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Throwback Thursday: Sorry I’m 10 years late, but I want to talk about The OC

Ten years ago today, The OC finished forever. Elle Hunt is very late to the party, but still partying nonetheless. 

The best part about watching television that is years old and everyone has already seen is that no one can complain about spoilers. As with the Montreal Convention governing air travel disasters, there’s a two-year limitation period. So, with the final episode of The OC having aired a decade ago, I feel like I can safely say this: how about that season two finale?

Has there been a better application of Imogen Heap since?

Has there been any application?

You may feel the passage of every day that’s passed since 19 May 2005, when nearly eight million people in the US watched Marissa shoot Trey in case he killed Ryan because they were fighting because Trey had tried to rape Marissa – or “force himself on her” – as it’s delicately referred to in the series (it was a different time).

I just experienced it all for the first time.

About six weeks ago I started on The OC as my summer ’17 project. I was tired of not getting references to it by my peers and in pop culture, and I needed a teen drama to lose myself in while simultaneously plucking my eyebrows or playing Candy Crush.

My last summer project had been Gossip Girl. I persisted through the middling final seasons diligently and against my better judgement, simply for the sense of achievement at having seen the series through to completion. The OC couldn’t possibly be worse. But I needed to know.

That I missed both the first time around – I would have been about 12 when The OC first broadcast – I can only chalk up to the Swiss cheese model: the holes of my dedication to excellence in Year 9 and my flicking exclusively between the J2 music channel and Animal Planet preventing me from switching to TV2 at primetime.

But I’m making up for lost time. I’ve now just finished season two and I want to talk about it.

“Under the O.Sea is the greatest party theme ever,” I texted the person I thought most likely to be interested, and also the second-most likely person, just in case. “It combines my old love of sea creatures with my new love of The OC.”

“Is this just lovely afternoon thoughts with E Hunt, or did someone actually have an Under The O.Sea theme party?” my first-bet replied. “Is this in The OC?”

“Wait, is this an episode?” said my second. “Or just a brilliant idea?”

The worst part about watching television that is years old and everyone has already seen is that no one wants to talk with you about it.

Welcome to The OC, bitch! Everybody else has left!

Mostly, when I tell people about my summer project, they want to know why I don’t have a better summer project, then they want to know if it “stands up”. I say: it is better than you remember it, and certainly better than Gossip Girl. The drama kicks off at the slightest provocation: Marissa sees Ryan smoking at the end of her driveway.

“Who are you?”

“Whoever you want me to be!”

Bam! They’re in love, inextricably and interminably linked despite no apparent chemistry!

But excluding the unbreakable bond between Marissa and Ryan, and Seth and Summer, plenty of plot points burn bright and fast then fade away: relationships begin and end in a matter of episodes as guest stars realise they don’t fit in in Newport and their home planets need them.

More happens in The OC’s title credits than in entire episodes of Mad Men (and all of the characters actually smile). It is so fast-paced that the scriptwriters have to work in ways to remind you of events that have just happened. Sandy Cohen tells Seth and Ryan they’re going to Miami. Phantom Planet plays for 30 seconds. Then Seth reminds Ryan they’re going to Miami.

This makes it great for watching with one eye and at about 20% processing power, as is my preferred approach to television. With The Wire, you switch tabs to do a BuzzFeed quiz once and you miss a pivotal scene of characters silently exchanging meaningful eye contact that actually has significant repercussions for the rest of the series, not even the season.

The OC reminds you what happened with a succinct summary of the relevant action thus far at the very start of each episode, then hits you round the head with the latest every 45 to 90 seconds.

Plus there are plenty of musical interludes as the characters take five from their lives falling apart at indie gigs: The Walkmen, The Killers, Modest Mouse, Rachael bloody Yamagata. Characters – even Marissa and Summer, who, in modern terminology, are basics – ask each other if they’re “going to Death Cab tonight.” Of Montreal and Eels play in the high school coffee shop.

It’s sparked my own indie revival. I put on The Shins yesterday and my housemate said, slightly accusatorially: Is this because you’re still watching The OC?

Well, there are 92 episodes.

But at an average of about two a night, it won’t last forever. That bittersweet feeling of rushing through a world so rich, so rewarding, so poignant to my own life – I haven’t felt it since the Elena Ferrante novels. And there’s no end of people who want to talk about them.

When people say we’re in a golden age of television: do they mean ‘again’, for the first time since 22 February 2007? Or are they watching The OC, too?


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