Okay, so I realize that next to no one reading this has actually seen The OC (the same can be said in general… after all, why do you think it got cancelled [see below]?). I also realize that I’m probably doing this for my own enjoyment. If you’re wondering why I’m not doing a myriad of other, more productive things, I don’t have an answer for you. Getting off track has long been a problem of mine, and I’m doing everything possible to kick the (bad) habit. Of course, what do you think I’m doing right here? I have a tendency to both ramble and be painfully self-aware.
But anyway, as The OC has been off the air for two days over a year now (Holy! Seems like forever ago since that storied scene on the couch doesn’t it, mom? Of course, there’s no need to share that story with the world. It shall remain a two-person thing.), I find it’s high time to take a good look back on the show and attempt to answer some of the burning questions that I have.
And even if you’ve never seen the show, you’ve probably heard me talk about it and attempt to pay forward my viewership (and that’s a whole other story).
Burning Question #1: What the heck was up with Marissa? Why did the writers feel a nagging need to constantly put the poor, frail girl in the most outrageous situations week. After. Week. After. Week?
Burning Answer #1: Well, grasshopper, Marissa (No Middle Name) Cooper is a tricky character to decipher. On the outside she looks like the “girl next door,” the teenager who has it all. And who should perhaps eat a nice big steak. Ah, I kid. I promise to stop with the Marissa/malnourishment jokes. But I think that the whole paradox of her character relates to that of Newport Beach in general. On the outside, it is this seemingly ideal, pristine coastal community. But a closer look will reveal the true problems. Such can be said for Marissa. It was Josh’s intent, I believe, to contrast Marissa’s flaws with her persona as seen by the rest of the community, which really has no idea what the heck is going on.
As for the second part of the question, I honestly think that Mischa Barton can be accounted for this drama overload. Indeed, Mischa Barton was undoubtedly the most famous of the young cast and the entire cast in general. Whole loads of people tuned in just to see her “acting” (not to be confused with her beauty, mind you). Plus, Marissa was the piece that really connected the rest of the puzzle, as she was somehow connected to every single person on the show (see The Safe Harbor for evidence of these connections, how others honor them, and how Marissa abuses them). Which brings me to perhaps the most important point: Marissa was unknowingly selfish. She hunted attention and it usually hunted her by way of ridiculous plots (Oliver, DJ, Johnny, repeat.)
Burning Question #2: What was the deal with Kirsten’s total lack of involvement in the final two seasons?
Burning Answer #2: First of all, I never really understood Kirsten’s fade into the background of Newport society until I very plainly had the whole story laid out in front of me. After the end of season two, Kirsten’s marriage to Sandy was hanging on by threads, she had just put her father, Caleb, to rest, and she was off to rehab for alcoholism. Ooh, tough day for Mama Cohen, huh? You shrug and say “yeah,” and I say “exactly.” After all that (and all in the span of a few episodes, minus the deterioration of her marriage), how does she come back as if nothing had ever happened? Kirsten’s healing time was Kirsten’s fading-into-the-background time. I mean, the lady’s not Julie Cooper. She doesn’t have that resilience—that’s not how Kirsten works and it would have made no sense to have her pop right back up and swinging for the fence. No, Josh decided to bench her. (And I shall continue with my baseball metaphor….) Of course, his managerial skills are questionable (he was a young’un, afterall) and letting Kirsten/Kelly Rowan sit passively, watching the team fumble and make a slew of errors, was pretty stupid. It’s akin to putting Alex Rodriguez on the bench in the bottom of the ninth. Season three was crunch time, really. Josh had to make it the best, and he failed.
So although I will never support Kirsten’s and Kelly Rowan’s lack of involvement for all of S3 and for some of S4, I understand it. What else do you do after alcoholism, family deaths, etc.? Well, what else do you do if your last name isn’t Cooper (-Nichol-Cooper-Roberts-Bullit-Atwood)?
Burning Question #3: Those supporting characters? Lindsay, Johnny, DJ, Carter? Yeah, you know. Why introduce ‘em if you’re just going to ship them off to the Midwest mid-season?
Burning Answer #3: Ah, well, as interesting as the lives of Marissa Cooper and Ryan Atwood are, they only stay that way for so long. In the beginning of the series, there were, if you recall, no Lindsays or Johnnys or DJs. Just the core characters interacting, so as to establish the foundation on which The OC would be based for four more years. After that initial foundation is set, you have to bring in outside characters that will stir up drama that wouldn’t otherwise be stirred through the interaction of Seth and Sandy, for example.
Of course, perhaps a better question is not why these characters were introduced, but why they were all introduced for the same reason: to create twisted love triangles and cause rifts in the major relationships on the show. And for that, all I can say is that the writers probably figured a little romantic drama was a lot more interesting than any other kind of drama, to which I say “Pff!” but also “Yeah, okay, I guess.”
Burning Question #4: Why was it that Ryan and Marissa were always so much more enjoyable to watch as friends than as boyfriend and girlfriend?
Burning Answer #4: Ah, the question of the millennium! It did seem that BenMcK and Mischa B. had better chemistry when they played Ryan and Marissa: the friends rather than Ryan and Marissa: the dysfunctional couple. And here’s why: when they were together, they were hardly ever together. As in Seth/Summer together. Never did a moment occur during the Ryan/Marissa relationship when they were truly happy together—no problems, no drama, no lesbian partners, nada. Obviously it would be hard to act all fun and like you are enjoying another’s presence when the script tells you the exact opposite.
Burning Question #5: Why kill Marissa?
Burning Answer #5: Ah, the overasked question of the millennium! There have been multiple theories (many of them of the conspiracy genre), and J. Schwartz has vehemently denied that it was due to a lack of professionalism on Mischa’s part (showing up late for work, claiming she wanted to do movies instead of television, etc.), and I really believe him. She may not be the best actress, but she seems like a professional one. Josh also claims that he had nothing else to do with Marissa as a character. The writers had done everything possible with this poor girl (in three seasons, mind you). Tragedy was ingrained in her DNA; there was no way the Ryan/Marissa relationship would work out. And it goes on. I vehemently deny all of those explanations. Merely add-ons to the real reason: creatively, it was the only thing possible. Let me break it down for you:
- As Josh writes the season finale, it’s the end of season three (probably around episode 19, 20, or 21). Ratings are down, as is quality. We’ve finally gotten out of the crap that is Johnny but now we’re forced to endure the continued crap that is Sadie. Kirsten and Sandy continue to fight; Kirsten starts drinking again. Seth can’t stop lying to Summer and Summer can’t stop not trusting Seth. Anna was a bust. Theresa was the most anti-climactic thing ever.
- Volchok is significantly better than all the other supporting characters this season, other than Taylor (we’ll get to her later). But he’s getting Marissa into drugs and illegal activity, and she’s spiraling into doom. On top of all that, she realizes that she’s just not ready for college. Whatever will she do?
- The few successes of the season: Taylor Townsend rocks hard. Kaitlin Cooper was a relative success, and would have been more of a fan favorite had she not been so involved with Johnny. Julie was consistently amazing and funny, providing warmth and lightheartedness to an otherwise gloomy season. And Summer Roberts really stole the season, much in the same way that Julie did.
So that is what Josh has on his plate right now. He knows that Fox is investing increasingly less money in his show (advertising, etc.) and that season four may very well be his last. From reading TWoP message boards, he also knows that fans long for the return to the good ol’ days (i.e. season one), in which Sandy and Kirsten had nary a care in the world, Seth was his mumbling, geeky self, Ryan was angsty in a good way, and the world did not revolve around Marissa 24/7.
With the end of high school, Josh is faced with a major decision regarding what to do with the four core teenagers: should they stay or should they go?
- Summer: Rachel Bilson is rocking too hard for her to go. Plus, the Seth/Summer relationship is a real fan favorite, no matter how much they fight.
- Seth: He’s a Cohen and Adam Brody provides too much star power to let him go.
- Ryan: He’s the center of the show. The show is about him and his relationships with everyone else (the Seth one is key and another reason why Seth can’t go). So he can’t go—duh.
- Marissa: She brings in a lot of the young teenage audience and most of the star power. Mischa Barton is undoubtedly the biggest star in the entire cast.
Notice how Marissa was indispensable not for creative reasons, but for practical ones. She may have been a catalyst in a lot of the drama during the first three seasons, but she was dispensable. What’s more, in the same way that killing Ryan or Sandy would affect the show, Marissa’s death would reach out to every single character on the show through some way. (It should also be noted that a majority of the fans had begun to very much dislike Marissa as season three aired. Well, at least those on TWoP, where Josh frequently visited.)
With Marissa gone, Josh could bring in Taylor and Kaitlin to replace her (“replace” is used very carefully here; they didn’t so much replace Marissa as they did appear in her presence because there was more screen time to go around).
But here’s the big reason: killing Marissa was the only way that Josh could get his show back on track during its last season. Her death would resonate throughout the entire fourth season. It would be a creative catalyst for new interactions (Ryan/Julie; Kaitlin/Julie; Ryan/Taylor) and new storylines.
Although it was tough to say goodbye (okay, only for some), it was the best thing to do and probably the best decision Josh ever made. So kudos to him for having the guts to do it.
Burning Question #6: Okay, now what was the deal with Jimmy?
Burning Answer #6: I assume you mean, why did Jimmy always leave Marissa and Julie in the dust? Because, seriously, what was the deal with that? Oh, well, I actually think it was just who he was. He was a great guy, although painfully nervous and jittery, but a good guy nonetheless. He claimed he was a family guy, that he would do anything for his family, and while that seems great, it was bad. By doing whatever his family needed him to do (i.e. buy ponies, purses, and expensive dinners at fancy restaurants), he dug himself a deep, deep hole. And he just couldn’t stop (or find his way out of that deep hole). At first you could feel sympathy for the guy, and I certainly did when he left town in early season two. But when he abruptly skipped town in early season three, leaving Julie at the altar and Marissa wondering what the heck just happened, I no longer felt sorry for him. Sure, he left way too soon and sudden, but good riddance if he was only hanging around to get a big slice of Caleb’s nonexistent estate. And that’s irony for you.
Burning Question #7: Why mess up Kirsten and Sandy’s already perfect marriage in seasons two and three?
Burning Answer #7: Mess up? They didn’t mess it up; they just merely added conflict to the best onscreen couple ever. Throughout season one, Peter Gallagher and Kelly Rowan did a wonderful job building the strong foundation and establishing the standard for the Sandy/Kirsten marriage. They fought, they were so different, but they always kissed and made up. Season two tore them apart more than Caleb or work ever did or could. Seth and Ryan left and a huge rift came between them. Granted, the rift went away after the boys returned, but that was only on the surface. Once Rebecca and Carter were in the picture, the two were more distanced than ever. I certainly don’t like Rebecca or that fact that Sandy did a total 180 when he was with her, although I can stand Carter, but the best part about the season two conflict was that it really enhanced the adult storylines on the show. And nothing will ever beat the Sandy/Kirsten scenes in the last three episodes of the second season.
As for season three, the conflict there was really unneeded. Turning Sandy into Caleb had the potential to be really interesting, but the writers totally messed that one up when they brought it Matt and made it drag on… forever. It was ridiculous for Sandy to ignore (again) an ailing Kirsten after he told her it would never happen again.
Burning Question #8: Okay, so Frank? Why?
Burning Answer #8: I assume this has to deal with Frank’s extended arc on the show that had not to do with his own son but with Julie Cooper. Frank’s appearance was needed no matter what. He was alluded to often and to have a show in which all but the single most important member of Ryan’s first family never show up would have been just wrong. Josh and Co. had to establish Ryan’s relationship with his absent father in order to solidify Ryan’s relationship with his real father. And that part was executed fine. I could have done without the fake cancer storyline but it was a real shocker to me to bring Frank in when he did.
That said, I would have been perfectly fine if Frank had had just a two-episode arc. In a shortened season of 16 episodes, it’s absolutely fine, at least in my opinion, to deal with what needs to be dealt with but in a timely and concise manner. I’m not sure why Frank even ended up with Julie in season four in the first place. And it was quite an injustice for Ryan to suddenly accept that his father was a changed man. Because… well, did I already say that the man lied about having terminal cancer to get closer to his son? However, that doesn’t sound that unlike Julie Cooper, so maybe they were a perfect match. Then again, maybe Josh just wanted to screw with our minds by having Marissa’s mother fall in love with Ryan’s father. Ah, the irony. And the incest.
Burning Question #9: Do Ryan and Taylor end up together?
Burning Answer #9: I really respect Josh for leaving their fate open-ended. Not only does it provide conversation (and burning question #9), but it also lets Ryan/Marissa shippers rest in peace. Goodness knows there are tons of them!
But I really do think they end up together. Sure, they had their problems, but they worked together. They fit (even though it was in a crazy sort of way). That Taylor ends up saving Ryan from the path he was headed toward after Marissa’s death is such a cool shift of dynamic and unexpected role reversal that I can’t help but hope that they somehow worked it out.
Burning Question #10: Okay, okay. Which season is the best? For real?
Burning Answer #10: Each season can make its own case for the title of “the best,” except for season three that is, but I think the title has to go to season one. It’s general consensus among many fans that season one was the best season all-around and I really can’t disagree. Of course, my opinion of it would probably be enhanced if I had watched it live, but I can’t go changing the past. The first season had the perfect balance of dramatic and comedic elements. Every character worked (well, with the exception of a few). The comedic timing was on. Adam Brody was at the top of his game. Everything seemed fresh and new, like new car smell.
Season two definitely made an excellent run in the last ten episodes and really upped its game in the last three. Trey combined with Caleb’s death and Kirsten’s alcoholism made for a heck of a finale.
And season three was also really good down the stretch. It was just too bogged down by Johnny and Charlotte and Matt and Seth/Summer nonsense and Sadie and blah, blah, blah to be considered at all.
Season four definitely comes in a close second in my book. In fact, those first four episodes are solid enough for any type of “best” award. However, the show tripped up a bit in midseason (which can be said for all the other seasons) with Henri-Michel, Che’s mediocre return, and Junk (Julie/Frank abbreviation by the fans). Still, it was the closest to season-one form that the show ever achieved. And season-one form was always the goal that The OC tried to reach.
Burning Question #11: Music? Did it rock hard or what?
Burning Answer #11: Music was always the thing that The OC had down flat. I give a lot of this credit to both Alex Patsavas and to Josh Schwartz, who I imagine (and hope) had a lot of influence in the songs that his show featured.
Save a brief Puddle of Mudd fiasco during the middle of the first season, the show never faltered. As many of you already know, much of the music I listen to—actually, all—is a product of The OC. It may not be solely the songs played on The OC, but Alex Patsavas introduced me to a world of music that was really good and free of the egomaniacal losers of mainstream. I started to become interested in music and I think this show had a lot to do with that.
Burning Question #12: Can we go over Lindsay and Ryan? And Summer and Zach, too?
Burning Answer #12: Why, certainly. I totally understand Josh’s desire and subsequent decision to switch up the traditional pairings of Ryan and Marissa and Seth and Summer. I also thank him for not pulling the ol’ switcharoo and putting Seth with Marissa and Summer with Ryan. That said, I don’t think either relationship was executed correctly. In theory, Ryan being with a drama-free girl who is as much of an outsider in his world as he was a year before is a really good idea. And Summer being with a guy that was exactly like Seth except that he halfway embodied everything that Seth hated about his school and also about Newport—those demon water polo players—was also comically ironic.
But there’s a big however in these theories. For one, Lindsay came off to me as totally whiny after her introduction and the constant break-ups and make-ups between her and Ryan were increasingly annoying. And while the revelation of Lindsay being Caleb’s lovechild was wonderfully crafted, after Caleb had his heart attack and it became Ryan vs. Caleb, things started to suck. I know I was smiling when Lindsay decided that it was best she depart for Chicago. And, gosh, who really thought it would last anyway? It’d only be a matter of time before Newport just got to be too much for the oboe-playing, braniac transfer student.
As for the Summer/Zach situation, it started out pretty enjoyable. Granted, we all wanted Summer to get with it and then with Seth, but Zach was so hard not to like because he was the perfect boyfriend. The only thing he didn’t have going for him was that his name was not Seth Cohen and the above about embodying everything Seth hated, etc. etc. In that way, their relationship was doomed from the start. After Zach came back from Italy and got back together, it was of course a lot easier to hate him, because he turned out to be such a bad guy and whatnot, but, really, did anyone expect him to be Summer’s Prince Charming?
Burning Question #13: You go on and on about how terrible season three was. Was it really that bad?
Burning Answer #13: Okay, the answer is no. It was brought up recently over at TWoP that fans unfairly overstate the bad quality of season three. And that’s true. It’s nowhere near as unbearable as fans make it out to be (but aren’t we all given to hyperbole sometimes?). Still, it was in no way a success. It was brought down heavily by weak arcs through the likes of Charlotte, Johnny, and Sadie. It did, however, provide great performances from Rachel Bilson, Melinda Clarke, and Autumn Reeser.
The biggest problem with season three that I had and still have is that it did not take advantage of the gigantic launching pad that the end of season two laid out for it. The Trey situation was ignored and dealt with for an episode. Kirsten went from rehab to halfway house to con artist victim in a big clean swoop. No steady reconstruction of her fractured marriage with Sandy occurred. Her alcoholism wasn’t covered at all nor was her state of mind months after Caleb’s death.
Also, did I mention Johnny?
Burning Question #14: Who was the most-improved actor or actress out of the bunch? Burning Answer #14: Hands down this just has to go to Ben McKenzie. His performance in The Cold Turkey was beautiful and so he automatically gets my vote. But if you take a look at his acting in season one and compare it to his acting in season four, there’s really no comparison. This show was special in that it had a large ensemble cast, mostly filled with youths, who, for the most part, could all act. This was no One Tree Hill bunch.
My honorable mention has to go to Rachel Bilson, though. In addition to playing a truly fascinating and ever-changing character, I think that Rachel Bilson’s transition from sidekick, stereotypical best friend to leading actress in season four is pretty remarkable. I only wish she had stayed with Adam Brody.
Burning Question #15: Favorite/best episode?
Burning Answer #15: You know, my favorite episode is not actually the show’s best episode. But it’s definitely one of the best. Even though it makes me cry and cry, The Cold Turkey is my favorite episode. It just captures the emotion of Marissa’s death and pulls you into the story so well. And there’s brilliant writing and acting, for which I respect it the most. Honorable mentions include The Dearly Beloved, The Night Moves, The Rainy Day Women, The Avengers, The Family Ties, The Chrismukkah that Almost Wasn’t, The Chrismukk-huh?, The End's Not Near, It's Here, The Pilot.
And the best episode has to be The Dearly Beloved. I take comfort in knowing that Josh wrote it because I’ve always admired him for his tremendous writing ability. Either way, it’s a phenomenal episode from beginning to end. The musical choices are exceptional, the acting perfect, the writing even better, and it all fits together masterfully. It’s the perfect season finale—it successfully ties up any former arcs, lays down the foundations for the next season’s stories, and wraps you up in whirlwind of emotions, questions, and jaw drops.
Burning Question #16: Theresa? Oh my, what the heck was up with her? White trash version of Marissa, no?
Burning Answer #16: Hey, low blow with the trailer-trash version of Marissa thing! I never really liked Theresa until she came back in season three, and I absolutely hated her late-season one run. That, for me, was the big mistake that Josh made that season. I really had no problem with her coming back. Sure, I was annoyed, but it was only three episodes, and bringing back the “girl next door” from Ryan’s past was especially interesting in that it provided a nice context for his relationship with Marissa. But she never should have come back. Marissa never should have moronically gone to Chino to stay with her (??), there never should have been any drama about Eddie beating her up. She was the “goodbye girl” in that similarly titled episode and she should have stayed that way.
I for one know that fans’ reactions to her went from good to bad when she revealed her pregnancy. Just a bad way to go. (And then for two years’ worth of baby mama drama to be wrapped up in a single sentence just added insult to injury!) As many others have said, Ryan’s departure at the end of the season would have been leagues more compelling if he was faced with the opportunity to leave with one of his blood family members: Dawn, Trey, or maybe Frank (now could have been an interesting time to bring in Frank, by the way). And so instead of being faced with an “is it his baby or not” storyline, we fans actually wonder what is going to happen. (Will Ryan live with his family? What will this do to his relationship with the Cohens/Marissa? What exactly will he do?) Because, let’s face it, you had to have an incredible lack of, say, logic if you for a second thought that the leading character in a super-popular primetime television show would leave (okay, Marissa scenarios don’t apply here, so see above if you forgot) to be with his pregnant pseudo-girlfriend. It was just a matter of when and how he would return to Newport. There were so many elements missing from that equation that the season one finale often leaves a bad taste in my mouth. It may be a beautiful episode, but the implications it created, while extraordinary, were so frustrating (from Seth/Summer turmoil to Sandy/Kirsten rifts).
As for her season three return, I found it quite interesting. I liked that they had a friendly relationship, although I breathed a monstrous sigh of relief when they didn’t kiss at the prom. I said before that the end of the baby storyline was not only incredibly anti-climactic but also overly-contrived. That Ryan actually believed Eddie had fathered a mini-version of him is moronic. Then again, he probably convinced himself it wasn't his. Bottom line: itt was a huge storyline with a microscopic payoff.
The best thing about her return, though, was that she saw Ryan’s rage and recognized its potential detriments to her, Ryan, and everyone around him. Ryan’s rage was a central storyline during the aftermath of Marissa’s death, and the foreshadowing was really there in season three.
Burning Question #17: Was Taylor Marissa’s replacement?
Burning Answer #17: No. She was better. I realize that’s not that explanatory, but I’m so tired of people claiming that Taylor replaced Marissa. That she ended up with Ryan and had boy troubles was a matter of story. Why kill Marissa if she would just be replaced by another character episodes later? That wasn’t the intent of the writers or of Josh. Taylor was unique in that she could take care of herself. Sure, she needed love, and she loved Ryan, but she wasn’t incredibly dysfunctional without him. She had her own life, her own personality (and a fresh one at that). She ended up saving Ryan, not the other way around, as it had been for three years with Ryan and Marissa, and that is the biggest and best difference between the two characters.
Burning Question #18: Fox? What was wrong with them? Did they have anything to do with the show’s end?
Burning Answer #18: Hello, bitterness, lovely to see you today. Okay, the whole Fox fiasco has long been a sore subject with me, but I will press on in order to give you a thorough answer. To answer the first part of the question, I have no idea what’s wrong with them. Can they ever really explain Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader? of So You Think You Can Dance? or any other number of shows that are questions, because it’s not like we care that much. To answer the second part of the question, most definitely, but it wasn’t all their fault, as much as I would like to fully blame them.
From as early on as the second season, they started to wrestle creative control away from Mr. Schwartz, and I know that didn’t sit well with him. They continually wanted “big name” actors or actresses for supporting roles that they probably weren’t right for in the first place. Case in point: Kim Delaney to play Rebecca and Jeri Ryan to play Charlotte. Although I doubt a majority of the show’s audience even knew who they were (I know I sure didn’t). And it’s not as if they added credibility to roles that fans didn’t like in the first place.
(And Fox’s first big mistake was waiting until after the baseball playoffs in 2004 to debut the second season. Six months is a really long time to wait, and the show lost a lot of momentum and steam during that period. You’d think Fox would’ve learned from its mistake then, but it repeated it again in 2006, but by then they could care less whether or not The OC lasted or not.)
However, save for the Rebecca thing, Josh had the majority of control over his show for the first two seasons. Fox was pretty lenient regarding the content he featured. They just put a “viewer discretion advised” warning at the beginning of the episodes, and he could show two girls kissing. And, really, Fox never interfered with the more “PG-13”-type stuff on the show.
But once it was the third season, it all got totally screwed up. Josh supposedly had the outlines for the first seven episodes of the season all ready to be written in late summer 2005, which I believe included confrontations and resolutions with the Kirsten/Sandy/alcoholism/Caleb’s death situation, and also a 100% lack of Johnny Harper. Leave it up to Fox to ask for something more “marketable.” Honestly, by the third season, you’ve found your audience, and they’ll watch the show because they want to see what happens to the characters, not because they want to see some lame surfer dude whining about his leg and his unrequited love for Marissa Cooper. It’s ironic, really, because Fox insisting that Josh go another direction and create a Charlotte and a Johnny for Marissa didn’t increase the ratings, but actually hurt them. Sure, it’s not a funny sort of irony, but sort of a cruel kind. And from there everything went downhill.
Halfway through season three, Fox moved The OC to the nine o’clock timeslot, and into ratings hell. Now it was up against CSI, a ratings juggernaut, and was doomed. This is when Josh really had to make a decision: how would he save his show? He ended up making the right one, but he lost a lot of the Marissa fans en route. But good riddance, because they were probably only there for Mischa Barton.
As the crucial fourth season rolled around, Fox decided to order only sixteen episodes, compared to twenty-seven, twenty-four, and twenty-five during the first through third seasons, respectively. For a show as complex as The OC, sixteen episodes wasn’t really that much time to put out a whole season’s worth of story. On top of that, they debuted the show in late November, sixth months after the third season finale. All hype was lost, and now The OC had to compete against both CSI and Grey’s Anatomy, which duked it out and drew in more than twenty million viewers each week. About 7-8 times as much as The OC. And don’t forget that both CSI and Grey’s had the same demographic, more so Grey’s than CSI (the 18-40ish category).
As if debuting in the middle of the television season wasn’t hard enough, Fox provided little to no advertising for the show. They idiotically “tested” The OC on Wednesays and showed The Gringos and The Cold Turkey on back-to-back nights. Of course, no one really watched on Wednesay, because they did no advertising at all and sort of just put it there. It was a sneaky move, but I think they were just trying to burn off as many episodes as they could as fast as they could (because Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader? just couldn’t wait!) In general, it all just kind of sucked.
But, while Fox definitely contributed to The OC’s fall, it would be stupid to say it was all their fault. It was all a sort of perfect storm: bad creative decisions + bad execution + sucky network = series finale.
Who’s to say that The OC could have thrived more on a different network, and it probably would have gone on forever on the teenage-targeted CW, but The OC had the rare pleasure of ending on a creative high. And who really wants to be the next One Tree Hill or 7th Heaven and last forever, way after anybody cares, assuming anyone ever cared in the first place about those jokes of series?
Burning Question #19: Final retrospect?
Burning Answer #19: Ah, so I’m guessing this’ll be the last question, and it seems rather fitting. In retrospect, I think this series was really pretty outstanding. I’m taking an objective look at it here (no, really, I am), and I see that there were definitely some mis-steps and bumps along the way. However, this show found the balance between drama and comedy that I think is really rare nowadays, and it did it in a tough demographic with a misleading label (teen soap) smacked on it.
For someone who had never before written for or run a major television show (or, rather, anything) before, Josh Schwartz did a commendable job. I understand a lot of the decisions he made. At the same time, I’m still completely baffled by Charlotte and Johnny. But he made the best and the most gutsy decision when he decided to kill off Marissa. And he had a great attitude throughout it all, which matters, especially when your show is getting screwed over by its network.
…Anyway, I think that the heart that this show had, especially in the first and fourth seasons, really set it away from other shows of its genre. Josh admitted that his show was similar to Beverly Hills 90210, but he did his best to break away from that mold (by including adult storylines, for example). By the 92nd episode, he had created an original show, and it was almost like those characters that he put on screen were real. The actors did a wonderful job of evoking enough emotion that you actually grew to love them, despite their flaws. And the same can be said for The OC, in general.
Because isn’t that what love means after all?