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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.