While predictably full of implausible adventures for its too-old actors, The O.C., a Y2K edition of the addictive primetime soap (following in the footsteps of Beverly Hills, 90210, Dynasty, etc), was so much more than a tv show! It became a bible for mid-aughts teens, changing the way we—and adults, apparently—communicated, the music we listened to, even gaining the support of real-life intellectuals like Bill Simmons and Ira Glass. And, as much as it pains us to admit, it’s been a decade since Ryan Atwood first became whoever you wanted him to be.
What The O.C. had that other shows didn’t—beside an amazing opening song (Californiaaaaaaaaaaa)—was four seasons of a “relatable” cast of characters. Whether you were a depressed rich girl, a nebbish, comic-book-loving nerd, a misunderstood bad boy, a ditzy but lovable best friend, or one half of the most perfect parental unit in history, The O.C. had a character for you. And the show tackled issues: depression (Marissa), drugs (Marissa), suicidal tendencies (debatably, Marissa and definitely Oliver), money-laundering fathers (Marissa’s), alcoholism (Marissa, Kirsten, much of Newport Beach), infidelity (Kirsten and Sandy!!!!!!), sex (all of them!), absentee parents (Ryan and Marissa), shootings (stupid Donnie and, again, Marissa), general teen angst (all of them), runaway children (Seth!), unplanned pregnancies (the terrible Theresa), and so much more. Looking back at that list, it really is no wonder that Marissa ended the way she did (too soon?). Girl had it rough. The beautiful and the damned… R.I.P. Marissa Cooper.
But more than entertaining us with a crew of unnervingly attractive teenagers with more money and freedom than they knew what to do with (what did you think would happen in TJ, come on, Jimmy and Julie!), we owe The O.C. for introducing us to many an indie-rock musician. Obviously many of the spotlighted bands pre-dated the series—everyone knows the lyrics to at least one Oasis song—but it was show creator Josh Schwartz, his on-screen avatar Seth Cohen, and those Music from The O.C.: Mixes 1-6 that drove the likes of Death Cab For Cutie, The Shins (ok, Garden State helped too…), Rooney, Modest Mouse, and certainly Phantom Planet to commercial success. After the summer of 2003, being indie, emo, or alt (even if everyone else was jumping on that same bandwagon) was cool. We all wanted to be Seth or Marissa (especially when she schooled her next-door neighbor with musical knowledge in the second episode), even if, deep down, most of us are more like Luke at the Rooney concert.
Other things for which we can't thank The O.C. enough: the popularity of swoop bangs, Lacoste, the never-popular-enough leather cuffs on men look, at least two songs that can bring us to tears at the drop of a hat, a new way of saying “Ew,” Adam Brody, and memories that hold such a special place in our heart, even the terrible seasons three and four can’t undo what joy season one brought us. If we can’t go back to the Cohens' pool house, a trip down memory lane will suffice. Welcome (back) to the O.C., bitch.