Warner Bros. // 2007 // 4050 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Katie Herrell (Retired) // January 9th, 2008
Orange County, it's where all the beautiful people live.
Clear the calendar. 28 discs devoted to The O.C.: The Complete Series is a guaranteed time suck.
Wrapped in an ocean-blue vinyl book, The O.C.: The Complete Series is all 92 episodes from this four-season teen drama. Besides the antics of Summer, Seth, Marissa, Ryan, and their adult supervisors, The Complete Series includes six hours of special features including a retrospective documentary, seven featurettes, and gag reels from each season. The vinyl tabletop book includes pictures, a cartoon spread, and mini-synopses of each episode.
Priced over $100, even used from Amazon, The O.C.: The Complete Series is a commitment. For the über fan who already owns one or all of the seasons on DVD, The Complete Series offers little new material. The photos in the coffee-table book are likely on the Internet. The special features for seasons one through three are the same as those included on the DVDs of yore. There's the comic -- but that will likely appeal to less than one percent of viewers.
But for the fan who held out -- or for a gift giver, the likely target of this collection -- The O.C.: The Complete Series is a comprehensive, well-packaged collection. There are no annoying DVD cases to cram into paper boxes, and the producers are generous with their insight and time in explaining their rationale behind the cast, the episodes, the storylines, the costumes...the list goes on.
But perhaps the greatest aspect of this complete series DVD set -- a perk not produced or manipulated -- is the ability to watch multiple episodes in a row across multiple seasons and make comparisons. When watching a television series once a week (or less often) for four years it is easy to follow the major story lines, but the subtle tweaks that producers and writers incorporate are easily missed. It's even fascinating to go back to the first episode, the pilot, and compare it, with all its ambition, to later episodes when more episodes -- and paychecks -- were without a doubt.
The first episode of The O.C. renders the divisive elements of class, location, and upbringing beautifully through varying camera angles and film quality. When The O.C. opens, the audience is introduced to Ryan Atwood, the poor kid from Chino who comes from a broken home and is in trouble with the law. The shots are cut tight around the actors, with no expansive views of palms and beach that define almost the entire rest of the series. The camera seems to be handheld, and the scenes shot documentary style on the streets. The coloring of the shots is washed out, giving the scenes a grimy, dirty feeling.
Cut to the introduction of slick Sandy Cohen and his family's mega terra cotta mansion. Here the color is dripping from the screen with photographic precision. The colors don't appear to be falsely enhanced, but they are as rich and bright as actually being in The O.C. would appear to anyone coming from more modest atmospheres. Here the camera angles are panoramic and frequently devoid of characters: these shots are intended to submerge the viewer in The O.C. glitter. The distinction is clear: Ryan Atwood is wind-up, while the Cohens are digital. This juxtaposition and shift in film quality and shooting technique will continue throughout the series when displaying the haves versus the have-nots.
Revisiting this first scene and noticing the difference in film quality and camera styles made me more aware of the difference between set shots and location shots in the series. In one of the special features, co-producer Stephanie Savage explains why one scene was deleted. Savage explained that one balcony romance scene was intended to be shot "on location" but had to be shot on set instead. The producers decided the final scene was too "telenovela" for their tastes and axed it. But this piece illustrated how much of The O.C. was shot away from the set, and how advantageous that was to the series and distinguished it from other hour-long television dramas shot in a box.
Other insights from this collection came from some quality face-time with series creator Josh Schwartz. Much like the touch of Aaron Sorkin (creator of The West Wing) is deemed in TV land to turn any series into gold, Schwartz has been hoisted to a high pedestal for teenage drama. It was interesting to hear his often serious interpretations of the characters and the series (as he did on many special features), as opposed to all of the trite media sound bites regarding the "wonderkid" of television production.
In the Season 2 Special Feature, "The Music of The O.C.," Schwartz relays a story of the time a representative for the Beastie Boys appeared in his office carrying a locked silver briefcase and asked if he'd put one of the Boys' new songs in his series. An honored Schwartz assented and the disc was put back in its case and whisked away. This story illustrates the prominence and influence of the soundtrack for The O.C. Although only Season 1 features selectable on-screen music-track guides, the music for every season is outstanding, with new and undiscovered musicians at every corner.
Almost every pivotal scene in the series includes a hand-picked song. An amazing blend of cinematic and musical drama keeps each scene together and conveys a more powerful message than either medium could do alone.
But perhaps the best feature of The O.C.: The Complete Series is featured on the final disc, number 28. This disc features seven "Atomic County" Webisodes. Stemming from Seth's hobby-almost-career, Schwartz outdid himself by producing what is in essence a series within a series. While maintaining some elements of The O.C., the "Atomic County" comic is a vibrantly drawn, sarcastic, and sardonic series that could stand on its own Orange County legs.
Some of the special features are cheesy and redundant: how the cast was selected was basically on two different features and an informal chat with real Orange County kids was cringe-worthy. The O.C. produced some rabid fans, fans who would have become besotted with a little more glitter and behind the scenes from the special features.
Initially, I had some skipping problems with the pilot episode, but upon a second viewing those problems had resolved themselves. At times it was also confusing some when after choosing an episode from the episode menu I was taken to a scene menu that looked almost exactly like the episode menu.
The strength of the The O.C.: The Complete Series is the television series itself and not the bells and whistles that are required of a box set. For true fans of The O.C. who simply want to watch the episodes again and again with ease, this is the way to go.
Guilty. Those beautiful people (and their beautiful ocean) live on in this 28-disc box set -- even when it's snowing, or raining, or minimum wage where the not-so-beautiful people watching live.
Review content copyright © 2008 Katie Herrell; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Top 100 Films: #57
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 4050 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Gag Reels
* Deleted Scenes
* Atomic County Webisodes
* Review - Season 1
* Review - Season 2
* Review - Season 3
* Review - Season 4