The O.C.: The Complete Series Collection courtesy Warner Home Video The O.C.: The Complete Series Collection courtesy Warner Home Video

Welcome to my column about The O.C., bitches! OK, I promise, last time I ever use that line in any variation. But I had to this time because The O.C.- The Complete Series box set hits the shelves this week and I've got none other than the master, Josh Schwartz, talking about the show, the set and the new gigs he's got that ya'll need to get with if ya ain't already.

OK, I am loving Gossip Girl.

But first, we must talk about The OC box set.
Yes, we do. [ Laughs]

What did you get to do with The Complete Series set that wasn't in the previous seasons?

Well, the first thing I got to do was really dorky: I finally put the first season in wide-screen, which had never been done before. But mostly, it's the idea of having the entire series in one cool looking box.

The box is gorgeous.
The box is gorgeous. It's like four years of your life- and of my life- in one box and we loaded it up with bonus features, scenes, behind-the scenes stuff, bloopers, commentaries, there's an Atomic County cartoon you could only get on mobisodes that's now available. There's a documentary. We just loaded it up with stuff.

How much commentary do you do?

Umm, I have about five or six episodes. [Co-executive producer] Stephanie Savage and I did a long interview that's also in the booklet, kind of revisiting the run of the show.

Considering you have Chuck and Gossip Girl going on, I can imagine you didn't have the time to go and rewatch four years of The O.C. again
Ahhh, I get very nostaligic. The other day I was flipping through the TV the other day and landed on SoapNet repeat of the Tijuana episode. And I got extremely nostalgic, remembering where I was when I wrote that episode and the whole thing. It was very emotional.

So, where were you when you wrote it? Because that was a huge moment for the show.

Yeah, that was our episode where I think everything coalesced. If you were to ask me what episodes completely exemplified The O.C., Tijuana is definitely one of them. I was in my office on a Saturday night in the summertime, writing, with Stephanie with her arms crossed, making sure that I didn't get up until the script was finished at 3 o'clock in the morning. [ Laughs] Now we've switched roles and I do that to her on Gossip Girl.

To keep her in line?
Mmm hmmm.

What other episodes would you say were perfectly O.C.?
I knew as soon as I said that you would ask me! [ Laughs] Hmmmwell, certainly the pilot. Tijuana, ummjeepers, I gotta go through these.

Did you just say jeepers?
I did. I am not afraid to say jeepers.

Oh, before we go on, congratulations on Gossip Girl being possibly the first show to get the term "WTF" on the air.
[ Laughs] It's been a lifelong dream of mine.

I had to rewind the "Bad News Blair" episode on TiVo to make sure I wasn't tripping.
[ Laughs] We also managed to get "fustercluck" on the air.

As for The O.C., there were also some holiday episodes we did well. Thanksgiving, "The Goodbye Girl" where Anna leaves. "The Rainy Day Women" in season 2 is a favorite of minethe Seth and Summer "Spider-Man" kiss. The Chrismukkah episode in season 2 and that year's finale, although it's more on the darker, melodramatic side. I think that episode had a good O.C. quality to it. A lot of what we did in season 4, to me felt like a return to some of the lighter, romantic comedy-based stories and not as much of the melodrama

Do you feel that was because of the smaller cast? You sort of stuck to the core characters in that final season.
Yeah, we stuck with the core cast and for me, I felt like maybe things got a little overcooked in season 3. You know, you're trying to top yourself and eventually, you can go over the cliff with Johnny. So I think in season 4 we wanted to scale back the number of characters and really dig in to the ones we had and lighten the tone. The Ryan-Taylor romance did a lot to accomplish that. And I think it was the fourth episode of season 4, that's a particular favorite of mine. I also like the sort of alt-world Chrismukkah episode and I was really pleased with how the series finale turned out.

That was such a great ender.

Honestly, for those of us who had stuck through some of the stuff- like you said, season 3, which was tough to get through- the series finale was such a nice payoff.
Well good. Because that was the idea for the whole season. I mean, I was really gladwe knew we were in a tough slot, ratings-wise, but they gave us 16 episodes and I really wanted to make them episodes that really helped bring the show back to why people watched it to begin with. And that's why I wanted to get back involved with the show for that season as well.

The finale's last scenes, with Ryan in the house, flashing back
Yeah! That's how we all felt, all of us who worked on the show.

Who did you most enjoy writing for?
Oh boy. You know, I loved writing [this show]. I wrote a ton of the first season and still quite a bit of the second season and I loved writing for everybody. You really start to anticipate how performances will be delivered and every character was so distinct, you know? You'd write a scene with Caleb and Sandy Cohen in it and those two felt so distinct from writing a Summer-Marissa scene. Seth-Summer scenes were always really fun to write, Seth-Ryan scenes, and I always loved a good father-son talk. That being said, though, Julie Cooper may have been the most fun to write.

She was the most fun to watch!
She could do anything and I don't think Melinda Clarke got enough credit for how great her performance was on the show.

I'm waiting for her to turn up on one of your new shows.

I know. Believe me, I'm waiting for the right part for her. We just had [Rachel] Bilson on Chuck, which was a lot of fun.

She was great. Any chance of her coming back?
We'll see. I think when she first did it, she was like "well, I just got off a show, so I'll just do a couple of episodes.' But then afterwards, she was like 'that was really fun!' We have the whole O.C. crew working on Chuck.

That's great.
Yeah, we've kept the whole family together.

Although it's kind of weird that they'd be working on a show that is so different from The O.C., when you have Gossip Girl
That shoots in New York, so it's a whole new crew for that one.

Gotcha. And are you flying back and forth from L.A. to New York now?
Stephanie flies back and forth more than I do. I've done it a couple of times. But all of our writers, for both shows, are in L.A.

When The O.C. started. there was all sorts of talk about Seth Cohen being your alter ego. Was that even close?
In the beginning it was. He was certainly my way into the show. You know, I hadn't watched a lot of teen dramas before.


Yeah. I had watched a lot of '80s teen movies, but I hadn't really watched 90210 or Dawson's Creek. I certainly, of course, knew what they were, but I wasn't a devotee of the teen-genre television series. So Seth was really my way into that world and a little bit of my point of view of that world. But then obviously, it became so much more about Adam [Brody] and his performance and what he brought to that character and the road that character goes down over the course of show. You know, 92 episodes obviously can't all be autobiographical.

Did you have a Ryan growing up?
[ Laughs] Ha ha. I didn't, but I think we allI think the wish-fulfillment of the show, one of the aspects, is that Ryan gets a family. But a big part of the show that we found was with how many [people] identified with Sethand the [fantasy] of having an instant best friend-slash-brother-slash-bodyguard.

Now, working on something like Gossip Girl, I guess people expected the same O.C. vibe. But you seem to have stepped away from that. Obviously, there is still humor, but it's not that emo-humor.
No, that's actually more in Chuck, weirdly. [ Laughs] Any episode that ends with a guy pining for the girl and that girl is Rachel Bilson and The Eels are playing, you know? But with Gossip Girl, obviously there were a lot of comparisons to The O.C. when we first started. But whatever attracted me and Stephanie was what made the show different rather than what made it similar. The tone of the show is entirely different. You know, in the pilot of The O.C., Ryan's on a pay phone, which would never even occur to the characters of Gossip Girl. It just feels more contemporary. Obviously, New York gives it a much different feel, it has a more gothic kind of quality to ittonally and in terms of the characters, they're very different. But I think both shows take a sort of epic view of adolescence and high school.

Having grown up on the East Coast, does Gossip Girl feel a bit more familiar to you?
No. This is a world that is equally alien to me as Orange County [ Laughs]

At least with it being East Coast-based, you don't have to worry about the cast getting too tan.
Yeah, we don't have to put tanner on them, either. [ Laughs]. Of course, now we're trying to do Christmas in New York and thanks to global warming, we have no snow!

With this strike going on, how far will you get into the season?
We'll have 13 episodes of both shows. And as soon as the strike is over, we'll be right back at it.

Whatever happened to your proposed O.C. follow-up, Athens?
Athens wasnot a bad idea for a show. It was a bad idea to try to do a show then. We did 27 episodes for the first season of The O.C., it was the only job I'd ever had and I had done a lot of the writing. So the idea of trying to do a new show in the second season was too much to take on at once. But I learned my lesson and now have figured out how to do two shows at once.

After The O.C. blew up and you were branded Fox's wunderkind, did Hollywood come running with movie offers?
Yeah. I mean, definitely I have had the opportunities to write movies. I was working on a movie, actually to direct [one] when these two shows happened. And to tell you the truth, with movies you need to have a different kind of patience. And every time I had to be patient with a movie, if there was a waiting period, I would kind of lose interest and go 'well, that would be a good idea for a show.' But I'll get back into movies, I hope sometime soon. I just like the pace of television and it's harder to find movies about the kind of stuff I like to do.

I would imagine.

And also, the fun thing about TV is that you get to find a whole new group of actors.

And let me tell you, Zach Levi is great on Chuck, too. Totally different than anything I remember him being on in the past.
Exactly, yeah.

In fact, that's very similar to your situation. Chuck is totally different than what we know you as.
Right. But I think there is definitely a tonal through-line between The O.C. and Chuck, as well as Gossip Girl. But in very different ways. They both draw on different elements of The O.C.

Probably because you have very smart characters setting the tone.
Well I won't argue with you on that one. [ Laughs]

Well, Seth was very smart, Sandy was smart, even Ryan. And don't get me started on Taylor, because I adored that character.
She was great.

All the kids on Gossip Girl are well-educated and Chuck is obviously brilliant. So it's almost like, the smarter these people are, the more enjoyable they are to watch.
Well good, because they are definitely more fun to write. And I'm lucky to have worked with a lot of smart writers over the years- much smarter than me- on all three shows, and they probably have more to do with heightening the IQ level.

So you don't find yourself having to tweak a lot of the scripts? Especially on a show as high-concept as Chuck...
I'm really lucky on Chuck that I have the most unbelievable group of writers and they are all really talented. And on Gossip Girl, I have Stephanie, who I know and I trust- we share one brain at this point- and she just knows this world and what young women especially are looking for. We have a great partnership on that show.

Were there any storylines you guys didn't get around to that you wanted to do on The O.C?

We always kicked around the idea of what would have happened if we had gone for some more conventional re-imaginings of the couples? You know, if Seth had ended up with Marissa? What if Ryan had a brief run with Summer?

Well that's why I asked the question. I remember in those Anna episodes, it felt like something brewing between her and Ryan.
There was. We also talked about Anna and Luke as a way to keep both of those characters around. And I think one of the things I learned from doing the show was if you have characters that are popping as well as Anna was, or Luke was, find a way to keep them and use them rather than send them off and bring in new characters with the hope that they have the same staying power. It's harder as the show goes on to bring in new characters.

The cast solidifies and we don't want to see new people.

Exactly. And that was a good lesson for me.

Aside from the re-imagining of the couples, in retrospect, would you have killed off Caleb?
Caleb, you knowit's always hard to kill of any character. Believe me I still wonder about the Marissa thing. I mean, I know what it did in terms of helping us creatively reinvent the show in season 4, but I certainly wrestled with that one for a while. Caleb was a great character, he served a great purposeit was certainly a blow to the adult world when we lost him. But I also think [his death] helped get a lot of other stories going. That one wasn't for naught.

And you know you would have been strung up if you had put Julie with Sandy.
Yeah, that couldn't have happened.

Now, what kind of deleted scenes are in the box set? Is there old stuff we haven't seen that's just going to blow our minds?

It depends on how easily your mind is blown. [ Laughs] How is that for a non-answer? I actually don't have the full rundown of all the scenes we included, but there is a lot from all four seasons. You'll get to see how weird we willing to get but not put on the air.

What was it like, having the show take-off so fast at the beginning? I mean, I still remember the immediate buzz of those first six episodes.
Oh yeah, we came out of the gate really, really strong. The harder learning curve came a few seasons in, but it was an amazing experience. We got to be the underdog, then the show caught on really fast. And I think people who thought the show was one thing realized it was something different. Then there was a backlash and then there was a creative renaissance. So we got the whole run of a show, of what you could want, all in four years.

And once you get the backlash, you know you're arrived.
Exactly! Now I've seen that other great big shows had to go through that, shows much bigger and greater than The O.C., I'm like 'OK, backlash is kind of a compliment.' And the greatest gift of all is to be able to learn this on a show that people actually enjoyed. I think for the time it was on and the audience it was speaking to, it left its mark.

Do you ever need to hear that Phantom Planet ever again?
[ Laughs] You know, that was a happy accident the way that song fell in to the show, but it became such a signature part of The O.C. And you have to think, every time I had to watch a cut of the show and the main titles credits, I have probably heard that song 1700 times. But I will always listen to it with fondness. What's weird for me is that when we started shooting Gossip Girl, the cast said to me 'are we gonna get soundtracks? Can we have a main title like The O.C.?' and I thought, 'oh my god, I am now doing a teen drama with teenagers whose teen drama they grew up on was The O.C.' I feel very, very old. [ Laughs]

Next week: The Holiday Guide kicks off!

Until then, don't hog the remote!