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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The O.C. - The Complete Fourth Season
The O.C. - The Complete Fourth Season
Warner Bros. // Unrated // May 22, 2007
List Price: $59.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Greg Elwell | posted May 15, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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Full disclosure -- when my wife and I took a trip to Napa a few months ago, we landed in Oakland, got in our rental car and immediately got out the iPod so we could play Phantom Planet's "California" while we drove.

"This American Life" host Ira Glass even admitted that he and his wife loved the series.

All of us mourned when it ended. Now you can see what makes me a little weepy every day with "The O.C. - The Complete Fourth Season."

For no good reason, we got hooked on "The O.C." back in season one, when Seth Cohen (Adam Brody) was trying to choose between Summer Roberts (Rachel Bilson) and Anna Stern (Samaire Armstrong). Something about an emo-loving, comic book obsessed nerd getting to choose between two exceedingly hot women somehow got me interested.

But that was all the way back in Season 1. And things have really, really changed since then. Here's the run-down, if for no other reason that it will show you the disturbing depths of my O.C. fandom.

Sandy Cohen rescues a youthful offender, Ryan Atwood, from the streets of Chino, CA and brings him home to Orange County. He's adopted by Sandy and Kirsten and becomes a brother and friend to the nerdy Seth.

Seth hooks up with Summer, despite their differences. Ryan falls for rich and troubled Marissa Cooper. Then they break up. Then they get back together. Then they break up. Same for Seth and Summer. In fact, everybody breaks up, except for Sandy and Kirsten.

Ryan has a kid with his ex from Chino, but she tells him she loses the pregnancy and he returns to Orange County. Seth runs away to Seattle, which pisses off Summer, who meets a new guy. Seth dates an older woman who becomes a lesbian and dates Marissa. Seth draws a comic book with Summer's new boyfriend. Ryan dates a new girl who may or may not be his half-step-aunt.

Marissa gets kicked out of school because of Taylor Townsend, who really just wants to be friends. Taylor is befriended by Seth, who she then tries to steal from Summer. Marissa goes to a new school where she meets new boys. One of them dies and then she gets involved with a guy named Volchok. Summer and Seth compete for a spot at Brown University. Marissa decides to live with her dad on a boat in Asia or something and dumps Volchok, who is obsessed with her. Ryan is taking her to the airport when Volchok runs them off the road and Marissa is killed. 

Season 1 was a phenomenon. Season 2 a little less so. Season 3 was brutal. Beyond brutal. It was so bad that when Season 4 came around, expectations were low.

The O.C. - The Complete Fourth Season marks the first time in the show's history that Mischa Barton was missing from the cast, but the shadow of Marissa Cooper loomed large over the new season's first episodes.

We see that Ryan has become isolated from the Cohen family, routinely ducking their attempts to talk. He's dealing with his pain and rage in classic Atwood fashion - by fighting.

Seth and Summer are struggling as well. Summer's best friend is dead and while she's headed off to college, her boyfriend is working in a comic book store.

Julie Cooper is in denial over her daughter's death and is acting secretive. Could this affair-having gold digger be cheating on Summer's dad already?

All of this early season drama culminates with Ryan (who reluctantly takes Seth) heading to Mexico to find - and possibly kill - Volchok. It's a dark opening and it didn't do much to keep viewers around. The humor and wit of previous seasons was lost and it showed in the ratings.

I would argue that the oppressively downbeat early episodes (most on the first disc of the set) are what made this an abbreviated season, with only 16 episodes, compared to other seasons that reached at least 24. It was also the lowest rated season, with viewership down by more than half of the first season. 

Those numbers might have influenced the direction the season took from there, as things got decidedly peppier with "The Metamorphosis" episode, in which the Taylor-Ryan romance begins and Summer's new environmentally conscious attitude emerges. Even Julie becomes less concerned with Marissa's death and starts taking more interest in her other daughter, the trouble-loving Kaitlin. 

The real magic starts in the next episode, however. "The Sleeping Beauty" ties together the darker story (Ryan suffering insomnia because of his anger) with the happier tone as Taylor seeks to seduce Ryan by acting as his sleep therapist. Even better is the introduction of oil tycoon Gordon Bullit (Gary Grubbs) who is smitten with Julie and has no problem saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.

Bullit is the breakout character of the season, much moreso than Summer's activist buddy Che (Chris Pratt) or even the next big guest star, Frank (Kevin Sorbo).

He first shows up in "The Earth Girls Are Easy," but becomes a major player in the next episode, "The My Two Dads," in which he is revealed to the rest of the cast as Ryan's father, who wants to reconnect with his son.  

The rest of the season concerns Ryan and his father reconciling, Frank and Julie and Bullit in a love triangle, the growing friendship between Bullit and Kaitlin, Ryan and Taylor's on-again-off-again affair and Seth and Summer trying to figure out if they are meant to be together.

The final episode, "The End is Not Near, It's Here" takes place six months after the end of the previous episode and deals with the aftermath of an earthquake and several other plot twists we learn about as the story goes on. It's a fun little wrap up to the series that jumps around a lot, including to a wedding in the future, a graduation and - bringing the entire series full circle - a chance for Ryan to do the same kindness that was done to him by helping a troubled boy in the wrong part of town. 

Disc 1

The Avengers The Gringos The Cold Turkey The Metamorphosis

Disc 2

The Sleeping Beauty The Summer Bummer The Christmukk-huh? The Earth Girls Are Easy

Disc 3

The My Two Dads The French Connection The Dream Lover The Groundhog Day

Disc 4 

The Case of the Franks The Shake Up The Night Moves The End's Not Near, It's Here (includes audio commentary)

Disc 5

Deleted Scenes
The Magic That Is Chrismukkah: Cast, Crew and Religious Experts Weigh in on "The O.C."'s Distinctive Holiday Celebration

Summer Roberts - Beauty Meets Brown: The Creation and Evolution of One of the Shows Most Lovable Characters

Picture

Lovingly shown in 1.78:1 widescreen, The O.C. - The Complete Fourth Season is a really nice looking set. The initial few episodes are dark in tone and dark in color, but as the series finds humor again, the colors return to bright and sunny. It's clean and sharp, with no hiccups or other visual blemishes.

Sound

The soundtrack is Dolby 2.0 digital stereo and it sounds fine, if not spectacular. Since it's mostly talk talk talk, you won't miss the richness of surround sound much. The only times it might be needed are during the earthquake episodes later in the season or for the show's ubiquitous use of music. 

Extras

Creator commentary on the final episode is nice, but what about the other 15 shows? I'd be more interested in hearing about the decision to take the series so dark to start with and when and why the decision came to lighten things up again. Was it the plan all along or was there pressure from the network? Regardless, Josh Schwartz gives some insight to wrapping up his baby and all the inside jokes hidden in the episode (like references to the real-life break up of Adam Brody and Rachel Bilson).  

Deleted scenes are OK, but it's not a mystery why they were deleted. A pair of featurettes are included that highlight two of the series most enduring concepts - the evolution of Summer Roberts' character and Seth's super holiday Chrismukkah. Both are funny and the plot points involved in making Summer more than a drunk party girl are interesting for longtime viewers.

Case

The 5-disc set comes in a fold-out package with overlapping stacked discs and a booklet with episode information. The entire product comes in a cover sleeve. It stays with the look of other packages, but it much slimmer than earlier season sets. If you're not embarrassed to watch "The O.C.", you won't be embarrassed by the good looks of the set.

In Other Words...

The O.C. - The Complete Fourth Season is a good collection for fans of the show, but misses out on opportunities to really finish out the cancelled series with a bang. The episodes look good and the writing really pops by disc two of the set, but a lack of commentary on all but the last episode is disappointing. This is Recommended for those who need their Seth Cohen fix, but without more extras, I can't rate it any higher.

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