The past few weeks I’ve been rewatching The OC. This came out a desire for comfort food TV…and to remind me what I love about the teen soap genre as I attempt to write my own through the prism of epic fantasy. (The Marina Chronicle, get on board!)
As I worked my way through the dramatic glory that is season 1, the self aware diminishing returns of season 2, the super slog of grossness of season 3, and the delightful breath of fresh air of season 4, I was struck by a few things.
The first is how refreshingly low stakes the show is. Everything stays very personal, to the Cohens and their world, and for at least the first season and a half, the problems themselves aren’t terribly epic.
The second is how the show rolled with it’s various punches. Not every show handles becoming a pop culture phenomenon that well. (I’m looking at you Glee) Not every show figures out where to cut and run on troublesome storylines (Trey Atwood, Newport Drug Dealer and Attempted Marissa Rapist). Not every show figures out which recurring cast members should become permanent so perfectly. (Summer Roberts, Taylor Townsend).
And finally, I want to talk about Ryan Atwood. And Ben McKenzie as Ryan Atwood, and Ben McKenzie’s chemistry with Adam Brody. And Peter Gallagher. And Kelly Rowan. And Mischa Barton. And Rachel Bilson. And Melinda Clarke. And Willa Holland. And Autumn Reeser. (Do you see where I’m going with this?)
The OC is about a group of friends and about a family, but it’s seen through this kid. This kid who takes the opportunity of a lifetime and becomes someone special. (“He’ll always be a bad boy!” “BUT HIS HEART! IT IS PURE GOLD!” – My cousin Tommy and I last Sunday as we watched the last few episodes of season 3. You’ll be hearing from Tom more, in the coming weeks, as we’re going to Disney World together next weekend.) It’s about opening up to trust and love. As hard as it can be to emotionally square Marissa Cooper’s death (it’s still not a great choice.) I always loved the idea that as an adult, Ryan was about to move on to someone who could appreciate his steadiness rather than take advantage of it. (Also, Taylor Towsend is the best, I might just feel this way because she’s pretty much Proto-Blair Waldorf).
And that final moment, when leaving his fancy pants architecture job, he sees a kid like himself sitting worried, and calls out, “Hey Kid, you need some help?” It’s the perfect ending to this story, which while it is a TV show, so follows a lot of different people, is primarily about Ryan Atwood breaking a cycle and starting a new one.
Next on my Teen Soap rewatch? I’m knee deep in Gossip Girl. I watched season 1 in two nights.
It’s sooo good, you guys.