16 great shows: the o.c. (2003)

(Bitter Script Reader challenged their followers to make a list of 16 Great Shows that have influenced them as writers and viewers. This is my list.)


“Do you ever feel like something just burrows inside you and becomes a part of your very soul?”

This is something I actually said to my roommate about five years ago as the opening credits of The O.C. played on my nth rewatch of the series. (Approximate and paraphrased, of course. Though I do remember gesticulated with my hands as if the music was actually burrowing inside of me as it played.)

I may have been the slightest bit hyperbolic in that moment, but the core of my statement remains true. There’s something about this show that awakens nostalgia within me. And here’s the thing–I have virtually nothing in common with any of these characters.

Unlike Dawson’s Creek or My So-Called Life, this show was not the epitome of the normal teenage experience. And I don’t think it was trying to be.

It was a glamorization of the normal teenage experience. It was a soap opera wrapped up in glitz and glamor and a mix tape of Alexi Murdoch, Jem, and Phantom Planet. It was nostalgia in its most common form–idealized nostalgia.

We don’t want to remember high school as it was, we want to remember high school as we wished it had been.

And yeah, most of us related to Seth Cohen to an unhealthy degree, but by and large the show was not relatable. It wasn’t even all that realistic. And it wasn’t supposed to be.

It was fun. It was comforting. It had a great soundtrack.

Like, a fucking great soundtrack.

And that is probably what has affected me the most in my writing. In my most recent pilot, I just went ahead and put the music in to the script. I knew what songs I wanted and I knew they’d help me convey tone, so I did it.

The O.C. was a major stepping stone to where we are now with shows like The Leftovers and The Good Wife and The Handmaid’s Tale that use music, particularly popular music, to tell their story in the most evocative way possible.

Sure, The O.C. will always hold a special place in my heart for Sandy Cohen and Seth Cohen and Summer Roberts and Ryan Atwood and Taylor Townsend and on and on and on.

For its wit and its optimism and its youth.

For its ability to stay with me for nearly 15 years and counting.

But the music and how it complemented the show will always be the thing that sticks with me the most.

If you’re still reading this, let’s make this interactive. What are some of your favorite musical moments in any television show or movie? What stood out to you about it?

I’ll share one, something simple.

I’ve been watching Playing House (highly recommend) and their opening credits song is “Back Before We Were Brittle” by Say Hi. I was stoked to hear it because I’ve been a Say Hit fan since they were Say Hi To Your Mom.

Speaking of, it’s a perfect song to evoke nostalgia. Mixed with the home video style of the opening credit visuals, it’s absolutely perfect and invites you in to be best friends with Maggie and Emma. Which is really the charm of the show and the reason everyone should watch.

So in summation, The O.C. has great music, Playing House is charming, and what are your favorite musical moments?


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