S4 DVD Reviews
The O.C. is a strange TV show, in that it went from debuting as a huge pop culture phenomenon, whose impact and influence were widespread, to cancelled, all in less then four years. It’s not completely unique in this regard – both Twin Peaks and to a lesser extent Joan of Arcadia come to mind among other zeitgeist shows that quickly were gone. But still, it was interesting to see the roller coaster path The O.C. took over its four seasons.
One thing is agreed on amongst most fans of the show -Season 3 wasn’t very good. In fact, many thought it was terrible, though that outlook got a bit blown out of proportion. Regardless though, Season 4 of the show had a bit to prove in terms of showing that the series could regain much of what made the first two years go enjoyable. And lo and behold, The O.C.’s creator Josh Schwartz rose to this challenge and met it, once again creating a show that was witty and self-aware, within its confines as a teen soap.
Season 4 began appropriately with the fallout from the death of Marissa (Mischa Barton) at the end of the previous year. While her character was hated by some and loved by others, there was no denying that her absence was a huge change for the series. The first few episodes of Season 4 show what happens in the aftermath of this death and how profoundly it affects many of the characters, and it is very impressive how well this is all handled. Meanwhile, Ryan (Ben McKenzie) and Julie’s (Melinda Clark) quest for revenge against Volchok (Cam Gigandet), the person responsible for Marissa’s death, holds plenty of great drama.
Even during this intense opening plotline, The O.C.’s big secret weapon, its sense of humor, was brought back in a way that hadn’t been as notable in Season 3. And once Volchok’s fate is resolved, the show really is able to lighten up in a refreshing way. Sumner’s grief inspired reinvention as an eco-friendly activist is very funny to see, handled wonderfully by the ever likable Rachel Bilson. And Everwood’s Chris Pratt is hysterical as Che, Summer’s incredibly impassioned classmate.
Meanwhile, Ryan is given a new love interest who is both an unusual and inspired choice, in the form of Taylor Townsend. Even many fans who despised Season 3 had to admit that Taylor was an excellent addition to the show, brought to life in a truly terrific performance by Autumn Reeser. Taylor was one of the funniest characters on the show, and pairing her with the usually brooding Ryan managed to allow McKenzie to show more of his humorous side too than was usual on the series – Who knew Ryan Atwood’s fantasies would be so fueled by White Snake videos?
The second half of Season 4 wasn’t quite as solid as the first, and it seemed as though perhaps the truncated season (only 16 episodes were produced) led to the producers killing time a bit rather then working into many big final storylines. As amusing as Che was, his inclusion into some later episodes gets a bit tired, and the introduction of Kevin Sorbo (yep, Hercules himself) as a character with a very pivotal connection to one of the regulars starts out exciting only to fizzle.
Those minor issues aside, overall The O.C.’s fourth season was a lot of fun. With the exception of Kirsten (poor Kelly Rowan found herself sidelined too much on this series), all the regulars are well served by the material and some of the annoying traits of the past couple of years, such as the incessant lying that plagued Seth, are jettisoned, allowing the audience to relate to what they first loved about the characters. The inclusion of Willa Holland as Kaitlin, Marissa’s little sister, into the main cast worked surprisingly well, as Holland found her groove and became a witty presence in a way she didn’t (or couldn’t ) in Season 3.
As for the series finale, after a bit too much wackiness early on, Schwartz crafts a final act that is extremely poignant and could actually quite easily draw a tear or two from longtime fans of the show, as the series pays respect to its own history in a very touching way. It’s time in the sun may have been brief, but there’s no denying that The O.C. struck a cord, and at its best was far superior to the usual dreck its “teen soap” label evoked. It was nice to see the series end on such a sweet note.
Video and Presentation
Like previous DVD releases, The O.C.: The Complete Fourth Season set boasts another nice transfer, though perhaps not quite as good as other releases for this series. The color and clarity of the transfer are solid, though there’s a bit more grain once in awhile on this set then in previous ones. Still, The O.C. was always a very attractive looking series, and this widescreen release shows off the beautiful people and settings well.
Score: 7 out of 10
Languages and Audio
The O.C.: The Complete Fourth Season features a Dolby Digital 5.1 track. Like on the previous releases for this series, the sound quality is very strong. More so then many other series, music is key on The O.C., with the show receiving praise even among detractors for introducing many bands to the mainstream thanks to their songs being featured on the soundtrack. On the season 4 release, the various elements are all strong and distinct, without overwhelming the clever dialogue.
English, French and Spanish subtitles are available on the set.
Score: 8 out of 10
Packaging and Extras
The O.C.: The Complete Fourth Season comes packaged in a digipack, foldout case. Following the same pattern as other recent Warner Bros TV show sets, the discs are presented with two discs on each “page”, with one disc overlapping the other. There is also a booklet insert with episode descriptions for the season.
This five-disc release features the following extras:
“The Magic That is Chrismukkah” featurette
“Summer Roberts – Beauty Meets Brown” featurette
Josh Schwartz commentary on the series finale
As a fan of the series, the extras offered are decent, but it’s hard not to want more. The two featurettes are very well done – The 16 minute “The Magic That is Chrismukkah” focuses on the holiday celebrated on The O.C., which became a bit of a pop culture phenomenon all to itself after the show introduced it in Season 1. Interviews with the producers and cast are intercut with the surprisingly highbrow inclusions of a professor of media studies and a rabbi, discussing the holiday’s real life connections and the use of religion on the series. It’s a very interesting analysis of one notable part of the series.
The 13 minute Summer Roberts featurette not shockingly is a look at this pivotal O.C. character. Though others are interviewed, Josh Schwartz and Rachel Bilson dominate the discussion of Summer and how she evolved over the course of the series, with Schwartz saying he felt she grew more than any other character on the show. Both of these featurettes are very well done, but considering they’re culled from interviews done with the cast and producers as the series was ending, it’s frustrating that there isn’t more featurettes focusing on other aspects of the series, or simply a much longer documentary looking at the whole series.
The Unaired Scenes are pretty ridiculous, considering it’s only a minute of a half of footage, consisting of two scenes cut from Season 4, one of which has no dialogue. Also a disappointment is the lack of Outtakes, which had been included on previous sets.
However, the inclusion of Schwartz’s commentary on the series finale at least makes up for some of this. Having a series creator talk about the final episode of his show – and Schwartz himself wrote the finale, despite working on two pilots at the time – is always a welcome inclusion on a DVD set. Schwartz notes that he’s going to talk fast and try to cover a lot of ground, which is indeed the case, as he candidly talks about many things, including the lighter tone they were going for in Season 4 and specifically in the finale. Other interesting tidbits include his revelation that they went into Season 4 knowing it would be the last, since he felt the current regime at FOX had no interest in keeping the show on the air; Schwartz admitting he had some second thoughts about killing Marissa; and some observations on the real life relationship of Rachel Bilson and Adam Brody, which ended in the final season, and how that might have been reflected in the final episode. It’s a strong commentary that nicely sums up Schwartz’s feelings on the series, as he says perhaps the show was meant to be one that was so quickly a success and then so suddenly gone.
The unaired scenes aside, the extras presented here are good ones, but why not a little more for the loyal fans of the series who would happily check out more commentaries, feaurettes or outtakes?
Score: 5 out of 10
The Bottom Line
The O.C.: The Complete Fourth Season ends this memorable series on a happy note, with a very funny and engaging year that restored most of the elements lacking in Season 3. The DVD set features a nice presentation, and a couple of good extras, but it seems a bit lackluster of a collection for a show that had such an intense, albeit brief, cultural impact.
Score: 7 out of 10