilmore Girls. The show introduced its own terms into the lexicon (Chrismukkah and minty, anyone?), and despite all the gun-waving, face-punching, overdose-taking, embezzling drama it packed in, it for the most part remained a sunny, funny show.

It’s also interesting to see how Schwartz and co. let the characters evolve over time. As Ryan, Ben McKenzie was probably the best of the “teen” actors, but Adam Brody is the natural scene stealer, his almost-manic Seth adding much-needed zip to scenes with the more taciturn Ryan.

I would never deny you, Seth Cohen.

I would never deny you, Seth Cohen.

Kirsten and Sandy were of course one of TV’s most perfect couples, but my favorite was always Melinda Clarke’s Julie Cooper-Nichol-almost-Cooper-again, who softened over the years from a manipulative witch into a loving, game mother so believably it made her season one evilness seem mostly just like well-intentioned overprotectiveness. Mischa Barton remained a pretty terrible actress but was one of the most beautiful criers on television, and her death at the end of season three at least gave the remaining cast some poignant material to work with.

Josh Schwartz went on to make Gossip Girl, another teen-centric soap that took over the zeitgeist like a particularly invasive form of algae. You can see all its hallmarks in The OC: the bon mots, the fabulous wealth, even the onscreen relationships echoing in real life. But though GG lasted six seasons to The OC‘s four, it’s not as beloved by people still as The OC was, because it lacked the California show’s warmth and heart. There was no shortage of OMG moments, but Gossip Girl‘s characters were beautiful and nasty, power hungry and mercenary. At the core of The OC is a tight-knit family who love one another even when they don’t understand one another, who stand by each other even when things get rough. At the core of Gossip Girl is the last Birkin bag Barney’s had in stock. The OC grounds all its over-the-top drama in characters we genuinely care about (not you, Oliver), and though both series ended with a big wedding, only Summer and Seth’s brought me dangerously close to (happy) tears.

So I’ll raise my Newport Beach iced tea to you, The OC; may you live on for many Chrismukkahs to come.

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The emotionally manipulative appeal of Brothers & Sisters

I’ll confess: I’m a serial TV watcher. I’ve seen every episode of Buffy at least three times; Veronica Mars, probably four or five. And Arrested Development, Party Down, and Archer? Can’t even count. I love television series because they’re so comforting—it’s like a standing phone date with an old friend every week, and while you might not always be happy with what that friend has to say, it’s always satisfying to talk to her. With the advent of Netflix streaming—and that handy little “next” button that gets you to the next episode—means it’s possible for me to discover new shows and get hooked on them in record time. I’m always on the lookout for fresh ones, preferably with more than two seasons available on demand. Hence my recent foray into the extreme soapiness of Brothers & Sisters.

Now, this is not a good show. I know this. I mean, it is really bad: utterly unfeasible plot points (the first season alone included three deaths, a secret mistress AND an illegitimate love child who also turns out to be a drug-taking, marriage-wrecking liar, a food fight, a blackmailing, an outing, a premature double birth, and enough “events for the sake of getting all the characters together in fancy outfits” to fill the Grand Canyon. It also contains one of my least favorite plot contrivances in the entire universe of them: The one where a main character—in this case, Sally Field’s Nora—in an effort to express the Deep and Meaningful and Entirely Original Thoughts he or she has contained in the depths of his or her soul, enrolls in a creative writing class…and proceeds to prove how entirely unoriginal he or she is by immediately penning what basically amounts to the Cliff’s Notes version of the season’s scripts thus far, a work of “fiction” so thinly veiled that all the characters practically share names with the show’s characters on which they’re based. Nora’s protagonist, for example, is named “Dora” and is a frustrated California housewife whose husband has just died, leaving behind a fortune in secrets and ingeniously negotiated land deals. See? No resemblance to real life at all. I could write a whole post on just this, but we’ll save that for another time. (Gossip Girl is also guilty of using this awful, awful device, if Vulture’s recaps are any indication; I gave up on that train wreck several seasons ago.)

So why, you ask (I ask, too!), am I still watching this dreck? The answer, I guess, is that I don’t really know. There are certain factors that appeal to me; the show in its lighter moments shares the same breakneck rhythms and zany family dynamic of The O.C. (yes, I own the box set), and while I often find myself surfing the interwebs during the extremely melodramatic moments, it is an interesting study of a post-9/11family. And, okay, on a less sophisticated note, it’s a portrait of the kind of family I, and I’m sure many people, dream of: a big one, affluent and educated, good-natured and attractive, who love each other supportively and unconditionally despite endless squabbling and silliness. There’s something primitively satisfying, and again, comforting, about that idea. It’s the American Dream with excellent lighting and a tearjerking soundtrack. Do I sound cynical? Probably. But will I be watching the first episode of season two as soon as I publish this? To quote another vendor of the American Dream: You betcha.

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