Thursday, January 12, 2006

Marissa Cooper graduates?

Tonight's "The O.C.," at least according to some press materials released a few weeks ago, was billed as a "tribute" to the "Donna Martin Graduates" episode of "Beverly Hills 90210" (and comes just a few weeks after Summer briefly wore a "Donna Martin Graduates" t-shirt on "The O.C."). I guess that "The Sports Guy" ('s popular writer Bill Simmons) has done the most to immortalize that particular episode of "90210." I'm not sure why he loved it so much, but I'll tell you why I remember it so well. I thought it was going to be a really thoughtful episode of "90210"--remember, this was back when they were in high school and they still did occasional issue-oriented shows mixed in with episodes where they met Color Me Badd--but it just turned into silliness.

Anyway, West Beverly High decreed that anyone caught drinking at the prom would be expelled, or not graudate with their class, or something. And of course, Donna had some alcohol that night and got caught, so they threw her out of school. I thought then the show would become an interesting examination of the whole high-school culture of drinking, how everyone does it, and how singling out one person won't do any good. Instead, Brandon led a protest with the whole school yelling "Donna Martin graduates" and Brandon giving a speech to the PTA or school administration or whatever it is saying that if they had expelled anyone else, it wouldn't have been a big deal, but they did this to Donna Martin, and everyone loves Donna because she's such a sweet, nice person. It was ridiculous--but it was memorable. Amazingly enough about five or six years later, I was stuck in a hotel room in Frankfurt, Germany, having missed my connecting flight from Croatia, and what's on TV? That episode of "90210," dubbed in German!

I run through all this history just to say that I didn't think tonight's show was much of a tribute to that episode, considering that if you hadn't heard it was meant to be a homage, you probably wouldn't have known. Sure, there were a couple signs people were holding at one point which read "Marissa Cooper Graduates," but that was about it. The "Free Marissa" flyers and t-shirts, designed in the spirit of the "Free Mumia" t-shirts, looked a lot cooler. And there was no march on the school or anything, just a school board meeting.

But putting aside that flaw, tonight "The O.C." was generally pretty good. It also encapsulated both the good and bad parts of the show as it comes to the midpoint of season three. The good: Julie Cooper doing anything (and even though Michael Nouri doesn't look like he could do much of a "Flashdance these days--he really put on some weight since his first appearance on this show in year one as Summer's dad--I'm liking that coupling), the core group of Seth, Summer, Ryan and Marissa hanging out together most of the show or at least in twos or threes; and Taylor Townsend. She's always funny, and her character is completely different than anyone else on the show.

The bad: Let's just say that the show was cruising along well for the first 25 minutes, until Johnny wrecked his bedroom and you could hear tires screeching to a halt. Why are Josh Schwartz and company subjecting us to this boring, dumb character and boring actor? As for his friend the Seth doppelganger--I thought we got rid of him a few episodes ago when Summer told him to give up on her, she was already dating a dork. And it doesn't look like we're going to be getting rid of Johnny anytime soon. The previews for next week show Marissa's kid sister trying to hook up with him. Hey, I'm all for Caitlin returning and being a bad girl, but does she have to do it with that surfer dude? I mean, that guy is so dumb he was going to hold up a convenience store to get money for knee surgery last month. Did he realize that the gun he bought probably cost more than they money he'd make from the first robbery?Did he realize he was going to have to hold up like 10 stores to make enough money for surgery?

Anyway, the other bad thing about the show is just how unrealistic and nonsensical some of the school scenes are. So Taylor has no friends, and yet everyone listens to her if she tells them not to sign a petition for Marissa? Huh? I think Seth said something like she's not loved but feared? What is this, a real life Machiavelli's "The Prince"? And who were those girls she was sitting with before school early in the episode. They seemed to sort of be friends.

But more importantly, the writers ask us to believe that Marissa was popular enough to be social chair, and Summer so influential in the school that she was able to usurp Taylor as social chair when Marissa was tossed out of school, and yet they never actually hang out with anyone other than each other, and Seth is still called a dork and picked on by all the athletes even though his girlfriend is one of the hottest, most popular girls at Harbor. Doesn't really make much sense. The charm of this show in season one was the whole idea of Seth, the dork who everyone hated at Harbor, teaming up with Ryan, the misunderstood tough guy, to fight all the rich a-hole teenagers in "The O.C." We don't get much of that anymore--in fact, we've barely seen them at school (until recently), and other than an occasional epithet yelled at Seth, they sort of exist in a separate world. And yet somehow, they made it into the center of the senior picture! The paradox makes my head hurt.


Anonymous John said...

Excellent post! And I ws thinking the exact same thing--if Seth is the school pariah, why is he front and center in the class picture? And I can't believe that you didn't mention Seth offering sex to Taylor--and I was intrigued by her reply.

1/18/06, 8:47 AM  

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