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In today’s era of reality television, when prime-time is reduced to bosses paintballing their employees while they try to fax documents (no joke), it’s hard to find a show that truly entertains. Since the reality trend hasn’t died yet, we are forced to watch obese people struggle to lose as much weight as possible, or midgets marry normal sized people. While this can be entertaining when taken in small doses, the current state of television leaves me feeling like I’ve gotten aboard a sadistic freight train, bound for—eventually—live gladiatorial fights to the death (which would actually be really cool).
When I first heard about The O.C.—the surprise hit tween drama on Fox that began its second season yesterday—I was shocked and a little angry. Once again, Hollywood had taken a ridiculous concept and ran with it, at the expense of everyone from Southern California like myself. This trend began with Orange County, the hopelessly terrible movie with Jack Black and Forrest Gump’s kid, and now, I feared, this would become a long-running fad. Having grown up in Orange County—specifically Irvine, a particularly plastic suburb—my whole life, I knew from firsthand experience that life there was not engaging or dramatic enough to merit a movie, let alone an entire television series. Plus, calling Orange County The O.C. would be like calling San Francisco “The S.F,” or Cambridge “The Bridge.” I secretly hoped the show would fail, knowing nonetheless that I would watch it religiously. My fears were soothed when I did, and the show proved to be terrible. Terribly awesome, that is.
Sure, it’s largely shot in L.A., and is set in only a sliver of Orange County’s coast—Newport Beach—that in no way represents the true nature of my beloved county. And true, wafer-thin Marissa Cooper annoys the hell out of everyone, while Ryan Atwood’s cold stare isn’t so cold when it’s used for every single emotional facial expression. But that doesn’t matter when Seth Cohen talks to his horsie Captain Oats about his girl problems, or Sandy Cohen gigglingly repeats the word “yogalates.” Die-hard O.C. fans—such as myself, I am ashamed to admit—will know exactly what I’m talking about. In fact, it’s not only the homesick Southern Californians who enjoy the show; it’s become a serious phenomenon. Internet blogs debate the merits of Summer versus Anna, and Friendster profiles exist for every one of the show’s major and minor characters. There are even O.C.-themed drinking games (every time Summer says “eew,” take a shot).
The show—which airs on Thursdays at 9 on Fox—begins this season after a truly overdramatic season finale nailbiter, in which Ryan returns to Chino and Seth sails on his tiny boat to Tahiti to get away from the annoyances of living in an oceanfront house with a pool. Fox has hyped the show’s return extensively, with a countdown (to the second) to the season premiere on its website and numerous television ad spots. Devoted O.C. fans can visit the show’s official website (www.fox.com/oc/) and be delighted to hear Journey’s “Any Way You Want It” as the show’s official song—which, I think, says it all.
Of course, not everyone likes The O.C. Some, like my roommate, who is also from Orange County, think it’s stupid, and in a way he’s not wrong. Actually, he’s right—it is stupid. But it’s stupid in a fun, entertaining way, such as when we delight in Seth’s popped collars and Marissa’s alcohol problem. Here on the frigid East Coast, especially at Harvard, we spend enough of our time agonizing over weighty issues and being “smart.” Let’s take a break, shall we, and revel in the fun and sun that—though fictitious, airbrushed and far too dramatic—still entertains in the way television should. That is, without forcing insecure people to undergo numerous plastic surgeries. Let’s get back to where television really belongs—in wealthy Southern California, where teenagers sleep with their friends’ moms. Fox, you never disappoint.
—Staff writer Joe Dimento can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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