The O.C. is an American teen drama television series created by Josh Schwartz, named after the Orange County, where it took place, that originally aired on the Fox Network in the United States from August 5, 2003, to February 22, 2007, running a total of four seasons.
The series centers on Ryan Atwood, a troubled but tough young man from a broken home who is adopted by the wealthy and philanthropic Sandy and Kirsten Cohen. Ryan and his foster brother Seth, a socially awkward yet quick-witted teenager, deal with life as outsiders in the high-class world of Newport Beach. Ryan and Seth spend much time navigating their relationships with girl-next-door Marissa Cooper, Seth's childhood crush Summer Roberts, and the fast-talking loner Taylor Townsend. Storylines deal with the culture clash between the idealistic Cohen family and the shallow, materialistic, and closed-minded community in which they reside. The series includes elements of postmodernism, and functions as a mixture of melodrama and comedy.
The series premiered with high ratings and was one of the most popular new dramas of the 2003–2004 television season. It was widely referred to as a pop cultural phenomenon and received mostly positive reception from critics. However, ratings declined as the show went on. The low ratings led to its cancellation in early 2007, even after an online petition that gained over 700,000 signatures.
On January 3, 2007, Fox announced that The O.C. has been cancelled after four seasons.
The O.C. has been broadcast in more than fifty countries worldwide. The series has also been released on DVD, as well as on iTunes.
Season 1 focuses on Ryan Atwood's arrival in Newport Beach to live with Sandy and Kirsten Cohen, who take him in after his mother kicks him out. A major theme of the first season is the culture shock Ryan feels as he adjusts from a life of domestic abuse and poverty to living in a superficial high-class society. He quickly befriends and bonds with Seth Cohen, and begins to have a romantic relationship with Marissa Cooper. Although coming from very different backgrounds, Ryan soon discovers that he deals with similar issues to his new peers, such as self-identity conflict and familial alienation. The relationship between Ryan and Marissa flourishes when he supports her through her parents' divorce. As the show progresses, Ryan takes a very protective role over Marissa, showing Ryan to be a much more stable, controlled person than originally portrayed. Other storylines include Seth's development from a friendless loner to having two romantic choices in Summer and Anna, as well as the arrivals of Oliver Trask, a troubled teen who befriends Marissa during their coinciding therapy sessions, and Theresa Diaz, Ryan's close friend and former love interest from his hometown of Chino. Meanwhile, Sandy Cohen frequently comes into conflict with Caleb Nichol, Kirsten's father and a wealthy industrialist who is said to "basically own Newport."
Season 2 continues to follow the tumultuous romantic relationships between Ryan and Marissa, Seth and Summer, and Sandy and Kirsten. Josh Schwartz, the show's creator, stated that in Season 2, the show would "no longer be about Ryan's past; now it's going to be about Ryan's future," and that this season would "slow down the storytelling a little bit ... and evolve the characters." For example, the story closely follows Ryan in his advanced physics class, where tension is created between him and another student, Lindsay, who presumes that Ryan will be useless as a lab partner, who thus prevents him from contributing to the work that must be submitted. Ryan's character begins to grow when he stands up to Lindsay and convinces her to allow him to contribute, forcing them to work together to complete the assignment. They later become involved romantically, creating extreme complications and relational shifts amongst the now "Cooper-Nichol" family. The Bait Shop becomes a prominent social destination for the teenage characters. A number of recurring characters are introduced, such as D.J., Lindsay Gardner, Zach Stevens, and Alex Kelly, with whom the main characters form a variety of relationships. Ryan's brother, Trey Atwood, gets out of jail and threatens to bring Ryan's old life into his new one. Sandy and Kirsten also face new conflicts after drifting apart during the summer. The season ends with Marissa shooting Trey, after Ryan confronts him for attempting to sexually assault Marissa.
Season 3 creates many dynamic changes with regards to relationships and power within the characters' society. Firstly, Marissa is expelled from the Harbor School. The Cooper family, left with little money, is forced to move into a trailer park. Julie Cooper-Nichol, once one of the richest women in all of Newport, struggles to put food on the table for her daughters. Marissa's life begins to spiral out of control, as she struggles with alcohol and drug abuse, as well as dealing with the loss of her close friend Johnny. Similarly, Kirsten confronts her alcohol addiction and eventually leaves rehab, only to encounter more problems when she begins business with a con artist. The other characters look towards college, with Seth and Summer competing for a spot at Brown University. Sandy's moral compass becomes imperiled when a past love interest makes her way back into his life, and he takes over Caleb's old position as head of The Newport Group, pursuing a project to establish more low-income housing in Newport. Ryan also attempts to resolve his individual relationships with his mother, and with his childhood friend Theresa Diaz. He also pursues the idea of a post-secondary education, with encouragement from both Sandy and Kirsten to visit Berkeley. Ryan's life is quickly put on hold when, in the season 3 finale, Ryan decides to drive Marissa to the airport, and they are run off the road by Kevin Volchok, Marissa's most recent love affair gone wrong. In the last few minutes of the episode, Ryan pulls Marissa out from the burning car, only to watch her die in his arms.
Season 4, the last season of the show, begins five months after Marissa's death in the car accident. Ryan starts the season in isolation as a broken, grieving man, seeking revenge on Volchok. With the help of Julie, both she and Ryan are able to track Volchok down in Mexico, and turn him into federal officials. The continued love of the Cohen family and the company of the eccentric Taylor Townsend guide him back to the light. Meanwhile, Seth and Summer face the problems of a long distance relationship as Summer leaves to attend college. The first half of the season focuses on the characters accepting the reality of Marissa's death. The second half focuses on the characters 'finding themselves' while facing a myriad of identity crises. This final season contains multiple surprises, such as a new addition to the Cohen family, a visit to an alternate universe in which Sandy becomes mayor, and a natural disaster that leaves Newport devastated.
Cast and Characters
Benjamin McKenzie portrays Ryan Atwood (Recurring from Season 1-4), a troubled teenager from Chino who is brought into the privileged community of Newport Beach, California after his mother, Dawn Atwood, throws him out of their family home. Ryan is subsequently taken in by his public defender, Sandy Cohen. He forms fast bonds with the entire Cohen family, especially Sandy's son Seth, as well as an extreme attachment to the girl next door, Marissa Cooper. Ryan slowly finds himself a place within his new materialistic society, and makes of the most of his situation by not only completing high school, but also continuing on to university.
Mischa Barton portrays Marissa Cooper (Recurring from Season 1-3). Marissa is presented to us as the typical rich but problematic girl, that for the three series, in which she is in it, she have to fight against the use of drugs and alcohol, for which she once even risked suicide, during a trip to Mexico with his friends. Marissa's relationships with her parents, her boyfriends and her classmates are often tumultuous.
Adam Brody portrays Seth Cohen (Recurring from Season 1-4). Seth is the awkward and teenage son of Sandy and Kirsten Cohen, the older brother of Sophie Rose and the adoptive of Ryan Atwood. He is best known for his talk, his love for comics and his references to pop culture. Seth has a crush on a girl of his age : Summer Roberts, since they were in third grade. Seth has been called a "Jewish nerd into obscure emo bands," who "starts dating a gorgeous, popular virgin.
Rachel Bilson portrays Summer Roberts (Recurring from Season 2 to Season 4 ; Guest Star in Season 1). Initially, Summer is introduced to us, just like the classic cute and popular girl, but not too smart, she is Marissa's best friend and Seth's love interest ... since ever. The character was originally programmed to appear only in some episodes, but Summer's character quickly became popular with viewers and ended up being part of the main cast for the rest of the series. Summer is the daughter of Dr. Roberts, and a woman whose name is never mentioned, the woman infact left, when she divorced her husband, since her mother abandoned her, Summer has not been in touch with her. Her father re-married and the woman, who Summer nicknamed "Cruella", is a lazy person with an obvious drug problem (more precisely : pills). In season 3, Summer, is accepted by Brown, beating many candidates from the Harbor, including, to his dismay, Seth. The girl, is not just smart, but is also an animal advocate when, during a protest against lab tests on the animals, she frees some of the rabbits from the university lab. She keeps one for himself adopting him, and calling him: Pancakes, before discovering in one of the last episodes, that it was actually a she.
Peter Gallagher portrays Sandy Cohen (Recurring from Season 1 to Season 4), is the husband of Kirsten, the father of Seth and later of Sophie Rose, is also the adoptive father of Ryan Atwood. Despite living in a huge villa with swimming pool, and he does not lack the money, he is a humble and generous person, his politics are left-leaning and open-minded, causing friction between himself and the community.
Kelly Rowan portrays Kirsten Cohen (Recurring from Season 1 to Season 4) she is the wife of Sandy, the mother of Seth and later of Sophie Rose, and also the adoptive mother of Ryan Atwood. Kirsten is the former CFO of her father's (Caleb Nichol) real estate company, the Newport Group. Before meeting her husband Sandy, Kirsten had a teenage love affair with Jimmy Cooper, Julie's ex-husband/former fiancé and father of Marissa and Kaitlin. She was also pregnant with Jimmy, but because of her young age, she decided to have an abortion. In the second part of the second season, she will have serious problems with alcoholism, which was triggered by the failing deteriorating relationship between her and her father, and had an abortion early in her life, which belonged to Jimmy. Kirsten continues to open a dating service with Julie, and becoming a mother for the third time, to a little girl, at the end of the fourth season. The character's politics and lifestyle are conservative, a contrast to her husband.
Melinda Clarke portrays Julie (Recurring from Season 1 to Season 4), the mother of the late Marissa Cooper, Kaitlin Cooper and later in the fourth season of a baby boy. At the beginning of the show she is married to financial planner Jimmy Cooper. She is often characterised as being devious, selfish, and shallow. However, she reveals a more vulnerable and empathetic part of herself a number of times during the series.
Autumn Reeser portay Taylor Townsend (Recurring in Season 4, Guest Star in Season 3), introduced in Season 3 as a neurotic perfectionist student. Her character's initial personality was referred to by many critics as similar to the character Tracy Flick from the film Election. Taylor begins the series as a recurring villain before eventually becoming the second female lead in the fourth season.
Alan Dale portray Caleb Nichol (Recurring Season 1-2), Kirsten's businessman father and later Julie Cooper's husband. His character recurs throughout the first season, and he becomes a regular during the second season, but comes to a sudden stop when his character suffers from a fatal heart attack during the season 2 finale. The Chicago Tribune characterised Caleb as a "gruff, uncompromising Newport Beach, Calif., real-estate developer".
Chris Carmack portray Luke Ward (Recurring in Season 1, Guest Star in Season 2), Marissa's first boyfriend and regular cast member for most of the first season. Luke is initially the main antagonist of the series, coining the series famous "Welcome to the O.C., bitch!" line during a fight with Ryan in the premiere episode. However, he later becomes the main "comic punching bag" for the other characters.
Tate Donovan potray Jimmy Cooper (Recurring in Season 1-2, Guest Star in Season 3). He is the father of Marissa and Kaitlin Cooper (and Julie's ex-husband/ex-fianceé). Initially, is presented to us, as the typical family father, until, he gets into trouble for embezzlement and must face the consequences of his actions and suffer the effects of this, which also fall on his reputation and his personal life . After the divorce from Julie, he begins a relationship with Kirsten's younger sister Hailey, who eventually leaves him to pursue a career as a stylist in Japan. Jimmy's character found himself forced to leave town on the morning of his re-marriage to Julie because of his money problems.
Shailene Woodley (Guest Star in Season 1) and Willa Holland (Recurring in Season 4) portray Kaitlin Cooper. Kaitlin is the youngest daughter of the now divorced Jimmy and Julie Cooper and so the younger sister of Marissa. Kaitlin's personality is more similar to that of her mother rather than her father's, and she is seen as a " normal " weed consumer and occasionally as an object seller. However, the maturity of the character arrives in the fourth season.
In 2002, creator Josh Schwartz met with Joseph "McG" McGinty Nichol and Stephanie Savage of production company Wonderland Sound and Vision. They told Schwartz they wanted to create a television show based in McG's hometown of Newport Beach, Orange County, California. Savage suggested producing a police or extreme sports 21 Jump Street-style show, but Schwartz knew little about the genre. Having had experiences with people from Newport Beach during his time at the University of Southern California, Schwartz came back to them with his own characters. The show was pitched to Fox in August 2002. Fox targeted a summer launch for the show, and Doug Liman was brought in to direct the premiere after McG withdrew due to his scheduling conflicts with Charlie's Angels 2. The show was confirmed for the 2003–2004 schedule in May,and an August 5, 2003 broadcast date was selected in June.
Schwartz said that inspiration for the show came from being a fan of Larry Sanders, Cameron Crowe and other "quirky character-driven shows like Freaks and Geeks, Undeclared, and My So-Called Life". Schwartz went to college at the University of Southern California School of Cinema-Television, and later said that The O.C. was "very much based on sort of the experiences I had when I was in college" as a "Jewish kid from the East Coast ... surrounded by all these kids from Newport Beach who were water-polo players, and these very blonde girls who only wanted to date them. I felt very much like an outsider." Although Orange County residents criticised the show's title, stating that people did not call the county by the phrase, Schwartz claims that USC students did say that they were from "The O.C."He also stated that Cohen family in season one resembles his own family life, adding that "The dynamic between Sandy and Seth is very much based on me and my dad." Schwartz reasoned that, "As much as our audience enjoys living vicariously in this wealthy world, I think the true wish fulfillment comes from wishing that they had a family like the Cohens — where the parents could be that cool and that grounded and that loving, but also real parents."
Schwartz said that he wrote the highly regarded Pilot episode in his boxer shorts. "I had no idea what would come of it and there was just that purity to it."The script for the Pilot attracted most of the regular cast to the project, including film star Peter Gallagher, who said of the Pilot, "In that recently post-9/11 America, I read this script and thought it was astounding. I thought it was exactly the right story to be telling at that point in time. It was about a family living in a not very embracing community, one that doesn't necessarily share all their values. [..] they don't lose their sense of humor or their inclination to help. They still open their arms and embrace this outsider kid. And I thought that was powerful in an era with a kind of xenophobia, a kind of looking-over-your-shoulder and getting small and angry, sort of creeping into the PATRIOT Act-fueled environment. This espoused a kind of America... It just felt right. And it had a sense of humor."
The O.C. was syndicated on Soapnet from 2007 until 2012 in the United States, and the series began airing on Pop in 2016. The show became available for streaming on The CW Seed in 2015, and Hulu in 2016.
U.S. Television ratings
The pilot episode attracted 7.46 million viewers in the United States, came second in its time slot behind the season finale of Last Comic Standing, and was the highest rated show of the night in the 12–17-year-old demographic. The most watched O.C. episode was "The Rivals", the seventeenth episode of season one. It attracted 12.72 million viewers, and was the lead-out to American Idol, which attracted 29.43 million viewers that week. The O.C. was the highest-rated new drama of the 2003–2004 season among adults aged 18 to 34, averaging a total of 9.7 million viewers.
For the second season, the show moved to an "ultra-competitive Thursday" timeslot against the likes of Survivor, Joey and Will & Grace. This is often cited as a cause of The O.C.'s decline in popularity. The move improved Fox's performance at the new time slot, but lost the show viewers, as average viewing figures decreased thirty percent from the previous season to 7 million.
For the third season, average viewing figures decreased a further twenty percent from the previous season to 5.6 million. The Thursday 9.00 pm timeslot placed the show against two other very popular shows, CSI and Grey's Anatomy.
The fourth season premiered in November 2006 with very little promotion or advertisements from FOX, and was once again in the Thursday timeslot. The premiere episode attracted 3.4 million viewers, which was a series low. For the series finale, 6.7 million viewers tuned in. This was 76 percent more than the season average of 4.6 million viewers.
Awards and Honors
For the debut episode, "Premiere", Schwartz received a Writers Guild of America Award nomination for Best Screenplay in an Episodic Drama, and casting directors Rush and Silverberg nominated in the Dramatic Pilot category of the Artios Awards. Luke's declaration in the premiere episode of "Welcome to the O.C., bitch" was placed 83rd by TV Land in its 100 Greatest TV Quotes and Catchphrases in 2006. The first season picked up four Teen Choice Awards, and was nominated for another two. Additionally it was nominated for the Outstanding New Program TCA Award, and in Australia it won a Logie Award for Most Popular Overseas Program in 2005. For the second season the show was nominated for five Teen Choice Awards, and won four of them, including best drama. It was nominated for the Favorite Television Drama People's Choice Award, and Kelly Rowan won a PRISM Award for Performance in a Drama Series Episode, with Peter Gallagher getting a nomination. The second-season finale was nominated for a PRISM TV Drama Series Episode award. The third season was nominated for five Teen Choice Awards and won four of them, including "Choice Drama/Action Adventure Show" and "Choice Actor: Drama/Action Adventure," which Adam Brody won for the third consecutive year.
The characters and setting of The O.C. have appeared in several official tie-ins outside of the television broadcast, including in print and on the Internet.
Eight novelizations have been released by the publisher Scholastic Inc. with the permission of Warner Bros. & Fox. They are :
- The Outsider
- The Misfit
- The Way Back
- Spring Break
- Summer of Summer
- Bait & Switch
- 'Twas the Night Before Chrismukkah
With the exception of 'Twas the Night Before Chrismukkah, written by Andes Hruby, all the books were written by authors Cory Martin and Aury Wallington. An official biography book titled Meet The O.C. Superstars, written by Monica Rizzo, was also published.
Several unofficial books relating to the show have also been published.
- O.C. Undercover, written by Brittany Kemp, published by Plexus Publishing Ltd., is a book that includes biographies of the cast, fashion tips, and information about culture trends associated with the show.
- Stop Being a Hater and Learn to Love The O.C. , written by Alan Sepinwall and published by Chamberlain Bros., discusses the merits of the television program, and aims to give a lighthearted view from all ages of the show.
The O.C. has given rise to a number of spin-offs, some developed and others not. Atomic County was a spin-off based on the cartoon characters in Seth's comic book of the same name. It was created by The O.C. writer John Stephens and artist Eric Wight, who was responsible for the comic book drawings featured on the show.
In 2005, Schwartz announced he was writing a spin-off which followed the life of Marissa's younger sister Kaitlin at boarding school. It was set to premiere in January 2006, but the airing of the spin-off never occurred. Schwartz attributed this to Gail Berman, president of Fox Broadcasting Company, moving to Paramount in May 2005.
There were plans to turn the show into something of a reverse spin-off. Schwartz planned to release a spin-off of his series Gossip Girl entitled Valley Girls, originally to premiere in the fall of 2009. Schwartz wanted to tie in the younger versions of the characters from both The O.C. and the principals from Valley Girls to establish a continuity with Gossip Girl.
A re-adaption of the show started in September 2013 in Turkey. It soon became a wide popular series named Medcezir (meaning tide in English) featuring popular young Turkish artists Çağatay Ulusoy and Serenay Sarıkaya. By the New Year of 2013, first 15 Episodes were released with very positive and increasing criticism. The plot is very similar to The O.C., yet the show is a lot different by script on this adaption.
The O.C. Musical took place on August 30, 2015, at the Montalban Theater in Los Angeles, selling out in minutes when tickets went on sale earlier that same month. While not officially authorized by FOX or Warner Bros. TV, Sucker Love Productions' musical was supported by the show's cast and producers, with Autumn Reeserportraying Julie Cooper and briefly reprising her role as Taylor Townsend for the first time in 8 years. Creator Josh Schwartz and stars Rachel Bilson, Melinda Clarke, and Kelly Rowan also reunited at the musical. The cast included Awkward star Greer Grammer as Summer Roberts and Pretty Little Liars star Brendan Robinson as Seth Cohen.
There are several Podcasts about The O.C. including Mmm... Whatcha Say by Doof Media, is a week by week recap and discussion podcast going through each and every episode, hosted by married couple Scott and Elyse Daly. The original is PortlandCA, an O.C. commentary track hosted by Josh Hatfield, Josh Stout and Cory Hatfield. New episodes are posted on Thursday. Next is Do You See The O.C. That I See? hosted by Allie Russell and Jillian Gomez. The recurring theme of this podcast is burritos. Followed by The O.C. Plus Three hosted by Cam, David and Meaghan. This is an episode by episode commentary podcast with Cam being the only one to have seen the show before. Finally is We Used To Be Teens hosted by Bryony, Cal, and Josh. WUTBT is an episode by episode analysis podcast, and is largely punctuated by meme chat and tangents.