"Welcome to the O.C., bitch!"
It's hard to imagine it's been 10 years since The O.C. premiered and changed all our lives for the better. But would it have had the same effect without Seth Cohen? Or without band Death Cab for Cutie, for that matter?
Creator Josh Schwartz, who's now running Fake Empire with Stephanie Savage, talked to TVGuide.com about The O.C.'s success, where it went wrong and the surprising couples we never got to see.
Whether he feels The O.C. was responsible for making indie music mainstream: "I don't know if I feel responsible. I guess I'm happy that all these bands are making a nice living. I think that there are definitely times that I hear songs that are on shows or in movies and I think 'Hey, we used that on our show years ago.' ... And we didn't have a lot of money, so it was fortunate that there were a lot of indie rock acts, because they were easier to license. And also they had an appetite to be licensed because at that moment there was no iTunes, there was no internet radio, really ... so if you were an indie rock band this was kind of the only way to get your music heard for a while."
On indie artists turning him down: "The one band I remember turning us down was Arcade Fire early on because they didn't want to license anything back then. But I did not choose to go to war with them in a Glee vs. Kings of Leon-type throwdown. And I still managed to love the band, despite them saying no."
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How the show's commercial success affected the music: "There came a moment when even Death Cab was like, 'Maybe we won't license this song and we'll start to separate our identity from the show a little bit' because they were so tied to the identity of the show. The coolest thing that started happening was bands that we'd never have been able to afford or who never would have given us permission were coming to us to ask us to world premiere their songs."
The characters he wished had stuck around: "Well Luke, Anna, Jimmy Cooper in the first season. Olivia Wilde's character Alex in the second season. There were a lot of different character permutations and connections that we didn't do. We always talked about, 'Oh, there's a Summer-Luke shape that could be interesting, or Luke-Anna originally, that we talked about at one point. Or Seth-Marissa, what would that look like?'"
Why the show burnt out so soon: "I think shows like this that tends to happen no matter what. That's what's fun about the shows. They really capture a time and a moment and they burn really, really bright but they burn really fast ... So part of it is just inherent in the genre but I do think part of it was how quickly we moved through those stories. And how hard it was to kind of get that back."
On Fox hating Seth: "That was a challenging character to get everybody to sign up on. Because in the beginning Fox was saying, 'Well if Ryan (Ben McKenzie) is our Luke Perry who is our Jason Priestly? That was the question that kept getting asked. And I was like, 'We're not doing that show.' So the idea that our second male lead was going to be a nerdy, comic book-loving Jewish kid was a bit scary. When we cast [Adam Brody] he was somebody who had so much charisma and was so funny and obviously adorable for the ladies, and the network felt much more at ease with him in the part."
On Fox hating Seth so much they actually tried to abort him: "I was told at one point they really did not like the Seth character early on in the pilot process and the way the note was relayed to me was, 'Could the Cohens have had an abortion?' In the network's defense, the character of Seth may have been a little bit more annoying than he ended up being ultimately, but it was a bit harsh."
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Why Seth became a teen heartthrob and geek icon anyway: "I think it gave voice to a kind of kid who once they got to college was going to be fine, was going to do great, but in high school, where conformity is key, those kind of kids who can't quite conform and want to live outside of that a little bit, hadn't really had somebody to really look to onscreen who had all those qualities and got to get the girl, as well."
The intentions behind the Marissa-Alex romance: "I mean, we knew that there would be a certain fun element to Seth discovering that this was going on and that he had lost this girl to Marissa (Mischa Barton), but we also wanted it to be a real relationship. We wanted it to be very grounded emotionally and to understand why Marissa would make that choice ... and not make too big a deal out of the fact that it was another girl. And of course, then Fox would run the ads, 'Tune in for the kiss you don't wanna miss,' and overhype this Marissa and Alex kiss. And then broadcast standards and practices would make us cut it down to, you know, three quarters of a millisecond. So that was odd."
On why Oliver's the worst: "I would argue that the Johnny character hurt the show much more than Oliver ever did ... Look, [Oliver] was definitely a bigger character, a bigger crazier story line. He was a villain, and Taylor Handley is very good at bringing that villain to life so I think people hated Oliver in the way you're supposed to hate Oliver, but I also think people were not yet ready for a new character to come in and really shake up the show ... But I actually would not do Oliver over again because people really do remember it and there's a value to that."
Why he killed off Marissa: "You know, that was a really challenging decision and moment for the show. There were a lot of factors at play. I mean creatively, we felt like we had told those stories and that this was always kind of in Marissa's DNA. That she was a tragic character and that try as he might, Ryan ultimately wasn't going to be able to save her ... I will say that after we did it that night, because Marissa was a real punching bag of a character for television critics, and what I learned after that night was those critics were in much smaller number than the millions of people who watched the show and loved that character. And there was a real sense the morning after of 'OMG. What have we done?'"
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What he would go back and change: "You know it's hard to think about doing that fourth season without having killed Marissa. I think the fourth season is actually a really great season creatively for the show and a lot of humor and heart that may have been lost in Season 3 kind of came back into the show. And Taylor Townsend was such a great emerging character and Chris Pratt on the show as Che, helping guide Summer (Rachel Bilson) through her whole green granola period at Brown was really fun. So that's a moment that's hard to rethink. And I would probably rethink a little bit how much I tested the Cohen marriage at times. But overall I feel like we ended the show strong and where we wanted to."
Whether there's truth to the rumor Ryan was originally supposed to be Sandy's illegitimate child: "I am here to debunk that rumor. He looks nothing like the man! That was never our intention. The Ryan-Sandy relationship was 100 percent pure."
His thoughts on Laguna Beach and The Real Housewives of Orange County: "You're welcome, America. Yeah, the accidental legacy. You know, I would have liked to have a piece of the Real Housewives franchise, that's for sure ... You know, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I guess is the expression, and so are reality shows based on your show. I'm flattered."
What he took from the set: "I have Princess Sparkle and Captain Oats staring at me right now. I keep them in a very safe stable. I also have my Storm Trooper helmet, which was a gift from George Lucas after he appeared on the show. And I have the Atonic County, Seth's comic book, framed on my wall."
The chances of an O.C. reunion: "You know we wanted to do a reunion for the 10-year [anniversary], but in order to do that we wanted everybody to participate and to want to participate."
Where the characters would be now: "I had actually pitched the idea that Ryan and Taylor were not together and that he had recently run into Alex Kelly and that they were actually starting to date. And Seth and Summer did not have babies yet because Summer was not going to have children until the world was a safer place and had reduced its carbon footprint."