I’ll be honest. I’ve been obsessed with The O.C. since before it even aired. The commercials alone got me. I was a native Southern Californian living in New York, and the ad campaign back East featured a line like “It’s like no place you’ve ever been.” Shit like that makes me happy because it offers me an easy way to appear clever to whomever I happen to be drinking with in front of the television. “Oh yes it is!” I’d say, “And it fucking blows.” My spontaneous observation would be met with approval and laughter, and I’d be that much less inclined to whisper, “Hate. Hate you. Stupid.” at the bathroom mirror when I got up to go to the john. Everybody wins.
I love television. Especially unashamedly crappy television. Hell, one year I had a nervous breakdown and the only reason I postponed suicide was that E! ran about fifteen episodes of Melrose Place a day. I laughed; I cried; I swallowed a lot of Ativans. Now that I’m older and overeducated, I’ve developed complex methods to justify such vices. Therefore, I could cover the subtle Marxist messages contained within The O.C., but as we’re all aware that that’s a load of crap, I won’t. I’ll just do my best to explain the intricate world of The O.C., a place that truly is like no place you’ve ever been. Especially if you’ve ever actually been to Orange County.
Brooding Ryan Atwood has led a hard life. The viewers are expected to understand this because he was raised in Chino (not to be mistaken for Chico, an equally dismal location, but for entirely different, mainly Fraternity and beer-bong related reasons). Ryan has a White Trash mom eerily reminiscent of the White Trash mom who raised the equally brooding Eminem in Eight Mile. They’re nearly identical people, really- right down to their bottle-blonde coifs and the much younger boyfriends who like to knock them around (because all WT women who like the bottle as much as they like their unemployed boyfriends get knocked around. It’s, like, the rules.). Strangely enough, Mrs. Atwood’s two sons share the same father; I can only assume there was a mix-up in the archetype department over at Fox.
Like Eminem in Eight Mile, Ryan isn’t like any of the White Trash dudes you’ve ever met. For example, he doesn’t chew dip, he doesn’t refer to his cock during day-to-day transactions, he doesn’t have a tattoo of Taz on any visible part of his body and he doesn’t appear to have any significant dental problems. He also scored in the 98th percentile on his SATs, and I’m pretty sure that at night he reads deep, but not necessarily obscure philosophy (He’s not the God damn Unabomber, for crying out loud) by the light of the same gas stove his mother uses to light her cigarettes when she’s not passed out or in the ER. But this is all just speculation. Think Dylan McKay; think Ponyboy; think Nicolas Cage in Valley Girl. Additionally, he adorns his extremely muscular body primarily in wife beaters–unless he’s due at an upscale party where he will inevitably get into a fight (fucking socs, man). Ryan is a boy-man of few words; he’s like that quiet boyfriend you had in high school, but he’s not on heroin. No–Ryan’s deep, and when he does talk it’s never to request a hand job, because Heathcliff, however repackaged he may be, would never ask Cathy for a hand job. We meet Ryan as he is getting arrested for being inside a stolen car with his older brother Trey (think Kiefer Sutherland and River Phoenix in Stand By Me). While Trey is sent off to the pokey, thus fulfilling what is apparently a time-honored Atwood family tradition (and offering Mrs. Atwood an opportunity to say things like “Just like your father…never gonna amount to anything…I like booze”), Ryan is ultimately sent to The O.C. with Sandy Cohen, his public defender.
Sandy is kind of like this high school principal I had who drove a Pinto with Grateful Dead stickers on it to work each morning even though he also owned a Lexus. I forget my principal’s name, but I remember he’d try to pull that “we’re on the same team…that’s why I’m doing everything possible to make your emotional well-being suffer” shit all the time. Sandy’s married to “the richest woman in town,” but he surfs every morning (in what I think is an attempt to show us that he doesn’t possess a completely typical bourgeoisie mentality), and works as a public defender for underprivileged delinquents with hearts of middle class gold. Sandy must know that Ryan, whom he has conversed with for about twenty minutes, has the above-mentioned qualities, because he invites him to come stay with the Cohen family in Newport Beach before the first episode is over. Sandy’s wife Kirsten isn’t pleased about this, and she makes a couple of “you can’t save every stray puppy in the world” speeches to let us know that Sandy is the kind of guy who tries to save puppies and stuff (stupid fucking surfer hippie). In her defense, I wouldn’t be pleased either, but that’s because I would most likely suspect my husband had a NAMBLA membership if he brought home a muscle bound teen clad in a wife beater and assorted leather wrist cuffs. Kirsten is the head of some kind of real estate empire, and she used to date Jimmy, the man next door (played by that actor Jennifer Aniston used to date, the one whose gums show all the time), but he had to marry the super hot, yet unbelievably vapid Julie when she became pregnant with their oldest daughter, Marisa. Or something. It’s hard to piece the story together completely using the stilted “Remember when we went to prom? How funny that we’re neighbors now, and married to different people!” dialogue provided by The O.C.. In short, Jimmy still wants to vacation in Bangtail City with Kirsten real bad. He has also been embezzling money from assorted other rich people and is currently under investigation by the feds. Julie likes to shop a lot, and apparently this has forced Jimmy to steal rather than tell her that 2,000 pairs of shoes is plenty. What we’re supposed to gather from this is that Jimmy’s a really nice guy who has been done wrong by his greedy cunt of a wife.
Sandy and Kirsten have a son named Seth, who’s pretty much prime time television’s first faggy emo boy. Right down to the music (at one point, he proclaims, “Don’t diss the Death Cab!” No, seriously.). Oh, we like Seth, because he’s that dude. The boy you’d cry to about the boy you’d fuck. The boy who’d make you mix-tapes bursting with not-so-hidden messages of devotion. The one who’d never even try to touch your boob at a party, even if you were drunk enough to let him finger-bang you in the side yard. Seth is in love with a stereotypically awful popular girl named Summer (think “Plug it up!” in Carrie, and not that stupid NBC remake that came out last year, either), which doesn’t make sense, because he’s also all about “smashing the system” and other forms of marketable revolution. Also, he and Sandy are the token “really Jewish guys” on the show, so they’re basically only accepted by the other O.C. rich folk because Mrs. Cohen didn’t actually come into this world via a Jewish vagina. And don’t forget, she’s “the richest woman in town.” Summer just so happens to be best friends with Marisa who is the sexy-sexy teenaged daughter of Jimmy and Julie next door. Marisa becomes immediately fascinated with Ryan’s Chino “exoticism.” When will we learn? The extremely poor are more than just fuel for our wildly fetishized sex- fantasies. Alas, Marisa has a boyfriend named Luke who pretty much sucks a whole lot of ass, but not in a gay way. He’ll totally kick your ass if you mean that in a gay way, bro.
Mayhem and fisticuffs ensue almost immediately. The first O.C. party Ryan attends (and every O.C. party that follows) consists mainly of liquor, bikinis, deliciously scripted infidelities (“what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her”), and making fun of those who can’t afford to drive an H2. At one point, someone actually tells Ryan to “go back to Eight Mile,” which is confusing, because if there’s one thing rich white kids love more than Eminem, it’s having a friend with “street cred.” I mean, it’s not like he’s black. If Ryan was black, I would think he’d be the most sought after kid in town, simply because the one thing rich white kids love even more than Eminem or having a friend with “street cred” is the ability to say “I have a black friend” when they get called out for telling nacho cheese/nigger jokes. But these rich white kids (not even an Asian among them, which is immediately ludicrous to anyone who’s ever pissed at a McDonalds in O.C.) are obviously not under the spell of MTV culture. The youth of The O.C. think living in a gated community is about as edgy as it gets. Oh, they like cocaine. A lot. We know this because there are always some chicks in bikinis doing a bunch of lines while screeming shit like “whoo!” and “uh huh!” (Think Less Than Zero).
There have only been seven episodes thus far, and pretty much every one follows the same formula: Sandy and Kirsten have either a “He can’t stay here/ Where will he go?” fight or a “Why is Jimmy always sniffing around?/ No he’s not, we’re just old friends, why don’t you trust me?” argument. Julie shops and acts cunty while Jimmy sighs a lot and agonizes over how to tell his wife and two daughters they don’t have any money left. Marisa freaks out about which boy to choose and Luke gets it on with various girls and nags at Marisa to let him do it to her, all the while making “faggot” jokes about Ryan. For his part, Ryan tries but fails to keep out of trouble (mainly he can’t seem to not punch Luke back) and spends a lot of time looking soulful and tortured. Summer ignores Seth’s existence–which cuts deep into his nerd-core soul–Seth makes dry, social commentary and namedrops “seminal” musicians like The Sex Pistols, a band which, coincidentally, Marisa likes, too. Which to me makes perfect sense because she does wear Betsey Johnson and stuff, and if you think about it, the gates around their oceanfront community really do parallel the stifling British class structure of the 1970’s. Not to mention all that lame volunteer work her mom makes her do with the debutante committee–talk about working class rage…
In episode two, the kids manage to burn down a “model home” in Kirsten’s newest development. See, Ryan has no home to go to because Eight Mile Mama’s taken off and left a note written in red marker taped to the stove that presumably says something like “I’ve taken off,” and Seth comes up with the idea of hiding him rather than sending him to foster care. Unfortunately, Marisa also comes up with some ideas. Like bringing tons of aromatherapy crap to the construction site/potential love den. Who knew that eve without running water mango shower gel was useful? Who knew turpentine cans made such boho-chic candleholders? Then Luke shows up at the construction site and fists start swinging, the model house pulls a Great White quicker than you can sing “Once Bitten, Twice Shy, babe.” Of course, there aren’t any actual burnt-out (no pun) rock chicks running around screaming, because Ryan’s mom isn’t actually in this episode. After kicking Ryan’s ass, Luke shows some humanity when he elects to drag Eight Mile into the driveway rather than leaving him to cook. Of course, this wasn’t an easy decision for Luke to make, because Luke is a douchebag.
In episode three, Ryan’s mother shows up, and she’s gonna make some changes! Really, this time she means it! She’s serious! Forty five minutes later, we discover that even with her new “I’m not a crank-whore anymore” haircut, she’s the same trashy drunk (not to be mistaken for the well-off, classy kind of drunk played by Meg Ryan in When a Man Loves a Woman) she always was. She’s feeling no pain while telling off the rich folk at the “Las Vegas” themed charity event the Cohens decided to invite her to (because we all know that alcoholic recovery and Vegas style good times go hand in hand). The next morning, she leaves Ryan in Kirsten’s care after some kind of “you’re his new mom” transaction, and Ryan becomes a “part of the Cohen family.” Only he’s not a Jew. But he’s really poor, so he’ll fit right in with the whole “Cohen men as outsiders” thing.
In episode four, there’s another beach party and some more fighting between Luke and Ryan. Jimmy is “outed” as a thief at some big debutante thing. He gets punched by one of the rich older guys. Marisa gets all freaked out. Ryan and Luke both try to comfort her, but she says something about “needing to be alone.”
In episode five, Ryan gets a job bussing tables at some boardwalk restaurant called “The Crab Shack” (perfect for dates!) where all the cool kids hang out at (think “The Peach Pit”, but with Crabs). Luke loves the whole “you work for me” element and rubs it in a bunch. Too bad Luke doesn’t have a cigar to burn Ryan with while saying something like “What are you gonna do about it, boy? Your mama’s worked in my factory since you were just a young’un, and I’d hate to see that all change.” Ryan works with some guy from Long Beach, and they become friends. This immediately sets off the warning bells, because we all know that Long Beach is just plain lousy with unrest and rough social elements. Ryan makes Marisa grilled-cheese sandwiches (I don’t even know what this little moment is supposed to signify. Maybe that he’s been forced to learn how to cook because his mom was too busy nailing fellow drunks to feed her children?) and they share sexually tense moments together in the pool, but he never becomes visibly aroused or tries to take off her bathing suit. The Long Beach dude brings a gun to yet another O.C. beach party and pulls it on Luke. Ryan tries to stop him, but Luke gets shot. Ryan feels bad. Marisa is torn. Again.
I suck because I missed episode six, but according to my friend Scarlett, “Marisa walked in on some girl kissing Ryan, so she did it with Luke, then she told Ryan about doing it with Luke. Also, Summer got drunk and kissed Seth, and Julie wants a divorce because Jimmy’s broke now.” Okay? Okay.
Episode seven was like The Uber O.C. One of television’s finest hours, truly. The kids head down to Mexico in order to celebrate Spring Break. Marisa initially plans to stay home, much to Luke’s “we can get a hotel room and do it some more” dismay, but she decides to go at the last minute, so she and Summer end up carpooling down with Ryan and Seth. Besides, being in a car for a couple of hours with someone you just lost your virginity to out of spite is something we’ve all done. I’d call it healthy, eve. The car breaks down because Seth and Summer get into some kind of stupid fight that we’re supposed to find endearing, causing Seth to run it off the road. Incidentally, this is where Seth defends Death Cab For Cutie, and Summer says “”It’s, like, one guitar, and a whole lot of complaining!” which makes me like her more than I did before. Because the car is non functional, the kids have to stay at some motel in the middle of I don’t know where, seeing that Tijuana is only an hour and a half from Newport Beach, that only has one room available. For some reason, Summer and Seth (who totally hate each other!) take the bed, leaving Ryan and Marisa the sofa bed. I guess it would be totally lezzy for Summer and Marisa to share a bed. Meanwhile, back in Newport Beach, Sandy’s taking a sell-out job and Jimmy’s attempting to kiss Kirsten, who gets offended and says something about having to leave. Blah blah blah; we don’t give a shit about their middle-aged bullshit. Marisa’s dad then calls her cell to tell her about the divorce, because traumatic information is best delivered to one’s children over the phone, especially when you know said child has access to booze and drugs because she’s away at Spring Break. Marisa becomes emotionally distraught, which is, apparently, a total turn-on for Ryan, because she’s always emotionally distraught and he’s always super turned on. He comforts her, and in the morning they wake up cuddling, but he isn’t doing that morning hard-on into the ass thing most dudes do, because he has a God damned poetic soul. The four all drive down to Mexico, where they discover Luke making out with some slutty girl that Marisa thought was her friend. “Don’t ever speak to me again!”
Right here is where the show takes a turn down Genius Lane. Marisa decides to go back to the hotel room and take a whole lot of prescription pills. “Sure,” you say, “Who wouldn’t?” You make a good point. But Marisa decides that watching Spectravision while slowly scratching at herself because of all the synthetic morphine and whatnot she’s ingested just isn’t good enough. She decides that dragging her drugged ass to the only completely empty bar in Tijuana during Spring Break and drinking like seventeen shots of tequila is a way better idea. Wait. Did I say empty? I totally forgot to mention the three shifty looking Mexican dudes (well, not that shifty looking, but they make up for it with all the Mexican…) sitting in the back watching her slosh around on her barstool and sweat profusely. The three amigos scare her, so she bails out and weaves damply up and down the streets of Tijuana (which look a lot like a Girls Gone Wild video without the tits), clutching at her head and blinking her eyes repeatedly until she finds a nice dark Tijuana alley to pass out in. Meanwhile, Ryan, Seth and Summer are searching for her amongst the drunken Frat boys and MardiGras beaded blonde girls. Somehow, they manage to locate her crumpled body before the Federales do, which is a good thing, because daddy doesn’t have any money left for bail. Ryan runs over to see if she’s okay. She’s not, so he takes her into his arms and holds her up all slo-mo significantly. The camera shoots at a slow speed from above, and the only element missing is a drawn out “NOOOOOOOOOOO!” from Ryan to complete the Christ/Disciple imagery of the whole thing. Then the credits started running, and the bastards at Fox informed me that The O.C. would be on hiatus for a while, I’m not ashamed to admit that I supplied the above-mentioned missing element.
The O.C. is the most ridiculously contrived show to hit the air in recent memory. It has no real redeemable qualities, a storyline so predictable that a developmentally disabled individual could guess the dialogue before it happens (or at least I can, and I’m not exactly the brightest berry in the bushel, if you want to know the truth). The show stars a bunch of unbelievably good looking white kids that only a Hilton sister could relate to and heavily features the music of Phantom goddamned Planet. It’s a churning cesspool of mediocrity. I fucking love it. I forgot to record it one week, and it ruined my day. I was forty-five minutes from home on the freeway when I realized I had forgotten to set the VCR, and I almost turned back. If this so-called hiatus doesn’t end soon, I’m going to lose my fucking mind.