There are many things to be said about The OC. From the vivid character arcs to the inviting soundtrack, from the self-aware meta humor to the scenes that made us cry, there’s a lot to be discussed. There’s been plenty of commentary on how creator Josh Schwartz took the standard soap formula and twisted it in various ways, breaking through archetypes and providing a closer look at the show’s characters. We could talk about boundary pushing, social relevancy, comic books, and bagels. And we should. Here are some defining examples of why The OC, though only four seasons long, was one of the best teen serial dramas ever:
1. The OC gave us characters we loved and hated simultaneously.
This show had its share of “villains”. Julie Cooper, Caleb Nichol, Trey Atwood, Volchok – the list goes on. What’s interesting about all of these characters is that, at one point or another, the show is able to expose something human about each of them, to a point where we may find ourselves relating to them despite their despicable actions. This odd relationship between viewer and character is something we see all the time now in television (think: Don Draper or Piper Chapman). The OC crafts those viewer emotions perfectly; we may find ourselves yelling at the tv screen the way one does during a sports game when Julie plots out one of her many schemes, but when she faces loss and humiliation, we can’t help but feel sorry for her.
2. It made some of us angry, which is okay.
When it aired, Marissa Cooper’s death in the Season 3 finale was one of the most intense and climatic episodes many of us had ever seen. For some, Season 4 was a breath of fresh air because Marissa wasn’t around. For others, the fourth season is a black hole in the entire series, and many would agree that the show jumped the shark with the elimination of Mischa Barton’s character. Regardless of who is on the right side of that great debate, there was much chatter amongst fans – both in person and online. Many of the show’s loyal fans can remember sitting with friends in a college dorm or on a living room couch, jaws hanging open as Ryan carries Marissa’s body to the backdrop of Imogen Heap’s cover of “Hallelujah”. By this point, we all have invested three full seasons of emotions into this show, and regardless of how we feel about Marissa Cooper, her death was entirely poignant and unexpected.
3. Seth Cohen, and the rise of the cute nerd.
While some people might prefer the Ryan Atwood type — aloof, mysterious, can rock a tight t-shirt; there are many ladies who would easily opt for the Seths of the world. The character of Seth Cohen brought us someone funny, sarcastic, painfully awkward at times, yet with a truly kind heart. He also has a great taste in music. We all know at least one Seth Cohen — he was probably a little quirky in high school, but then had girls flocking to him in college. He’s the guy you sit next to in freshman seminar and makes you laugh with some under-the-breath sarcasm about the Plato reading. Despite the show’s exponentially melodramatic plot lines, we could always count on Seth to insert a dry comment to cut through the mood and get us to laugh. There is a realism that exists within his character that is directly juxtaposed to the unrealistic events of the show, and most of the hyper-aware humor comes directly from his lines. Also, he has a toy horse named Captain Oats and likes comic books. Enough said.
4. The adults mattered.
In many teen-focused TV series, we often lose sight of the parents. Either their storylines become less important, or they disappear entirely. With The OC, the parents of the teenagers remain central characters throughout the entire series. Furthermore, they often drive the plot: Kirsten’s alcohol addiction, Julie’s marital problems, the flirtation with the possibility of affairs — all of these events are crucial to their respective episodes.
5. It had some great one-liners.
“Welcome to the OC, bitch” was only the beginning. Who could forget “I had a boyfriend; he sailed away” or “I was Nemo, and I just wanted to go home”? Every episode was equipped with sassy dialogue, much of which was linked to Seth or Summer, and we can’t help but remember some of those lines all these years later.
6. We laughed, we cried, we bonded.
The fans of The OC, those of us who hold onto our dvd boxes a decade later, those of us who cheered when Seth and Summer had their Spider-man kiss — we have a special place in our heart for this show. We had our own Chrismukkah celebrations, think Sandy Cohen would be a pretty awesome dad, and have some strong feelings about Kaitlin Cooper. We can remember gathering with our friends on Tuesday nights, watching to see what Julie would do next, if Ryan and Marissa would get back together, curious as to what might unfold. If nothing else, this is the reason we watch TV shows: we bond with these characters in some way, and we care about what happens to them, so we return every week to find out. And even though we know what happens at the end, we can’t help returning to the beginning time and again: This is how it’s done in Orange County.