Thursday, January 04, 2007

The OC: 2003-2007

Could it be?! The best teen drama on television cancelled?! But how the hell can they cancel it just as Kevin Sorbo (b. 1958, Mound, Minnesota) joins the cast? And as Ryan's father no less! Alas. The O.C. will air its last episode sometime in February.

I was a huge a fan. No, seriously -- as a thirty-year-old Minnesotan thriving on a five-figure income in Brooklyn, what's more exotic than the antics of wealthy teens in suburban Southern California?

New York Magazine's Emma Rosenblum describes the show's (former) appeal:
"To understand what went so wrong with the show, we should revisit what it once got so right. For starters, The O.C. had great timing; in 2003, there was a gaping hole in the market for smart teen dramas, as Dawson's Creek had just gone off the air. The O.C. improved on Dawson's formula of love-triangle angst set to an indie-band soundtrack, then added a smart mix of sarcasm and pop-culture knowingness that didn't sound like adults writing for teens. (It helped that the show's creator, Josh Schwartz, was a mere 26.) Not only was The O.C. the first teen drama that didn't take itself too seriously, it was the first one that understood its audience had grown up watching soapy teen dramas."
It's easier to compare The O.C. to another Southern California teen drama, Beverly Hills 90210. While that show used protagonists that grew up in Minnesota (Jason Priestley's Brandon and Shannon Dohertey's Brenda were from Way-ZAH-tah, the grossly mispronounced city you may know as Wayzata [Why-ZET-ta]), The O.C. softened its super-rich kids by making one of them a petty criminal (with a heart of gold) from Chino and another an awkward comic book aficionado (though one with great wit, fashion sense, and Tiger Beat looks).

Another success factor was the show's equal treatment of the adult characters. Unlike 90210, The O.C. didn't treat viewers as if they were as young and naive (and open to Mike Brady-style moralizing lectures) as Brandon and Brenda were. But Rosenblum is right, the biggest reason The O.C. was so good was that it didn't take itself so seriously. In a clever bit of self-referentiality, Summer Roberts (Rachel Bilson) was a rabid devotee of a show called "The Valley," a teen drama set in Southern California.

I'll miss The O.C., but four seasons was probably enough. Our heroes had already graduated from high school and all sorts of plot contrivances were being employed to keep them in the same zip code. Most shows with linear plots -- even some with episodic formulas -- just don't know when to quit. Which is why the Spanish concept of the telenovela is so smart: limit the episodes from the start; you'll probably make all your money in DVD sales anyway. This is what David Lynch's Twin Peaks should have done. The first 14 of the 30 or so were the only good ones (to anyone but serious fans, anyway).

"Ironically, the super-hip O.C. failed where Aaron Spelling's less-intelligent shows succeeded -- it was too ironic to be a soap, but too soapy to be a parody," writes Rosenblum. But that's what made the show so delicious.


Blogger Screaming Annie said...

You haven't been thirty for a while. You are in what I like to call your mid-thirties. Get over it. Get over the OC.
Good riddance.

12:52 PM  
Blogger The Masticator said...

I don't know, Annie, I thought we were about the same age -- you aren't in your mid thirties are you?

11:46 PM  

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