Starting: The OC

I wanted to look at The OC from the beginning because, as a network drama, it runs much longer than most cable series of the day. I was expecting 24 episodes. I guess I just didn’t remember that I had seen all 27 episodes that many times.

Approaching 27 episodes is a tall order, especially in a show about relationships. Sexual tension is great, but it can’t last. It’s the test of the arc theory. Yet somehow, The OC was riveting. They found ways to create tension every six episodes or so in most of the relationships. The more impressive feat is juggling so many characters. The show is easiest to break down when you look at individual characters and their relationships.

First is Ryan. He sees Marissa in episode 1 and that’s all she wrote. But Luke is in the way. Ryan still pushes ahead, but he gets in a little trouble when Marissa catches him with Caleb’s girlfriend. Luke is done in 7 when he’s caught cheating. So now Ryan is back to chasing Marissa, but Julie Cooper gets in the way with the help of the overdose to give emotional motivation. It doesn’t really stop them and they deepen their bond. But Marissa meets Ryan’s lost love Theresa and a crazy pants named Oliver. Oliver puts the strain on the relationship and then back comes Theresa! Fortunately, Theresa gets tossed away for a few episodes because she’s got a fiancee. But then she’s back… and pregnant! This is soap at its finest. Ryan is forced to choose and makes the wrong choice to make you want to scream “HOW DO THEY COME BACK FROM THAT?” and watch season 2.

Seth is the next hero and his story is focused early on Summer. He also has nobody else before her. So you have to throw things in quickly or it’ll be stalkery. Anna. And she’s just like him. But Seth needs a little difference. So jettison Anna and get Summer with Seth. But you still need to reconcile that Seth is finding himself socially and Summer is found. And they lose their virginities to each other to show they’re not so different after all. So they have some new relationship growing pains. But then families get in the way. And Ryan shakes Seth’s world, so he leaves and you’re screaming “HOW DO THEY COME BACK FROM THAT?” again.

Normally, this is enough story for a while, but there were 27 episodes (!!!!). So the parents get involved. Sandy and Kirsten deal with Jimmy, Caleb, Rachel, Julie, and more. Jimmy gets his own stuff with the SEC, Hailey, and more. Julie has Jimmy, Caleb, Luke, and more to deal with. When someone isn’t involved, throw them with someone they haven’t been with and figure out the conflict.

I’ve been working on an idea set in a college that’s inspired by the tone of The OC and I’m nervous I have to explore the relationships of faculty. Greek settled differentiating the storylines with a bit of an upstairs-downstairs dynamic of upper and lower-classmen. I’ll need to find a creative approach to finding other points of view.

Positives:

  • Good Alternatives – Seth and Summer are destined to be together as much as Sandy and whoever that bushy-browed love machine wants are (which happens to be Kirsten), so finding a way to derail that realistically is hard without putting Seth through the pain of seeing her with another guy. That feeling is one that we don’t want to watch because Seth can’t really be active. So give him a really attractive alternative. Not attractive in terms of model looks (although Samaire Armstrong is really pretty), but in terms of compatible personality. It’s real conflict.
  • Casting – I don’t watch the show if Mischa Barton and Rachel Bilson aren’t so attractive. Guy’s perspective. I don’t watch the show if Ben McKenzie and Adam Brody aren’t so dreamy. Girl’s perspective. I’d fuck the shit out of Peter Gallagher. Everyone’s perspective.
  • Jews – Positive Jewish role models in media are not always present despite stereotypes that everyone in Hollywood is Jewish. Seth Cohen made me proud to be a Jew and Chrismukkah is one of the most fun instances of pop culture Judaism in my memory.
  • Over the Topness – A show that plays around like this is allowed to have some crazy stories every once in a while. The cougar seducing her daughter’s ex is a bit played and spectacular, but it works in this show.
  • Constant Flux – The arc theory of 6-8 episodes holds. There is never a calm because there is always a storm somewhere. It just may not be ready to hit. Imagine a car crash. One car was going to the zoo. Fun. The other car was driven by a drunk. Boom. That two emotional reactions and they escalate.

Negatives:

  • Moving Out – I know you can’t just have the actors hanging around all the time because they are expensive, but how many people really move away? Maybe one, but it’s probably not coincidentally the person that needs to go. I’m looking at you, Anna.
  • Jimmy – This guy gets away with too much sleeze.
  • Trey – They recast you for a reason.
  • The mom – She was just annoying. Ugh. I get it. You’re a drunk. Go away.

Lessons:

  • Flux – Never stay stagnant. Always look to throw a wrench in as soon as people achieve equilibrium. But let them reach equilibrium. It’s nice to have good moments.
  • Be Yourself – The show has a voice unlike any other. The universe is one that exists because of tone.
  • Characters – More episodes means more characters. Maybe look to keep 13 in mind and the back 9-11 could have newer, more exploratory arcs. I don’t want to have to get broad if I don’t have to. But maybe that was the point.
  • Legal bullshit – Don’t get bogged down with SEC shit. It’s a mess.

Conflict: A Three Ring Circus

The amazing Juggalo (no relation) comes out to entertain the kids. He shows them three tennis balls. He juggles them easily. He asks a girl in the front row to toss him two more balls. Now he’s juggling 5 balls. Wow. He throws one ball way in the air and throws the other 4 away. Now he has batons. He juggles the batons and then catches the ball in the air and keeps juggling them all. Wow. Now, he’s lit the batons on fire. Juggles again. Now he’s on a unicycle. This guy’s amazing. He goes up 50 ft in the air to unicycle on a tightrope while juggling over a tank of sharks. It’s an amazing feat. Until he falls. And a curtain drops. It seems we’ll have to come back in the fall to find out if he lived or died. Only on Fox.

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Emmy Categories

I was texting my mom during the Emmys and we were pleased to see Breaking Bad sweeping most of the drama awards. She’s not caught up, but I got her to watch the show and she fell in love. I sent her a text after Anna Gunn and Aaron Paul won saying “Don’t worry. Cranston will still lose.” I was sure of it. The narrative of Hollywood made me forget the feeling I got when I watched “Ozymandias” and had to re-watch it 3 times that week because Bryan Cranston’s performance was unlike any I’d ever seen. I fell under the spell of “alright, alright, alright.”

When Cranston won, I backtracked. I texted my mom again, “I told you the only person that could upset Matthew McConaughey was Bryan Cranston.” I’ll admit that I was wrong. And I remembered what I thought back in January: Good thing Cranston doesn’t have to compete against McConaughey. That was before True Detective declared as a drama.

The Emmys allow shows to self-categorize if they straddle the line between genres, which is like if baseball didn’t separate Cy Young by league. How can you compare greatness if they’re not playing by the same rules? One has to face a DH, the other doesn’t. It’s not fair.

In this case, the DH is long-term commitment in casting. Matthew McConaughey is a huge movie star. He won’t commit 6 years of his life to a role because there’s bigger money for him on the bigger screen. Bryan Cranston was just Hal from Malcolm in the Middle when Breaking Bad started. He didn’t have agents telling him to avoid the commitment because he was just happy for quality work. True Detective gets to pack heavy hitters in because it’s only a single season commitment. Single season and series are mutually exclusive terms, which is why the miniseries category exists. The Emmys act like miniseries are allowed to declare as a drama as a step up from miniseries and play with the big boys, which is not true. They are separate because they play by different rules.

Bryan Cranston deserved the Emmy. But I think that his win was also justice for Nic Pizzolatto (aka Big Pizza) and friends trying to take advantage of a loophole in the rules to gain more positive press. They had to give Cary Fukunaga an Emmy for that awe-inspiring tracking shot, but McConaughey lost as punishment for not submitting in the correct category. Sorry to Sherlock and Watson, but Marty and Rust could have swept the miniseries awards.

I also want to note the biggest snub of the Emmys this season and it’s directly caused by this stupid rule. Shameless is a drama. Emmy Rossum (who deserves an award to match her name) had a heart-breaking downward spiral this season that was worthy of a Lead Actress in a Drama Emmy. But she was submitted as an actress in a comedy. Her performance was not comedic. It”s not good comedy acting to be dramatic. Which proves that the show is not a comedy because the actors are trying to be dramatic. Even Rectify makes jokes. It’s not a comedy. And I’m still mad about the Golden Globes calling The Tourist a comedy and even nominating that garbage.

Play by the rules. Be what you are. If your story is one season, it’s not a series. A series needs at least two seasons. That’s just the definition of the word. Otherwise, you’re a miniseries. And don’t argue that True Detective is two seasons. Season 2 will have nothing to do with season 1. The only thing in common is the name brand that Matthew McConaughey established and then immediately left.