THE O.C.: WHICH SEASON WAS THE BEST?!

“Californiaaaaaa. Californiaaaaaaaaaaaaa!” Sorry, but just two weeks after it ended its run, we already have nostalgia for The O.C., and find ourselves humming or singing the theme song at inappropriate times.

The O.C. exploded out of the gates in the summer of 2003, instantly gaining strong ratings and an incredibly rabid fan base, and turning its four young stars – Ben McKenzie, Mischa Barton, Adam Brody and Rachel Bilson – into teen idols and tabloid fodder. The story focused on Ryan (McKenzie), a troubled teenager taken in by the wealthy Cohen family; parents Sandy (Peter Gallagher) and Kirsten (Kelly Rowan), and their awkward son Seth (Brody). Rather than the mundane and vapid 90210 type series many expected it to be, The O.C. boasted some incredibly clever and witty writing, guided by series creator Josh Schwartz. Yes, this was a soap opera at its core, but it was a knowing and self-deprecating one, that managed to always wink at the audience.

And it was geek friendly! Writers on The O.C. staff were clearly knowledgeable on the subject of comics, and filtered all of their knowledge into the character of Seth Cohen, a lifelong comic book fan who was prone to making references to Brian Michael Bendis, Hawkman, Joss Whedon’s X-Men run, and much more. The show also provided a huge outlet for noteworthy bands, both on the soundtrack and sometimes on the screen, with performances at the show’s fictional club, The Bait Shop – it’s hard not to think of uber-fan Seth when Death Cab for Cutie is mentioned.

With the show now a memory (though we expect to watch the DVDs for a long time to come), we’ve decided to take a look back and rank each of the four seasons, from the weakest to the best of the bunch.

#4: Season Three

Aside from some of the more intense Mischa Barton fans who frown upon the Barton-free season four, you’re likely to find little argument among the fandom that season three was the low point of The O.C. There were some major miscalculations, including far too much time and too many episodes spent with the less than beloved character Johnny, an earnest surfer who falls for Marissa. Johnny at first seemed like the Terminator of annoying characters, as he survived getting hit by a car, but thankfully a fall from a cliff would at last do him in.

Longtime characters were given some questionable storylines too, as Seth’s constant lying grew tiresome and frustrating, and turned into near pathological behavior. And some of the plotlines seemed pretty random, like Sadie, the apparent perfect girl of Ryan’s dreams, who comes and goes within a few episodes, and an ill-conceived story for Kirsten that turned her into the prey of a con artist played by Jeri Ryan. In fact, Kirsten and Sandy both suffered from unsatisfying stories in season three, as almost the entire year followed Sandy’s less than thrilling quest to get a new hospital built, reminding us that it was probably a mistake to get rid of Sandy’s father-in-law Caleb (Alan Dale) the year before, as he had been a great character to bounce off both of the elder Cohens.

Still, even at its weakest, the show had plenty of funny dialogue, and it’s impossible to completely hate a season that introduced one of the greatest elements of The O.C.: Taylor Townsend. Played to perfection by Autumn Reeser, Taylor, with her off-putting, perfectionist manner, was hysterical and oddly endearing and it’s no wonder a character originally conceived as a short term antagonist was elevated to much more.

Of course the most controversial element of season three is the death of Marissa. Dramatically, it was the right move, as Marissa had been a downward spiral since, essentially, the beginning of the series, and her self-destructive behavior had become more than a little tired. She was an important character however, which meant her death had to be handled well. Thankfully, the episode documenting her demise was a fairly strong one, but it was the following season that would really pay off this shocking twist…

#3: Season Four

There was so much to like about this season that it was tough deciding to rate it as “only” our third favorite. After the poorly received season three, Schwartz and his collaborators had a lot to prove, in order to show that The O.C. hadn’t permanently “lost it.” And while the ratings sadly never recovered, which led to the series cancellation, the quality of show itself bounced back in a huge way. The opening story arc, detailing Ryan’s quest to get revenge on Volchok, who caused Marissa’s death, was great. More importantly, the weight of Marissa’s abesence was felt throughout the series, as each of the characters reacted in the appropriate way, and the impact of the event was hardly pushed aside.

Better yet, once an appropriate amount of time had been spent on the aftermath of Marissa’s death, the series did an excellent job of bringing back the strong early interaction between the main cast, and most importantly, the overall sense of fun that had been missing for so much of the previous year. And in the romantic pairing of Ryan and Taylor, the series struck gold, as this oh so unlikely couple quickly became so easy to root for.

The downside to the season was that, perhaps due to the truncated number of episodes (16, down from at least 24 for each previous season), there was a lack of long term story arcs, beyond the basic romantic entanglements, especially from about the middle of the season on. And once more, the adult characters are given less to do then they deserve, the exception being Julie Cooper (Melinda Clarke), who continued to be a delightful aspect of the series, whether she was a madam for male prostitutes or romancing a lovable, over the top Texan businessman called The Bullit. Seriously, have they begun making offical “Team Bullit” shirts yet, because they need to.

The addition of Marissa’s sister Kaitlin (Willa Holland) into the main cast worked unexpectedly well, with the character much better served here than during her short stint in season three. And the final episode, though a bit slow to start, ultimately gave the show a truly wonderful send off, with a look back to the events that brought Ryan to the Cohen household, and a look into the future that showed once more what an impact this turn of events had on his life.

#2: Season Two

This season sometimes gets a bit of a bum rap, considering that at the time it aired, there were criticisms that even in its second year, the magic was gone from The O.C. Looking back, that just isn’t the case. Season Two is a lot of fun, delivering plenty of strong stories and memorable moments. Splitting up the show’s two main couples (Ryan & Marissa and Seth & Summer) leads to some interesting moments for all four of them, and while their was instant audience resistance to the four new love interests introduced as potential mates for our leads, only one of them, D.J, really doesn’t work, and he’s wisely jettisoned rather quickly. Meanwhile, the bisexual Alex (Olivia Wilde) is an especially charismatic new presence, and surprisingly, her two different unlikely romantic pairings, as the hipper-than-thou girl first hooks up with the dorky Seth, and then with straight girl Marissa, were pulled off well. The latter in fact managed to surpass it’s ratings ploy outer trappings to actually work as one of the better Marissa plotlines, at least initially, by doing a solid job of portraying her “I’ve never done this before…” confusion and excitement.

Season two also includes some of the very best moments of the entire series, including a truly touching installment of the annual Chrismukkah episode, that does a great job of bringing Lindsay — Ryan’s new love interest, and Seth’s secretly-unknown aunt (it’s a long story) — firmly into the central unit of the show. Plus it’s impossible to not love the scene in which Seth, wearing a Spider-Man mask, inadvertently ends up in a situation that allows he and Summer to reconcile in a manner that pays homage to the upside down kiss shared by Kirsten Dunst and Tobey Maguire in the first Spider-Man film.

The biggest downside to season two is that the producers, perhaps reacting too quickly and strongly to a vocal portion of the fandom that wanted Ryan & Marissa back together, then proceed to abruptly write off Alex and Lindsay, after so much work has been done to, rather successfully, make them a pretty big part of the show. Marissa’s quick reversion to pining for Ryan, and his equally rushed revelation that he also still is head over heels for her, doesn’t seem earned and in some ways set the stage for solidifying Marissa as rather frustratingly codependent and, given how things go down with Alex, as someone who doesn’t take into account others feelings as much as she should. The season rebounds however, with a compelling story centering on Ryan’s brother Trey coming to town, leading to a very dramatic season finale.

#1: Season One

Okay, it’s not perfect, but what is? There is the dreaded Oliver storyline after all – To really scare O.C. fans, convince them there’s a spinoff in the works called The Adventures of Oliver and Johnny. But when it comes to The O.C., it’s true that you can’t beat the first year. The unlikely bond between brooding, quick to fight Ryan and dorky outcast Seth is terrific, and you can see how the producers realized how much potential there was in characters like Julie and Summer (neither a series regular initially), with Melinda Clarke and Rachel Bilson stepping up to the plate in a big way as the season progresses.

Almost everything worked, from the friendship between Seth and fellow comic fan Anna, to Julie’s affair with Marissa’s boyfriend Luke, to the moment in which Jimmy (Tate Donovan) punches out Caleb. Marissa, while already troubled to be sure, was not the utterly bleak character she would become, and it was easy to root for her and Ryan. Even better, the Seth & Summer romance became an especially wonderful dynamic on the series, with Brody and Bilson working alongside each other with some impeccable comic timing and genuine chemistry. And Sandy and Kirsten were firmly established as, basically, the best parents ever.

From the introduction of Seth’s invented holiday of Chrismakkah, to the increasingly goofy and likable portrayal of the initially thuggish Luke, this was a series firing on all cylinders. There were tons of consistantly great comedic moments, lots of cool music, genuinely affecting sequences, and the, “We’re just having fun here” tone. All of this, combined with the more direct winking at the camera moments, made it easy for people who would never be caught dead watching a “teen soap” to check out this series, and actually admit they dug it.

To say season one of The O.C. was the only worthwhile year is far from correct — the worse parts of season three aside, the show was enjoyable start to finish — but there is something special about that first year that makes it stand out as truly great television.

Advertisements
Explore posts in the same categories: the oc

12 Comments on “THE O.C.: WHICH SEASON WAS THE BEST?!”

  1. amine Says:

    i really like the summary’s of the season’s but í’m not quit happy with the ranks. yeah season 3 belongs on the fourth place. it was one hell of a season though, but it just stood out a little bit. htne i would set season 2 on the tird place. season 1 at the second. and last but not least season 4 on the first place.
    it’s just something about that season that really makes it hard to put it on the third place. it could be becuz if the strong comeback after season 3. but that’s just not it. i think that the show you two sides of the oc. on with ryan and marissa and the other one with ryan and taylor. and i really think that the part with taylor was the best. that’s why i put season 4 on the 1st place.
    and for the record: it’s just that i gave them these ranks becuz of one or more bad episodes per season. it’s not that season 3 and 2 we’re bad. for me( and i think i speak for everyone when i say this) all seasons were absolutly WONDERFULLL!!!!
    THE O.C. 4 EVER

  2. savetheoc Says:

    ^ Btw i never ranked it, i got it from another website, i would have put S1 first, S4 second, S2 Third, S3 Fourth… I like the summaries though 🙂

  3. belen! Says:

    I DONT AGREE …WELL, I THINK ALL OC SEASONS HAVE BEEN GREAT, ITS THE BEST SERIES EVER..BUT IF I HAVE TO TALK ABOUT EACH ONE..FOR ME THE WORST SEASON HAS BEEN THE FORTH ONE…WITHOUT MARISSA THE SERIES LOST ALL ITS MAGIC…MAYBE IT IS BECAUSE IM THE BIGGESTT FAN OF MARISSA…I DONT KNOW..BUT ITS WHAT I THINK..
    I LIKED SEASON 3, IT WAS THE LAST SEASON WITH HER AND I REMEMBER IT AS A GOOD SEASON ALTHOUGH I HATE VOLCHOK xD…
    HOWEVER, SEASON 2 WAS GOOD, BUT IT HASNT BEEN ONE OF THE BEST ONES FOR ME…I DIDNT LIKE THE RELATION BETWEEN MARISSA AND ALEX..I THINK IT HAD NO SENSE BECAUSE MARISSA WASNT A LESBIAN..AND I DIDNT LIKE NEITHER RYAN WITH LINDSAY…THE BEST THING OF THAT SEASON IS THE END..THAT WAS SHOCKING!!
    AND OF COURSE…I COMPLETELY AGREE WITH THE FIRST ONE..I THINK ALL OC FANS KNOW WHAT SEASON HAS BEEN THE BEST ONE… SEASON ONE OF COURSE…I THINK THAT I WILL NEVER LIKE ANY OTHER SEASON OF ANY OTHER SERIES LIKE I LIKED SEASON ONE..WITH ALL ITS MAGIC MOMENTS..MARISSA´S AND RYAN´S FIRST MOMENTS…THE FIRST MEET..THE FIRST KISS…THE PILOT HOUSE.. SETH´S FIRST TRIES TO TALK WITH SUMMER..WHEN SUMMER REALISES THAT SHE IS IN LOVED WITH SETH…SETH SUMMER AND ANNA TRIANGLE…AND ALL THIS WITH THE BEST SONGS EVER…THE PERFECT SONG FOR EACH MOMENT OF THE SEASON…I LOOOOOVEEE SEASON ONE!!!AND I LOVE THE OC!!SO FOR ME THE BEST ONE IS SEASON ONE, THEN SEASON3, SEASON 2 AND FINALLY SEASON 4…THATS MY OPINION!BUT ALL OF THEM ARE GREAT..
    THE OC 4EVER!!!I WILL NEVER FORGET THIS SERIES!!IM IN LOVE WITH IT!xD

  4. monisek Says:

    I think season 1 was the best but that was all seasons I just love every season…every season has its magic and its ups and downs and great episodes and not-so-great episodes…
    just O.C. 4EVER:)

  5. alick Says:

    season 4 was the worst for me Ryan moved on from marrisa way to fast and then got together with taylor who i dont like. I was looking ford to ryan & seth fighting over summer and summer going from one to the other. Thats what would hav made it the best season yet.

    Season 2 was Bad to when i 1st saw it it was ok but the seccond tyme was so bad now i dont really like it at all.

  6. OcFanCuz Says:

    3rd: 3rd Season [Bye Bye Marissa, =P]
    2nd: 2nd Season
    1st: 1st Season & 4th Season

    – i got heaps of ppl to watch the last season tryna convince em it was the
    hektik, they didnt believe me. buh after watching it theyd always be like u
    knw season 4 is the sh*t, so dnt f*ck around with season 4 – ^^^^

  7. Fabri Says:

    la quarta stagione è la migliore…….
    seguita dalla terza….
    dalla prima….
    e dalla seconda…..

  8. The OC lives on! Says:

    Love the comment OcFanCuz Said! I couldn’t agree with you more. Season 1 and 4 are the best, without a shadow of a doubt. Season 4 was IMO just superb. Although I also love season 2. Season 3 was the weakest but it had a number of great eps. ‘The Graduates’ anyone?
    When S4 is released im gonna try and convince a few haters of its greatness.

  9. robert Says:

    S4 is the best definitely. S1 behind. Then S2. S3 obviously last. S4 rocked!

  10. Rachael Says:

    Omg!!
    i cnt belive this is the last seson of the o.c
    i realy love it
    & rachel bilson is my idol:(
    Why dose it have 2 end !! its the best thing on TV
    I will relly miss it & hopfully rachel wll acive her gole & make films:)
    she is my idol & always will be as well as all the o.c cast
    you are all great

  11. Grace Says:

    Season one! The best season by far.
    Season four wasn’t good at all, it lost one of the biggest parts of the show Marissa and along with that it lost loads more. I couldn’t watch much of season four

  12. georgia Says:

    the adventures of oliver and johnny, i cracked up sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo hard my mom looked at me so weirdly (she didn’y have a clue what i was laughing at). if they had a spin off series like that i would probably kill myself ROTFL!!!!!!!!!!!! i really agree with your rank. s3 sucked. bad. Except i HATED LINDSAY WITH ALMOST AS MUCH PASSION AS JOHNNY;O


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: