Mix'd Bag, Songs

Guilty Pleasure | The O.C.

8 Comments 27 | July | 2010

Between the years of 2003 and 2007 I engaged in perhaps the guiltiest of all guilty pleasures, The O.C. A teen hyper-drama surrounding the posh, yet somehow troubled lives of Orange County’s youth, it may as well have been subtitled, “Mo Money, Mo Problems.”  Originally promising myself (and I was not the only one) that I would “see what it was all about,” the show quickly became a staple in my life. Yes, for better or for worse, I was bound to each and every plot twist, turn, and “WTF” moment.  At first I was not alone, one of nearly 12 million viewers.  However, as the series progressed, the plots became wackier and wackier until…


they killed Marissa.  Yes, I say “they” because it was the writers, not Volchok, that murdered Marissa, and in turn, the show.  Eventually the viewership dwindled to one third of its original size, leading FOX to cancel the series.  And just like that, my addiction came to a very abrupt end.

Despite all of the flack that I get for having been a diehard fan, I can honestly say that The O.C. had its finger directly on the pulse of my passion, indie music.  Producer Josh Schwartz (then only 26!) drew on his own musical tastes, enlisting bands such as Death Cab for Cutie, The Walkmen, and Modest Mouse to drive the weekly soundtrack.  The whiny and neurotic Seth Cohen, modeled after Schwartz’ own adolescence, was initially the predominant medium through which music was introduced to the show.

Artists were featured both as background music and during “live” sets at the all-ages club, the Bait Shop.  While the levels of success before and after an O.C. appearance was as varied as the bands themselves, I doubt if any fan base shrank as a result of “selling out.”  In particular there is one artist who, more than any I can imagine, owes her success in America to the show.  Imogen Heap, the UK singer/songwriter, had certainly achieved modest levels of success, both domestic and abroad, but after “Hide and Seek” was chosen to soundtrack the closing scene of the Season 2 finale, it skyrocketed to the top of iTunes.

The season-ending fist fight between brothers Ryan and Trey Atwood raises anxiety levels to near critical, and as Trey prepares to deliver a potentially fatal blow, Marissa aims and fires a single gunshot. At that exact moment, Imogen’s vocals climax, eliminating all dialogue.  It’s unique “almost a cappella” sound is calming despite the context, and combined with a subtle speed ramping effect creates the most vivid memory of the entire series.  Immediately after the screen faded to black, I was running to my computer asking, “Who was that and how the fuck does she make that sound?!”  Gratefully both answers came quickly through a Google search and thus began a month-long obsession with the song.

Even when re-watching the Season 2 finale last night (Yes, I’m re-watching the whole series), the combination of imagery and sound sent chills shooting throughout my body.  Though it may not create the same sensation in other viewers, especially if you were not an avid fan, I invite you to watch the clip in question and pay some respect to the series that changed American television.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to head to the library to pick up the complete 3rd season on DVD.

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