The OC: Revisited (Part 1)

This past Friday night I was exhausted. Exhausted from a week of work; exhausted from seemingly endless vitriol about the Orlando shooting on Twitter and Facebook; exhausted from arguing with Warriors fans about LeBron James and Draymond Green. And yes, as a 30-year-old with two balky knees and approximately zero coordination, exhausted from seven days of routine physical tasks and workouts.

So instead of going to happy hour, I fired up my Xbox One, loaded the Hulu Plus app, and watched The OC‘s pilot. I’ve since ripped through 18 episodes, because I am the worst.

I started watching The OC my freshman year of college. A good friend, Ryan, loaned me his Season 1 DVD set so that I could catch up; once current, I hosted Thursday night pregames during episodes. At the time it was a simple concept, but in today’s age of endless distractions, it actually seems novel: 8-15 people crammed in a small dorm room, mostly quiet, all drinking Coors Light and focused on a crappy 17-inch TV. These “OC Thursdays” provided some of my most cherished memories in a four-year span that was full of them.

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Thus, at Ryan’s behest, I’ll record random thoughts and observations from my re-visitation of the show. Here’s the first go at it. (I’m doing this in list/numbered form so that readers can easily respond to references in the blog/Facebook comments.)

1-For an evening soap-opera, the pilot is an incredible, emotionally powerful episode.

2-The writers got a ton of mileage out of the first season. The first 6-7 episodes are essentially nothing more than scene-setters. Given the simple premise and relatively small cast of characters, I’m kind of amazed that they could make a glorified/extended introduction so entertaining.

3-Even more impressive is the fact that they cast not particularly young-looking 25 and 24 year-old actors (Ben McKenzie and Adam Brody) as 16-year-olds. The bitter part of me can’t help but think: “Yeah, I’d be bad-ass in high school if I had my 25-year-old biceps throwing punches at kids almost a decade younger than me, too!” Then I look at high school kids today and realize, no…I’d still have gotten my butt kicked.

4-A great thing about my job is that it allows me to notice product placements/promos that are built into shows and movies…whether or not I want to. My freshman year, I watched “The Outsider” (S.1E.5) without the slightest idea that I was being advertised to. This go-around, not so much. In one scene Sandy and Jimmy have been working long hours on the latter’s court case against the Securities and Exchange Commission. They decide to quit for the night, and the first thing they do is go into the fridge and grab a couple beers. The characters never say “Corona”, nor do they blatantly hold the bottles in a way that shows the labels. But they do launch into a minute-long discussion about how rare a treat beer is in their wine-obsessed, matriarch-dominated homes.

The Coronas are the first step in what is clearly made out to be an awesome night (by their old rich dude standards, anyways). 20 minutes later in the episode, Sandy’s wife gets home from a horrible weekend trip, and the first thing she notices are the Coronas. She rejoices at the rare sight, and husband and wife make amends over the delicious suds. Granted, my line of work (digital advertising for a news group) is different than fictional TV, but hot darn. I can only guess what Modelo Group paid for that, but suffice it to say: the show’s producers probably didn’t send their kids to public school.

5-Growing up a Browns fan makes you two things: relentlessly pessimistic and irrationally spiteful of Pittsburgh. To the point where I legitimately feel guilty admitting that Anna, who joins the crew from said city, is absolutely beautiful. She’s played by Samaire Armstrong, who was born in Tokyo. And yet I still have a gut/moral feeling that praising her is simply wrong. Sports are the worst.

6-Unlike me, some of my friends have jobs that give them -practical- knowledge. Ryan and Rick are both seasoned attorneys in two of the toughest states to pass the bar and practice law. Their tens of thousands of hours studying and preparing for trials have allowed them to answer life’s important questions:

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7-Side-note/rant: I am not of the seemingly-majority opinion that famous athletes, celebrities and CEOs should go out of their way to express their political views. First: they are not authorities on political subjects. If I want to know the ins and outs of immigration policy, I’m going to read what the analysts at the Cato Institute have to say about it, because they actually study this stuff for a living. Aaron Rodgers can diagnose defensive schemes, but I really don’t care what he thinks about universal health care. Second: when I turn on a TV show or go to ESPN.com, I’m doing it mostly to unwind and disconnect from reality for a bit. Injecting politics into these areas removes their very reason for being. I say this as someone who probably spends more time reading about politics and public policy than 90 percent of the population.

8-Related to the above: for the most part, The OC is apolitical, and this is great. Re-watching it now, though, I see a bit of a political angle…it’s just not in your face. On a macro level, the show is written about one of the few areas in California that’s actually conservative, and it’s clearly not a positive portrayal. Every family has issues, and all aside from the Cohens are intolerant. The show’s conscience, Sandy, is a liberal from New York (his words, not mine). You also see politics creep into individual episodes. Here’s a sample of what I’ve noticed in my re-visitation so far:

*E.9 “The Heights”: Sandy’s firm represents the county in suing Caleb’s company to prevent a new development. Caleb is on the receiving end of numerous lectures from characters that the show has established as good people: Sandy, Seth, Rachel, and Anna. At no point are any cons to zoning laws (the fact that they make rent more expensive for poor people, are written and enforced arbitrarily, etc.) brought up. The writers are lecturing the audience.

*E.12 “The Secret”: Luke’s dad is outed as being homosexual. Luke is subsequently ridiculed with hateful words; Orange County is said (by the good-guy Cohens) to be stupidly conservative and close-minded. The Cohens are the only family that supports Luke and his dad without any judgment.

*E.16 “The Links”: Caleb-again, one of the show’s obvious bad guys-returns from a trip to France with Julie. When Kirsten asks him about the trip, he replies: “Hmph…aside from the French…”

9-Ryan said it in college, and I’ll say it again: the Oliver story line was awful. It almost seemed like they were prematurely jumping the shark. (Nope! That’d be the end of Season 3.)

10-This show asks you to suspend your disbelief quite a bit. Fair…it’s TV. But I about lost it halfway through “The Links”. Ryan Atwood is playing golf at Oliver’s swanky Palm Springs country club, and this is what he wears:

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You expect me to believe that the Cohens wouldn’t spring for some khakis and a polo shirt??! They’ve given Ryan approximately $3 billion worth of free stuff at this point in the series, and as much as they want to deny it, they’re an image-conscious family. I don’t even think he’d be allowed to play in this outfit.

11-The writers behind “The Rivals” (S.1E.17) were ahead of their time. At the end of the episode, Oliver knows he’s facing a superior foe and can’t win with a direct attack. So he gets right in Ryan Atwood’s face and desperately tries to initiate contact. He basically falls into Atwood’s fist, and the authorities are all over it. Anyone who has watched a single NBA game in the past five years should understand exactly what’s going on:

Oliver/Billups aren’t even trying to make their shots. They want to dupe opponents into a crime/foul by running right into them. And it works! Hopefully this ploy has been remedied by the Orange County PD; NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s efforts in this regard have been less than stellar.

There’s still plenty of action in the show’s remaining 3+ seasons, so I’ll be back with more in a few weeks. Please leave thoughts/questions/judgment of my life choices in the comments.

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