Reviews

The O.C.

Mary Colgan

Everyone feels like an imposter in The O.C.'s all-white, all-straight Newport Beach.


The O.c.

Airtime: Wednesdays 9pm ET
Cast: Peter Gallagher, Kelly Rowan, Benjamin McKenzie, Mischa Barton, Adam Brody, Chris Carmack, Tate Donovan, Melinda Clarke
Network: Fox
Amazon

Josh Schwartz created Fox's The O.C. at 26, making him the youngest person to create a one-hour drama for Network TV. Compare that with Aaron Spelling's stately 67 years when he created the '90s version of this show, featuring rich white kids and their troubled parents in Southern California, Beverly Hills 90210. In an interview with the Boston Globe, Schwartz comments, "I'm not a teen, but I'm not 50 either. I remember distinctly what it was like to be 16". I guess that's why Schwartz's show and Spelling's show are so... similar.

Both trashily addictive teen soap operas offer an outsider's perspective of the glamorous lives of the filthy rich. 90210 had the Walshes, a rock solid Minnesota family who solved problems with hugs rather than drugs and plastic surgery. The O.C. brings us Ryan (Benjamin McKenzie), a good-hearted delinquent from Chino (depicted, like all towns where people don't live in mansions, as a den of white trash) who is taken in by a Newport Beach family: public defender Sandy Cohen (Peter Gallagher), his real estate developer wife Kirsten (Kelly Rowan), and their teenage son Seth (Adam Brody, playing a dorky, slightly less charming version of his character in Gilmore Girls). Ryan can't resist throwing punches at cocky rich boys, but determines not to screw up his chance at clean living. This even though he knows he doesn't "fit in." Not to worry, because, as Sandy assures him, "No one does."

Everyone feels like an imposter in The O.C.'s all-white, all-straight Newport Beach. Sandy secretly wants to give it all up and move to Berkeley; Seth is a comic book geek who can't talk to girls; and the Coopers next door consist of white collar criminal Jimmy (Tate Donovan); his wife Julie (Melinda Clarke), who lives in constant fear of being returned to her underclass roots; and their pretty daughter Marissa (Mischa Barton), who provided a cliffhanger for Fox's World Series hiatus by getting trashed on pain killers and alcohol and passing out in an alley in Tijuana, Mexico.

In fact, The O.C.'s primary appeal is its implausibility, which offers respite from the moral swamp of reality TV. It's okay for fictional characters to be ridiculous and tacky. Though Schwartz claims that he wants his show to evoke the unique, fleeting beauty of youth, he draws in viewers through pure escapism. Whereas The WB's teen dramas (i.e., Dawson's Creek and its replacement One Tree Hill) insist that you think of teenagers as sensitive, intelligent people, The O.C. lets you see them as beautiful, skin-deep figments. It's a guilty pleasure akin to gorging on fast food or listening to bubblegum pop -- lots of us do it, but we don't like to talk about it.

The O.C. takes place in that alternate TV universe where grandfathers show up with gorgeous 24-year-old wives who like to make out with 16-year-old boys ("You hooked up with my grandma?! Actually, that's kind-of hot," reflects Seth.) Character motivation is blithely moot. When Ryan's recovering alcoholic mother (Daphne Ashbrook) visits briefly (apparently just to make sure she made the right decision when she abandoned Ryan; she did), the Cohens bring her along to "Vegas Night," whereupon they are shocked and disappointed when she drinks and makes a scene. And Marissa never imagines that her boyfriend Luke (Chris Carmack) will fly into a jealous rage when she brings Ryan to events that she was supposed to attend with Luke, even though he does so, repeatedly. How liberatory it must be, to live without accountability or foresight.

It's this freedom, more than the money and the ritzy cars, that constitutes The O.C.'s vicarious pleasure. Still, it's nice to feel grounded once in a while. And so, like 90210's Walshes, the Cohen family serves as an oasis from the rampant debauchery of this version of Southern California. But whereas the Walsh family featured cheesy father/son arm punches, father/daughter "you'll always be my little girl"s, and a June Cleaver-ish mother, the Cohens-plus-Ryan are pleasantly off kilter. The parents are stable, loving, and intelligent and have held onto their youthful ideals. Kirsten rolls her eyes at her girlfriends' gossip and Sandy surfs in the mornings and shows up at the debutante ball in his rumpled day clothes. This familial unit offers the perfect filter through which to observe the absurdity of life in the O.C. You can almost imagine watching the show with them on their giant television, pointing at the screen and turning to the four of them to shout, "My God, who behaves like that?"

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Electronic music is one of the broadest-reaching genres by design, and 2017 highlights that as well as any other year on record. These are the 20 best albums.


20. Vitalic - Voyager (Citizen)

Pascal Arbez-Nicolas (a.k.a. Vitalic) made waves in the French Touch electro-house scene with his 2005 debut, OK Cowboy, which had a hard-hitting maximalist sound, but several albums later, Voyager finds him launching into realms beyond at his own speed. The quirky, wallflower vocals and guitar snippets employed throughout Voyager drop a funk that brings to mind WhoMadeWho or Matthew Dear if they had disco-pop injected between their toes. "Levitation" is as pure a slice of dance floor motivation as theoretically possible, a sci-fi gunfight with a cracking house beat sure to please his oldest fans, yet the album-as-form is equally effective in its more contemplative moments, like when Miss Kitten's vocals bring an ethereal dispassion to "Hans Is Driving" to balance out its somber vocoder or the heartfelt cover of "Don't Leave Me Now" by Supertramp. Voyager may infect you with a futuristic form of Saturday Night Fever, but afterwards, it gives you a hearty dose of aural acetaminophen to break it. - Alan Ranta


Keep reading... Show less
Film

Hitchcock, 'Psycho', and '78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene'

Alfred Hitchock and Janet Leigh on the set of Psycho (courtesy of Dogwoof)

"... [Psycho] broke every taboo you could possibly think of, it reinvented the language of film and revolutionised what you could do with a story on a very precise level. It also fundamentally and profoundly changed the ritual of movie going," says 78/52 director, Alexandre O. Philippe.

The title of Alexandre O. Philippe's 78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene (2017) denotes the 78 set-ups and the 52 cuts across a full week of shooting for Psycho's (1960) famous shower scene. Known for The People vs. George Lucas (2010), The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus (2012) and Doc of the Dead (2014), Philippe's exploration of a singular moment is a conversational one, featuring interviews with Walter Murch, Peter Bogdanovich, Guillermo del Toro, Jamie Lee Curtis, Osgood Perkins, Danny Elfman, Eli Roth, Elijah Wood, Bret Easton Ellis, Karyn Kusama, Neil Marshall, Richard Stanley and Marli Renfro, body double for Janet Leigh.

Keep reading... Show less

The Force, which details the Oakland Police Department's recent reform efforts, is best viewed as a complimentary work to prior Black Lives Matter documentaries, such 2017's Whose Streets? and The Blood Is at the Doorstep.

Peter Nicks' documentary The Force examines the Oakland Police Department's recent reform efforts to curb its history of excessive police force and systemic civil rights violations, which have warranted federal government oversight of the Department since 2003. Although it has its imperfections, The Force stands out for its uniquely equitable treatment of law enforcement as a complex organism necessitating difficult incremental changes.

Keep reading... Show less
6

Mary Poppins, Mrs. Gamp, Egyptian deities, a Japanese umbrella spirit, and a supporting cast of hundreds of brollies fill Marion Rankine's lively history.

"What can go up a chimney down but can't go down a chimney up?" Marion Rankine begins her wide-ranging survey of the umbrella and its significance with this riddle. It nicely establishes her theme: just as umbrellas undergo, in the everyday use of them, a transformation, so too looking at this familiar, even forgettable object from multiple perspectives transforms our view of it.

Keep reading... Show less
7
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image