Yes, sooner or later, it had to come to this: I’m here today to talk about The O.C. – yep, that “The O.C.”
Tessa and I are in the midst of pitching an excellent project to the Powers That Be, and as is with all such endeavors, we’re catching up on the big shows of the moment. Like all frickin’ snobs, I assumed that “The O.C.” was a pile of shit; the promo billboard that hangs over the Bowery gives off what the NYTimes calls the “soggy earnestness” of teen dramas, and I never watched a frame.
I’m here to tell you that I lie prostrate corrected. I would say the first fifteen episodes of the first season rank up there among the best serialized narrative in all television. A lot of it is Peter Gallagher, who is so infinitely cool that you wonder if he doesn’t ad lib most of his lines. He has a little moment in “The Hudsucker Proxy” that Sean and I still laugh about, and his turn in “Sex, Lies and Videotape” is villainy at its most redemptive.
Of course, there’s also Adam Brody as his son Seth Cohen, who is dead-on perfect as today’s hipster nerd and still manages to be utterly approachable. His asides and one-offs are killers 90% of the time. Everyone else is pretty damned good, too – Mischa Barton is fun to look at, and Samaire Armstrong (Anna, Seth’s other girlfriend from Season 1) is the girl I so DESPERATELY wanted to know in 11th grade (see yesterday’s post).
I say that I think the first 15 episodes are brilliant, because I just finished the 16th. “Jumping the shark” has jumped the shark as a phrase, but I sensed a moment in the 16th episode when something heretofore absent began to happen: I knew what was coming next each time.
They had been so brilliant, even working within the framework of “troubled kid enters rich enclave” fish-out-of-water cliché, but I never knew what line was coming next. In Episode 16, if you remember, new villain rich-kid psycho Oliver began his freakish manipulation of Marissa, and Summer sought to insert herself between Seth and Anna. Even the appearance of Kirsten’s black sheep sister Hailey was 2-for-1 at the Predict-o-Rama.
Yes, I haven’t seen the rest of the season, nor cracked Season 2 (out on DVD in a week). And keeping good plots going is freakishly hard; Tessa and I rented the pilot for “Dallas” on another recon mission, and it’s stunning how slow it moves. Shit, it takes Victoria Principal three TV minutes to park her car.
I haven’t given up hope on this series, and even if they’d quit after 15 shows, I’ll consider it the best TV I’ve seen this year or last. But perhaps asking for 27 pieces of magic a season is too high a bar for anyone. There was never a TV show with a flawless year, and it was exhilarating to see someone come so close.