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The new guilty pleasure TV show? California, here we come!,
This review is from: The O.C.: Season 1 (DVD)
The first season of "The O.C." was the guilty pleasure of the 2003-2004 television series, although when it popped up in the summer of 2003 that really was more the end of the 2002-2003 television series. After CBS had its great success with the original "Survivor" as a summer series, it took a while for somebody to take the next step, which was what FOX did when they offered up this new soap opera into the wasteland of summer reruns. Actually, the first seven episodes that aired in August and September constituted a test run for "The O.C.," which came back with another twenty episodes starting at the end of October.
The appeal of the show based on the early buzz and media attention was supposed to be on the relationship between Ryan Atwood (Benjamin McKenzie), the boy from the wrong side of the track who is given a second chance by a compassionate lawyer, and Marissa Cooper (Mischa Barton), the spoiled little rich girl who lives next door. Basically the selling point was that he looked like a young Russell Crowe and she looked like a young Twiggy. But star-crossed lovers have been down to death, especially with the entire bad boy meets good girl angle, and the real reason we got hooked on this show was the Cohens, Sandy (Peter Gallagher) and Seth (Adam Brody).
Clearly the sarcasm gene is dominant on the male side of the Cohen family. When Seth is once again the target of golden boy Luke Ward (Chris Carmack), he goes down with his mouth flapping, noting that at least he does not shave his chest. As Sandy says where he accuses Seth of being sarcastic and his son denies the charge, "Well, it's hard to tell sometimes." Actually it is just safer to assume the Cohens are being sarcastic. As the only female Cohen points out about her strange little home, "It's just a laugh riot around here." She, of course, is being ironic (rather than sarcastic), because as Sandy tells Seth, "I love your mother more than words, but not funny." But she's cynical and he's self-righteous, and it appears to be working out fine as long as her father stays out of the picture.
This is not to say that the others do not have their moments. After all, Marissa does listen to the Cramps and Stiff Little Fingers instead of Avril Lavigne, but none of the others are in Sandy and Seth's league. As for Ryan, as Seth points out he is now a Cohen, which means he has entered "a world of insecurity and paralyzing self-doubt." The problem is that with Ryan around to protect him, Seth fears that he might be getting soft, but he obviously does not need to worry about forgoing the "Seth Cohen retaliatory zinger."
Plus, Seth's love life is much more interesting than what Ryan is going through, where he and Luke just keep punching each other out over Marissa (pay attention and you will notice that only one of the first seven episodes does NOT have a punch thrown in it). Seth, on the other hand(s), is trying to juggle both Anna (Samaire Armstrong) and Summer (Rachel Bilson). Of course he makes the wrong choice. Anna already has a fine appreciation of graphic novels, whereas Summer has to be schooled in the basics of comic books. Seth still wants Summer because he has been the girl of his dreams (if you know what I mean), and having her fall for him provides a level of validation that Anna can never hope to match, even with her Jenga skills. She tries hard, but Summer is just not good enough for Seth.
I think the standout episode of the first season is "The Heartbreak," where Seth loses his virginity to Summer only to discover that the experience was not all that he thought it would be. Not only does Seth get a hearty pat on the back from Sandy, but his father also brings up the idea of foreplay, which compels Seth to try, try again. Yes, there is the joke about Summer declaring they are not having sex again and Seth agreeing that they have had "enough pain and suffering," but the idea that first love could be so disastrous is rather appealing. If there is a lesson here regarding teenage sex it would be that you should know what you are doing. None of these kids do and see what happens to them.
By the time we get to the first season's cliffhangers the only one I really cared about was Seth heading out to sea. The relationship between Ryan and Luke ends up being more interesting than the one between Ryan and Marissa, who find a new reason not to have sex pretty much every single week. Jimmy Cooper (Tate Donovan), Marissa's father, rips off everybody in town and still comes across better than his wife, Julie (Melinda Clarke), who goes after Kirsten's father, Caleb Nichol (Alan Dale) and ends up marrying him in the season finale. We dislike him the most because Sandy dislikes him the most. I do not care if Jimmy and Hailey (Amanda Righetti), Kirsten's sister, end up together because I am depressed over what happened with the restaurant and the competing meatloaf recipes.
Trash television is an important part of a balanced television diet. You can watch literate shows like "The Gilmore Girls," enjoy the take of "The West Wing" on important political topics, debate the wrong moves of the castaways on "Survivor," wrestle with God's will during "Joan of Arcadia," and enjoy the delightful wickedness of "Desperate Housewives." But sometimes you just need to wallow in a prime time soap opera, and with "The O.C." we have one that has the constant collision of characters and plot lines with the sort of wit we usually find only on Tina Fey's half of "Weekend Update."