I haven't seen Season 3 and I'm not very excited about it. But Heather Havrilesky of Salon's summary amused me much. Here's the transcript:
You know how to avoid the pitfalls of untested new twists? By never trying anything new. To see how well this works, swing on over to Fox for a heaping helping of "The O.C." (8 p.m. Thursdays).
Watching "The O.C." is sort of like listening to a pop song or reading Jane Austen: You know what's coming next, and that's what makes it so relaxing. Will Jeri Ryan, the woman trying to mess with Kirsten, succeed in toppling her world, or at least ripping off a big chunk of her cash? Will Ryan sail away on a fishing boat? Will Seth and Summer end up 3,000 miles apart in college next year? Will Marissa skip college to hang out with the dull surfer boys she met at public school?
The answers are no, no, no and no. Because if anything really big
and ugly happened, then we couldn't begin the episode with Sandy,
Kirsten, Seth and Ryan engaging in witty banter in the kitchen as they
eat cereal and bagels and prepare for the day. If bad things really
stuck, then Seth and Summer couldn't sip coffee in the high school
cafe, and Marissa, Ryan, Summer and Seth couldn't sum everything up,
Scooby-style, at the local diner. No, everything will work out just
fine, and Death Cab for Cutie will be playing when it does.
In fact, it's easy to break "The O.C." down into a limited number of types of scenes.
A: Sandy, Kirsten, Seth, Ryan banter wittily while spreading shmear on bagels in Cohen kitchen
B: Seth, Summer sit in coffee joint at high school, exchanging snotty remarks
C: Seth, Summer, Ryan and Marissa discuss big troubles at local diner
D: Sandy and Kirsten have a tense talk in the bedroom about Ryan, Seth or the Newport Group
E: Marissa swigs from bottle, throws something to the floor, breaks down crying, wakes up from a terrible dream, etc.
F: Outsider or thug-type charms/threatens Ryan or Marissa
G: Ryan punches someone out on the beach, at the school carnival, at that club where Seth used to work or at the big charity ball, while Marissa stands by, horrified
Put the letters together, and you can make an episode of your very own! How about ABDBAEG? That's a good one! Or why not one of my favorites, AFBFDEFG. That third F scene really chilled me to the bone, how about you?
Based on current and former prime-time soaps, it's clear that it's really hard to write a soap that's unpredictable, clever and fun to watch. As absurd and as fun as "Melrose Place" was, it wasn't surprising very often, "Dynasty" doesn't exactly stand the test of time, and have you tried to sit through an episode of "Dallas" lately? Except for those scenes where Charlene is grabbing for the prescription pills in her handbag, "Dallas" is essentially unwatchable. "Desperate Housewives" is going nowhere, slowly, and watching "Nip/Tuck" is like swallowing broken glass.
The producers of "The O.C." are obviously focused on making sure that in most scenes 1) the dialogue is clever and lively, and 2) the hair and makeup and outfits look great. Plot? Not so important.
Take Seven of Nine -- er, Jeri Ryan. She comes into Kirsten's life at rehab, and is obviously up to no good, which we know because every time Kirsten turns away or leaves, we see Jeri's sneaky, evil face, plotting away. That alien lady is up to no good, I tell ya! Then we see her at the local shitty motel, discussing her evil non-plans with her nondescript boyfriend. "Kirsten has money, and I'm going to figure out a way to get some of it!" Next, she gets Julie Cooper a condo -- Huh? How? -- and forces Julie to help her throw a fake charity event so they can keep all the money for themselves. So now Jeri's story has been building for half a season, right? So how does it end? Julie changes her mind, tells the people at the charity event to make their checks out to a real charity, has a brief confrontation with Jeri in which she scares her out of town, comes clean to Kirsten, and by the next episode Kirsten is over it.
The twist on "The O.C." is actually a deeply embedded part of the formula. Someone menacing or a little pathetic or both enters the picture -- Oliver, surfer boy, Ryan's pregnant ex, Julie's sleazy ex, Ryan's idiot brother, Seven of Nine -- they hang out for a while, making everyone nervous, and then they leave. The end.
And yet ... "The O.C." is still mildly relaxing and enjoyable. Is it the shiny hair, or the strummy indie soft rock?