Thursday, September 01, 2005

TV: The O.C.

I've never watched The O.C.. Never. Not even a single minute of it. When it first debuted, I simply had no interest. It looked like your typical night-time soap populated with MTV-pretty idiots. Then, when it suddenly took off in popularity, I gave it a second thought, but if memory serves it was up against two other shows I liked (it might've been in the Friends and Survivor slot). When episodes weren't on against any competition I cared about, I still didn't watch -- I didn't feel like jumping onboard in the middle of things. And so, while everyone was talking about how great the first year was (and how bad the second year was), I was completely tuned out.

But enough of my friends (including Ian) have told me what a fun show it is, that I finally decided to check it out. So this week, I rented the first disc from the first season DVD set. I was expecting not to like it, which is fairly reasonable for something as over-hyped as The O.C. In fact, I was almost determined not to like it. But as I watched the four episodes on the disc, here's how my reaction developed:

Episode 1) Eh, I don't know.

Episode 2) Actually, this isn't entirely godawful.

Episode 3) It's kind of all right, I have to admit.

Episode 4) Son of a bitch, I really like this!

I think I like a lot of the parts that aren't necessarily the big selling points of the show. Of course I like Adam Brody as Seth Cohen, who's the most prominent draw for a skeptic like me: a smart, un-hip kid loaded with funny putdowns about the rest of the characters, which helps deflate the urge to mock them yourself. I also really like Peter Gallagher as Sandy, who can play a snide douchebag to perfection, but here is a sweet and caring parent and husband, funny and self-aware enough not to be overbearing or annoying. (My favorite scene in these four episodes is when he sits down with Ryan to play video games while they're both avoiding the big cotillion.)

What I don't like are the two "cute" girls, Mischa Barton as Marissa and Rachel Bilson as Summer. Apparently it's just me, but I don't find either of them attractive in the least. Summer's got a huge rack, so it's no surprise she's popular, but she's so goddam skanky, bordering on gross. When she walks down the runway in the first episode's fashion show -- seriously, she's just repellent. And I don't know what it is about Marissa -- there's something disturbingly off about her look. It's almost reptilian -- that long neck and her creepy big eyes. It's like she's the evolutionary end product of the pterodactyl.

And then there's Benjamin McKenzie as our hero, Ryan. He's okay. He can be a little flat, a little too one-dimensionally "intense" or "brooding". But there are glimmers of a personality there, and the character is someone you can easily root for. But what is the deal with him getting his ass kicked in every single episode? He gets at least a half dozen ass-beatings in the first four shows. He even gets whupped by Francis Capra, who seems to have made a career out of playing hilariously unbelievable "tough guys" (he now plays Fonzie Jr., aka Weevil, on Veronica Mars).

I liked how these first four episodes hold together as a single narrative unit. The story flows very nicely from one episode to the next. And the direction has been relatively restrained so far; with that crap-master McG behind the scenes, I was afraid the show would be as big a visual mess as his Charlie's Angels movies. Having Doug Liman direct the first couple episodes didn't hurt.

My local video store has the complete first and second seasons for rent. I'm not committing to anything yet, but it's entirely possible I may have to play catch up so I can be ready for when the third season begins later this month. Just what I need, another TV show to get hooked on.

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