"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 has 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 gets 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 finds himself with Sandy Cohen (Peter Gallagher), his public defender.
Although he 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 takes a little while to get 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 tries to catch the interest of Summer (Brody's actual girlfriend, Rachel Bilson), who he has a dream to sail away with. Meanwhile, Marissa's father (Tate Donovan) still remains in touch with his old significant other, Kristen.
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 first two episodes were also directed by Doug Liman ("Bourne Identity"), who serves as an executive producer on the show.
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 and does occasionally use some of Crowe's mannerisms well. Brody is hilarious, with an oddball comedic timing that's energetic and funny. Barton ("Lost and Delirious") 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. Overall, the show was a pleasant surprise for me - good enough so that I'm thinking about starting to watch it regularly when it returns soon for its next season.
This DVD set includes all 27 episodes from the first season.
2. The Model Home
3. The Gamble
4. The Debut
5. The Outsider
6. The Girlfriend
7. The Escape
8. The Rescue
9. The Heights
10. The Perfect Couple
11. The Homecoming
12. The Secret
13. The Best Chrismukkah Ever
14. The Countdown
15. The Third Wheel
16. The Links
17. The Rivals
18. The Truth
19. The Heartbreak
20. The Telenovela
21. The Goodbye Girl
22. The L.A.
23. The Nana
24. The Proposal
25. The Shower
26. The Strip
27. The Ties That Bind
VIDEO: "The OC" is presented by Warner Brothers in 1.33:1 full-frame. 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: An audio commentary from creator Josh Schwartz and producer Stephanie Savage is available for the first episode. The commentary is fairly average - while the duo provide some interesting information about casting, developing the characters and other aspects of the production, there are a fair amount of patches where the two fall back to simply talking about what's happening on-screen. Some episodes have optional "music guides" as well.
The seventh disc has the remainder of the supplements. "Casting the O.C." is a 15-minute documentary that has the show's casting director, creator, actors and others discussing how they found the right actors for the roles and how the characters were developed. "Music of the O.C." is a 10-minute documentary that features interviews with the music supervisor and creator, who discuss trying to find music that fits the characters and story, as well as trying to find new sources for music. "Inside the real OC" has producer McG talking to some kids from OC about "The O.C." Next, there's nearly 11 minutes of deleted scenes, with introductions from creator Josh Schwartz.
Finally, we get a sneak peek for the second season, as well as a DVD-ROM weblink.
Final Thoughts: "The O.C." is made out to look like a slick soap opera by the ads, but the show is actually a very enjoyable, well-written drama that manages to add a good deal of smart comedy. The performances are solid, as well. Warner Brothers has put together a fine DVD edition, with good audio/video quality and a handful of informative/enjoyable supplements. Recommended.