TThe first time an audience looks at Seth Cohen (Adam Brody), he quickly becomes one of the biggest iconic figures in teen television history, squatting in pajamas, fiercely playing a video game with his hair covered in a bed as the parentless Kevin McCallister. It’s not the greatest Sartorial debut, but it’s a perfect introduction to the smart, sullen, self-centered seventeen-year-old at the center of this comedy/drama.
In comparison, the first shot of turbulent Marisa Cooper (Misha Barton) is positively dreamlike: engulfed in soft, twinkling, half-smiling sunbeams, every inch of the teenage dream-to-be-millions as the OC quickly blazes. She lives next to Seth, but they are in different universes.
Soon we’ll meet Summer Roberts (Rachel Bilson), Seth’s elusive crush and Marissa’s best friend; The kind of girl who’s comfortable going to house parties in a bikini, talking California – like every day it was a spirited pool, looking as shallow as the pools they’re partying around.
Our entry point into this scruffy world is Ryan Atwood (Ben MacKenzie), fresh out of prison, in one shirt, left by his mother, carrying all his worldly possessions in a sack. Please attorney Sandy Cohen (played by the illustrious Peter Gallagher) on charges of defending the prodigal child and has identified a spark within him. By the time the first episode ends, Ryan is living with Sandy at the Newport mansion, a puzzle piece out of place just like his new roommate Seth. ca here we come!
The OC was one of those offerings of Lightning in the Bottle, intended by its creators to be a cross between The Karate Kid and 90210, and containing all the essential elements of both: a James Dean kind of from the wrong side of the game. a path; An intelligent child who cannot wait to leave the aquarium in which he was born; Buckets of tragic teenage love between wealth, magic, and the coast of California; and hardcore teens at parties nurtured by troubled adults. There were overdoses, house fires, fist fights, and more drama in an hour-long episode than in the entire lifetime of most TV shows.
Showrunner and creator Josh Schwartz, himself still in his late twenties and working on his first-ever show, blasted through the storyline at such a rapid pace that by the end of season two, major cracks were beginning to appear. OC flashed brightly for a while, surviving only four seasons — and about a year and a half. But her cultural influence far exceeded her time on TV – like Friends or 90210, her stars will always be known for the vehicles that have introduced them to the world.
This show introduced the world to the concept of Chrismukkah: the hybrid Jewish/Christian holiday. Seth’s loyal fans of Death Cab For Cutie have turned Midwestern indie aspirants into a mainstream rock band with a million-selling. Both The Hills and The Real Housewives of Orange County were produced by the insatiable interest of this enclave of California. It even made water polo look realistic like a hard-core kid’s sport.
Unlike most shows starring teenagers, the “adults” were given a good time of screens and their own intricate stories, with Sandy Cohen quickly and properly turning into a sex symbol in his own right. (Forget Cara Delevingne, Sandy made big brows a shout-out.)
Best of all, the OC was silly, and he knew it. The show was full of self-defining winks, sarcastic references to her own madness, and never painted the characters mistaken for being entirely ambitious—despite the number of pool houses and ponies they own. Like California itself, everyone’s life was built on cracks. Every slight rumble would lead to an earthquake. Every gigantic palace is built on quicksand.
Season one is where The OC peaked, but it’s season two that people remember most, as we meet indie rock club The Bait Shop and its rotating lineup of the best acts from the mid-2000s. The Killers, Modest Mouse, The Thrills, The Walkmen, Rachel Yamagata, and yes, Death Cab were all played at the venue, which Seth once mocked was the only place you could comfortably converse on music, and which didn’t have a drink line.
As a gleaming time capsule of a certain era, there is no better show to revisit than The O.C. As a high-octane, hilarious dive into a world that could never exist, it’s pretty much perfect. As Death Cab sang, This is the New Year. The world is in turmoil. Slip into something comfortable.