California dreaming

By Andrew Parquette

The hit Fox show that made Death Cab For Cutie an MTV staple and brought comic books and cardigan sweaters out of geeks’ basements and into the mainstream, will end this week after four seasons of California dreaming.

“The OC,” Generation Y’s incarnation of “Beverly Hills 90210,” made its four main characters, Seth, Marissa, Ryan and Summer, household names. Millions of viewers tuned in each week to watch more drama in one hour unravel than in any daytime soap. Flagging ratings caused Fox’s decision to cancel the show in January. But the show’s popularity launched a California culture different from its early ’90s predecessor.

Indie music, films and comics created a culture of “geek-chic” proliferated by Seth and his penchant for Bright Eyes posters, Penguin golf shirts and Converse sneakers. His laid-back, thrift-store style can be found at any Urban Outfitters. The show’s local music venue, “The Bait Shop” – think a hipper version of “The Peach Pit” – featured performances by bands like The Shins, The Killers and Death Cab for Cutie, giving them exposure to audiences who had never sifted through an indie-record shop before.

“One of the most significant ideas ‘The OC’ had was that of music and fashion in California,” said Kevin Coyle, a senior finance and accounting major. “After all, what other show has put out six soundtracks in only four seasons?”‘

While all the actors hit celebrity paydirt, Seth’s character in particular, played by actor Adam Brody, became the show’s breakout star, tabloid fodder and the trend-setter. At the beginning of the first season, he was the high school geek shunned by the popular crowd – a welcome change from other popular teen dramas.

“I loved Seth’s style,” said Marissa Gill, a freshman physical therapy major. “I just loved him in general; he’s a nice fresh look from the stereotypical jock character or fluffy princess. His attitude is wicked sweet too. The humoristic nerd attitude, laid-back and fun.”

Kristen Hoffman, a middler behavioral neuroscience major, agreed, and said Seth was a popular character because of his guy-next-door appeal.

“He’s a character that many people can relate to,” she said. “He reminds me of my best friend at home; the sarcasm, paranoia and self-hatred are classic. Seth’s character is unique, fresh and exciting.”

But after the finale Thursday, some students are skeptical whether the culture that thrived while it aired will survive.

“It won’t last too much longer after the show dies,” Gill said. “It’s a fad. A really cool fad, but still a fad. Something else will come around the corner and take its place.”

Sociology professor Jack Levin said TV’s influence on pop culture has always been felt and “The OC” isn’t breaking new ground. But he said Brody’s Seth Cohen character will survive the show’s cancellation because the persona is still a financially-sound investment for TV execs.

“Seth’s character will be reincarnated in every TV show as long as his character keeps making money,” he said. “Look at American Idol and CSI. When something becomes popular, there are going to be copycats of it everywhere – it’s about money.”

But Coyle said the public will soon move on to the next fad.

“The OC was just a mainstream source to see where these ideas came from. People will find different types of fashion and music now through other avenues,” Coyle said. “There will always be something new, and although this show was amazing, like all good things, it must also end.”

But some “OC” fans said it will always hold a special place in their heart.

“I’m gonna miss it,” Gill said. “It’s like saying goodbye to an old friend.”

Leave a Reply