Josh Schwartz’s first teen drama premiered in 2003, when many of us were just reaching double digits. But to this day, it has remained a cult classic for Millennials. When it first came out, the series convinced millions of young people to listen to Death Cab for Cutie and thrust its lead actors into a world of fame. The show was so popular that it was even parodied on “Saturday Night Live” and profiled by the Crimson.
The plot centers around Ryan Atwood (Ben McKenzie), an underprivileged teenager from Chino, California, who escapes jail time for stealing a car and is generously welcomed into his public defense lawyer’s beautiful home in Newport Beach. Ryan moves into the family and instantly befriends their comic-obsessed and misanthropic son Seth. However, Ryan’s troubled past instantly draws prejudice from his new community, particularly when he becomes involved with it girl Marissa Cooper (Mischa Barton).
If you’re looking for any depth, don’t. Like most teen dramas, the show attempts to address serious issues like drugs, pregnancy, sex, and depression, but ultimately, it never makes a statement. Its characters’ irrationality and self-destructiveness can make it difficult to empathize with them. Marissa Cooper is the finest example of this. She blames drinking and drug abuse on her parents’ turbulent relationship without any real exploration. Though it makes little sense, it makes for highly entertaining TV.
The show’s other highlight is the strong relationships it depicts between the teens Seth and Summer as well as Seth’s parents Sandy and Kirsten. These two couples are similar in that they’re opposites: The men are neurotic and insecure and the women are passionate, wealthy and beautiful. On paper, this combination might sound awful (and it can be), but the actors have great chemistry and impart humor to a show with too much angst. In fact, I dare you not to smile at some of the sweeter moments. The fact that one of these portrayals is of an older, married generation adds more depth, allowing more maturity and varied solutions to conflicts.
Ultimately, “The O.C.” succeeds because of its twisting, ridiculous plot lines and various successful portrayals of relationships. Its soundtrack and beautiful setting only add to its great list of qualities. Be forewarned, this show is as vacuous as they come. But if you have access to Hulu and love drama, this is your time to tune in.
—Staff writer Aline G. Damas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.