Music Monday: The O.C. Turns 10

5 Aug

When The O.C. premiered in August 2003, the iTunes store had only been open for a few months and buying CDs didn’t seem so antiquated. The O.C. pretty much lived in the death throes of how we used to purchase and consume music; this is also the time that I still worked in a record store, a record store that unsurprisingly is no longer in existence. As I’ve previously mentioned, TV and particularly teen TV has been a constant source of finding new music and The O.C. did this on a whole new level as it embraced bands that the characters listened to.

Death Cab for Cutie posters adorned Seth Cohen’s wall and featured in the Seth Cohen Starter Pack (along with albums by Bright Eyes and The Shins, The Goonies and Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay), they also played at the Bait Shop in season 2 along with a host of others such as Modest Mouse, The Walkman and The Killers.

I should really start with the theme song by Phantom Planet (which I wrote about for This Was TV) and how it sets the tone; in the pilot the song is used as a transition from the grainy Chino-cam to the glorious and bright world that Ryan will be joining after he has given Sandy Cohen a call – everything gets a lot bluer and sun-kissed as we head to Newport. The theme song is hopeful and that shot of Ryan looking out of the car window is one that is linked to both the opening credits and a shot that is repeated emphasizing Ryan’s outsider status. It’s a song that I have hated and now love; Californiaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! 

The Bait Shop as a music venue became a bit of a punch line – I seem to recall the nickname The Hate Shop – and the first time a live band appeared on that show was before The Bait Shop was conceived. Rooney (please yell their name like Luke) get the honor of being The O.C.’s inaugural band. Appearing on a teen show might not be the cool indie way to do things but as Josh Schwartz explains in this new interview with Alan Sepinwall the amount of exposure translated into sales as Rooney “saw a crazy, like 200 percent increase the week after. And then it built to a place where we got a call that the Beastie Boys would like to world premiere their song on your show.” Schwartz also notes that this was a time when there weren’t that many platforms to promote music and several other bands like U2 and Coldplay also debuted tracks on the show.

“Fix You” was one of those tracks and so The O.C. can lay claim to this song; all other shows should not attempt to use this as an emotionally manipulative tool. “Hallelujah” is a trickier case, though I would also say that this show used this song before it hit saturation point and they used it to form a connection between Ryan and Marissa. They tried to mix it up by swapping the Jeff Buckley version for Imogen Heap in the season 3 finale; sadly I find the style of Imogen Heap’s music to be intensely irritating (sorry Imogen Heap fans, I just can’t) and her music instantly sucks all the emotion out of a scene. Instead enjoy the end montage of season 1 as Ryan leaves Newport, Seth sails away, Kirsten cries and Marissa embraces day drinking.

Hallelujah is probably the most famous cover version The O.C. used, but others like Youth Group taking on “Forever Young” and Placebo’s version of “Running up the Hill” (which has also reached saturation point, take note music supervisors) provide poignant moments. The final mix CD that was released in association with the show is called “Covering Our Tracks” and has bands covering tracks that had already featured in previous seasons. One thing The O.C. attempted to do was to push the boundaries of what a TV soundtrack could be and a lot of that is thanks to music supervisor Alexandra Patsavas and Josh Schwartz’s own enthusiasm for music. In retrospect Schwartz isn’t afraid to take the blame for some of these missteps, on the Bait Shop he explains to Alan Sepinwall that “I think my appetite for seeing bands lip sync their playback on a fake set may have been greater than some of our audience members but, hey. It was fun. When else was I going to get that chance?”

Talking about the legacy of a show can sound grandiose and while The O.C. flailed at times (season 3 anyone?); it has definitely had a lasting impact on teen TV from the music to narrative aspects such as increasing plots for the parental characters.  It is a testament to the soundtrack that there are too many to mention in this piece and so many more videos that I could have chosen (from this YouTube channel) – somehow Oliver features in half of the clips.

So Happy 10th Anniversary The O.C.! It won’t be long before you will be able start drinking and take all your rage out on the pool furniture.

One Response to “Music Monday: The O.C. Turns 10”


  1. Scandal Soundtrack Preview: Music For Gladiators | TV Ate My Wardrobe - August 28, 2013

    […] Records have produced some of my favorite TV soundtracks – including the recently discussed The O.C., Gossip Girl, Chuck, Mad Men and The Carrie Diaries. They’ve also produced some pretty […]

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