Friday, February 23, 2007

Farewell to "The O.C."

Although I haven't watched "The O.C." in ages, I had to tune in for the series finale. You see, I have a very personal relationship with "The O.C." I was in my last year on the East Coast when the show first burst on the scene, and it quickly became a regular viewing ritual for me and my best pals. We loved the pretty faces, ate up the melodrama, and nodded approvingly at Josh Schwartz's salute to that seldom-glamourized species - the Jewish male - and his unlikely conquest of the most impregnable bastion of wealthy WASPiness this side of the Mississippi. And since I knew that I myself was moving to L.A. soon, the weekly paean to sun-kissed Californian shores took on a special significance for me. It was telling, I thought, that one of the first celebrities I spotted after moving here was none other than Mischa Barton, aka Marissa Cooper, lunching at the Peninsula in Beverly Hills.

Alas, "The O.C." didn't prove to have the staying power of "90210," because the show didn't seem to know what to do with itself after its whiz-bang first season. I continued to watch it for a while out of loyalty, but it wasn't the same. Maybe it wasn't the same without my group of friends. But too often what I saw before me were characters (whom I still loved) in search of a story, and not finding any that really held. I saw barely any of the third season, and didn't watch any of season 4 - perhaps at least partly out of mute resentment at the death of Marissa, who for me represented the heart of "The O.C."

So coming back tonight felt a little like catching up with an old flame I hadn't seen in years. I wasn't exactly up to speed on all that had happened in the past season - though I'd gotten occasional updates from the few friends who remained faithful fans - and I didn't try to figure it all out, except to wonder "What is Hercules doing on this show?" (I later figured out he was supposed to be Ryan's dad - and, apparently, Julie Cooper's latest lover and father of her new kid. Kudos to the writers for carrying, to the last, their grand tradition of tangling all the characters together in one big, vaguely incestuous snarl.) Also noticed the boys looked older. Older, but also hotter. They are aging quite scrumptuously.

Luckily someone had prepared me for the shock of seeing Ryan and Taylor as lovers. I still didn't like it; I've never bought Taylor as a character. I'm glad the finale at least left their future open rather than pushing them back together. (C'mon, the writers owed Marissa *that* much at least.) On the other hand, the sappy part of me rejoiced when Seth and Summer finally got hitched. And, since Sandy Cohen has always been my fav character on the show, I very much liked the idea of Ryan becoming a Sandy-figure at the end, even if it did come just a little too pat.

For the rest, the finale had a subdued, rather downbeat feel that overpowered all its improbable plot turns and attempts at humor. (I did like Bullitt, and the gay couple, even if I couldn't help rolling my eyes every time these three had to play the roles of deux ex machina.) I have to say I'm not sure how I feel about the mainstay of "The O.C." - the Cohens - abandoning the O.C. altogether. Still, perhaps it was the only appropriate ending, given that the tie-up of the show was ultimately a rejection of everything it once represented in the pop culture landscape. One and all, every single major character (even Julie Cooper!) ends up becoming a serious, responsible, successful person - only by putting all the glamour, fluff, and frivolity of Newport Beach firmly behind them. Good for them. But, "O.C."...we hardly knew ye.


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