My Comic Book Guy Moment, vol. 1
I love The O.C., I really do. It took me a while but, after a couple of years of protestation, I succumbed in my 2006 summer of Cali-love that was spearheaded by the heady brew of Arrested Development and punk rock retro fetish. So I watched the first season on DVD, and then caught the coincidentally-scheduled T4 morning repeats of the third. I’ll save the in depth eulogy for when the show has officially finished over here, though.

Of course, my mentioning that I love The O.C. is precursor to dissing the episode I saw this week. I suppose it could be justified as Christmas insanity (it was, after all, a Yuletide-set episode), but even that is a stretch. Having not seen the second season, I will refrain from any ‘WORST. EPISODE. EVER!’ proclamations but, even as a staunch O.C. defender, I thought it was just too silly.

Background: too-perfect-to-be-true dream girl Taylor Townsend (Autumn Reeser) has a crush on bad-boy-with-heart Ryan Atwood (Benjamin McKenzie). She gets him a big Christmas prezzie, and he responds by not inviting her to the family Xmas dinner (he has his reasons, but I’m not about to tell the whole story. Watch the repeat on Sunday if you’re desperate for facts). Anyway, he’s been putting Xmas lights on the roof, she is up the ladder with him and they both fall.

Exposition out of the way, they end up in hospital, unconscious yet ‘fine’. It transpires that they have been transported – together – to an alternate universe where, Quantum Leap style, they must put right something that has gone wrong. In this particular scenario, Sandy (Peter Gallagher) and Kirsten Cohen (Kelly Rowan) are divorced, and with Julie (Melinda Clarke) and Jimmy Cooper (Tate Donovan) respectively. Our perfect pair have less than one full episode to get the Cohens back together, and also to get Seth (Adam Brody) with Summer (Rachel Bilson).

See, this is a parallel universe where neither Ryan nor Taylor exists. Without Ryan being there, Seth never gets cool, never pulls Summer (in other words, this is a more realistic Orange County than the one in which they actually live), and she ends up being an airhead (which she was anyway, let’s not forget), and married to Che (Chris Pratt). Anyone following the show will know Che is someone she knows from university, so this is too bizarre to work, but the writers fudge an explanation about the circumstances that would lead to his being in Orange County and whatnot. It was not the most believable explanation I have ever heard.

Taylor does technically exist in this universe, but her mother had a boy instead of a girl. Upon seeing her giving New Taylor a dressing down about his weight, Our Taylor confronts mummy dearest about the way she is talking to Boy Taylor. Standing up to mater apparently her actual ‘mission’, she gets zapped back to the normal Orange County; Ryan is left on his own. In one big speech, he manages to get everyone together, Seth has his ‘George McFly smacks Biff Tannen’* moment when he gets in Che’s face, and everyone is happy.

If all of this wasn’t of sufficient insanity to have you questioning your own marbles consider, too, the dialogue that Seth and Sandy had while Ryan and Taylor were ‘comatose but fine’. Seth, in an on-the-nose moment of a magnitude not seen since I stopped watching pro wrestling and Days of Our Lives, suggests to his dad that – get this – perhaps Ryan and Taylor are in an alternate universe! And if that was not enough, he goes on to posit that perhaps they have a mission to accomplish, at which point they will return to the real world! Awesome. And were that not sufficiently ridiculous, Sandy – a lawyer by trade – agrees with this summation.

Is it all just a desperate (and ham fisted to the point where the writers must be wearing entire pork farms on their hands) stab to echo the excellent season opening of Sopranos last year that was set largely in Tony’s coma-dream world?

Hopefully things will return to normal after this week, because the fourth season is so dark and bleak that it actually really works. I think this is what Americans call ‘jumping the shark’ (a reference to a Happy Days episode wherein the disturbingly old-to-have-teen-friends ‘Fonz’ literally jumped a shark with his motorbike. So it really just means a dunderheaded point of no return for a programme). Here’s hoping for the show to end in a blaze of nihilistic glory.

*If you don’t get this reference, do not return to the internet until you have watched Back to the Future. And its sequel. But not number three.

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