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The O.C. 101: A Dip In Orange County’s Pool

Rama Gottumukkala | Wednesday, September 7, 2005

It’s amazing how a five-note melody can halt the bustling activity of LaFortune, if only for a moment.

When the lively piano chorus of Phantom Planet’s “California” blares through the big-screen televisions, students break out of their studying trances and either smile, hum along gleefully or roll their eyes with frustration. For the naysayers in that latter camp, it’s going to be a long, grating couple of months.

With the season three premiere of “The O.C.” less than 48 hours away, expect to hear the “California” refrain routinely. Still, it’s never too late to take a dip in the Orange County pool. As the campus’ O.C.-obsessed fanatics settle back into the world navigated by Ryan, Seth, Summer and Marissa, O.C. first-timers still have a chance to join the reveling. With the first and second seasons of the show readily available on DVD, the zany misadventures of Orange Country are only a couch away.

In the meantime, there are plenty of reasons why “The O.C.” steals away hearts and oh so many hours of precious studying time on this campus.

OK, so the show’s principal cast of colorful characters didn’t start off as the most original troupe in television history. But it has made plenty of strides in fleshing out once one-dimensional archetypes and grabbing a vice grip on the attention spans of its viewers.

Throwing in a fair sprinkling of marriages, divorces and heart attacks helps jumble the interwoven plot points into a highly addictive potpourri.

But the heart of the show lies with its other young protagonist, Seth Cohen (Adam Brody). A comic-book geek, Seth divides his time between spouting off pop-culture quips and chasing after his life’s mission: roping in Summer (Rachel Bilson), the girl of his dreams. He alternatively succeeds and fails at this exercise over the course of the show’s seasons, alternatively leading to a chorus of cheers and catcalls from fans. Plus it’s a joy hearing Seth banter back and forth with Ryan in true brotherly fashion, complete with quick witticisms.

Sandy Cohen (Peter Gallagher), Seth’s dad, is another gem in the television landscape of primetime dramas. A public attorney and all-around good guy, Sandy’s character lends a carefully balanced dynamic to a show that constantly goes off the deep end with Seth and Ryan’s misadventures. Watching him deal with his wife Kirsten’s growing alcoholism problem during season two firmly tugs at the heartstrings. There’s certainly a reason why Sandy was ranked 25 in TV Guide’s 2004 list of the “50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time” (which is no small feat considering the relative youth of the show).

Any plot device used on “The O.C.” would easily last half a season (or more) on any other show. No matter how contrived they seem, such as Marissa’s infamous lesbian fling from season two, plot devices in “The O.C.” rarely last more than four episodes.

This ends up being both a blessing and a curse. Disappointing and cringe-worthy plot devices are swept under the carpet quickly. There was probably dancing in the streets from the O.C. fan nation when Oliver, a deranged Marissa stalker, was swept away in fewer than six episodes.

The show’s music scene is almost universally praised as one of the best on television. Whether it’s snagging a new song off Coldplay’s latest album weeks before its release or helping boost small indie bands into the national spotlight, “The O.C.” sets musical trends long before the average radio station. Plus, it’s helped the show’s producers release four soundtracks highlighting the show’s musical prowess.

When “The O.C.” premieres Thursday night at 7 p.m., there will probably be plenty of alert, captivated faces around campus. With an open mind, it’ll probably only take a few days for an O.C. late-comer to fall in love with sunny Orange County.