Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Disconnect

Mediocrity here we come, right back where we started from (well, assuming “where we started from” was season two)…mediocrity…here we come!

Okay, so that rhythm doesn’t actually work, but the lyrics are apropos. Actually, those might be the finest lyrics in the history of music because of how true to life they are.

So ignoring the fact that I love my lyrics, let’s admit to ourselves that this week’s show was extremely mediocre, the storylines that seemed fresh are meandering, and that Chrismukkah better deliver the goods or else this show is doomed to spiral even further down in the ratings.

Yes, after two strong weeks for our beloved show, we’re back to the depths of melodramatic hell. It’s too bad, actually, because things were going great. The term I stole from TV Guide about last week’s episode was “credible angst,” and I found that to be such a refreshing change from what we generally have. It stretched the writers, the characters, and captured the viewers. It worked very well.

This week didn’t have “credible angst” and, as an episode, really couldn’t even be considered “credible.” Instead, it was a boring, uninspired episode with uninspired comedy, uninspired performances, and uninspired direction.

Okay, so not everything was that bad – I actually liked it on first viewing – but still, it wasn’t what The O.C. needs as the ratings begin to decline. As usual, the episode suffered mainly thanks to the misadventures of one of the whacky teenagers, but we’ll get to that in a moment.

I’d imagine that this review will actually be somewhat shorter this time, not because I’m pressed for time but because I’m pressed for things to say. So, we’ll see how that goes.


You know, I forgave the writers for taking Sandy away from law, and I forgave them rather quickly because the idea that Sandy would run the Newport Group was kind of cool. At least we could see him attempt to handle the monotony of every day life while trying to pry the gripping hands of the Newport Group off his neck. There was a lot they could have immediately done.

Instead, we get Matt. Okay, I can take that. It’s nice to give Sandy a sidekick. But instead of giving us a, you know, GOOD storyline, they give us this ridiculous storyline about going to the strip club. That’s actually not a bad idea in theory because everyone with a pulse or a brain (I suppose you have to have one to have the other, well, a working one to have a working other) knew that Matt had his demons. But the execution was excruciatingly bad.

This guy takes Ryan out to a strip club the night before a big presentation, completely blows it in the most unconvincing acting ever on the show, and Sandy forgives him because some stripper walks into the office and hands out the sob story about how he’s heartbroken and how they have heart-to-hearts in between lap dances. It’s touching, I know. In fact, didn’t The Cosby Show do this very same episode? I don’t know. Regardless, though, it was ridiculous. Absolutely no tension, no shocks, no twists, nothing.

That’s not to say that there isn’t some redemption lurking because there could be. The writers could dig up a huge skeleton in the guy’s closet. I’m sure that’ll happen because no one on this show becomes a regular.

Sandy seems to want something to do. Gallagher seems excited as always, but he just can’t find any good material. His character, even in the best episodes, has, at best, been mediocre thanks to writing that just doesn’t have any type of point. I find that pretty disheartening because I’d imagine that there are probably more people out there who like Sandy than there are who like Marissa. And that’s not just my bias speaking. This show could reach an entirely new demographic if they would start to redevelop the adult characters.

Kirsten and Julie…

That leads me to these two, another low point of the episode. Talk about wasted potential.

Julie, as a rule, is one of the most intriguing characters on the show. Well, that was the rule in the past. It doesn’t happen like that anymore. They are putting all this potential on her, but no one’s actually pulling the trigger on any type of real storyline. There are so many emotional problems that the writers could attempt to deal with now, but they decided to forge ahead with this business venture. I guess it’s an attempt to salvage what was left after Charlotte departed, but it’s not a successful attempt. Talk about characters and actors just going through the motions.

But there was some redemption to be found in the middle of the snoring, and redemption, thy name is Julie. I know I just spent a paragraph saying she’s boring, but she still had two shining moments. The first was her look when the man revealed that he was going to pay big money for her to date him. She seemed so proud of herself. That’s the trashy Julie coming out that I like. The woman more concerned with how much money she’s worth than her actual self-worth.

The second big moment was when she suggested that they should a hooker service. It was exactly the right line, and it was delivered with the right tone and the right facial expression. It was a show-stealing line. And really, why wouldn’t they run with the idea that Julie actually begins to run an escort service? Not a dating service but an escort service. Hell, why not go with the idea that Julie whores herself out? I’m not asking she become a full-fledged pimp, but the storyline is so preposterous that it would add some much need camp and trash to the show. It’s not an actively good idea but neither is anything else they’re really coming up with. I mean, I’m not going to crap on this storyline yet – I reserve immediate crapping for anytime Marissa brings in a new guy – but I am going to keep myself weary of what’s to come. Leah, from the wonderful O.C. Community boards, said that from a little bit she’s read of spoilers, she likes where the story’s going, so I’ll take her word for it. I’m not going to read the spoilers myself, but it’s nice to know that there’s something good lurking. Maybe, at least.

Ryan and Marissa…

Where to begin with these two?

First, let me say that I think Ryan is the most pitiful character on the show. That’s not a knock on Ben or anything because I actually really like Ryan. But he’s been saddled with Marissa and her ridiculous storylines so really, not much good can come from it. He’s been asked to play this sort of wandering, blithering fool and while he handles that role gracefully, it’s not something he should be playing.

Anyway, let’s just say that we should never speak of the strip club adventure again. The idea that Ryan had an internship was cool, but it went to hell as soon as he was paired up with Matt. Stupid. Let’s move on.

How damn stupid can Marissa possibly be? This is the exact same predicament she was in with Oliver, and she’s not even bright enough to realize it. Here’s an apparently misunderstood, depressed guy, and Marissa throws herself on him and then acts surprise when he reveals feelings.

Did she really need to spend every waking moment with Johnny? The guy is on crutches, he’s not a quadriplegic. I’m pretty sure that he can get around. If they wanted us to feel that Johnny was so helpless they should have done something better than have him hurt his knee. There’s a high school football player I read about in the paper a week or so ago. He had two-three torn ligaments in his knee, said he could barely stand because it was like standing on Jell-O, and the kid still played offensive line. I see people day in and day out who get around fine on crutches. Marissa reacting like Johnny had just had a heart attack when he fell over in the kitchen was just horrible. This storyline is more painful than any knee injury ever.

And how incredibly contrived was the falling asleep thing? Talk about poor writing. People get paid big money to come up with stuff like this. For six figures, I could come up with something better than the two morons falling asleep together.

Next week’s preview shows Johnny with a gun. It also shows Johnny dancing with the gang. Hopefully the latter comes before the former. Johnny killing himself would probably be the greatest single moment in the history of the show. No way the writers deliver such an awesome story, but I can’t think of a better way to spend Chrismukkah than celebrating the loss of Cliché Plot Device 45.
I have to say, though, that the end, with Ryan and Marissa talking on the phone, was kind of sweet. It’s nice to hear them converse like an actual couple. It’s nice that Marissa didn’t get pissed at Ryan for going to the strip club. I could easily see her going insane, much to my chagrin. It’s too bad these sweet moments have to be surrounded by such ridiculous contrivances. I just wish the writers understood how bad most of this stuff is.

Seth and Summer…

Here’s your winner of the night and even this wasn’t much of a winner.

Seth and Summer always have an interesting dynamic, regardless of the storyline, so it’s always nice to see them playing off of each other.

I was worried about the way Seth reacted to the news of Summer’s SAT score (I do hate, though, the idea that they conveniently took the SAT off screen, though I should give props to the writing staff for doing their research about the new SAT scoring system) because it seemed so dickish. I wasn’t going to be able to stand a night of Seth completely demeaning Summer because it’s just not fair. I know she’s not the brightest person, but people shouldn’t completely write her off. Zack Morris got a 1502 on his SAT. I’d say that anything can happen.

It was nice that this story led to a look at Seth, though. The fact that Summer’s score actually revealed his insecurities was a nice touch. It was kind of heartbreaking when Seth said that he was only better at one thing, and he didn’t even that anymore. It’s funny how we get these glimpses of Summer that Seth doesn’t – all of the conversations she’s had over the last few years about how Seth will eventually grow tired of her for not being good enough have been so honest – and how those glimpses could drastically change the relationship. It’s actually a nice look at both characters and their insecurities. The fact that both are so in love that they don’t feel that they deserve the other is oddly sweet. That’s what when the relationships feel most real.

If only the writers could remember that when they’re writing the abomination known as Ryan and Marissa.

As for the Brown stuff, I’m still not buying it. Neither of them will get in. Summer doesn’t have a shot in hell. A good SAT score won’t compensate for bad grades. I hate this idea on television that an SAT score is the ticket to a good school. Hell, I hate the emphasis on standardized testing in general, but this is neither the time nor the place. As for Seth getting in, okay, he might, but the emphasis has been so much on Brown that it just seems unlikely that he’ll get in. Maybe the twist is that it’ll be so obvious he doesn’t get in that he actually does get in. Clever, huh?

It would be nice if they’d apply to back-up schools. Remember that Kirsten said that graduating from Harbor is a ticket into any UC school. Why not just apply to one or two just to make sure they have somewhere to go when this doesn’t pan out? I’m not asking for them to apply to a bunch of schools like most hyperactive high school seniors, but I’m asking for a little bit of realism injected into the story. I’m still glad they’re addressing the issue of college, but I’m not glad that they aren’t attempting to do it realistically. At least neither of them have to worry about financial aid.

Random Thoughts…

Where in the hell was Taylor in this episode? Not only is she the best new character the show has introduced since Anna, she’s the most complex character on the show at the moment. There are so many opportunities for this character, and to have her dropped from an episode is inexcusable, especially since she played such a pivotal role in the previous episodes. I guess we have to make more room for Johnny.

Seth and Summer sure finished their college applications fast, huh? A quick check of the Brown website reveals that there are four forms that you have to fill out. I’d imagine that gathering up all the needed information, writing the required essays, and proofing all the information wouldn’t happen in a night. And do people actually really mail their applications out themselves? My guidance counselor did that for me so that he could attach all the important records.

Johnny sucks. Honestly, I had decent hopes of this public school thing working out, but it’s been no different than when they sent Marissa to rehab. I’d love to see him kill himself. If not now, maybe later. There’s a good twist. Have him not do it next week, but then actually do it the next time. I like that idea. I should get paid the six figures.

This was a horribly flat script. The characters didn’t come alive, the dialogue was uninspired, and the structure was piss-poor. Are they even rewriting scripts anymore? Something tells me that we’re getting first drafts of scripts put on the screen. Or that we did with this one at least. Josh is writing next week’s episode and even if the storyline sucks, he’s still got a way with dialogue that everyone else really lacks.

Summer played the tuba? That’s not even a cute idea to think about. I’ve got nothing against the tuba – I played the baritone in middle school – but they were going for some kind of cute nostalgic trip with this, and it really didn’t work. I doubt anyone sat at home going, “Aw, sweet” when she said that. But maybe I’m wrong.

Seth arguing for his rightful role as the mascot was funny, but the ensuing banter between Seth and Summer wasn’t.

The constant references to Chrismukkah showed us just how important this episode was. It wasn’t. They’re excited about next week. I guess I am, too.

So yeah, that’s about all I’ve got. This ended up running about the length of a normal review, maybe a little less, so I guess I did have more to say than I thought.

Regardless, though, this was still a terribly frustrating episode. I just feel like potential is everywhere, but the writers don’t want to tap into it. Instead of delving into all the changes that come with senior year, they’re just dealing with the same ole, same ole. The drama of senior year writes itself at parts. I suppose that we’ll get more into that as the season progresses, but I’m begging for just anything different.

Chrismukkah hasn’t let us down yet with two awesome, awesome, awesome episodes, so here’s to hoping that next week delivers.

I’ll see you then.


Something to say? Want to join the Johnny Should Kill Himself club?


At 11:56 AM, Blogger Michelle said...

Way to get the review in on Monday! Nice!

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