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ISSUE 118 VOL 8 PUBLISHED 11/12/2004

Orange County exposed

By Matthew Simenstad
Contributing Writer

Friday, November 12, 2004

Sixteen sets of eyes are fixed on the TV in the Kildahl lounge. Everyone listens carefully (volume cranked up to the maximum 55) to the melodramatic conversations taking place between Ryan, Marissa, Seth (et al.) in the season premiere of The O.C., which aired last Thursday night.

When the first commercial break comes, everyone takes a collective breath. They shift in their chairs, reacquainting themselves with reality after being engrossed in 10 minutes of fantasy. Then the discussion begins.

Only The O.C., which stands for Orange County, an extremely wealthy area of southern California, can invoke a conversation like this. OCers throw around predictions, state opinions about various characters and update the few O.C. virgins in the room on the plot history.

All this discussion and the O.C. party itself beg the question: Just what the heck makes this show so popular? Fox, the network on which the O.C. is shown, developed The North Shore, a mirror image of the hit show, to satiate the publics thirst for The O.C. over the summer. Over the past few weeks (and even months), the teen soap opera has been so ubiquitously advertised that David Hardnett 08 was able to recite dialogue from the commercials verbatim.

Hardnetts transition from in-the-dark non-watcher to official OCer is a perfect example of just how addictive the show can be.

I was in Las Vegas and a bunch of my friends were really hyped up on it, he said. So I decided to give it a try. I guess it was just in the atmosphere.

Hardnett has been a fan ever since. He even owns the first season on DVD. I watched the whole thing in six days last week, he said.

So why has this show thrown young America into such hysteria? Perhaps they have fallen in love with the way-above-average-looking teenage characters. The average age of Seth, Ryan, Marissa and Summer in real life is 23, even though on the show they are just entering their senior year of high school this season.

The actors real ages do not discourage viewers from watching however. You really dont pay attention to their age, Hardnett said. As long as you look young and look the part, Im fine with it.

Anna Brostrom 08, who watched her first episode of The O.C. on Thursday night, had an honest assessment of the shows popularity.

You get to watch a lot of hot, rich kids throw their money around, she said. Theres all this drama, and it kind of makes you feel like your problems arent all that stupid.

It would seem that The O.C. doesnt have the sort of everyman appeal that, say, Full House had in the 90s. However, Hardnett feels it has an allure for the more mature teenage demographic.

You can see what kind of problems teenagers like us face, he said. This is the only show where teenagers seem real to me.

So is that the reason for Americas guilty-pleasure obsession with The O.C.? We enjoy watching beautiful, over-age teenagers like (or extremely unlike) ourselves throw around their money and wind up in precarious positions?

The show ends, but nobody leaves. All 16 people wait through an entire set of commercials so they can see scenes from the next episode of The O.C. California, here we come.

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