California Here I Come

Looking at the Greatness that was the 1st Season of The OC and Why The World Needs Sandy Cohen

9426_599181912542_3646095_nBy Chris DuPrau @ChrisDuPrau, @TheDupesnet



I know what you’re thinking, “Why the hell is Dupes doing an article on a tv show that ended over 5 years ago?”  There are a couple ways I can answer that for you..

  1. I never intended this site to be exclusively sports oriented.  I always planned on discussing music and entertainment in one form or another.
  2. I know 4 things really well, sports, history, tv and music
  3. I am an admitted lover of the teen drama genre
  4. People have forgotten how GREAT The OC was when it first came out, and I want to show all of you why the first season of The OC was one of the best seasons in television history.

Now you’re probably thinking, “Dupes, The OC was ok, maybe even good, but how on Earth can you say the first season was one of the best seasons in tv history?”  I understand your skepticism, but I’m not going to give you  one reason why it was great.  That would be a disservice to the show.  No my friends, I’m going to give you 10 REASONS why the first season of The OC was one of the best seasons for any show EVER!

1.       The perfect first episode: It’s can be really hard to draw people in to watch the opening episode of a show.  You have no emotional connection, and there may already be a show you watch in that time slot.  Realize The OC came out right before mainstream DVR.  Fox went full throttle promoting the show, so knowing about it wasn’t a problem.  Everyone knew about it, but knowing about it and being invested are two radically different things.  In the opening 8 minutes of the show, The O.C. got people invested.

 Right away we are introduced to our main character Ryan Atwood (Benjamin McKenzie)  as he is reluctantly joining his brother in the attempted stealing of a car.  The heist does not go well, and after they crash trying to escape Ryan is in jail where we meet his attorney, Sandy Cohen (Peter Gallagher).  Sandy gives Ryan a spiel about how Ryan could amount to something which Ryan brushes off and Sandy ends up leaving Ryan when his angry/possibly drunk mother picks him up.  Sandy did give Ryan his card though and said if he needed anything to call him.  When Ryan gets home he ends up getting in a fight with his mom’s white trash boyfriend and is basically kicked out of the house.

At this point the opening theme music, Phantom Planets California begins to play in the background while Ryan is trying to find a place to stay.  It’s a good thing the music is playing, because this is the only part of the show that seems ridiculous. (there are actually many, but this one seemed more lazy)  Ryan is 16, what 16 year old can’t find a single person to crash with for a bit.  There wasn’t one couch open in all of Chino California!  Anyway Ryan ends up calling Sandy and his lawyer not only picked him up, he brought him home to Orange County.  All that happened in the first few minutes, and as a viewer you could not help but be drawn in.

For the rest of the show we are introduced to the attractive ladies of the show which is a must for a teen drama, Marissa Cooper (Misha Barton) Summer (Rachel Bilson) as well as hot moms Kirstin Cohen (Kelly Rowan) and Julie Cooper (Melinda Clarke).  Meet our comedic side kick, Seth Cohen (Adam Brody).  Get a gratuitous beach party scene in which Fox definitely tried to push the envelope by having underage drinking, teen sex, drug use (weed and coke) plus the best line of the whole show.  As Ryan is standing up for Sandy’s son Seth he gets in a fight with Marissa’s boyfriend Luke.  Ryan ends up on the ground and Luke blasts him with one last soccer kick to the ribs, he follows it up with, “Welcome to the O.C. bitch!”  Right there is everything I’m looking for in a show.

The episode ends with Sandy driving Ryan back to his house, only when Ryan goes inside, his mom has apparently moved out without any indication about where she’s gone.  Sandy goes in, looks around and tells Ryan, “c’mon, you’re going home with me”.  Done and Done!  Interesting plot, What’s going to happen to Ryan? Hot girls in a cool location, Orange County California. Parental figures and teenage figures that you like and can relate to.  Friends of mine in college who despised that I loved this show, watched that episode with me and admitted that it was pretty damn good.

tumblr_llg44rDLOh1qhbzd8o1_500 2.       The Buddy dynamic:  Most shows thrive because people watching the show can see aspects of their lives in the lives of the characters on the show.  It doesn’t matter where the show takes place, emotions and connections span time, genre and location.  The dynamic between Ryan and Seth was one of the things that really helped the flow of the show.  Ryan the brooding quiet guy who is a fish out of water in his new home, combined with Seth the comic book nerd with a witty sense of humor who only wanted to fit in with people and be with his dream girl.  Every guy loved watching the show for the girls, but they kept watching the show because of Seth and Ryan.  They could always relate with one of them, and the odd couple nature they shared was way better than the whining endless dialogue of Pacey and Dawson from Dawsons Creek.  IF anything Ryan and Seth were probably a hybrid of Steve, Brandon and Dylan from Beverly Hills 90210.  Fun, smart, a little ridiculous, and almost always entertaining.  They said it best at the end of the 5th episode, “United we’re unstoppable, divided…people get shot”.

3.        The Music: The OC was one of the few shows to pull off both soundtrack music as well as having relevant/up in coming bands play on the show. Music is the long snapper of dramas.  You never really notice them, but when you don’t have a good one, it’ll hurt you in the long run.  The show did a phenomenal job of combining the music and the moment.  One of the best examples of this is Super Fury Animals Hello Sunshine during the first time Seth and Summer have sex.  Right as Summer takes off her shirt the music starts..”Hello Sunnnnshine”..perfect. (I could only find the clip in Spanish, but the Hello Sunshine part still works)

No one carried a passed out Marissa better than Ryan

No one carried a passed out Marissa better than Ryan

The OC also went outside the box by not being afraid to use a song twice during the season to represent emotion or closure on an event.  It started in the first episode with Mazzy Stars dramatic Into Dust playing as Ryan carries a drunk Marissa off of her driveway and puts her in her bed.  It was used again when Ryan carried a drunk/drugged up Marissa out of a Tijuana club.  Later on Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah gets a double play being used in the 2nd episode when he turns down Marissa’s advances as well in the season finale.  (We’ll get into this more later)

(Another version of the song gets played at the end of season 3 when Marissa…well…lets not talk about it, but it’s emotional.)Real musical acts were more of a season 2 thing, but I felt it deserved to be mentioned.

4.       The Nerd Angle: In fairness this aspect may have appealed more to me than to other people, but The OC managed to combine a luxurious lifestyle with a ridiculous amount of geek dialogue.  Seth a Ryan have all sorts of random comic book lines as well Matrix, Star Wars and LOTR comments that only a fan of those genres would ever notice.  I know it’s not a huge deal but it just made a show that seemed an entire world away seem somehow relatable.

5.        The Love Triangle: The O.C. ran the gambit on the quality/watchability of their love triangles.  The initial one, Ryan-Marissa-Luke was the classic new person in town treats the pretty girl better than her boyfriend and she eventually chooses him.  It was enjoyable because we all rooted for Ryan, and even provided us with a curve ball when Ryan and Marissa didn’t immediately start going out after Marissa and Luke broke up.  The worst love triangle was by far the awkward Ryan-Marissa-Oliver one.  Oliver was weird, psychotic, and lowered the enjoyability of a good 3-5 episodes.  Everyone knew Oliver was crazy and all you could do was be frustrated that Marissa didn’t see it.  The sexiest love triangle wasn’t even really a love triangle, but it did involve two ridiculously hot women.  The Julie Cooper – Jimmy Cooper – Hailey Nichol love triangle was fantastic and ended up in a pool cat fight between Julie and Hailey.  It wasn’t’ a love triangle because Julie didn’t want Jimmy back, she just didn’t want Hailey dating him, but either way, it’s tough to not enjoy two hot women in a pool cat fight!


Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

The love triangle that stood far above the rest was definitely the Summer-Seth-Anna love triangle.  The story involved in it was great, but even better was viewers were actually torn on who to root for.  Seth who for his whole life had zero girls interested in him all of sudden had two hot ones vying for his affection.  One on side there was Summer, Seth’s dream girl who until recently didn’t even know he existed.  On the other side was Anna (Samarie Armstrong) , a new student from Pittsburgh who shared an affection/knowledge of all the nerdy things Seth loved.  Seth goes through many ups and downs trying to figure which one to go for including a fantastic Thanksgiving scene when he has both of them over at the house only neither know the other one is there.  After he picks Anna, Summer begins to worm her way into the situation and tries to push Anna out.  Eventually Seth finally ends up getting together with Summer and their relationship for the most parts lasts through the duration of the show.  The whole thing sparked a really fun debate that was way more realistic than then famous Ginger vs. Mary Ann one from Gilligans Island.  Do you go for gorgeous, but little in common, or cute but a ton in common?   The nice thing about this is there was definite answer to which girl everyone thought Seth should be with, which is exactly what you want in a quality TV love triangle.



 6.       The MILF – Teen Hookup:  Every guy growing up had a friend who’s mom was just more attractive than all the other moms.  Even though you knew it wasn’t going to happen, you would have killed for the chance to make sweet sweet love to them.  Well none of those moms were as hot a Julie Cooper.   I may be biased as I have a thing for redheads, but a legitimate argument could made that Julie Cooper was the hottest person in the whole show.  When she begins to have a relationship with Marissa’s ex-boyfriend Luke she was basically bringing every mans fantasy to life.  Special kudos to the great use of Bob Seger’s Night Moves when she first seduces Luke.  Had I ever been seduced by a friends mom as a teenager I would hope it would be to Night Moves.

 7.       Chrismaka: In the tradition of made up holiday things for TV i.e. Festivus, The Holiday Armadillo, Mac and Charlie throwing rocks at trains, The OC gave us Chrismaka a fantastic holiday created by Seth combining Christmas and Hanukkah.  There is nothing that can’t happen when you have the power of Jesus and Moses working for you.

8.       Vegas Baby:  Everyone loves a good Vegas themed episode, and The OC did not disappoint.  This is the episode that in my mind made the Hard Rock Casino.  There is not a single person who saw this episode that did not dream of being in a suite with it’s own bowling ally.  In the episode, Seth believes that a hot girl was into him, and she eventually turns out to be a hooker.  To get the money to pay for the time with the girl and her friends Ryan has to pull an Ali rope-a-dope at a Rounders esc. underground card room while Jimmy and Sandy were learning about one of Caleb Nichols devious plans.  Sandy said it best, “I love the Vegas”

9.       A Season Finally That Left You Wanting More:  The episode as a whole was perhaps not great, but the way it ended literally left you counting the days until the show returned.   Ryan decides to go home and be with a girl from Chino that he knocked up, leaving Marissa as she is developing a hefty drinking problem as she moves into her moms and Caleb Nichols mansion, Seth is sailing by himself to Tahiti on a boat that could never possibly make it there.  Summer, Kirsten and Sandy are left  in tears without the people they really care about, and the whole thing is happening as Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah” is playing in the background .  Fucking intense!

Preach Sandy

Preach Sandy

10.   Sandy Freaking Cohen:  In my TV watching lifetime there have been many great fathers that have given me ideas about the kind of father I would be.  I of course am influenced the most by my own, but other gentlemen have left an imprint on me as well.  Red Forman of That 70’s Show and his ability to call everyone a “dumb ass”, Coach Eric Taylor of Friday Night Lights on how to handle a daughter if I have one, Mitch Leary from Dawson’s Creek for his ability to handle a son who has absolutely NO interest in sports.  All of them have left their mark, but above them all in my mind is Sandy Cohen.  With Sandy Cohen the O.C creators made some sort of Super Dad, he’s like Danny Tanner, Joey and Uncle Jessie from Full House combined, only without the cheesy factor.


Thought provoking life lessons…Check

Ability to be funny in a Dad sort of way…Check

Remains cool throughout the show…Check

The reason Sandy worked out so well on the show was not because he was different from the two main male characters of the show, (Ryan and Seth) but because he actually seemed like a combined older version of the two.  Like Ryan he came from a rough background and now found himself part of the richest family in Newport.  Like Seth he was different from everybody else in their community and saw many of them as snobs living in bubble having no concept of the outside world.


He fights for the little guy, he tells his wife when she complains about Seth to, “quit salting his game”, he’s self deprecating and he even freaking surfs.  What can’t this guy do?!  There is a tendency for fathers in television shows to come off as a parody of the traditional father.  It’s a tough trap as a writer and an actor to not fall into.  You’re not really a Dad to the people on the show, you’re acting like you’re their dad.  Sandy Cohen didn’t seem like an act, he seemed like a dad.  In almost every situation he put his family first, when his family had a problem he did the best he could to fix it.  Whether that be making sure Ryan got a chance to get into the private High School, Kirsten finally getting respect from her father or having a hysterically awkward sex talk with Seth, Sandy was there for his family.

The world is a crazy place now and there are different expectation and requirements to being a good Dad.  As I now a member of the club, I think the most about things my Dad did for me, because he was a great Dad.   I also think about Sandy Cohen though.  He wasn’t a perfect TV dad, but he was possibly the best.


There it is, 10 reasons why the first season of The O.C. was one of the best seasons for a show ever.  Am I saying The O.C.’s 1st season was the best TV show season EVER?  Absolutely not, that goes to The Wire’s first season   After reading all that you’re probably thinking one of three things…

  1. I’m insane for writing an article about a show that went off the air over 5 years ago and you’re mad you just wasted 20 minutes reading it.
  2. You don’t remember that show being that good, but maybe you’ll give it a second try on Soap net or Netflix.
  3. Finally someone who loves this show as much as I did.

Either way, writing this has wet my appetite for some SoCal drama.  I watched the whole first season again (yes I own it) to write this, and I think it might be time to start season two.  California here I come.

Keep on Keepin’ on


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