10 things you didn’t know about The O.C, 10 years on2003. John Howard was the Prime Minister, Dolly vs Girlfriend felt like Sophie's Choice and you changed your msn ‘nik’ over momentous events like meeting Kyle and Jackie O in the Westfield car park. Just me then? Right. It’s likely that during that acne, diamante belt and low-rise-One-Teaspoon-baggy-jean clad time, you were transfixed by weekly drama, The O.C. Maybe you watched while ironing your hair with a musta, or deleting messages from your Nokia 3310's outbox so the appropriate influx of ‘OMGs’/ ‘I can’t believe Luke’s dad is gay!’/ ‘I wish I had the new hellomoto flip phone’ could be received the same day they were sent. Discovering Death Cab for Cutie, playing Aqualung on your iPod mini and likening your nemesis to Taylor Townshead on the school bus were glorious, essential teenage experiences all crafted by the transfixing drama. But before you revisit those box-sets, here are ten facts you never knew about this beloved teen soap. It may have died episodes before Marissa did, but the legend lives on.
10. Just for the series' pilot – the one where Luke so graciously welcomed us to the O.C., “bitch” – the Cohen’s illustrious mansion (and pool-house) was built, shot and dismantled. Wide shots and cutaways of the house from the first episode were recycled throughout the entire series to save production costs, and the Cohen’s mansion from that point onwards was “recreated on a soundstage” in a studio. Their legendary infinity pool was in fact only 122 cm deep, which meant the cast had to act on their knees for those self-aware, self-deprecating sun-doused scenes.
9. Skinny Seth Cohen could have been so different! Adam Brody initially had his heart set on playing Ryan “whoever you want me to be” Atwood, and his comic-book-loving character was originally intended to be an integral member of Luke’s cool clique. The writers at the last minute decided to portray Seth as an outcast (thus birthing a timeless nerd-culture pin up) and abandoned the awful idea of making Ryan Sandy Cohen’s illegitimate lovechild. Does that mean Adam Brody could have, in theory, at one stage, played his own on-screen half-brother? Well, kind of.
8. Thought you recognised The O.C.’s essential rags-to-riches maternally-challenged manipulator Julie Cooper-Nichol before those cunningly comedic deliveries and sharp one-liners? Melinda Clarke, who plays Marissa’s mother, formerly appeared in the 1997 ‘Muffin Tops’ episode of Seinfeld—the one where Elaine’s former boss, Mr Lippman, steals her “million dollar” business plan and opens a shop selling the titular food stuffs—as Jerry’s girlfriend, Alex. Though Alex doesn’t pursue simultaneous trysts with her daughter’s ex-boyfriend and her best friend’s flush father (as Clarke’s later on-screen alter-ego would) she did have a penchant for hairless dogs, a fact Jerry discovers when he shaves his chest and unnecessarily worries about displeasing his latest squeeze.
7. Say what you want about Mischa Barton’s acting credentials, but her sullen bitchface, meek almost-whispers and soft sobs really... animated her empty shell of a character. Perhaps a prior cameo as the vomiting dead girl in The Sixth Sense abetted her “I have no one” utterances.
6. Few shows generated such instantaneous nail-biting obsession as The O.C.’s first season, though to the disappointment of the show’s global fan base, subsequent seasons failed to satiate the audience’s thirst for those intertwined and occasionally incestuous interactions. Creator Josh Schwartz perpetually trawled online forums to gauge what brand of melodrama viewers were looking for, and in the second season referenced their burgeoning frustrations via Seth. In one episode he remarks “we tried some new things [but] last year was just better” using the show’s signature form of embedded self-representation to address a mediocre critical response.
5. Of course, when the show was garnering millions of viewers per episode, the script-writers felt a little more... confident to blast haters via self-referential dialogue, instead of pandering to them. When Marissa ODs in season one, Summer and the posse become well acquainted with the hospital (and its inhabitants) as they pose as staff members to (illegally) rescue their fourth histrionic/ narcissistic core member from her mother and a looming stint in rehab. In this episode, Seth discovers Summer is, to his surprise, literate and has read Gustave Flaubert’s 1856 French classic, Madame Bovary. “That Flaubert can really turn a phrase,” he says. “I guess. It was kind of a bummer. I mean, I know Emma got her heart, like, totally broken, but why did she have to go and eat arsenic?” says Summer. “You’ve read Madame Bovary?” says Seth. “Five times. It’s Tom Shales’ favourite book. Oh I should go check on him. He’s two floors down. He’s, like, incontinent.” Tom Shales is actually a Pulitzer-prize winning critic who wrote The O.C. was “breathtaking in its imbecilic banality” and “formulaic and pandering in laughably obvious and palpably desperate ways.” He does not actually lack sphincter control. Well played, Josh Schwartz.
4. Alan Dale breathed life into father of Kirsten Cohen/ second husband of Julie Cooper/ rich old guy Caleb Nichol for the show’s first two seasons, until he suddenly dropped dead of a heart attack. While the pulse-racing incident momentarily roused the slow-moving Lindsay plot-line, killing off the Kiwi-born actor while he was romantically involved with a gold-digging monster was an on-screen déjà-vu. Dale famously played Jim Robinson, a similarly distinguished well-to-do shark in Neighbours for eight years and his character was killed off under almost-identical circumstances. Luckily most of The O.C.’s audience were toddlers when that serial plotline aired.
3. Before shows like Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County, The Real Housewives of The O.C. and Newport Harbour continued ( or destroyed) the idyllic legacy of reckless Californian beachside drama, residents of Orange County never actually abbreviated their home town’s name. The spike of interest towards the area annoyed residents and they felt disparagingly towards ‘The O.C.’ moniker. Arrested Development, which aired its first season shortly after The O.C.’s premiere, encapsulated the contempt via Michael who would repeatedly respond “don’t call it that” when his contempories said they lived in “The O.C.”
2. In the pre-hipster early naughties, you didn’t lose credibility when you non-ironically championed the “indie music” genre. Whether The O.C. helped or hurt the image of bands that became mainstream successes after appearing on the show is a debate we can leave in the 2003 print media, but aside from using a soundtrack to augment the drama, The O.C. cleverly wove featured artists into the plot. Jem sings a cover of Paul McCartney’s ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’ at Julie and Caleb’s wedding while Marissa cries (because what else would she be doing?) and Rooney, Modest Mouse, The Walkmen, The Killers and Death Cab for Cutie performed on the show. You also might not remember that even T.I. made an appearance when Seth and Ryan went on Spring Break, a whole decade before, among other things, his 'Blurred Lines' cameo. Meanwhile, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s front man Alec Ounsworth refused to contribute to the soundtrack, for fear of losing credibility. “I don’t like the idea of being overexposed. Vincent van Gogh never sold a painting, and he was perfectly content,” he said. The two are not the same.
1. On the topic of music, Rooney, who were a Seth Cohen favourite, enjoyed a 200 percent increase in sales after they played on the show. That’s not so remarkable now, with shows like The Voice recreating this phenomenon weekly, but things were different then. We had just met Guy Sebastian, and we probably bought his single at Fish Records.