Obsessed Completely: The O.C. On Campus
Molly Griffin | Wednesday, September 7, 2005
“The O.C.,” while wholly unrealistic in its sheer degree of scandal, may just be the perfect escape from the stress and studying of college. The difficulty of balancing life at school seems less serious when you see that Julie Cooper is being blackmailed with a secret porn tape from her past, Ryan’s ex-con brother Trey is involved in a drug deal and Kirsten’s drinking problem is spiraling out of control. “The O.C.” manages to blend sensationalism with the right degree of sensitivity and humor, and this mixture is causing a stir around college campuses every Thursday night.
While the show supposedly focuses on people in high school, the potent combination of sex, scandal and friendship has helped it transcend the traditional boundaries of age to find a huge spectrum of collegiate fans. The adventures of the Cohen-Cooper-Nichols clan are in no way realistic, but that may just be the reason why the show is so successful.
“O.C.” parties are a common occurrence on campus every Thursday at 7 p.m. Whether the parties consist of die-hard fans, people looking for a reason to socialize or students desperate for a study break, the show is quickly becoming an almost mandatory weekly event.
“You don’t have to think when you watch it,” junior Tiffanie Spencer explained. “It’s very obvious, but it’s drama that’s very interesting.”
The show, while heavily a favorite among females, has a strong male following that isn’t just watching to see Mischa Barton in a mini skirt. It is not uncommon to see large groups of males gathered together on Thursday nights in common rooms around campus.
Second year law student Steve Duvernay described his ritual.
“I’m a purist, no distractions,” he said. “Usually it’s just a couple of us in someone’s living room absorbing the greatness that is ‘The O.C.'”
As is the case with most massively popular shows on television, a drinking game has evolved around the program. Things like a person wearing a bikini at a party, the appearance of a luxury car, characters getting in a fight or wearing a very short skirt are all justifications for taking a drink.
There are several groups on the facebook Web site at Notre Dame devoted to “The O.C.,” such as “If You Talk During ‘The O.C.,’ I Will Kill You at the Next Commercial” and “Seth Cohen is the Man.” There are also several groups devoted to disliking the show as well, including the “Anti-‘The O.C.’ club” and “Help, My Name is _______ and All of My Friends are Obsessed with ‘The O.C.'”
Some schools have taken the show to a new level, as “The O.C” watching club at the Boalt Law School at UC Berkley reveals. They created “The Sandy Cohen Fellowship,” a scholarship in honor of the fact that fictional character Sandy Cohen, played by Peter Gallagher, supposedly attended the law school. Donations can be made at http://oc.boalt.org/.
The show started out with the unfavorable distinction of debuting as midsummer programming – which usually doesn’t last through the fall season – on FOX as well as being the first show ever written or produced by creator Josh Schwartz. Not only did it surpass all expectations, but it became enough of a cultural presence to take over magazine covers, create fashion trends and garner the current scion of “it”-ness, Paris Hilton, for a cameo in the first season
One of the major influences that “The O.C.” has had on pop culture and college students in particular is with regard to its soundtrack choices. Music is featured prominently on the show, and it makes a point of using songs from bands that rarely get radio play.
The show has used music from a wide variety of underground bands such as the Dandy Warhols, the Super Furry Animals, Rilo Kiley, Bell X1, Jem, Eels and Beck. The Bellingham, Wash. band Death Cab for Cutie, a favorite of Seth Cohen (as well as his portrayer, Adam Brody), has received a huge boost in popularity due to the show and even performed in various episodes during the show’s second season.
A few bands have even gone beyond merely being background music and have performed on the show, including Rooney, Modest Mouse, the Thrills and the Walkmen.
The show has become such a major launching pad for music that even established groups like Coldplay and the Beastie Boys have gone so far as to use the show to premiere songs from their latest albums.
“While ‘The O.C.’ isn’t exactly deep or complicated, that might be just the reason that college students enjoy it,” Duverney said. “There’s the combined element of fantasy and schadenfreude, which I think is a key element to the show’s success.”
Sometimes between the calculus homework, reading entire novels and cramming for tests, everyone just needs an hour-long trip to the less academic and more melodramatic world of Orange County.