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Warner Home Video presents
The O.C.: The Complete Second Season (2004-2005)

Seth: Hey, man, what's going on?
Ryan: Studying.
Seth: Would you punch someone, please, for old time's sake?

- Adam Brody, Benjamin McKenzie

Review By: Joel Cunningham  
Published: August 25, 2005

Stars: Peter Gallagher, Kelly Rowan, Benjamin McKenzie, Adam Brody
Other Stars: Mischa Barton, Tate Donovan, Melinda Clarke, Rachel Bilson, Michael Cassidy, Olivia Wilde, Shannon Lucio, Alan Dale, Nicholas Gonzalez
Director: various

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (language, sexuality, violence, drug use)
Run Time: Approx. 1048 min
Release Date: August 23, 2005
UPC: 012569704770
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A B-AB+ B

DVD Review

Rich kids, huge houses, drunken parties, sex, intrigue, and some occasional punching—not much has changed in Orange County during the second season of Fox's sun-drenched soap The O.C.. Yet, though the sophomore season at times lives up to the wit and humor of that first, endlessly enjoyable year, something feels a bit off. A show that once carefully walked the line between postmodern genre spoof and sudsy teen drama, The O.C. has now clearly fallen squarely on the side of the latter. That wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, but it also meant a change from character-based stories to a long series of outlandish plot twists and heightened situations.

First, the original premise—Ryan (Benjamin McKenzie), a troubled kid from Chino, is bailed out of juvie by his public defender, Sandy (Peter Gallagher), and adopted into his wealthy Newport family—is basically out the window in year two, despite the fact that Season One ended with a cliffhanger that saw Ryan take an "oops, I'm a daddy" ride back to Chino to live with his ex-girlfriend. By the end of the first episode, Ryan is back in the O.C., as is Sandy's son Seth (Adam Brody), who, angst-ridden, set off on his sailboat when Ryan moved away, and the so-called outsider may as well have been born in the McMansion. Having the boys back is a big relief to Sandy and his wife Kirsten (Kelly Rowan), whose once-perfect marriage became strained during the stressful summer. Speaking of Summer (Rachel Bilson), she's none to happy that nerd-boy Seth dumped her to mope on a boat (about a boy, no less) for three months, and she's spent her time with best friend (and Ryan's ex, or at least, Ryan's ex who isn't pregnant) Marissa (Mischa Barton), watching her melt down over both her boyfriend and her scheming mother Julie's (Melinda Clarke) first-season ending marriage to Caleb (Alan Dale), Newport's biggest billionaire and Kirsten's father.

As if those weren't enough characters, the show quickly adds many more (though to be fair, a few of last year's regulars do leave fairly early on). For the kids, there are extra points for our favorite love triangles. Last year Summer had to fight to win Seth from another girl; this year it's Seth who must face off against Zach (Michael Cassidy), who is every bit as much a sensitive, heartfelt, comic book loving guy, except he's also really tall, really good-looking, and a water polo player. Marissa, meanwhile, tries to annoy her mother by dating DJ (Nicholas Gonzalez), her mother's "yard guy" (if Desperate Housewives has taught us anything, it's that the man who can mow is a man you want to know, if you know what I mean). Actually, come to think of it, the Ryan-Marissa affair actually becomes a love quadrilateral, as he quickly rubs noses with brainy poor girl Lindsay (Shannon Lucio), who is also ostensibly an Orange County outsider (though she assumes, at first, he's just another jock, a string of cutesy coincidences—they are assigned as lab partners!—will prove her wrong).

Though I'm still not done introducing new characters, I have a point to make. All the new blood might provide for some new storylines (the Zach/Seth relationship is interesting, as they're so much alike that they become friends, despite Seth's lingering attraction to Summer), but they serve mostly to tear apart the core characters that made the show so enjoyable last season. I liked seeing Seth, Summer, Ryan, and Marissa interacting, but for much of the second season, they're off in separate storylines, and the show loses a bit of its spark.

The same can be said for the adults—I always admired the fact that The O.C. focused as much on the grownups as the teenagers, the drama in this second go round feels entirely manufactured. Sandy and Kirsten, whose loving relationship formed the heart of the show in Season One, both flirt with having affairs, resulting in a lot of ugliness and some rather miserable storylines. Sandy is tested when a former flame, Rebecca (Kim Delaney) comes to him for legal help (it seems she was implicated in some sort of peace demonstration gone wrong and forced to flee the country decades ago) and the two pick up where they left off. Later on, Kirsten is attracted to the hunky new editor in her office, Carter (Billy Campbell). Because the audience ultimately knows Sandy and Kirsten can't break up without ruining the show, the almost-affairs become a series of "will they cheat?" scenarios that don't exactly make for original storytelling.

And really, that's the problem with the season as a whole. I did enjoy watching it from week to week—I love the cast as much as ever and the dialogue is usually pretty sharp—but the plotting in Season Two takes something away from the characters, forcing them to conform to the story twists rather than the other way around. It isn't always the case, as Kirsten's late-season struggle with alcoholism has actually been developing since last year, but it often feels that way—take Marissa's sweeps-inspired decision to shack up with yet another new character, the foxy bartender at the local music club, who is, much to the delight of the Fox Network's promo department, a girl.

Despite all that, the show still succeeds as pure entertainment. There are plenty of big plots this year—Caleb's shady business dealings, a mystery illegitimate daughter (well, not so big a mystery, for anyone who has ever turned on or walked past a TV before), Ryan's struggle to reconcile his old and new lives when his brother Trey gets out of jail late in the year. But there are more than a few dumb ones, too, none more inane than Seth and Zach's plan to put together a graphic novel based loosely on their lives in Orange County, which ends with an improbable and irritating appearance from no less than George Lucas (who should stick to directing). (But not to directing any more Star Wars movies).

A lot of fans turned on The O.C. in the second season (especially the internet message board crowd), but I didn't really notice the flaws while I was watching it. And while I now get it, I can't really say I like the series any less. Maybe that's a testament to the creative team, that they succeeded in entertaining me despite some flawed storytelling. Or maybe I'm just easy to please when I'm watching characters I like. Whichever it is, I think fans of The O.C. should give Season Two another look on DVD and see how it plays.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: B-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Video quality is on par with the admirable first season set, with the added bonus that the series is finally presented in anamorphic widescreen (as seen on HDTV). The series' brightly lit sheen translates nicely to DVD with clear transfers that feature good detail and strong, solid colors. Night scenes show good contrast, despite some slight grain. I noticed no significant artifacting or aliasing.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: As with most TV on DVD releases, the audio track for The O.C. is suitable but not outstanding. Dialogue sounds clear and natural, and the front soundstage fills out a bit with the score and pop soundtrack. Surrounds are used mostly for atmosphere, and rarely make their presence known.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 144 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Deleted Scenes
2 Documentaries
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by creator Josh Schwartz and producer Bob DeLaurentis on The Chrismukkah that Almost Wasn't; Schwartz, producer Stephanie Savage, music coordinator Alexandra Patsavas, and editor Matt Ramsey on The Rainy Day Women
Packaging: Book Gatefold
Picture Disc
7 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Outtakes
Extras Review: While still a bit light on features when compared to other TV releases, The O.C.: The Complete Second Season features some worthwhile bonuses. I most enjoyed the commentary tracks on two pivotal episodes, The Chrismukkah That Almost Wasn't and The Rainy-Day Women (presented in a special, extended "creator's cut" with about three additional seconds of lesbian smooching between Marissa and Alex).

On the former, the series' creator, Josh Schwartz, is joined by producer Bob DeLaurentis. The second track features Schwartz and producer Stephanie Savage, music coordinator Alexandra Patsavas, and editor Matt Ramsey. Both tracks are amusing and interesting, filled with joking and behind-the-scenes chatter. Schwartz takes center stage in both, and discusses the challenge of messing with the formula of the show and adding new characters as a way to avoid going over and over the same plots, considering the additions wound up mirroring much of Season One anyway.

Disc 6 includes one deleted scene, for the episode The Return of the Nana, while the rest of the extras can be found on the mostly empty Disc 7. Obsess Completely is the 35-minute special that aired before the Season Two premiere. As a result, it's fairly heavy on the promotion and a little light on substance. There is some interesting info on the casting process and the show's rocket -ship rise to pop culture prominence, but considering the way all that sort of withered in year two, it seems a little silly in retrospect.

Slightly better is Beachy Couture, a 15-minute featurette on the show's costume department. It's kind of interesting, surprisingly, as the creative team and the actors discuss how the clothes inform the characters.

More amusing are two lengthy gag reels, one for each season. They run a little over 20 minutes together, and there are a lot of cute moments with the cast improvising, goofing off and screwing up (Mischa Barton seems prone to bumping into things a lot).

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

The bloom is off the, uh, orange a bit with The O.C.: The Complete Second Season. After a season of relationship triangles, mysterious reappearing love interests, shadowy porn star pasts, pandering lesbian trysts, and ridiculous George Lucas cameos, this once sharply written, self-aware teen drama has become just another juicy soap that favors outlandish plots over strong, character-based stories. Don't get me wrong, I still love the cast, and the show's still a blast, but as pleasures go, this one is starting to feel a little guilty.

 


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