"I think I could get in less trouble where I'm from." "You have no idea."
A quote on the back of the DVD box for the first season of "The O.C." calls the show a "pop culture phenomenon", and that certainly seems to be the case. Fox's drama with the occasional dose of humor has been a rare bright spot for broadcast television - an actual scripted show that managed to get ratings and continual buzz in magazines and other media outlets.
The show focuses on Ryan (Benjamin McKenzie), a kid from the streets who, in the opening season, got arrested after stealing a car with his older brother and going on a high speed persuit that ends in a crash and jail time. While his brother is old enough to get himself stuck in some serious trouble, Ryan found himself with Sandy Cohen (Peter Gallagher), his public defender.
Although Ryan doesn't take Cohen seriously at first, when he gets thrown out of his house by his mother and her low-life boyfriend, he has nowhere else to turn. Although Sandy doesn't make much on his public defender salary, he's married to Kristen (Kelly Rowan), the daughter of a real estate mogul. She doesn't take well to Ryan at first, but Sandy sees potential in him. While he promises to take him to child services after the weekend (I didn't know they closed), the stay turns into a more permanent residence. Getting along well with Sandy's son, Seth (Adam Brody, brilliantly funny with a nervous comedic timing that renders nearly every line amusing), Ryan eventually got used to his new surroundings.
Helping matters a bit for Ryan is Marissa (Mischa Barton), his beautiful new next-door neighbor who finds an interest in him when they meet-cute sneaking a smoke outside. Although she doesn't give him the time of day at first, Seth eventually catches the interest of Summer (Brody's actual girlfriend, Rachel Bilson).
Although Fox has played up the glossy angle of "The OC", watching the show, I was surprised that it was more than that. Despite being produced by "Charlie's Angels" director McG, the show manages to keep the director's occasional stylistic overflow in check, with crisp cinematography by Jamie Barber ("Roswell") and smooth editing.
The other strong suit of the series are the performances, which are above the norm for this kind of genre. McKenzie isn't Russell Crowe, but he does offer a strong dramatic performance here. Brody is hilarious, with an oddball comedic timing that's energetic and funny. Barton offers an intriguing portrayal of the troubled, good-hearted Marissa. Peter Gallagher and his eyebrows turn in excellent work, as well. The writing is often smart, thoughtful and funny, and the performances combine with the solid scripts to form characters that are multi-dimensional and involving.
While what I've seen of the soapy second season appeared to come fairly close to the enjoyable original season, the third season of "The O.C." became more controversial with fans, some of whom didn't care for the way that the series progressed. The second season ended with Ryan confronting someone from his past about an incident and getting into a fight before Marissa stepped in to save him. The season opens with the aftermath of the incident. The show also focuses on Kristen's rehab and college decisions for the main characters. The series also brings a series of supporting characters to the front, including Marissa's little sister, Katlin (Willa Holland, step-daughter of director Brian Depalma), who took away time from the leads that the audience had grown fond of. While the series always had its share of drama, the third season sees it shifting further away from the mix of drama and humor it started with. While I still found these episodes engaging, hopefully the show's fourth season will steer things back towards what made the first season such a hit.
After a shaky third season, the future of the series was uncertain, but the network brought the show back for a shorter fourth run to try and tie up loose ends and give things a proper send-off. After the tragic events of the third season finale, Ryan has run off and is dealing with his anger by becoming a cage fighter. Summer has headed off to Brown and becomes an environmental activist, while Seth is working at a comic book store. Julie is dealing with the tragedy by taking pills, and plans to use Ryan to get the revenge that they both want. After returning from France having made a mistake, Taylor (Autumn Reeser) sets her sights on Ryan.
The season does have some over-the-top soap opera moments, but it does a nice job bringing it back to the first season, where the series was a somewhat more grounded drama, exploring what happened when Ryan came into the lives of the characters. The fourth season also brings back a bit more comedy into the series, which had grown darker during the middle of its run. The series comes to a close with a shake-up (literally, when an Earthquake hits), followed by a fun and entertaining closer that wraps things up nicely.
This set offers the complete fourth season:
77. 4- 1 2 Nov 06 The Avengers
78. 4- 2 8 Nov 06 The Gringos
79. 4- 3 9 Nov 06 The Cold Turkey
80. 4- 4 16 Nov 06 The Metamorphosis
81. 4- 5 30 Nov 06 The Sleeping Beauty
82. 4- 6 7 Dec 06 The Summer Bummer
83. 4- 7 14 Dec 06 The Chrismukk-huh?
84. 4- 8 21 Dec 06 The Earth Girls Are Easy
85. 4- 9 4 Jan 07 The My Two Dads
86. 4-10 11 Jan 07 The French Connection
87. 4-11 18 Jan 07 The Dream Lover
88. 4-12 25 Jan 07 The Groundhog Day
89. 4-13 1 Feb 07 The Case of the Franks
90. 4-14 8 Feb 07 The Shake Up
91. 4-15 15 Feb 07 The Night Moves
92. 4-16 22 Feb 07 The End's Not Near, It's Here (Series Finale)
VIDEO: "The OC" is presented by Warner Brothers in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. The picture quality is generally very good, although it falters slightly on occasion. Sharpness and detail were usually solid, although some scenes appeared slightly softer than the rest. The picture does show some mild grain at times (the show apparently was shot on 16mm, according to the Internet Movie Database), as well as some slight traces of pixelation and very slight specks on the source element, but the majority of scenes seemed crisp, clean and clear. Colors appeared bright and vivid, with nice saturation and no smearing.
SOUND: "The OC" is presented in 2.0 audio by Warner Brothers. The show's audio is clear and well-recorded, with the dialogue, music and ambient sounds nicely balanced.
EXTRAS: Creator Josh Schwartz offers a commentary for the final episode. Recorded a few weeks after the credits rolled for the final time on the series, the commentary provides an easygoing, informative discussion of working on the series overall, as well as the preparations and planning for wrapping the series in the best way possible. The bonus DVD offers a featurette on Rachel Bilson's character in the series and the creation of the show's popular "Chrismukkah" celebration. There's also less than 2 minutes of deleted scenes. There's very few features on the bonus disc, so it's odd that these features weren't just included on the fourth disc.
Final Thoughts: The final season of "The O.C." does a fine job wrapping up the show, bringing it back to the mix of comedy, drama and heart that hooked audiences when the series first aired. The final moments also provide a nice wrap for the characters, as well. The DVD presentation offers the episodes with excellent video quality and fine audio. Recommended for fans looking to complete their collection.