Review of The O.C. (2003)

Moving picture, 20 hours

Review applies to the first season.

A poor teenager is adopted by his own lawyer and gets to live in Orange County, USA. His new brother is a comic-book geek and everybody else is a borderline alcoholic, wasting an empty life gossiping at fancy parties.

The O.C. is a neoclassical soap opera, as indicated by Peter Gallagher’s vast eyebrows and open reference to them. It wouldn’t be soap opera without incessant fistfights, crime, flaming love, fake plastered beauty and hilariously improbable inevitable tragedy around every corner. That bores me.

I only watched this show in order to review another film student’s paper about it, but there are two clever things going on here. I love the way the photographers switch cameras for Chino. That’s almost media-reflective. I also appreciate the early geek-chic aesthetic, even though it is flatly unrealistic to the point of resembling non-haram harem anime. Seth evolves from just thinking that comics ought to be called graphic novels, to recommending some classics, to actually nerding on about appropriate non-classics. That was fun at the time, and a smart choice in retrospect. Spider-Man (2002) had just come out, but it was not yet obvious that the marginal geek culture of the past couple of decades was about to replace the mainstream for the next several decades.

According to reporter Ezra Klein, who grew up in Irvine, Orange County was not called “the O.C.” before the show got popular, nor did it have a “county-wide geographic identity”. The O.C. is pure fiction. It did not describe reality, but because it was popular, it influenced US English and created a real sense of identity through fiction.

moving picture fiction series