The O.C.: Originally broadcast from August 5, 2003 to February 22, 2007
If you were a teenager at the right time, the chances are you were a big fan of The O.C. Just looking at it was fantastic - who doesn't love fantasising about the life they could have with a smidge more money (my first ever sight of an infinity pool was in The O.C., and to this day they still fascinate me).
But, of course, we don't want to be too envious, so the team behind the show chucked in plenty of disasters to show us just how bad the high life really is. The grime behind the gleam. Sure, The O.C. wasn't the first show to do this - look at Dallas, or Beverly Hills 90210 - but it was great at it.
The core of the show, naturally, was the key foursome - Ryan, Marissa, Seth and Summer. As a side note, it's bizarre now to think that the fantastic Rachel Bilson wasn't originally a series regular. She's such a huge part of the show, but Summer wasn't always meant to be a big role. Eww! Thank God they fixed that.
Anyway, we come to this bizarre world through the eyes of Ryan, a "troubled youth" who strikes it ridiculously lucky with his state-appointed lawyer after stealing a car with his no-better-than-he-should-be brother Trey. Trust us, if you're ever in trouble, Sandy Cohen (the magnificently eyebrowed Peter Gallagher) is the man to call. Turns out that he'll let you crash in his pool house. Hell, he might even end up adopting you.
So with Ryan (Ben McKenzie) being an "outsider", we get to see life in Newport Beach through fresh eyes. Of course, Seth (Adam Brody) is an outcast too, but mainly because he's been a bit of a geek, so he's got a whole other perspective of life in Cali. And then there's Marissa - the popular one with a bunch of extracurricular activities - who represents fully fledged O.C. life.
Like with O.C. creator Josh Schwartz's other show Gossip Girl - where you were really supposed to care about Dan and Serena but were captivated instead by Chuck and Blair - Marissa and Ryan were never really the fan-pleasing couple they were meant to be. We still cared about them and loved watching them, but it's no surprise that Seth and Summer ended up being the focus.
Let's be honest - Seth made geeks cool. He was so brilliantly written - perhaps not surprisingly, considering Schwartz has said that he basically based Seth on himself. Seth could be an absolute pain, but he was also incredibly witty and a great counterpoint to the ridiculousness of the Newport Beach world. Just seeing him for the first time as Ryan does, crouched nervously on the floor of his living room chilling out with his PlayStation, it's clear that this is a character who will stick.
And add to that the Seth and Summer romance and you've got something special. Who could forget the amazing Spider-Man kiss? The moment when Seth recites the poem Summer wrote all those years ago? The declaration of love on a coffee cart? Their romance was spectacular and you couldn't avoid being caught up in it, but the show was never afraid of displaying the rockier side of teen relationships (the ridiculously awkward first-time-sex fiasco, for example).
But we shouldn't pretend that the foursome were the only good characters in The O.C. The adults were all rather great too. We've already mentioned the fabulous Sandy Cohen - coolest TV dad ever, right? - but he's not the only wonderful personality in Newport Beach. How about Melinda Clarke's endlessly fascinating Julie Cooper? What a beautiful trainwreck.
We should give a shout out to Tate Donovan, too, for his pathetic but loveable Jimmy. And a show couldn't be a classic without an Alan Dale character having a heart attack (in The O.C. it was Kirsten's fabulously manipulative and sly father Caleb Nicol kicking the bucket).
Watching The O.C. back now, it's fun to spot all the famous faces popping up. There's House's Olivia Wilde as Seth and Marissa's girlfriend Alex! Oh, and there's The Mentalist's Amanda Righetti. Hello, Morena Baccarin, Eric Balfour and The Vampire Diaries' Kayla Ewell. Speaking of The Vampire Diaries, it's kind of a shock to see Paul Wesley pop up in the first season as a bad boy who shoots water polo captain Luke. Amazing.
Of course, you can have the greatest cast and characters in the world, but that's not enough. As well as the sharp yet heartwarming writing, though, The O.C. packed in enough soapiness to wash every US citizen's dishes. Oh yes, we had the normal - teen heartbreak, parents' divorces, fist fights. But The O.C. never just stopped there. We had, for example, a gay dad, overdosing, shootings, fraud and Marissa's just-a-teeny-bit-unstable, knife-wielding love interest Oliver. Plenty to sink your teeth into.
But what was special about The O.C. was that it created its own little world with its own little traditions. Who could fail to fall for Seth's rather ingenious Chrismukkah, for example? These people - and particularly the Cohens - seemed like real families with their own weird customs and lifestyles. Sure, you might not share the traditions - I'm willing to bet no-one had come up with Chrismukkah before - but you understood those family moments, which are surprisingly lacking in a lot of shows.
And Newport Beach became its own little world, too. From the kids' unbelievable school - seriously, arcade games in the common room? - to the Crab Shack to the beach to the Bait Shop, you came to recognise the town. The show had a real sense of place, instead of just being set in some anonymous location with no recognisable features.
Speaking of the Bait Shop, no discussion of The O.C. can ever be complete without a mention of the stunning soundtrack choices. Whether it was artists performing on the show, songs being premiered on the series (including tracks by U2 and Coldplay, apparently) or just general background music, everything was absolutely inspired.
Sure, it's normally cynical to release a CD soundtrack to a TV show - let alone six - but The O.C. gets away with it because it always seemed genuinely committed to new music and emerging artists. And actually, the albums are rather good.
Of course, The O.C. had its problems. You'd find it hard to find someone that wasn't a fan of the first two seasons, but three and four are widely considered to be, well, not the best. And after Marissa went and died in a car crash - how inconsiderate - it's not surprising the show struggled.
That's not to say there aren't enjoyable moments later, even if it's not necessarily for the right reasons. Such as getting your mind boggled by the fact that Summer is now an environmental activist. Or the instalment worthy of Dallas where Ryan and Taylor fall off a ladder and somehow enter a parallel universe. It did get bizarre, but there were always still glimpses of the heart and wit that made The O.C. so spectacular.
So were you a fan of The O.C.? The show's all available on DVD, and it's just as good as you remember. Welcome to the O.C., bitch!
What did you think of The O.C.? Let us know below!