‘The O.C.’ is going O.U.T.

By Lynn Elber

Associated Press

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. — A moment of respectful silence, please, for Fox’s departing "The O.C."

Yes, the drama wiped out in the ratings like a klutzy Southern California surfer. Yes, it lost its storytelling punch in season three and then really bummed out fans with the violent death of Marissa, played by Mischa Barton.

Still, give credit where credit’s due. "The O.C." brought dramatized adolescent angst back to TV, gave the tabloids fresh faces like Barton and Rachel Bilson and boosted pop artists by showcasing their music (the band Rooney) or just mentioning them (Death Cab for Cutie).


Set in the Orange County city of Newport Beach, the show even managed to make cultural and economic waves: Residents who knew better began referring to the county with the artificially hip "the" in front of O.C., and the postcard-perfect coastal town enjoyed a bump in tourism.

"The O.C." generated a reality TV boomlet, with MTV’s "Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County" and Bravo’s "The Real Housewives of Orange County" following in its footsteps.

Not bad for a four-season, 92-episode series about the loves and lives of rich, golden California teenagers — one even named Summer, to drive home the point — and the parents that watched over them, or not, depending on their own foibles.

"Overall, I’m incredibly proud of the run the show had," series creator Josh Schwartz said as production ended this month. Just the day before, he recounted, "We were filming on location and there were packs of teenagers screaming for autographs when the cast walked by, and crying that the show was coming to an end."

"We were 24 hours away from wrapping the show, and it was surreal to have that level of emotion from our audience," Schwartz said.

The series finale airs at 7 p.m. Thursday and won’t leave viewers hanging, he vowed.

"We went into this season sort of assuming that it was going to be the last season," Schwartz said. "So we were able to build naturally to this final episode and do the finale the way we always planned."

The conclusion will focus on the show’s core — the affluent Cohen family of Newport Beach and the needy young man, Ryan, they took in, he said. The hope is that fans will find it fun, emotional and "really satisfying," Schwartz said.


Will Marissa, killed in a car crash in last season’s finale, manage to reappear?

"All of the characters of the show will be touched on in some way," Schwartz said. He’s carefully guarding the final plot twists, including the romantic fates of couples Ryan (Benjamin McKenzie) and Taylor (Autumn Reeser) and Seth (Adam Brody) and Summer (Bilson).

"The O.C." itself rattled the TV landscape when it debuted in summer 2003. It was a ratings phenom in its first year, ranking as the top-rated drama among advertiser-favored young adults and attracting a total audience of nearly 10 million.

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