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The O.C.
The Complete Fourth Season

review by Zach B.

 

 

Not Rated

Running Time: 727 minutes

Starring: Peter Gallagher, Kelly Rowan, Ben McKenzie, Adam Brody, Melinda Clarke, Rachel Bilson, Autumn Reeser, Willa Holland

 

Studio: Warner Bros.

Retail Price: $59.98

Features: Audio Commentary with Creator/Writer Josh Schwartz, The Magic That is Chrismukkah, Summer Roberts: Beauty Meets Brown, Unaired Scenes

Specs: 1.33:1 Full Screen, English Dolby Surround Stereo, English Subtitles, French Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scenes (6 per episode), Five-Disc Set

Released: May 22nd, 2007

 

 

Hard to believe as I write this, "The O.C." almost debuted four years ago on Fox and now it's gone. Once a ratings hit and the show that everyone seemed to be talking about, the show seemed to go out pretty quietly - and not with any of the fanfare and chatter when the series initially debuted in the August of 2003 (a SERIES finale for a known show in February, what?). So what happened? Once positioned in the plum Thursday night spot as a vote of confidence, the lovefest for "The O.C." did wane as time went on. The show still had its fans, but the different directions it took (i.e. lots of over-the-top events happening on a consistent basis, new characters to cause trouble) may have caused the show to lose its luster, as there were those turned off by the show backing off from its original premise and ideals.

The show was the brainchild of wunderkind writer Josh Schwartz (the youngest person ever to run a TV series), you probably know the basic gist of the series: bad boy Ryan Atwood heads to scenic Orange County and is taken in by the Cohen family, and turns their lives and those in the circle around them upside down. The affluence! The secrets! The relationships and drama! "The O.C." had it all, not to mention a fantastic indie rock soundtrack that helped define the show with a very hip vibe (it also didn't hurt the song selections perfectly fit the episodes and characters. Spawning six soundtrack compilations and helping to increase the visibility of such bands as Death Cab For Cutie, "The O.C." certainly became part of the epicenter in defining youth-oriented pop culture for the start of the 21st century.

The fourth and final season of "The O.C." is the shortest, as it was only given a run of 16 episodes due to dwindling ratings. When we last left our favorite residents of Orange County, Marissa Cooper died as a result of a car crash when her drunk ex-lover Volchok rammed her and Ryan off the road. The season begins with everyone coming to terms with the death, and an angry Ryan - and others - seeking vengeance. Other happenings in the season include Summer's activism leading her to getting a suspension from Brown, Kirsten getting preggers, Julie Cooper's relationship with Texan Gordon Bullit and a major earthquake that rocks physical and metaphorical foundations for the characters.

Thankfully though, the series finale - "The End's Not Near, It's Here" - sends the series off right, not only respecting the characters that have evolved but also giving closure to them. Show creator Josh Schwartz cleverly gives dual futures in the episode: a majority of it focuses six months after the earthquake, and then a coda that takes place a few years later where the fates of the characters - and their rewards - are revealed. It's a satisfying finale that is told more through action and images in lieu of typical "heartfelt" monologues, and makes you feel that the characters have changed and ties the emotional themes of the series up nicely.

If you ask me, this is probably the show's second best season. Sure, a bit of melodrama remains, but the show's tone is much more reminiscent of the first season (read: why so many fell in love with it in the first place). There is some weighty dramatic tensions to deal with throughout the shortened season, but the show's initial lightness still shines through often (especially after the first couple of episodes). The show also doesn't go overboard as in seasons past, as the plotlines are paced better and the show seems to have slowed down a bit. Instead of some outlandish events happening episode after episode, this seasons builds its arcs more carefully, and along with its characters, a bit more realistically too (which I think was part of the show's appeal originally).

Thankfully, even though the show's hype died down and was on its last legs, the actors still seem game and definitely thrive in their roles. Peter Gallagher is still charismatic and loads of fun as Sandy Cohen, and still shares some nice chemistry with Kelly Rowan (sweet as ever). Seth Cohen and Rachel Bilson's chemistry also shines too (I'm sure their real-life sparks helped out a bit), but separately - given how their characters have developed, they are a bit more subdued. Ben McKenzie brings back some of the bad boy tendencies at the start of the season, but is still quite likable and proves to be a strong and seasoned performer. Autumn Reeser and Willa Holland also bring a lot of pizzazz, and Melinda Clarke is such a fun scenery chewer as Julie Cooper (even though she seems to have toned it down a bit compared to past seasons).

As we all know, everything must come to an end - even TV phenomenons. "The O.C." will always have its fans and detractors, and years from now I'm sure there will be plenty of people still talking about its influence and debating the characters as well the unevenness of the series. While the show may not have lasted as long as some predicted, four seasons is still a damn good run. How many shows that do last four seasons, or even longer, can claim to be influential? Or even monopolize water cooler chat? Not too many if you ask me. While it may not have exactly broke new ground, "The O.C." put a fresh and different spin on the teen drama that so many had become accustomed to. Unique characters, sharp writing and a huge dose of cultural awareness made "The O.C." such an institution - blurring the line in having a series that was fun for teens but also good enough for hipsters.

Syndication and TV afterlife, here we come.

 

Just as it was shown on high definition televisions, the final season of "The O.C." is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. For a television show, these transfers are absolutely stunning and definitely rival most feature films on DVD. Despite a little noise and edge halos, and appearing a bit soft at times, these transfers are pretty much perfect. The episodes look phenomenally sharp, as detail is very strong and color saturation is great (got to love those sunny California views and the ocean blues). Black levels and show detail is just as good, and fleshtones look quite nice as well. Solid stuff, all around,.

 

The English Dolby Surround Stereo tracks are pretty good. They're pretty straightforward, but all the sound elements of the show blend together smoothly. The show's music - be it the original score or indie rock - bring energy, all the dialogue spoken is clear and easy to hear and the sound effects bring in a lot of ambiance and some power (especially in this season, there are some nice stereo effects to make you feel like you're in the earthquake). Perhaps remixing to 5.1 would have been nice and added a bit more layers, but as in past season, these tracks are good as is. Subtitles in English, French and Spanish, plus English closed captions, are included as well.

 

All the show's video based features are on a fifth disc. The first, The Magic That Is Chrismukkah, celebrates the holiday the show gave birth too: a mix of Hannukah and Christmas. If you're a die-hard or even casual fan of the show then you really won't get much out of this featurette. Sure, you may enjoy some of the facts, but there's a lot of explaining and known information here. What may be new to many is the informative religious talk by a few experts, and that some variation of Chrimukkah existed long before the show. Creator Josh Schwartz, executive producer Stephanie Savage, Adam Brody, Peter Gallagher, Ben McKenzie, Autumn Reeser, Kelly Rowan, Rachel Bilson, USC/UCLA Media Studies professor Vincent Brook and famed author/TV host Shmuley Boteach chime in on the holiday - be it the religious aspects, its origins (Schwartz didn't think of it) and its relation to the show's characters. Brook does quite a lot of talking, and what he dispenses is quite fascinating and helps put things into perspective. Clips from the show are included too. A fun, if slightly fluffy, watch.

Summer Roberts - Beauty Meets Brown pays tribute to... Summer Roberts. Rachel Bilson discusses her character, and how she landed the role. Schwartz and Savage also discuss the character and Bilson, and how Summer evolved as a more layered person during the course of the show. Fans will probably like Schwartz, Savage and Bilson's comments, but otherwise, this is basically a recap of the character (probably good if you missed a season or two).

Disappointingly, there's only about 90 seconds worth of Unaired Scenes, which comes from the first episode of the season, "The Avengers" and the last episode, "The End's Not Near, It's Here." Last but certainly not least, on disc four, there is Audio Commentary from show creator, writer and executive producer Josh Schwartz for the final episode of the series. Commentaries don't get better than this, and Schwartz's comments are razor fast - he just keeps going and going. Schwartz is guilty of describing some of the on-screen action here and there, but he also cracks a few jokes and makes light of the great work the cast and crew did. Schwartz points out his inspirations for some of the scenes, bits he's taken from real life (be it situations or people he knows) and pop culture references as well. Given how much material there is, Schwartz often stops himself to say something that pops up on screen, and then goes back to what he was originally going to say. And of course, the show's creator does reflect though on the show, saying his commentary is being recorded only a few weeks after the finale aired, and that the experience is bittersweet. Schwartz seems to have had a blast making the series, and doesn't seem to have any apologies either (plus he clears up a few rumors too). This an impressive commentary, and a must listen for all fans of the show.

It's been a loopy and uneven four seasons, but it's now time to lay "The O.C." to rest. Personally, if you ask me, the timing for the finale was just right, and the show's impact on recent pop culture cannot be denied (isn't it nice the MySpace generation got their own version of 90210?). Sure, nothing beats the first season of the show, but at least the fourth feels a bit more grounded than its previous two seasons. As far as a TV on DVD set, it's a good one and comparable to the show's other seasons on DVD - the episodes look great, the audio is nice and the extras are good too (especially Schwartz's commentary). If you're a fan of the show, then you know you'll probably be plunking down some dollars to complete your collection. Enjoy!