In case you forgot where The O.C. takes place, “The Model Home” begins with a Rufus Wainwright song titled “California" a few minutes before the opening titles which features a Phantom Planet song titled "California.”
After being abandoned by his mother in the pilot, Ryan is back at the Cohens (and lounging around shirtless with a shirtless Seth) but is being sent to a group home in the morning. “The Model Home” is mostly about developing the kids, introducing layers that go deeper than the “rich girl” and “nerd boy” and “jock asshole” basics, and setting up the friendships (and sort of relationship) that’ll anchor the entire season. With the sad exception of Summer who is still flitting around in bikini tops and talking about Oxycontin.
I don’t believe Seth listens to Trapt.
Seth decides Ryan should live in an abandoned model home and Marissa ditches her best friend’s birthday party to drive them there. The car scene is one of my many favorites because you can picture the writers scrolling through their iPods to figure out what bands to namedrop. And we have the first Rooney appearance via Marissa’s car speakers! When Marissa says she listens to punk (“I’m angry”), Seth calls her out by making the second Avril Lavigne reference in as many episodes but Marissa counters by listing The Cramps, Stiff Little Fingers, The Clash, and The Sex Pistols. Drink for each one! There’s a running theme about the clash (see what I did there?) between Marissa and Seth. They’re neighbors and classmates, their respective parents are close, and they go to the same events yet they’re not friends because of their preconceived notions of each other. Seth views Marissa as a stuck-up socialite who thinks she’s better than everyone; Marissa views Seth as a pretentious smartass who thinks he’s better than everyone. They’re both right.
It’s too easy to make Seth into a totally sympathetic character. He doesn’t have friends, he gets the shit kicked out of him, he gets called “queer” more than Seth, and his dream girl has no idea who he is. Even Sandy carefully chose his words when describing Seth: “He’s an interesting kid if you get to know him.” But “The Model Home” shows that he can be as judgmental as the kids who bully him. Marissa’s taste in music is met with derision (even when it’s similar to his own), he’s wary of her shared interest in On The Road, and when he calls Marissa out on never talking to him despite being neighbors forever, she quickly points out that he’s never talked to her either. Of course, Seth is still Seth and it’s his insecurities that mostly prevented him from talking with Marissa (why would she deal with a geek like him?), and his sarcasm is often a defense mechanism. Plus, the polo bros really do have it out for the kid. Basically, I love that he’s a little more complicated than the typical nerd boy.
At the titular model home, we get a nice moment of Ryan and Marissa sharing secrets as a blurry Seth recreates his role in Grind by going all sk8er boi in the empty pool (Schwartz must have had an aneurysm trying not to make another Lavigne reference). Oh, and we get the very important story about how Marissa and Luke first hooked up on a class trip to the Museum of Tolerance which might be the only thing I like about her. But the bonding is temporary because soon Marissa is all see ya l8er bois and runs off to a party.
Back at the Cooper household, they discuss horses.
And then there is this scene! The obligatory “Hey, look at these different teenagers have fun as they become friends forever” scene! Look at Seth skate! Look at Ryan ride his tiny bike! Look at Marissa ride on his pegs and be useless! It’s the transportation equivalent of a friendship bracelet. It’s a cheap and easy way to establish the friendship forming but it works. I hate that it works but even I’m not immune to their stupid smiles. It’s always nice to be reminded that although Ryan is a brooding delinquent with a rap sheet and a quick temper, he’s still a teenager. It’s great when he’s happy and having fun even if it’s with Marissa and her dumb pants. PS: The DVDs occasionally have this ridiculous and pointless music guide that provides trivia about the musician/song playing such as “Rooney appeared on the 2002 Ramones Tribute Album.”
At the diner, Luke and his polo crew walk in and everything goes just as you would expect. Luke calls Seth a queer, Seth makes a snarky comment under his breath, Ryan steps in, Luke makes the best 8 Mile reference that has ever been made in a Fox teen drama, Marissa is still useless, and Ryan throws a punch. This scene has Ryan’s greatest and most important line in the entire season and we all fall a little bit in love with Ben McKenzie’s pre-punch smile. No one pays the check.
A comprehensive list of things Ryan Atwood likes about rich kids:
And we’re back at the model house and some weird camera angles! Jimmy Cooper takes a much-needed break from equestrian talk (they’ve already cut twice to horse mentions at the Cooper home) to hang out with Kirsten where they discuss their shared past (they were each others first kiss! twist!). He talks about his money issues and she mentions that the contractors are working on the house tomorrow — all while the kids conveniently overhear everything. Ryan has no place to stay for the 49th time within two episodes. Everyone looks sad. No one rides a tiny bike.
Marissa goes to another party, utters this stupid and clunky line which is only made worse by Mischa Barton’s terrible delivery but a million girls added it to their AIM profiles anyway.
Fortunately, it’s followed by a scene between Seth and Sandy Cohen: Father of the Century. I will never shut up about how great Sandy is and, by extension, how great Peter Gallagher is for making lines that seem cheesy on paper somehow absolutely perfect on screen.
Sandy: The minute you were born I knew that I would never take another easy breath again without knowing you were safe.
Seth: So I’m like asthma?
Sandy: I’m warning you, you run away, I’m coming with you.
At the model home, badass Ryan lights some candles and listens to Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah” which is every television writer’s favorite song. Marissa tells Ryan that the song “reminds me of you” and ugh. There’s a dramatic Marissa/Ryan scene that’s has some admittedly cliche lines for Ryan like “If we spend the night, I don’t know that I could leave” and “We’re from different worlds” which reads like the stiff thesis for the series. But Ben McKenzie is a great enough actor to sell it and Jeff Buckley is quietly singing in the background so there’s all sorts of feelings happening whether you want them to or not.
But then Marissa ruins it by running out of the model home in flip-flops while resembling a gazelle on heroin. It’s pretty hilarious. And Jeff Buckley sings about Samson while Luke and his polo crew sit in a car and spy on Ryan, which is also pretty hilarious.
Luke and Ryan have a romantic candlelit fistfight sponsored by McDonalds. The model home, of course, catches on fire. I mean, this IS a teen drama so if you show a candle, it better end in either two characters losing their virginity or a house burning down. The polo dudes run away and leave Ryan there but Luke doubles back to drag him out because Luke, at his core, isn’t the worst person (layers!). Or at least he’s not a murderer. He’s a total jerk, but he’s not entirely heartless and he gets better as the season progresses. And when Ryan goes back to the Cohens to confess, Luke admits his involvement as well.
The episode ends with the divide between those who wear robes and those who don’t.
- Best musical moment: Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah" because I like to think that all the songs on The Model Home Mix were just other cover versions.
- A+ Seth Cohen moment: Immediately recapping Ryan and Luke’s fight which is such a realistic teenage thing to do after your friend does something awesome.
- Marissa Cooper self-destruction count: Surprisingly only one margarita, but I think we can assume that she drank herself into a stupor after Ryan’s arrest.
- Episode specific drinking game rules: one sip for every mention of a fucking horse, every time Seth skateboards, and every time Jeff Buckley says the word “Hallelujah” and you’re overwhelmed by emotions that you didn’t know you had.
I have no problem admitting that The O.C. is one of my absolute favorite pilot episodes and one that I think is nearly flawless. It sets up the backstory quickly: Ryan Atwood is a smart but troubled kid who gets thrown in juvenile hall after he helps his brother (later recast, thank god) steal a car. He’s rescued by public defender Sandy Cohen: Father of the Century who takes him in to live with his super rich family in super rich Orange County. It’s a familiar fish-out-of-water scenario (I still maintain that The O.C. is nothing more than the white version of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, right down to the nerdy brother figure and earworm theme song) but Schwartz has some new tricks. The characters are mostly well-developed within the first hour, though Ryan Atwood plays up the James Dean affectations more than usual (the cold open conversation is a little odd) and the Marissa/Summer friendship isn’t strong. But Summer wasn’t even a regular when the season started which is a goddamn shame because Rachel Bilson is the cutest thing to ever be on television.
What I love about The O.C. is that it moves quickly but rarely feels rushed. Not only do we get the central plot, but we also get Seth’s crush, his plan to sail away to Tahiti, and the high school war between the popular water polo bros and the nerdy outsiders. There’s an introduction to Marissa’s budding alcoholism, her father’s financial troubles, and her mother’s general awfulness. We learn about Luke’s cheating habits, Ryan’s life in Chino, and Sandy’s similiar past but it’s never too much to take in.
But since we’re tackling the episodes twice (once by a first-time viewer and once by an admitted obsessive — I found myself mouthing along with half of the episode as I watched) let’s skip the exposition and get down to the ridiculous stuff. The O.C. drinking game is a success, although we should probably add “Cohens eat breakfast” to the official list. Within the first ten minutes of the pilot, we have one character drinking, three punches thrown (AJ punches Ryan twice, Ryan punches a payphone thrice), the world “California” is said (or rather sung) 8 times, and there are lens flares and great side-eye. Seriously, dude gives great side-eye. Extra drinking game rules specific for this episode: drink whenever a character is seen through a car window, whenever the Chino scenes are shot handheld to make it seem “gritty” or whatever, and when Ryan angrily rides away from a broken home on the world’s tiniest bike.
Like the majority of girls who were between the ages of 13-17 in 2003, I had an obsessive crush on Seth Cohen. I spent most of high school daydreaming about the day Seth would save me from a life of suburban boredom where we could be gleefully weird together, talk about how we were the only two people in the world who loved Bright Eyes (everyone loved Bright Eyes), bond over our mutual hatred for jocks (I went to an all-girls Catholic school; there were no jocks), read comic books together in bed (I’d read Archie, he’d read Spider-Man or whatever), and leave each other post-it notes on the fridge that said “I need you so much closer.” But! Every time I rewatch this show, I learn to love Ryan more and more. Of course, it’s still a childish love because look at him brood and punch people and totally pull off that black-eye! Those wifebeaters! Your inability to tie a tie! I want to save you! One small detail I love about Ran is that he only smokes in the pilot episode. Twice, to be exact, once as a way to meet Marissa and once as a way to further their relationship (mostly him as caretaker). Despite being the resident badass of the show, he’s the only main character who doesn’t do drugs or gets smashed at every party (he does order a 7&7 because he’s a 35-year-old teenager and later drinks at the beach party, but only in the pilot!) which you can chalk up to a) he probably got this all out of his system in the mean streets of Chino or b) his parents’ history of addiction — which also explains his attraction to train wreck Marissa because come on, this show is all about mommy and daddy issues.
But the best scene is obviously THE PARTY which has basically everything this show is about. Cocaine, stoners on the couch, the largest collection of plastic party cups, Marissa pounding hard liquor, a threesome, tramp stamps and tribal tattoos, water polo dudes calling Seth a geek before kicking his ass, a fist fight on the beach, Ryan having Seth’s back because, and I will yell about this until the end of time, the friendship between Ryan and Seth is the most important thing about The O.C. The scene also has the three most famous lines from the pilot:
- Seth’s bumbling “I should really learn to knock in case there’s a threesome going on in the bathroom.”
- Ryan’s super sly “I think I could get in less trouble where I’m from.”
- Luke’s often parodied “Welcome to The O.C., bitch!”
Admission: I had to pick and choose my battles with the drinking game because, within about five minutes, there are at least 33 drinks. There’s even the bonus of Newport, O.C., and Chino all said! Hey, did you guys know this show takes place in California? Did you get that from the theme song? And every line of dialogue ever?
The unsung hero of The O.C. pilot is the guy at the party with all the condoms.
One of my other favorite scenes is when Summer, who is apparently Marissa’s best friend, just leaves Marissa drunk and passed out cold on the sidewalk in front of her house. She throws Marissa’s purse at her and runs away and doesn’t even turn Marissa on her side or anything. Marissa could’ve choked on vomit and died! Which actually could’ve been a good thing because the less Marissa, the better. Never mind. Carry on, Summer.
The last act of the pilot has Ryan taking care of Marissa, of course, because that’s what this entire season is about. It’s a shame that Marissa (and, to an extent, Mischa Barton) is so awful because this whole thing is centered around us rooting for them to work out. There’s some other great stuff like Ryan making breakfast for the Cohens just as they’re (see: Kirsten) kicking him out — p.s. this family loves breakfast almost as much as Walt Jr. does, the glimpse into Seth’s room (please take note of the revolving posters on his wall throughout the season), the incredibly well done goodbye between Seth and Ryan, the stupid setup of the lens flarey Marissa, and, finally, Ryan realizing that his mother straight up abandoned him so now he gets to go back to the Cohens! Because Sandy Cohen is THE BEST. Surely, he will simply hang out in the pool house, live a quiet life until he goes to college, and never get in any trouble again!
- Best musical moment: a tie between “Swing, Swing" by The All-American Rejects which was everywhere in 2003 and “Honey and the Moon" by Joseph Arthur which apparently Josh Schwartz says helped him write the pilot because of course it did.
- A+ Seth Cohen moment: His awkward suggestion that Ryan and him play Grand Theft Auto where you “can steal cars … not that that’s cool. Or uncool. I don’t know.”
- Marissa Cooper self-destruction count: champagne, a stolen bottle of vodka, and Ryan’s cup of beer.
Tomorrow, we’ll start our official The O.C. rewatch as we tackle the pilot episode to see whether or not it still holds up nine years later (spoiler alert: it does). Until then, here’s the drinking game we’ll be doing for the first few episodes of season one (we’ll obviously have to add some more to deal with Oliver later on). If you’re into watching a train wreck in action, you can follow us on twitter while we attempt this every week. As for the rules, take a drink for the following:
- Any character throws a punch.
- Whenever there’s a lens flare.
- Ryan wears a wifebeater, Marissa wears a miniskirt, or any character randomly wears a bikini to a party.
- Any band is mentioned by name or shown on a poster in Seth’s room. Drink twice if that band’s music is then heard in the episode.
- Anyone says Chino, Newport, California (including the theme song, if you’re self-destructive), or O.C.
- Summer says “ewww” and is super adorable while doing so.
- Ryan glances at someone sideways instead of speaking.
- Seth makes a pop culture reference.
- Marissa cries.
- Anyone mentions a prescription drug.
- Any character on the show drinks. To stay true to her character, drink twice if it’s Marissa.
Summer is the season when networks conspire against us obsessive shut-in television viewers by taking away all of our favorite shows in an attempt to force us to go enjoy the sun or the beach or whatever the hell happens outdoors. But Vitamin D is overrated so we’ve decided to instead spend the summer rewatching some classic shows in our TV Hangover TV Club. First up: The O.C.
The O.C. is one of my all time favorite television shows and has the honor of being one of the very few teen dramas that I legitimately enjoy (see also: Freaks & Geeks, Life As We Know It, the first generation of British Skins) as opposed to being one of the many teen dramas that I “ironically” enjoy and gleefully hate-watch (see also: Everwood, Dawson’s Creek, the later generations of British Skins). The O.C. was a big hit for Fox. It completely killed in the ratings for a while, it turned Josh Schwartz into the youngest creator of a TV show, and it ultimately became this crazy television phenomenon that spawned board games, hilariously bad novelizations, clothing, fragrances, soundtracks, and even Chrismukkah wrapping paper. And it was actually good! Or it was good for just a few seasons, depending on who you ask. The O.C. walked the line between being a dramatic soap opera about pretty rich kid problems and being an actual realistic depiction of teenage relationships (platonic and otherwise) and very rarely teetered too much in one direction. Every glitzy storyline about an expensive and unnecessary cotillion party was tethered to the ground by Seth Cohen’s snark and adoring love for Summer; every tedious episode about Ryan & Marissa’s melodramatic relationship was kept interesting by a puntastic school dance or an over-the-top plot point.
Of course, the show crossed off every item on the teen drama checklist: parents getting divorced, a geek trying to win a popular girl, so many fist fights, the rich girl’s fall from grace, virginity, pregnancy, addiction, love triangles, suicide attempts, sweeps week lesbianism, and everything in between. It looks unremarkable on paper but the show managed to pull off most of the storylines successfully in its own little way. There were some notorious failures — Oliver is the first to come to mind, but that’s a whole different story — and at times, it got a little too out of control but there was always some charm in the episodes, especially found within the perfect friendship between Ryan Atwood and Seth Cohen. The show went through a billion plots during its 92 episodes and although I’ve seen the first two seasons way too much, I can’t readily recall some of the bigger moments but I can probably list off my favorite quips between Ryan and Seth. Oh, and Rooney. I always remember a lot of Rooney.
The O.C. was fast and funny. It was campy with moments of perfection. It was full of all the meta humor and pop culture references that your nerdy heart desired — there was a show within the show! It had the sentimentality that Schwartz’s other rich kid show, Gossip Girl, is often lacking. The soundtracks featured every overwhelmingly emo or too-cool indie song that you hated admitting that you liked and then, thanks to the introduction of The Bait Shop, later brought in bands like Modest Mouse and Death Cab for Cutie to perform. It’s embarrassingly addicting and quick to get through and, most importantly to me, it’s a show that I really love to talk about at length to any poor fool who will listen.
So basically, this TV Club just means that we’re all going to rewatch the series (or, ahem, watch it for the first time) and we’re obviously inviting you guys to watch along with us and abuse our comment section to try your best to defend Marissa Cooper. We’ll start next week and are aiming for two or three episodes a week (like I said, it’s super addicting but I know we’re also busy revisiting the creek) with some random posts or guest entries every once in a while. And obviously a drinking game (feel free to suggest some rules). Unfortunately, it’s not on Netflix Instant but it’s about $18 on Amazon if you’re feeling fancy or, even easier, the first season is available on The WB’s website for free streaming.
"I was talking with a TV critic when the show was on the air. We were discussing the episode ‘I’m With the Band’ — this is when the Nick character auditions as a group’s drummer. Nick is terrible and embarrasses himself in front of Lindsay, the girl he wants to impress. And the critic said to me, ‘When Nick walked into that audition, I had to leave the room. I knew everything was going to go wrong, and I couldn’t deal with it.’
I remember when the movie Independence Day was coming out. I was sitting in a theater, and the preview for that movie came on. And it showed a huge spaceship blowing up the White House. I remember thinking, Well, this is going to be the biggest movie ever. It hit the pleasure center of the audience’s brains. The problem with Freaks and Geeks was that it didn’t hit that pleasure center. It played in the pain center.” - Paul Feig
It’s time to start a support group for people who are still not over Veronica Mars and Logan Echolls. We’ll meet twice a month, talk about how that last episode ripped our hearts out, reminisce about the good times in their relationship, speculate about where they are now, and end every meeting by listening to “I Hear The Bells” by Mike Doughty and sobbing.