Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Ten years of The O.C.

A few weeks ago, whilst trying to find something to write about during football's summer break, I wrote about TV and how I felt that many of today's most popular programmes lack character depth (ooh, get me). In that post I talked about some of my favourite characters from my favourite TV programmes, and of course I had to mention my favourite programme of all time: The O.C.

The O.C. celebrated its 10th anniversary on 5th August. It's crazy to think that it's been that long since the very first time we had 'CaaaaalifOOOORRRNIIIIAAAAA, here we COOOOOMMMME' belting out of our television sets; however, what's even crazier is how much The O.C. has shaped TV today.

Now, you may be familiar with this already, but after The O.C. was launched and was immediately a hit, MTV decided to launch a reality series which they presented as 'The Real O.C.'. This was of course 'Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County', a reality series (well, ish) which followed the lives of real wealthy teenagers living in Orange County. One of the show's main cast members, Lauren Conrad, then went on to have her own reality show, 'The Hills'. The Hills was enormously successful for five years, and influenced some of the biggest programmes on television today, such as Jersey Shore, The Only Way Is Essex and Made In Chelsea. So in a strange way, we have The O.C. to thank for these utterly bizarre reality-but-not-actually-very-real-whatsoever programmes that have dominated our television screens for the past few years.

The strange thing about all this is that The O.C. couldn't be any more different to the likes of TOWIE and The Hills; even its rival teen soap One Tree Hill is completely incomparable. On paper, The O.C. should have been absolutely terrible. It wasn't though; it was excitingly unique and truly fantastic, and that's all down to its creator: Josh Schwartz.

The first and most important thing that Schwartz did so well was the creation of the characters. American teen film and television tends to fit to one overused, dull formula. There's the beautiful all-american girl, the 'jock' (what does that even mean?) and there's the nerd/dork/geek. Despite there still being elements of these stereotypes within the characters in The O.C., the personalities that Schwartz created were like nothing that American television had ever really seen before.

First of all, Seth Cohen. Beloved, wonderful Seth Cohen. The first thing that hit me about Seth was how could he possibly be the 'geeky' character when he is arguably the most attractive man on planet earth? But the thing which I love so much about Seth and think is so clever is the way in which he's an outcast. He isn't an outcast because he looks weird or because he's horrible, he's an outcast because of how far he is from any other teenage boy on American TV. The way in which his character is outcast from his peers is the same way all his hobbies, tastes in pop culture and funny little quirks are outcast from American TV. Unlike One Tree Hill's Lucas Scott, who is apparently a weirdo because occasionally he mentions that he likes Shakespeare, Schwartz pushes Seth's quirks to the boundaries. Seth is a witty, socially awkward teenager who thrives off drawing and listening to Modest Mouse, all whilst talking to a plastic horse. He's a full on weirdo, just like so many of us are. A beautiful little weirdo. The fact that Josh Schwartz created a character like Seth rather than the stereotypical 'looks and dresses a bit weird and is a member of Mensa' geek character speaks volumes about how fantastic he is at character development.

Seth's on-off girlfriend who eventually becomes Mrs. Cohen, Summer Roberts, is my favourite TV character of all time. She's a little ball of rage, and in that sense she reminds me a bit of myself (but maybe that's just because I really want to be her...). For the first few episodes, Summer comes across as the usual all-American cheerleader, except less blonde. However, Summer's character develops - perhaps even blossoms - and like Seth, we see her strange little habits which would never usually be explored on an American teen soap. I think my favourite thing about Summer is her quick wit. She's by far the funniest character on the show; a role which isn't often given to females in TV. Every time you want to throw something at the telly because Marissa is being SO FUCKING ANNOYING (which is a lot), Summer will always say something unintentionally funny to calm you down.

Now, I could sit here all night and talk about why every character in The O.C. is great, but I don't really have the time, and to be honest I doubt anyone's actually reading this anyway. However, there is one more character who is truly irreplaceable, and without him, The O.C. would never have reached the godlike status that it has done.

Of course, it's Sandy Cohen.

No matter how much you love your own Dad, every time you watch The O.C., you kind of resent him a little bit for not being Sandy Cohen. I can't even begin to count the amount of times I've laid on my bed in a total mess, wishing there was a Sandy Cohen in my life to sort me out. The world would be a much, much better place if we all had a Sandy to give us a bagel and a good talking to every time we fuck up. One of my favourite things about Sandy is that he reminds me of a northern English man. He's a gobby lefty and proud of it, he secretly loves California but pretends he hates it 'cos that's what New Yorkers do, and you'll never hear him utter a word of bullshit. He definitely has an ounce or two of Yorkshire in him does Sandy Cohen. Despite him being a forty-odd year old public defender, Sandy's wit and irresistible charm makes him just as popular to teenage viewers as the teenage characters do.

As much as every character on The O.C. is fantastic, the programme would never have taken off the way it did without these three characters, and without the fantastic depth and unique characteristics which Schwartz established them with. There are of course so many other reasons that The O.C. was so brilliant; one of the main reasons of course being The O.C.'s mock show within the show, 'The Valley'. Schwartz used 'The Valley' to subtly portray the things which were happening in the real world, for example the creation of 'Laguna Beach: The Real OC':

Seth: They're showing a marathon of 'Sherman Oaks: The Real Valley'.
Ryan: What's that?
Seth: Hm, apparently 'The Valley' has got its own reality show knock-off. And, you know, why watch the angst of fictional characters when you can watch real people in contrived situations?

and also in reference to Adam Brody and Rachel Bilson's real-life break-up:

Summer: Oh my god! Real life Jake and April broke up!

There are so many things about The O.C. which made it stand out from the crowd. It may have been ten years since the first episode, but its stood the test of time and probably will for the next ten years, if not more. Despite many efforts, nothing has ever quite lived up to it, and I doubt it ever will. 

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