Teens and adults alike are drawn to drama and beauty in The O.C., T.V.'s guiltiest pleasure

Dec. 19, 2004, midnight | By Katherine Duncan | 16 years, 1 month ago

Obsessed with Orange County

It's a place where the weather is always warm, everyone is thin and beautiful and the houses are enormous. Here, money is no object, and all the clothes are fabulous. Paradise? No, it's The O.C.

The popular show airs Thursdays at 8:00 p.m. on Fox and was launched in August 2003. Since then, The O.C. has become a hit series, receiving an average viewership of eight to nine million people, according to the Nielsen ratings in The Washington Post. According to an informal Silver Chips survey of 100 students on Nov. 18 and 19, 54 percent of Blazers regularly watch The O.C.

The show, which chronicles the privileged lives of four high-school students in California's upscale Orange County (O.C.), keeps viewers glued to the screen; there is never a dull moment or a drama-free episode. Whether it is the wealth, the hot actors, the ever-changing romantic relationships or the ease of relating to the characters, there is something about The O.C. that captures audiences and keeps viewers coming back for more.

O.C. (obsessed completely)

In an episode at the beginning of the first season, the characters drive down to Tijuana, Mexico for a parent-free weekend. In a later episode there is an extravagant "casino night” gala where the men are decked in suave tuxedos and the women are dressed to impress in flashy jewelry and chic dresses. The characters are always beautiful, never a hair out of place or an outfit uncoordinated.

This type of lavish behavior is an aspect of the show that history teacher James Mogge believes attracts people to The O.C. "People like the idea that the characters live in a place where you go on vacation,” he says.

While owning million-dollar mansions, Land Rovers and Infinity pools as the characters on the show do is unrealistic for most teenagers, many Blazers enjoy the glimpses into the lifestyles of the young, hot and privileged that The O.C. offer. Junior Isheba Bayton is intrigued by the wealth on The O.C. and often puts herself "in the [character's] shoes. What would it be like if that was me?” she ponders.

Junior Gerry Powery is drawn to the characters' affluence as well, but in a more realistic way. Powery likes to see the "group of rich white kids” make mistakes and bad decisions like normal teenagers. "It's interesting to see them act stupid with their money,” he says.

Dressing fashionably goes along with being wealthy. In a recent article in The Washington Post, The O.C. was noted for featuring desirable clothes for teenagers, including "an orange-ish/pink Lacoste polo shirt with stripes on the sleeves.” Senior Vicky Dean owns this exact shirt and was "really excited” when it was worn on the show. Dean had previously worn her eye-catching polo but received much more attention and praise about the shirt after it was shown on The O.C. "I had worn the shirt to school [on the day of the show], and that night when it was on, everyone was calling me, saying, 'Oh my God, that's so cool,' and, 'You're really lucky,'” says Dean.

While The O.C.'s fashion attracts a large female audience, the attractive women on the show appeal to many male viewers. The female protagonists, Summer (Rachel Bilson) and Marissa (Mischa Barton), are the two reasons why sophomore Eli Simon-Mishel watches The O.C.

Sophomore Kenny Coleman says that he "got hooked” on The O.C. because of its fast-paced, overlapping plots. "There are always five different things going on at once,” he says. "It captures you.”

Bayton, who enjoys "all the juicy stuff” on The O.C., believes the show is no different from any other teen soap opera. "Most people on TV are attractive,” she says. "It's not like they would put ugly people on the show.”

Now that she is drawn in, Bayton is interested in seeing what happens with all of the relationships on The O.C. "Will they get back together? Will she get with the other guy?” Bayton wonders. "I want to know!”

The characters that Bayton refers to include Marissa, Summer, Seth and Ryan. Tall, thin Marissa is a fashionable 17-year-old alcoholic struggling with her parents' divorce. Summer is Marissa's curvaceous, dark-featured best friend who seems stuck-up but is actually sweet on the inside. Curly-haired Seth (Adam Brody) is a loveable and witty comic book aficionado who is perpetually in love with Summer, and Ryan (Ben McKenzie), a shaggy-haired outsider from Chino, is Seth's best friend who was adopted by Seth's parents at the beginning of the first season.

In an episode where he makes a desperate attempt to charm Summer, Seth recites a poem that she wrote in sixth grade. Seth remembers every single line, sheepishly saying, "I wish I was a mermaid and was friends with all the fish. . .” Summer, impressed that Seth remembered her poem, proceeds to kiss him before threatening him into keeping the kiss a secret.

Seth's charming yet nerdy appeal attracts many female Blazers and even boys like Coleman, who think that Seth is funny.

"A guilty pleasure”

In addition to the addictive appeal of the show's characters and relationships, some like that The O.C. is easy to relate to and brings up common teenage issues like drinking, divorce and sex. "It's stuff that we go through on a daily basis,” says junior Donovan Thomas. "[The O.C.] could be based off someone's real life.”

While Mogge cannot relate to all of The O.C.'s teenage problems as its younger viewers can, he still enjoys watching the program.

Mogge first started watching the show with his 21-year-old daughter, who is now in college. Though his daughter lives away from home, Mogge still watches The O.C. every week because he "got drawn in” by the likeable, amusing characters and the funny, intelligent scripts. "I call my daughter during the commercials, and we talk about what happened on the show,” he says.

Mogge enjoys that the parents on The O.C. do not always know what to do and often make mistakes, which he believes is realistic. "I like to watch how the parents and kids interact,” he says. Every Friday after the show, Mogge has "O.C. updates” with his classes, where they briefly discuss what happened on the previous night's episode.

While embarrassed to admit that he likes the program, Mogge says that The O.C. is his guilty pleasure. "I'm going to watch it tonight at eight,” he admits, laughing.

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Katherine Duncan. Katherine Duncan is beyond excited to be in her senior year of high school. A perpetually tired, slightly spaztic girl, Katherine enjoys many things--including hanging out with her friends, going shopping and being lazy. Though she is still license-less, she has a permit (finally) and … More »

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