'The O.C.': THR's 2003 Review

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Tate Donovan, Rachel Bilson, Melinda Clarke, Peter Gallagher, Kelly Rowan, Chris Carmack, Mischa Barton, Benjamin McKenzie and Adam Brody in 'The O.C.'
Orange County gets Foxified, to no one's great satisfaction.

On August 5, 2003, Fox premiered creator Josh Schwartz's hourlong teen drama The O.C., which aired for four seasons on the network. The Hollywood Reporter's original review is below: 

The title notwithstanding, it's not likely that the Orange County Chamber of Commerce will be celebrating the first new series of the season, The O.C. For entirely different reasons, the same likely can be said of Emmy voters. Mostly, it depicts residents of Southern California's Orange County — particularly the females — as sexy, stupid and shallow. And mostly it takes a paint-by-numbers approach to drama, laying out a predictable story in an unimaginative way, putting the greatest priority on filling the screen with chiseled faces and well-toned bodies.

To be sure, Fox has a tradition of building shows on curves and biceps, but, for the ones that succeed, such as Beverly Hills, 90210, that's mostly a starting point. In creator Josh Schwartz's script, which leaves no stereotype unturned, it's also the middle and the end.

The perception of the lush life of Orange County, and specifically Newport Beach, is filtered through the eyes of Ryan Atwood (Benjamin McKenzie), a 16-year-old reluctant car thief from Chino who is assigned to sympathetic public defender Sandy Cohen (Peter Gallagher). Cohen treats the kid as if he is the first lad ever to fail to measure up to his potential, even allowing Ryan to stay in the family pool house, much to the chagrin of Sandy's wife, Kristen (Kelly Rowan). The arrangement works out well, however, for Ryan and Sandy's son, Seth (Adam Brody), a video game nerd and The O.C.'s version of Screech.

Will Ryan refuse to succumb to the abundant temptations of Orange County? Can you take the boy out of Chino and the Chino out of the boy? Will the street-smart kid (who, like most of the cast members, looks a few years older than the role he plays) bring a sense of purpose and a dose of reality to the new generation at Newport Beach? Need you ask?

Gallagher, who has an impressive list of credits, gets little opportunity to exercise acting chops in this series. Director Doug Liman coaxes a reasonably modulated performance out of newcomer McKenzie, but the material is what it is. Production values are more than adequate, considering that most of the action takes place in either a Chino bungalow or some Newport Beach mansion.

The Tuesday airdate is a pre-baseball attempt to give this show traction. After the World Series, The O.C. is to move to Thursdays. Viewers, meanwhile, should keep in mind the prophetic words of Seth who, when considering whether to attend a beach party, says, "If it sucks, we can always bail." How true, how true. — Barry Garron, originally published Aug. 4, 2003.