Why ‘Gossip Girl’ worked and ‘The O.C.’ didn’t

A couple of years ago, I received “The O.C.” seasons one and two for my birthday. I’ve been re-watching the first couple of episodes with hesitation, as the show kind of went downhill after the second season. It started off with so much promise and amazing writers, but ended abruptly and on a pretty anti-climactic note.

The problems started in the third season. One of the main characters died suddenly, the new characters were annoying, and Orange County just frankly got kind of boring. It’s a quiet town, so I understand why the series teetered once it came time for Marissa, Summer, Seth, and Ryan to enter college. There’s a reason “Gossip Girl” was able to survive once the characters finished high school and “The O.C.” didn’t, and I can’t help thinking that location was the issue. GG takes place in New York City, where some people are perfectly content to spend their whole lives, and “The O.C.” was in Orange County, a considerably less exciting location. It’s pretty, relaxing, and full of wealthy people, but perhaps a better spot to grow up than to spend one’s twenties. New York is good for people of all ages (except children, in my opinion), and I think GG had that going in its favor. Of course, GG is closing up shop after season six, meaning it garnered just two more seasons than “The O.C.” It’s still a good program though, and I don’t think the ending will disappoint.

I enjoyed “The O.C.” as a teenager because I had an easy time relating to it. I may have been living in northern California, but I’d been born down south, so I was familiar with the toxic So Cal money-obsessed culture. I liked to view it from a distance, and “The O.C.” enabled me to do that. The dialogue was excellent and my dad and I enjoyed laughing at some of the characters, so that was fun too. We loved watching “The O.C.” as a unit every Thursday, in part because my father had been neighbors with actor Peter Gallagher in youth and enjoyed seeing him onscreen.

“That Peter Gallagher was such a nice young man,” my grandma remembers fondly, adding that he’d call the house and ask, “Mrs. Donovan, would it be a huge imposition for me to speak with your son Rob?” What a gentleman! To think he was friends with my uncles and dad in the 60s. It was surreal for my dad to see him on TV after their childhood in Armonk. He was just a kid from New York state to the Donovan clan.

Anyway, I’m having a ball on Memory Lane right now, mostly because “The O.C.” brings back hilarious memories of my dad mocking the Phantom Planet theme song and Marissa, but there were some other aspects of the drama that I loved. It’s amusing to remember that Ryan Atwood was incapable of going two episodes without throwing a punch and Marissa always had to get in trouble. The people were all so extreme, and here are some of my favorite lines:

Luke: Welcome to the O.C., bitch! This is how it’s done in Orange County!

Julie: He said I was from Riverside!

Jimmy: Honey, you are from Riverside…

Luke: What are you, Marissa, the spokesperson for Geeks of America?

Ryan: You know what I love about rich kids? Nothing.

Marissa: I mean I am your girlfriend, right?

Summer: Pittsburgh, ew!

Summer: Aren’t you, like, the bus boy?


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