After bursting onto the scene in an inferno of hype in the summer of 2003, FOX's teen soap "The O.C." will fade quietly into the sunset this February after four eventful seasons.
FOX made the not-so-surprising announcement of the demise of "The O.C." late Wednesday (Jan. 3) afternoon. Starting this Thursday, "The O.C." will begin a stream of new episodes culminating in the series finale on Thursday, Feb. 22.
The move was hardly unexpected given that FOX only ordered 16 "O.C." episodes this season, a major dip for a series that had delivered over-sized runs of 27, 24 and 25 episodes in its first three years. In addition, FOX held "The O.C." back for a November premiere and launched it in a brutal Thursday time period opposite "Grey's Anatomy" and "CSI," two of TV's most popular shows.
The results have been easy to observe. Through its first seven Thursday airings, "The O.C." has averaged fewer than 4.06 million viewers per episode, off from last year's 5.75 million per episode. Critical raves suggesting that the show's quality was at its highest point since the first season did little to bring viewers back to the fold.
Talking to Zap2it in October, the show's creator Josh Schwartz was practical about the potential end of the show's ride.
"Obviously it's out there," Schwartz said. "Definitely when you're in this time slot and you've only been ordered for 16 episodes, you're aware that that's a possibility. Right now, we're just focused on making these 16 episode as good as we can and we'll see what happens. We'll have an answer before we're done breaking the episodes."
With that answer finally known, Schwartz seems to have shifted gears from practical to philosophical in the network statement announcing the finale.
"'The O.C.' Season Four finale will also be the series finale. This feels like the best time to bring the show to its close," Schwartz says. "Thanks to the hard work of our cast, crew and writers, we have enjoyed our best season yet, and what better time to go out than creatively on top. It has been an amazing experience and a great run. For a certain audience, at a certain time, 'The O.C.' has meant something. For that we are grateful."
There had been limited speculation about moving the series over to The CW in some modified form, but ultimately producers felt it was better to end "The O.C." on a creative high note.
In its four years, "The O.C." helped kick-start the careers of young leads Benjamin McKenzie, Adam Brody, Mischa Barton and Rachel Bilson, while introducing a whole new generation to Peter Gallagher and his eyebrows. The show won Teen Choice Awards by the barrel, was nominated for a Television Critics Association award for outstanding new show and even earned Schwartz a Writers Guild of America nod for scripting the pilot.