‘The O.C.’ Riles Up Chino With Too Many Prime-Time Put-Downs

Times Staff Writer

The new prime-time soap opera “The O.C.” isn’t getting rave reviews in Chino.

In the show’s inaugural episode Tuesday, the young and beautiful people of Orange County’s Newport Beach took delight in bashing the city of Chino as a seedy backwater, where crass neighbors live in run-down homes with chain-link fences and lawns littered with weeds, tires and mattresses.

And residents of Chino are firing back.

Chino’s city manager Thursday criticized Fox TV for its “irresponsible and inconsiderate” depiction of the San Bernardino County city as a hick town.


“As a result of a negative reference to the city of Chino in the program, our city has received numerous phone calls from outraged residents who are completely offended by the portrayal of Chino as a ‘ghetto town’ on the ‘wrong side of the tracks,’ ” Chino City Manager Glen Rojas said in a letter to the network.

It was bad enough Tuesday night when “The O.C.” premiered, portraying Newport Beach as an “idyllic paradise” and Chino as a spawning ground for thieves, drunks and other unpleasantness.

But for Fox TV to rebroadcast the episode last night?

“It just makes me mad,” Rojas said.

Fox TV executives declined comment Thursday.

In the TV series, main character Ryan Atwood, played by Benjamin McKenzie, moves to glitzy Newport Beach from what the show portrays as gritty Chino, where he stole a car and his mother is a boozer.

The people he meets from Orange County are less than kind about his hometown.

“Why don’t you just go back to Chino?” one guy tells him. “I’m sure there’s a really nice car in the parking lot that you can steal.”

“Chino?” one girls asks. “Eeewwwwww.”

Rojas sighs. “The phone’s going to be ringing.”

Since the drama’s debut, Rojas has received about 20 phone calls from insulted residents. He’s bracing for more this morning.

“People here are upset by it,” said Rojas, noting that the city has moved beyond its image of a dusty, smelly town with dairy farms and a state prison. “Those things are such a small part of Chino.”

During the past seven years, the city has attracted shopping centers with tenants such as Borders, Nordstrom Rack, Target, Wal-Mart, On the Border Restaurant and Fresh Choice, a salad and soup bar. In some neighborhoods, homes can cost $600,000.

“Chino has moved away from the way it was negatively perceived,” said Rojas, inviting Fox execs to tour the city and see for themselves.

Still, Rojas acknowledged that Chino lacks Orange County’s upscale restaurants and retailers. He fears “The O.C.” will scare people away, especially developers.

“We’re on the verge of getting some higher-end businesses,” such as a P.F. Chang’s and Trader Joe’s, Rojas said. “This kind of negative publicity doesn’t help.”

The Chino bashing attracted some angry responses on the show’s Internet site. Under the heading “Why dog on Chino,” city defenders boasted of all their neighborhoods have to offer and took jabs at the producers.

“No one I know in Chino lives in a shack with old tires and ratty furniture in the frontyard,” one wrote. “Don’t perpetuate negative stereotypes for a television show!!!! Do your due diligence and actually find out what a city is before you slam it nationally.”


Times staff writer Kimi Yoshino contributed to this report.