You’ve probably noticed that I’ve been adding music recommendations before my posts. The shows I love usually have amazing soundtracks and here is where I recommend at least one song that I think shapes the series and is just a great listen.
“If You Leave” – Nada Surf (re: OMD)
Also, this month’s theme must be teen dramas in terms of television. I mean I couldn’t watch Beverly Hills, 90210, One Tree Hill, or even Felicity without thinking about The OC. Trust me though guys, my love for television spans multiple genres. But I think that’s how I’ll posts my favorite shows for now on – by genre or style. So for the rest of the month and maybe the next few weeks, let’s talk about teen dramas.
A little background: I started watching The OC in high school. It was actually the first series that I purchased on DVD and then I couldn’t break the habit. I really should make more walking space in my room. Anyway, watching this show in high school made me super anxious and feel unfulfilled with my own life. I wanted to be in California. That was all. I wanted friends like Seth, Summer, Ryan, and even Marissa – with all of her drama. I wanted to hang out on boardwalks and eat California tacos. I wanted to sail to Tahiti. I wanted to debut at a cotillion ball. I wanted to have the beach be practically in my backyard. Like I said, I was anxious. My high school life just didn’t seem up to par with the crew in Newport Beach. So, I watched the show and became something of a shell. And yeah, this kind of sounds depressing, and at the time – it was.
The OC didn’t cause my depression though, it was actually a form of escape like all of my favorite TV series. I was able to live through these characters and situations and just go through the motions in my real life. Maybe if I was more social and watched less TV, I could have healed my situation, but I seriously doubt it. I was always thinking beyond high school – unconsciously ignoring that whole era in my life as I was living it. Thinking about other worlds, societies, and groups of people. I could go on, but since this is becoming something else outside of a post about The OC, let’s get right into why I love this show: “California, here we come…”
Seth Cohen’s World
Naturally, I watched this show through the lens of Seth Cohen. I related so much to him as a high school student, being a music-holic and all-around fandom enthusiast. His taste in music was the same as mine. We both loved comics. We both made the people around us endure our film and pop cultural references and general sarcasm about everything. Even today, my own mother doesn’t know if I’m being sincere or NAH. The same for Kirsten and Sandy Cohen.
Seth was just Seth. He lived in his own bubble (until Ryan came along) and had his own quirks and interests.
His love for music, comics, games, and film was the reason why his life was so colorful. His real life shut him out, because he was different from most of the teens in his hood. So, like a natural outsider and dreamer – he took refuge in the fictional worlds that appealed to him. Sounds familiar?
Geekin’ out about comic books, video games, and film made him knowledgeable about just about every type of ‘character’ (person) and ‘world’ (society). This is what made him brilliant and a little annoying to be around, because sometimes his references would go over any other person’s head. Again, I can relate. But then again, Seth was creative and could connect his world with the world of comics and eventually developed his own series (with that one guy Zach).
When Ryan came along, Seth had someone to talk to – about himself. He spent pretty much his whole life inside of his own head and when there was someone around who would listen (re: had to listen) – he wouldn’t shut up about his many issues and interests. Actually, you guys are kind of like my Ryan – here to read my spiel on everything that interests and annoys me. Thanks, I really appreciate it.
Having Ryan around meant that Seth could voice is thoughts about things that he would normally have to deal with in his own head. Unfortunately for Ryan, he had a lot to talk about and his thoughts usually just revolved around himself and Summer, but mostly himself. This made him somewhat self-absorbed and edgy all of the time. Great for us, but bad for Ryan – because he’s got his own problems to sort out. More on that in a bit.
Seth and Ryan’s relationship opened both of their eyes to worlds beyond anything they could’ve ever dreamed of understanding. Ryan, with his life with a drunky mom (Seth and Ryan would later learn that they have this in common) or him living from couch to couch – having grown up watching his mom get smacked around by asshole men – including his own dad. Then, his older brother, Trey, wasn’t much of a positive influence as he stole cars. This is actually how Ryan ended up living with Seth and The Cohen family in the first place. Guess I forgot to do a premise. But, that’s pretty much the gist of it. Ryan grew up on the other side of the tracks, so to speak. Seth, on the other hand, grew up in the world of the affluent and entitled. His father Sandy, though, was an ordinary Jewish guy from NY who put himself through law school and ended up falling in love with Kirsten – the doorway to this rich world. So, Seth grew up wealthy, but he was always an outsider. He and Ryan would learn quite a bit from each other. The process was entertaining to say the least.
An essential part of Seth’s world was his taste in music. He loved the classics and emo/ indie rock, but most beloved was the band Death Cab for Cutie. Watching his passion for the band is when I truly fell in love with the show. Basically, the soundtrack of the series his just Seth’s personal playlist. Which of course I had to download. I have mentioned before in other posts about my love for Coldplay, a band similar to Death Cab in genre, that also gets labelled as ‘whiny’. But, I will arm wrestle anyone that says this within earshot. You see, their music is emotional and their sound is what got me through high school. I STILL need to write about them, but I don’t even know where to start. They are a band that, I think, cannot be merely described in a few words – but I’ll try. One day. Anyway, my love for Coldplay is equally compared to Seth’s love for Death Cab.
Basically, Seth is just a guy with all of the questions and none of the answers. He may be prone to being bullied and pushed around by the popular kids who feel like their world can’t be breached by those different from them, but he’s full of heart and wit. I think we all can relate a little to Seth, because he represented the ‘normal’ high school kid – just trying to get by.
The Friendship (and Odes to Classic Movies)
Did anyone else notice all of the movie references in The OC? I have to admit, the first time I watched this show, some of the references went over my head – like the ode to Rebel Without A Cause in season one’s episode, The Model Home. This was such a great episode, by the way. Actually, the entire first season just flowed so nicely with nonstop entertainment. The episode was the start of a beautiful friendship between Ryan, Seth, Marissa, and later Summer.
The friendship moments on The OC always had the perfect soundtrack. Like the perfect moment with Caught By the River by The Doves playing as Seth and Ryan race down the boardwalk with Marissa chasing them and tagging along. You know, watching these guys together was the best part about this show. I think their friendship even helped me cope with how dull my social life was as a teen. Just breezing on by on the boardwalk with some friends seemed like the most epic thing ever.
Summer would soon come around and join the gang on their many adventures. She had to first get over Ryan being from the other side of the tracks.
The series, especially the first season, seemed like a lengthy John Hughes film. With Summer, the four always had each other’s back when drama went down. From saving Marissa in Tijuana to saving Ryan from his psychotic brother. The four were a solid group and of course, squad goals.
The Cohen Family
Speaking of squad goals, the Cohen + Atwood family were the ultimate family. Of course they weren’t exactly perfect and had a number of issues – like Kirsten’s drinking problem and ass of a father (Caleb), Ryan punching out everyone on a reg and burning down houses, and Sandy being vocal about how much he loathed the rich and entitled people in their community – which really wasn’t THEIR problem, but kind of alienated them from the rest of the lot in Newport Beach. Which was great!
Taking Ryan in seemed to be just what the Cohen family needed as he came from a damaged family and needed stability. He somehow made them more stable in return. He became a brother to Seth and a different kind of son to Sandy and Kirsten.
The Ryan and Seth duo kept Sandy hip and softened Kirsten up a bit. In the beginning, she was a little hard around the edges and the least thrilled to have an outsider stay with them. But, I think she and Ryan had the most in common and by him needing a mother figure, she became an even better mother to HIM and to Seth. She even tried to cook! That says something.
Kirsten and Sandy now had a well rounded household and a pair of teens that always needed them to keep them in line – but Ryan and Seth kept the grownups in check as well. In her darkest moment, Ryan reminded Kirsten of what it felt like to have an alcoholic mother and that was the moment, I think, Ryan truly became her son. Sandy deeply appreciated how much of a man Seth became when Ryan was around.
I just love their kitchen conversations – usually centered around Seth and Ryan’s lady troubles with a basket of bagels for Sandy to schmear. Or, Sandy cooking in general. Most of the time it was Seth and Sandy doing the talking while Kirsten and Ryan shrugged or shook their heads in reply to the madness.
The DRAMA (basically, Marissa Cooper)
Ryan loved Marissa Cooper from the moment that they first met.
The drama on the show essentially centered around the two of them. Being the outsider in this new world attracted Ryan to Marissa, the girl with a knack for falling for damaged guys – like herself. I think this is why she was first drawn to Ryan, because he was supposedly the bad boy coming to invade her little world and the people in it didn’t accept him. Marissa probably figured that he was a way to piss off a few people and show them up (which yeah, that’s what happened). She basically was a magnet to drama. Guys with issues seemed to be the type that she naturally was drawn to. But Ryan was different. He not only was smart, but he was just trying to change his life and make a new path. He occasionally had to intervene between the rest of the guys Marissa got herself involved with.
Luke was just the stereotypical rich guy jerk, but he would eventually turn things around. But, Oliver was just a prick. Johnny was depressing. Trey was unstable. Volchok was unfortunate. She also dated Alex, played by Olivia Wilde. Alex had too much to prove – making her too feisty.
I really hated Oliver. But Volchok would be the one to really ‘drive’ Marissa to the deep end (for those who’ve seen the show – see what I did there).
Indeed, Marissa was a basket-case and her rich girl status only made those around her ignore the truth. She was deeply depressed. Her own parents were as mature as her high school classmates. Julie Cooper [Nichol-Cooper], was the Queen Bee of Newport (even when she wasn’t) and she made Marissa’s life a living hell. She basically believed money could buy happiness and could also mask unhappiness.
Jimmy was a guy that married the wrong wife and couldn’t help but make the wrong decisions – in terms of keeping his family afloat. He also didn’t seem to have a spine and Julie was mean with the whip! The Cooper family’s money only gave Marissa the resources to turn to the bottle and get into trouble.
Ryan grew up saving his alcoholic mother on many occasions and meeting Marissa only made him privy to saving her – when he could. Though he truly loved her (and I think Marissa loved him too), Ryan spent more time rescuing Marissa from her own world rather than allowing himself to be happy and in love (this is why I love him and Taylor – stay tuned).
I would even argue that Ryan was a parental figure in Marissa’s life, because her parents were anything but good parents. Just look at the example Julie sets for her daughter.
Ryan’s life eventually became more stable while Marissa’s was extremely spinning out of control. Though Ryan continued to insert himself into her problems, there was only so much that he could do.
And eventually the crap that Marissa got herself into overcame her chance for happiness. Even from the very beginning, Ryan should have known that his love for this girl would only cause him pain in the end.
Seth and Summer
Despite all of the ultra drama between their best buds, Ryan and Marissa, Seth and Summer managed to be the strongest couple in this series. I mean with Seth’s insecurities and self-absorbed tendencies and Summer’s raging back-outs, they were a match-made in heaven.
Summer was just what Seth needed and vice versa. Her spunk and his dorkiness made for some of the funniest moments on the show. He fought for her attention and love and they were perfect together. Endless babble and constant name calling is the stuff of a winning relationship – right?
The thing about their relationship is that they were from different worlds, but were so much alike (even when it really didn’t seem like they were).
When Anna showed up, she was the perfect someone test Seth and Summer relationship. Being totally like Seth on the outside, she could talk some sense into Seth in terms of becoming his own person rather than obsessing over not being enough fro Summer. I honestly believe that Seth truly did love Anna as well, but they were stronger together as friends rather than lovers.
That doesn’t mean that their bond wasn’t lovely to watch. Even Summer knew that there was something special between them and thus she began to realize that she truly did love Seth and would not stop fighting for him. I love watching Anna and Seth torture Summer with their matching outfits and mutual interests.
As much as I loved Anna though, I knew that Summer was the one for Seth. I mean they both had toy horses as bedside buddies. Yes, I’m talking about Captain Oats and Princess Sparkles. It was fate!
Being with Seth influenced Summer’s choices and gave her someone to grow with. Marissa was her best friend, but the girl seriously had issues and wasn’t the greatest influence. The amount of growth Summer has throughout the series is amazing. I think having to buckle down to team up with Seth and Ryan to occasionally rescue Marissa definitely had something to do with it.
Ryan and Taylor
After all of the Marissa drama for the first three seasons, poor Ryan was in need of some fun and lovin’. I am so glad that the show brought in Taylor as Ryan’s love interest in season four. I mean the girl was a little off her rocker, but that was exactly what Ryan needed. Their moments were so hilarious and adorable!
Ryan had to deal with drama from other love interests (Theresa, Sadie, and Lindsay) and they were always putting his life at risk, because Ryan had to be the one to punch out the jerk causing problems for them. But Taylor was different. Yes, she had issues to say the least, but she wasn’t always so dark and gloomy. Her drama usually resulted from something ‘out-there’ that she had gotten herself caught up in – like marrying a french guy that called her breasts his peaches and wrote a book about it. Despite her silliness, Taylor had real insecurities resulting from her hard ass mom not loving her enough (or at least expressing it in the harshest way). She latched on to Ryan as soon as he showed some sort of kindness towards her. Ryan was dealing with his loss of Marissa, so he struggled to let someone else in. It took him a while, but…
Julie Cooper-Nichol-Cooper + Kirsten
Ju-Ju needed her Ki-Ki. These two were a regular ol’ Thelma and Louise on the show. Julie was too much sometimes with her basically being the root of all evil in Marissa’s life (starting with sleeping with Luke) and being something of a gold-digger after Jimmy bankrupts them and she cuts him loose. Though, even with all of the drama, Julie was hilarious and knew how to turn the party up a few notches. She loved her Queen Bee status and challenged anyone else that tried to step on her expensive shoes.
But this lady needed to take a chill pill! With that, she latched on to Kirsten, whom she envied for years for growing up wealthy and being the first love of Jimmy. Kirsten seemed to have everything that Julie ever wanted, but she (Julie) didn’t deserve. After realizing how much of a mess she was making of things (including marrying Kirsten’s father, Caleb and secretly trying to kill him) Julie managed to turn things around with a little help from Kirsten. Kirsten was the quiet one with her head on straight (when a glass of chardonnay wasn’t calling her name) and she influenced Julie to clean up her act, as much as she could anyway.
Julie, on the other hand, helped Kirsten lighten up a bit and live a little. Kirsten came to liking Julie more after she was no longer her step-mom. How cruel that was! The two had some fun times, though.
I always enjoy watching this show and if you’ve never seen it – check it out!
It does bring back memories of my struggles in high school, but at the same time the joy of having this little world to escape through. Being an adult and rewatching it reminds me to only be an outsider on my own terms and enjoy the world around me. I also like to kick back and listen to some great tunes with friends and overwhelm them with my pop cultural references. They love me for it though! Got to keep them on their toes. Great show. Great music. Non-stop entertainment. I just wish that it would have lasted longer.
‘Til next time.