When The O.C. debuted in 2007, Fox had an immediate hit on their hands. Millions tuned in every week to watch as Ryan, Marissa, Seth, and Summer coupled and uncoupled, along with their parent’s ups and downs in the city of Newport Beach, California. Aspirational but realistic, comedic yet dramatic, The O.C. was beloved by fans and lauded by critics for its smart writing and self-awareness.
42. Out of the Gate
Almost immediately after its debut in August, 2007, The O.C. was a huge hit. The show was one of the most popular new dramas and also garnered great reviews from critics as well.
41. What It’s All About
The show followed troubled teen Ryan Atwood and the wealthy Cohen family who takes him in after his mother kicks him out. Major themes explored by the show included belonging and culture clash, as Ryan integrated with his foster family, and the philanthropic and idealistic Cohens fit into the shallow, materialistic, and closed-minded community they lived in.
40. Biggest Fan
Series star Ben McKenzie told Hollywood Life that once a year, he binge-watches all four seasons of The O.C. He must really love watching himself act.
39. Too Strong
Show creator Josh Schwartz intended for the character of Marissa—and her storyline with Ryan—to be “him trying to save her from a fate that she couldn’t be rescued from”. In casting, the final choice was between Mischa Barton and Olivia Wilde. Schwartz thought Wilde was great, but “she has such a strong persona that she didn’t need rescuing”—so Barton got the part.
Josh Schwartz was only 26 years old when the show premiered, making him one of the youngest people in network TV history to create a series, plus run day-to-day production. Talk about an early achiever.
37. Not Just A Teen Show
Show creator Josh Schwartz was very clear that on The O.C., the world of adults was going to be just as important as the world of teens. The first person cast was Peter Gallagher, to play Sandy Cohen.
The city of Newport Beach in California’s Orange County loved The O.C. In 2004, they presented the cast with the keys to the city of Newport Beach, and proclaimed October 28, 2004 as “OC Thursday”.
35. Gone and Forgotten
In the first few episodes of The O.C., the Cohens have a maid, and the Coopers have a dog. Neither are ever seen again in later episodes. The disappearance or dismissal of a maid might not be a big deal, but you’d think the Coopers would notice their beloved family pet was missing.
34. Teen Mom?
Actress Kelly Rowan is only 14 years older than Adam Brody, who plays her son.
33. Life Imitates Art
Adam Brody and Rachel Bilson—aka Seth and Summer—not only portrayed a couple on The O.C., they also dated in real life for the run of the show. Sadly, like Seth and Summer, Bilson and Brody weren’t destined for each other forever and they broke up shortly after the show ended.
32. Real Law
Actor Peter Gallagher made a name for himself playing public defender Sandy Cohen on The O.C., and he made his mark in real life too: for two years, he donated $2,000 to UC Berkley School of Law’s Boalt Hall, the alma mater of his fictional character, to help a student undertake an unpaid internship in the public service field. The scholarship was known as the Sandy Cohen Public Defender Fellowship, or “The Sandy” for short.
31. A & F
Luke Ward, played by actor Chris Carmack, was often referred to on The O.C. as “Abercrombie and Fitch,” and not always in a nice way. Someone else thought he had the look of a preppy beefcake model too—Bruce Webber, the photographer for Abercrombie & Fitch. Carmack modeled in real life in several ad campaigns for the brand.
30. Continuity Error
Kaitlin Cooper, the younger sister of Marissa Cooper, was played by Shailene Woodley in Season 1. The character was shipped off to boarding school at age 12, but returned in Season 3, now played by Willa Holland. While only 18 months had passed in the show’s timeline, she was shown in one episode celebrating her 15th birthday. That math doesn’t add up. Soon after, she’s shown driving a car—despite being only 15 years old.
29. The Reason Why
Shailene Woodley told Moviefone the reason she was replaced on The O.C.: she re-auditioned for the role of Kaitlin, but she was a late bloomer and hadn’t fully gone through puberty yet, so didn’t look old enough for the reprised role. The part went to Willa Holland, who looked older despite being only five months older than Woodley. But even then, Holland was still one year younger than the resurrected 15-year-old Kaitlin.
28. A New Holiday
The O.C.’s Cohens were an interfaith family, and in the show, son Seth Cohen creates a new holiday to merge his mother’s Protestant faith with his father’s Judaism. The holiday was almost named “Hannamas,” which doesn’t have the same ring to it.
27. First Draft
The show’s most famous line wasn’t even in the original script. Creator Josh Schwartz wanted the phrase “The O.C.” to appear in the first episode, so he added the line, “Welcome to the O.C., bitch”, spoken by former Abercrombie & Fitch model Chris Carmack.
26. Musical Showcase
Music was a big part of The O.C. The Bait Shop, the show’s fictional music venue, saw performances by many popular bands from real life including The Killers, Modest Mouse, The Walkmen, and Death Cab for Cutie.
25. First Plays
The O.C. was, in its first years, a hugely popular show with teens, so it made a great venue to premiere a new song. The Beastie Boys single “Ch-Check It Out” debuted on the show in 2004, and Gwen Stefani debuted her single “Cool” in another episode that year. Another episode, dubbed “The Beckisode” contained five new singles from Beck’s new album, Guero.
24. From Outside to Inside
The Cohen home was based on two real homes in Malibu, California. Exterior shots of one home were filmed and used during all four seasons, and the interior, backyard, and pool of another home were filmed in the pilot. To save production costs when the show was picked up, the backyard, interior, and pool were all recreated at a film studio in Manhattan Beach, California.
23. In The Storyline
Season 1 features the Cohen family doing extensive remodeling on their home. This explains why their home looks different than it does in the pilot. The house was rebuilt at a film studio, and any details that weren’t matched exactly would have been explained by the remodel. How convenient.
22. No Danger of Drowning
There were some differences in the interior of the Cohen’s recreated home, and the pool was a bit different too. The recreated pool built at Raleigh Studios was only four feet deep. Actors had to film any scenes in which they were “standing on the pool while actually perched on their knees.
21. Familiar Face
In a scene from The O.C., Seth Cohen refers to himself as “vomiting like that girl from The Sixth Sense.” If he’d seen The Sixth Sense he must not have recognized his neighbor. Mischa Barton, who played Marissa, played the girl he refers to in The Sixth Sense.
20. Young Stardom
Creator Josh Schwartz admitted that the cast of The O.C. had a “complicated chemistry” and didn’t always get along, but denied that the Marissa character was killed because Mischa Barton wanted off the show. He also admitted that some actors had reservations about being famous for acting on a primetime “teen drama.” Good thing the show was so well-received by critics.
19. Equal Billing
Rachel Bilson was credited as “guest star” in the opening credits for the first 14 episodes, despite appearing in every single one. Meanwhile, Tate Donovan was given star billing in the credits of those 14 episodes, including the ones he wasn’t even in.
18. No Reprieve
The O.C. was canceled in 2007 after four seasons. While it was a breakout hit in its first few seasons, declining ratings were the cause of the cancellation. An online petition begging for the show to continue collected 700,000 signatures, but apparently that wasn’t enough.
The O.C. features a long-running multi-layered meta-fictional joke, in the form of the fictional show-within-the-show called The Valley, which functions as a sort of equivalent to The O.C. within the show. The joke goes deeper, as there is also a fictional reality counterpart to The Valley, called Sherman Oaks: The Real Valley, about which Seth muses, “Why watch the plight of fictional characters when you can watch real people in contrived situations?”
16. Even Deeper
The meta-fiction goes even deeper: after the popularity of The O.C., it seems producers were inspired by show-within-a-show Sherman Oaks: The Real Valley, as they created a reality show called Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County in 2004. Art imitates life, which imitates art.
15. What’s in a Name?
“The O.C.” was a popular nickname used by residents of Orange County long before the show, but the decision to title the show The O.C. and not call it Orange County was possibly due to a film called Orange County coming out in 2002. The film starred Colin Hanks and Jack Black, and was a stoner comedy-of-errors about mixed-up college transcripts, very different in tone than The O.C. Wouldn’t want to confuse the two.
14. It Doesn’t Stop There
If you’ve watched both The O.C. and the film Orange County, you may notice another similarity: the song “California” by Phantom Planet is the theme song that plays during the opening credits to The O.C., and it plays over the end credits in Orange County.
13. So Meta
You’ll also recognize a familiar face if you watched both Orange County and The O.C.: actor Colin Hanks, who stars in Orange County, also stars in The Valley, the show-within-a-show on The O.C.
In Season 4 of The O.C., which aired in 2005, Dr. Roberts (played by Michael Nouri) leaves Orange County for a job at a hospital in Seattle. Which hospital? He tells summer that his job is at a “quirky” hospital called Seattle Grace. This is a reference to the ABC show Grey’s Anatomy, and when Kaitlin makes a reference to “the short sassy lady” bossing Dr. Roberts around, she’s likely referring to Grey’s character Dr. Miranda Bailey. Dr. Roberts wasn’t being truthful about his exit, however, as Michael Nouri has yet to appear on Grey’s Anatomy.
Why wasn’t The O.C. actually filmed in Newport Beach? Labor union salary regulations about filming outside of Los Angeles County meant that it would be less expensive to film the show in nearby Manhattan Beach, so the show was shot at Raleigh Studios, only 40 miles from Newport Beach.
10. Name Drop
The O.C. got a little shout out in 2003’s Arrested Development, which is also set in Newport Beach. On Arrested Development, whenever someone referred to Orange County as “The O.C.” and annoyed Michael would quickly answer, “Don’t call it that”.
9. My Dad was Hercules Too
Kevin Sorbo played Frank Atwood, Ryan’s father, but he’s best known for playing Hercules on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys in the 1990s. Tate Donovan, who played Marissa’s father Jimmy Cooper, voiced Hercules in the animated Disney film, Hercules, as well as in the spin-off TV show and video games.
8. A Rose by Any Other Name…
According to the original pilot script written by Josh Schwartz, the Cohens’ last name was originally going to be Needleman.
7. What Could Have Been
In early drafts for the series, Ryan Atwood was originally going to be Sandy Cohen’s illegitimate son. That would have given the series a very different dynamic, and definitely tarnished Sandy’s squeaky clean character.
6. Asked to Join
Rachel Bilson, as Summer Roberts, was originally intended to be a guest star, but her character was so popular that she was written into the show as a regular. So was Melinda Clarke, who plays Julie Cooper. They both turned into important characters in the show—Bilson appeared in all of the show’s 92 episodes, while Clarke was in 90 episodes.
5. Big Break
Ben McKenzie had appeared in bit parts on JAG and Mad TV before being cast as Ryan Atwood on The O.C., but the role was definitely his big break. At the time he was cast, McKenzie was working at as a telemarketer to pay the bills. He’s since gone on to play starring roles on Southland and Gotham.
3. Spoiled Ending
Showrunners of The O.C. went to great lengths to protect the ending of Season 3’s finale, swearing the cast and crew to secrecy, and even filming alternate endings where different characters died. However, it was all for naught—actress Mischa Barton spoiled the ending only one hour before it aired when she told Access Hollywood that her character, Marissa, would die.
1. First Impressions
Adam Brody nearly blew his audition for The O.C., and creator Josh Schwartz hated him at first. Brody was doing multiple other auditions during pilot season and didn’t bother learning the lines. Casting director Patrick Rush insisted that Brody was “very special,” so Schwartz gave him another shot. After a bit of rehearsing (and learning his lines) Brody came back in and nailed his second audition.