FOX has never been hesitant to ask the producers of "The O.C." for more episodes. Through its first three seasons, the writers of the frothy soap have turned around some 76 episodes, roughly 10 more than the average drama over that span.
Perhaps that's why I'm always inclined to be just a bit generous to the characters who overstay their welcome, the plotlines that never actually go anywhere and the multi-episode extended feuds that could be solved with a single conversation. As long as they give me Peter Gallagher's arched eyebrows, Ben McKenzie punching people, Adam Brody legitimizing obscure pop culture and the annual celebration of Chrismukkah, I'm sold.
The show's third season, now on DVD, begins in the aftermath of Marissa's (Mischa Barton) near-fatal shooting of Ryan's (McKenzie) bad-boy brother Trey (Logan Marshall-Green) and ends with Ryan and Marissa in an a horrible accident involving another bad boy (Cam Gigandet's Kevin Volchok), this time with fatal consequences. The season's subplots involved Seth (Brody) seemingly compromising his academic future and his relationship with Summer (Rachel Bilson) after a panic attacks and drug experimentation, Julie (Melinda Clarke) seemingly finding true love with Summer's dad (Michael Nouri), Sandy (Gallagher) seemingly selling his soul for business success and everything seemingly resolving happily in time for graduation. Seemingly.
Watching "The O.C." on DVD is fun because you can concentrate on the show's main characters and take pleasure in Bilson's snappy comic timing, Brody's loopy charm, the insecurity behind McKenzie's bluster and in that one episode where Barton went undercover as a naughty schoolgirl. You can enjoy that even if the subplots involving Clarke, Gallagher and Kelly Rowan often seem unnecessarily melodramatic, the older actors are good enough to never seem like afterthoughts.
That means you can fast-forward through just about any new characters introduced to the ensemble, knowing that they'll be inexplicably gone after their six episode contract runs out. In my doctored "O.C." season, there's no Jeri Ryan as a scheming scam artist and no Jeff Hephner as an ethically challenged businessman. Eric Mabius' sniveling assistant principal is barely there and Ryan Donowho's whiney and obsessive surfer Johnny wipes out after introducing Volchok, who at least was essential to the dark direction of the season's conclusion. I can take or leave Nikki Reed's Sadie, who didn't add much, but wasn't excruciating either.
The additions weren't all duds, mind you. Willa Holland's Mini-Mischa (recast younger sister Caitlin) was such a flawless facsimile for the full-sized version that Marissa became superfluous. And Autumn Reeser's Taylor Townsend went from recirculated Queen Bee cliche to unexpected quirky charm in a matter of episode. Not surprisingly, Holland and Reeser will be regulars for the upcoming fourth season.
Extras on the DVD are scarce, but enjoyably efficient. Rather than wasting time on bloated, dull commentaries, creator Josh Schwartz and writers J.J. Philbin and John Stephens do accelerated and very funny overviews of two Very Special episodes, "The Pot Stirrer" (the one with the pot) and "The Undertow" (the one that ends with a sex montage), reducing them to 10 minutes apiece.
Getting more time is the prom-themed "The Party Favor." In 16 minutes, we follow the creative process from script (writers mugging for the camera are always a hoot), to preproduction (building a pirate ship set is exactly as hard as you'd think it would be) to production (note the introduction of Bilson's stunt double) to air.
Other featurettes concentrate on the Schwartz's friends and loved ones who have been name-checked on the show, a music video shoot with guest stars The Subways and the requisite gags and goofs.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times