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Sunday, October 28, 2007

TV: The First Season of 'The O.C.'

How many DVDs do you own?

The FOX Television Network scored a major hit in 2003 when The O.C. premiered on August 5. The show at first seemed to be the next logical step in updating the Beverly Hills 90210 and Dawson's Creek teen soap genre for the 2000's. In many ways it improved on the formula in its first season and used up and coming music stars to propel the action on screen, making stars of little known recording artists in the process. However, the show's quick rise to popularity is often compared to its equally swift fall. But that's not to say that the first season was a mediocre show.

I didn't catch the show during the 2003-2004 TV season, but viewed the entire season on the subsequently released DVD set. The story centers around fish-out-of-water Ryan, a brooding, bad-boy teenager who moves in with a rich Newport Beach family in Southern California. The Cohens are a family born with money - mother Kirsten works for her rich father, who is at odds with father Sandy, a local attorney. It's Sandy who represents Ryan in a case and ultimately invites him into his home.

The key partnership in the series is between Ryan and Seth, the Cohen's son. The show centers around dorky Seth's relationship to bad-boy Ryan, who is sort of like the big brother he never had. The boys juggle relationships with fellow classmates Marissa and Summer, while tackling the usual blend of teen drama along the way.

I always think I've seen it all when I see a teen drama like Beverly Hills 90210, which was remixed for the late nineties with Dawson's Creek. But The OC somehow manages to be just as good, if not better, during its first season. The first half of the season was particularly good, with things slowing down after a plot involving an unstable friend of Marissa's named Oliver, who develops an obsessive crush. Other plots involve Marissa's struggle with alcohol and the divorce of her mother and father.

Perhaps the slight lag during the last quarter of the season kicked off the amazingly swift downfall of the series. In the end, four seasons aired, each with a major percentage of viewer loss in the ratings. Adam Brody, Mischa Barton, Benjamin McKenzie, Kelly Rowan, Rachel Bilson and Peter Gallagher are the main cast of stars that propelled this FOX drama into an overnight sensation that likely burned out way before it should have.

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