Even if you’ve never watched The OC, you might think of its theme song “California” (by Phantom Planet) when you think of the show. That’s fitting both because of the feeling of the song, and the fact that music is such an important part of the show.
As I started watching the series over again, I noticed at least one or two songs in every episode that I knew by heart, because I listened to them over and over when I first saw the series years ago. I had forgotten how much of my musical taste had come from The OC.
Watching the series while knowing the trajectory of the entire story made me think differently about the characters and how their lives were going. It can be fun to do that with a lot of shows: Watch episodes in the very beginning of the series and think about how much the characters develop throughout the show. Some of the characters from The OC, like Summer and Julie, came so far from the people they were in the pilot. I love watching those transformations.
All of the main characters are fascinating to watch. Why does everyone who meets Marissa Cooper fall in love with her? Why does she always befriend guys who are way too attached to her? That said, I felt a lot worse for Marissa on this viewing than ever before. A lot of terrible things happened to her, many of them out of her control, and I think some of her bad decisions just emerged from her life circumstances. Also, have to love the Cohens, obviously, but they made a ton of questionable decisions. In the latter half of season three, Seth and Sandy hardly act like themselves. But everyone remains part of this giant extended family, and it’s great to watch.
My favorite characters: Summer. Seth. Anna. I’ve always loved Taylor Townsend. She’s so earnest that it becomes endearing, even though she’s so strange. And Ryan. The outsider fitting into a new world, a kid with a rough childhood finding a family: his story evokes so much emotion and always stays at the center of the show.
I know the fourth season was quite different than the others, but I’ve always appreciated it. The episode “The Chrismukk-huh?” might be weird for some people but I think it’s brilliant. Seeing what the alternate universe looks like without Ryan becoming part of the Cohen family validates his place in their lives at a time when Ryan was feeling like he’d only done more harm than good. It made a lot of sense to me that his arrival in Newport, though it created a lot of problems, actually ended up holding everything together.
And the finale! Wow. The finale of The OC is one of my favorite TV finales. I have never been able to watch the last ten minutes without crying. It’s emotionally satisfying, pays homage to the beginning of the story, and gives the viewers hope for the future of the characters. It’s beautiful, moving, funny, sad, nostalgic, and it makes the whole journey worth it. And of course, the song selection is perfect.