While The OC was only on the air for four seasons, it made such a lasting impression on so many people that you’d think it was on for a decade or more. No doubt about it: there was something special about The OC! It helped define a generation of young people and continues to have an impact today – almost a decade later. So, in the name of science, we give you a list of reasons as to why The OC was such an important TV show.
The first reason why why The OC was so important is that it was one of the first television shows of its type to truly showcase music, and even to make it a big part of the storyline. Death Cab for Cutie (Seth Cohen’s favorite band!), Rooney, and The Killers were all showcased on the show, along with many other indie acts. Even some big singers visited the OC: Gwen Stefani premiered “Cool” on the show, and US premiered “Sometimes You Can’t Make it Out on Your Own.” The OC music was widely praised, as were the six “OC Mixes” that all charted on the Billboard 200.
Another reason why The OC was so important is the money. Wait, let us elaborate. The OC uniquely encapsulated the financial climate of the early to mid 2000s. During this time, the only real economic growth occurred in the top one percent of earners. At a time when the rich were only getting richer while the poor struggled at the bottom of the heap, the OC showed us characters that illustrated this disparity clearly. Poor kid Ryan came from Chino and frequently showed his frustration with the ultra wealthy and often entitled Newport crowd that included Marissa, Summer, and Seth. Kids (and adults) were able to watch the OC and see themselves in the haves or the have-nots, and it made the show incredibly relatable and interesting.
Never let it be said that the OC was afraid to take a storyline risk. One of the reasons why The OC was so important is those dramatic and exciting risks. Two of the most dramatic storylines involved the central character of Marissa Cooper. In the show’s second season, The Bait Shop’s new manager, Alex, becomes very close to Marissa after Alex’s breakup with Seth. Marissa and Alex – a female – soon fall in love and even move in together over a span of several episodes. This lesbian storyline arc was a risk because Marissa had been established as a heterosexual character, and because most tv series just weren’t making such major changes to their already-established characters at that time.
Undoubtedly, the biggest risk – and the single most dramatic moment of the entire series – was Marissa Cooper’s death. In the season three finale, “The Graduates,” Ryan is taking Marissa to the airport to launch her summer visit to Greece when her ex-boyfriend Kevin starts to harass them. The drunk Kevin slams his vehicle into theirs, which triggers a wreck. When Ryan wakes up, he’s in horrible wreckage. He pulls an unconscious Marissa out of the vehicle to keep her out of harm’s way in the inevitable explosion. However, it’s too late: Marissa has only moments left and asks Ryan to stay with her as she passes instead of going for help. Knowing that she has no chance, he holds her gently as she passes away moments later. This clearly shows why The OC was so important: they were willing to make big changes and even kill off characters to keep the story fresh and exciting.
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