Thursday, February 22, 2007

California Here We Come (For The Last Time) Pt. 1

After tonight, Thursday evening TV will be a lot different (for the last time, I'm not talking about Greys! I know nothing) as The OC comes to an end. It's come a long way from the show I thought from early episode previews was nothing more than another annoying teen soap (and maybe I was a little uncomfortable that the hotness of Katie Holmes alone suckered me into watching Dawson's Creek back in the day) with a lead actor that looked like a young Russell Crowe, a lead actress that looked a lot (at first, to me) Lilah on Angel (but turned out to be a really older-looking 17-year old with the unlikely first name of Mischa) plus The Player's Larry Levy as an ex-hippie public defender.

(It wasn't just about these folks...)

Clearly the promos and previews (I remember in particular one for the episode in which Caleb's 20-something girlfriend shows up and seduces Ryan) did the show a disservice. Oh sure there was plenty of sex and drama and really attractive people running around in next-to-nothing. But almost every tv-show has that (hell, even Ugly Betty not only throws in Salma Hayek as a special guest star, they throw in scantily-clad Salma Hayek as a guest star). It wasn't just Summer and Marissa (and Alex, and Lindsay, and Taylor, and Jess, and well there were a lot of hot women on the show, including Kirsten Cohen and Julie Cooper) chilling on the beach in bikinis that forced me to either tune in every night The OC was on (or set the VCR or DVR to record it, or call friends who I know watched to find out what happened on nights I either had to work late or went to an early-starting party). Nope, it was because the show could genuienly blend comedy with drama (well, when it was working right) and that even when the writing got sloppy, there was enough invested in the characters to stick around.

(It was about all these folks, and a few more...)

Now in the fourth and final season I can count on one hand (and it can be a hand that's had a few digits hacked off) the number of people I know that still watch (again, FOX, great scheduling move putting the show on against CSI and Grey's and promoting it not a whit either during the World Series or your horrid BCS bowl coverage. Why couldn't you have put your best against their best? American Idol vs. CSI vs. Grey's. Now that's a fair fight.) The writing started getting sloppy late in season two (was Shannon Lucio really so busy they couldn't bring her back for Caleb's funeral?) and season three, which temporarily looked interesting with its Bizzaro World characters quickly became a huge train wreck. I had hopes that season four would be better (creator Josh Schwartz was back, the season 3 finale was well-done), but again the previews didn't help. Ryan Atwood: cage fighter? Summer Roberts: hippie?

But I should've known that one-minute clips or snippets viewed while Grey's was on commercial break aren't enough to judge (and to be fair I didn't have remote access at the time--the channel-surfing was lift to the whims of another and I still ascribe to the rule of the house/condo/loft/tarpaper shack's owner/resident gets remote privaleges unless said privalages are expressed granted to another.)

(High school is different there: everyone gets lei'd)

Season four's been the best since season one, and that's saying a lot (I'll expound on this more in "Pt. 2" tomorrow, which'll include early thoughts from tonights series finale). People who wrote the show off at some point last season that gave it another shot (because ABC at least does like reruns, and putting shows on short hiatus between new episodes--as a LOST fan I know this) came away pleasently surprised (note for posterity, for some of these people the fact that Butch Walker provided the music probably helped things out A LOT, as their may be a strong pro-Butch bias. I say this in case some readers thought my vague language was indicative of a real, honest marketing/scientific study as opposed to me attempting to talk about people I know without mentioning them by name.)

And now, here is Excerpts From A Work In Progress's Top 10 The OC Episodes:

10. The Swells - Yeah, sorry, I know it's easy to try and forget season 3 ever existed, what with the mysteriously aging Kaitlin Cooper, and Dean Hess and all the other crap (plus Johnny's bid to rival Oliver for sheer whiny annoyance), but some good did come out of it. And it started with this episode. The lock-in part of the plot revealed that there was a lot more to Taylor Townsend than her manipulative side.

9. The Sleeping Beauty / The Night Moves (tie) - Yeah, I'm copping out a bit here. I'm a sucker for people doing over-the-top things for the people they really like, and a sucker for Autumn Reeser, so the episode where she pretends to be a Sleep Therapist to woo Ryan makes the cut, but the series penultimate episode was good times as well (ok, so maybe the Seth and Ryan subplot where Ryan recounts his Newport days alone is the reason for this) but it was also nice to see Kaitlin being less and less of a lil' bitch and Sandy Cohen once again proving that he is the man.

8. The Graduates - The other good thing that came from season 3 (beside the obvious: season finale meant it was over) was that this episode marked series creator Josh Schwartz's reinvolvement with the show. By far a better season finale that season 2's Marissa shooting Trey nonsense (and I'll admit the use of Imogen Heap's a cappella cover of "Hallelujah" here swayed me) the episode also took the bold, but by the time the show aired not so surprising decision to kill off Mischa Barton's character. The show needed a big kick in the ass (I apparently wasn't the only one sick of the off-and-on Ryan-Marissa relationship) and it's debatable whether season 4 could wind up as good as it's been if Marissa had just disappeared to Jimmy Cooper's yacht instead of dying (thus freeing Mischa Barton to...wait has she been in anything, tv or film since The OC season 3?) but this episode remains the kick in the ass that woke up season 4.

7. The Telenovela / The LA - Another tie (I know, cop outs galore in this top ten), but for different reasons. The Telenovela features the great Seth-on-top-of-the-kissing booth-professing-his-feelings-to-Summer scene, one of the best single moments on the show, but I can't rank it higher because the Theresa plot just wasn't that interesting to me. On the other hand, the LA featured the nice pomo show-within-a-show device of The Valley (which would later get even more fancy when they threw in the Laguna Beach spoof The Real Valley) and some of the best meta-spoofing network TV'd seen since George Costanza and Jerry Seinfeld pitched NBC a "show about nothing" on Seinfeld...but it also contributed to Paris Hilton thinking she could act (and though the writers had fun spoofing her image, I'll bet you dollars to doughnuts thinks Gravity's Rainbow is something in her friend Kim Kardashian's sex tape, and not a Thomas Pynchon novel.)

6. The Summer Bummer - Taylor Townsend, reinacting 80s music video cliches (including Tawny Kitaen's classic work in Whitesnake's "Here I go again" video) while Butch Walker's "Hot Girls In Good Moods" plays in the background? I'm sofa king down with that. Add Kirsten and Sandy attempting to be surrage Seth's to Ryan to Seth's adventures in Rhode Island and you've got a winner.

5. The Chrismukk-huh? - Part of me was really tempted to bump the original Chrismukkah episode to this spot. After all, no subsequent Chrismukkah references could exist without the original episode that introduced us to the Seth Cohen-created bi-religious holiday. But that episode also ended with the unfortunate debut of Oliver (easily one of the worst characters the show's seen) and this season four episode, with an OC take on It's A Wonderful Life showing us an orange county where Ryan Atwood stayed in Chino, was Season 4's best episode.

4. The New Era - Seth wants to move on, Summer's moving on with Zach, Ryan wants to be just friends with Marissa. So Seth is set up with Lindsay, Ryan with Alex. It's obvious that this isn't how it should work, it's not Shaksespeare, and yet they pull it off. Plus I can sympathisize with Seth's ploy of getting tickets for Summer, and how, in love, or "crafty plans" can actually be painfully obvious ruses to everyone else. There was a lot of hope for season 2 in this episode (which they squandered by taking potentially round characters like Alex and Lindsay and flattening them into "possibly lunatic bisexual" and "whiny, insecure bastard offspring of Caleb Nichol") and showed that the teen characters stories could be about more than just the old Ryan-Marissa and Seth-Summer dynamics.

3. The Heartbreak - All the non-prexisting details of Seth and Summer's sex life come out in this episode; which also managed to be one of the few times in TV history where two major characters popped their cherries and there were no pregnancy scares, or Herpes outbreaks or anything else the Abstinence Only crowd the Bush Administration financial favors would like to see on TV. It was awkward, it was was realistic (bonus points for the great exchange between Seth and Sandy, especially Sandy's "we Cohens are very sexual beings" and Seth's response "what was that? Sorry I just threw up in my mouth a little.") Yep, Sandy Cohen may be TV's best dad.

2. The Escape - It all started here for me. I was skeptical at first, but by the Seth and Summer exchange over breakfast I was hooked. And I'll admit, part of it was a bit egocentric on my part: Seth Cohen, insecure--especially around women--but sarcastic, and a fan of bands most people hadn't heard of and Michael Chabon novels, reminded me a lot of myself (remember, this aired in 2003 and I didn't really get mostly past the insecurity thing until 2004). I was shocked at how well written it was, and how, unlike say 90210, the parents weren't just occasional figures to show up randomly. A good bit of pre-show backstory had been put into play here, and the writers did a deft job weaving the multple arcs of the children and adults so that by the time Ryan finds the passed-out Marissa, I'm pissed that I'll have to wait until after the World Series to find out what happened (which is probably just how they planned it.)

1. Rainy Day Women - It had it all--great use of music (Blind Melon playing during Seth and Ryan's hilarius exchange to open the episode), another of the series all-time great moments with Seth and Summer's spiderman kiss, and yes, because I am, after all, a guy, some great "experimenting" Marissa and Alex moments.

Share your own top 10, or berate my picks, in the comments...

BONUS Vid for those that like Butch Walker, The OC, and Scrolling to the bottom of blog posts:

No comments: