Tuesday, September 13

90210 vs the OC

If yesterday's post was the funniest thing I have seen in a while, this might be one of the funniest things I've read in a while. And, I happen to know a few women who will appreciate it, including the 3 I watched it with every week in college. (I apologize ahead of time for the lengthy copy and paste of the comparison, but it was sent to me in an email, and I'm too lazy to find the link.)

I give to you, the 90210 vs. O.C. debate, by Bill Simmons from ESPN.


You're right, it's time. Let's break this baby down, Dr. Jack-style. To keep things fair, I'm only comparing "The OC" to the first two seasons of "90210."

Premise: "90210" revolved around two twins from Minnesota moving to Beverly Hills and dealing with rich people. "The OC" had a troubled kid from Encino moving to Orange County and dealing with rich people. The lesson, as always: You're probably going to have a hit show if an outsider is dealing with rich people. "The OC" pilot was better -- actually, it was probably the best episode in the history of the show -- but "90210" gets points for originality. Too tough to call.

Stars: Brandon Walsh could have been a pretty corny part in the wrong hands, especially when the pilot had him turning down the advances from a smoking-hot chick in a hot tub, or the episode when Emily Valentine slipped him an ecstacy pill and he reacted like she had infected him with an AIDS-infected needle. It was also confusing how the writers made him the moral conscience of the show, then gave him a gambling problem out of nowhere, or had him smash up his car in a DWI accident. But Jason Priestley handled all of these things, became a pretty big star, helped launch the remarkably bizarre sideburns trend, hosted an "SNL" episode and breathed life into lines like "You sure you should be driving?" and "You OK?" Good actor, great part. He was the rock of the show -- we even forgave him after he broke the Code of Guys and started dating his best friend's girlfriend. Meanwhile, if it wasn't for Marissa, Ryan would have been the weak link of "The OC" -- he was very good in the first few episodes, before the whole "he's a brooding outsider with a hair-trigger temper who means well" act wore thin because they ordered too many episodes at once. By the end of the season, Ben McKenzie (who plays Ryan) was stuck doing Jay Mohr's eyeball rolling, "I love her man!" impersonation of Andrew McCarthy, only he wasn't kidding. So they preppied him up in Season 2, gave him a self-deprecating sense of humor and a broader personality, and now he's an absolute mess -- to the point that they're starting to steer the show around Seth. What happened to the guy who wore leather jackets and white T-shirts and couldn't express himself? Now he's whipping out one-liners like Yakov Smirnoff. I'm confused.
MAJOR EDGE: 90210.

Breakout Sidekick: I'm already on record as saying that the guy who plays Seth (Adam Brody) has the best chance of anyone to become the next Tom Hanks ... and yet, I'm not sure Seth could carry his own show. He's a little too manic. Dylan McKay? He could have carried his own show. And then some. I'm just saying.
EDGE: 90210.

Babes: Tough category for "90210" -- there were only four girls on the show, and two of them were Tori Spelling and Gabrielle Carteris. Ouch. I liked Jennie Garth, and her Kelly Taylor character clearly foreshadowed every loathsome character we would see 14 years later on "My Super Sweet 16," but she wasn't prettier than anyone on "The OC" (except for maybe Ryan's new girlfriend). And Shannen Doherty was too wholesome and crazy-looking during those first two seasons, although maybe she had to be. As for "The OC" ... good golly. It's a murderer's row. You could make the case that Alex (Marissa's new girlfriend) and Summer (played by Rachel Bilson) are two of the hottest characters in the history of televsion -- that's right, I said it -- with Marissa right behind them, as well as Julie Cooper and Seth's mom making the Meredith Baxter-Birney Hall of Fame for smoking-hot TV moms. Say what you want about Josh Schwartz (the creator of "The OC"), but the man clearly knows what he's doing.

Parents: I liked the Walshes, but the Cohens serve the Brandon Walsh role for "The OC" -- in other words, they're the collective rock of the show, which made it so infuriating when they introduced the recent storyline where Sandy Cohen struggles with unresolved feelings for an old flame (played by a Botoxed-out Kim Delaney). Too out-of-character for him. Anyway, I can't ever imagine the Cohens getting slowly phased out of the show like the Walshes did, or getting transferred to Hong Kong and knocked off the show. Wouldn't happen. Only one thing saves this from being a complete landslide: The opening credits of "90210", when James Eckhouse (as Mr. Walsh) would proudly turn around with his arms folded over his chest, followed by the "that's right, I'm Mr. F-ing Walsh!" smile. That always killed me.

Wet Blanket Character: This boils down to Andrea (90210) against Caleb (OC), which is ironic because they're both the same age (bah-dum-cha!). But at least Caleb serves some sick, twisted purpose -- he's a villain, just a bad one. Andrea murdered entire episodes at a time -- she was like a cross between Adrian Balboa and Ted Bundy.

Theme Song: I can't believe I'm saying this, but ...

Unintentional Comedy: Between David Silver's budding music career; the two-part accidental shooting death of his buddy with the cowboy hat; Brandon nearly making the basketball team when he was like 5-foot-5; Andrea being like 35 in real life; and every single scene with Steve Sanders -- including the unforgettable adoption episode, which should have won Ian Ziering an Anti-Emmy -- I'm not sure we'll ever see the likes of "90210" again from an Unintentional Comedy standpoint. (Again, Ian Ziering was one of the stars of this show. The man had a blonde mullet perm. Repeat: Blonde mullet perm.) Anyway, "The OC" is too smart for that stuff -- if anything, the Unintentional Comedy is intentional, if that makes sense (like Luke's "welcome to the OC, b---h!" scene, a parody of those cheesy 80's scenes with the Zabka-like villains, the more I'm thinking about it). I'm pretty sure they're parodying shows like "90210" with some of these plots -- like Caleb's secret daughter being involved with his other daughter's surrogate son, or the entire episode when Luke's dad was outed -- which is one of the reasons I enjoy the show so much. No premise is too absurd for "The OC." At this point, the only Unintentional Comedy happens during any scene when Marissa has to act, especially if she's throwing a tantrum or pretending to be drunk. I keep waiting to find out that Mischa Barton is Keanu Reeves's illegitimate daughter. Then again, she's no Ian Ziering.
HUGE EDGE: 90210.

Plot Lines: "The OC's" biggest mistake was the way they raced through plots and relied too heavily on the "tune in next week!" factor, which is a pretty dangerous way to go -- we weren't even midway through the second season when they were playing the lesbian card. At the rate they're going, by Season 4, we'll see Ryan kidnapped by a UFO or something. I also think they juggle way too many plots, almost like the TV version of the Memphis Grizzlies playing too many guys. And with so much going on, the characters are racing through their lines now, so everyone talks in the same snappy, sarcastic fashion and you almost need to watch the shows twice to pick everything up. With "90210", they were very good at building shows around guest stars and one-episode plots during those first two seasons, with almost everything revolving around Brandon's world and the Dylan-Brandon relationship. Some of those early episodes stood on their own, like the one when Brandon dated the racist volleyball player, or the slumber party where Kelly confessed that she lost her virginity in the woods to a conniving senior. (It's weird, I can't remember what I did last week, and yet I can remember all of these stupid episodes). When something major happened -- like the Dylan-Kelly-Brenda love triangle -- it happened over the course of an entire summer, not two episodes, and it actually made sense as it unfolded (they set that baby up like a multi-episode arc in "Lost"). I don't feel like there's any rhyme or reason to the stuff that happens on "The OC" -- personified by Marissa falling for another woman during February sweeps. That's right, it's girl-on-girl action, Thursday on Fox!
EDGE: 90210.

Gratuitous use of half-siblings and step-siblings: It took a few years for "90210" to master this one, whereas "The OC" jumped right in -- at this point, Seth is related to everyone on the show except for the gardener.

Hangouts: "90210" had the Peach Pit, where aggrieved teenagers gathered to bitch about their parents, throw down some greasy food and crack wise with Nat (the one-note Peach Pit owner who inexplicably landed in the credits in Season Six). My favorite part about the Peach Pit was that Dylan hung out there -- here's a 17-year-old kid who didn't need a guardian and somehow knew every shady character in Los Angeles, someone who Mr. Walsh thought was WAY too dangerous to date his daughter, yet you were always most likely to find Dylan in a diner having lifetalks with someone who was three times older than him. How did that make sense? It was right up there with Daniel-San introducing Mr. Miyagi as his "best friend" in "Karate Kid 3". As for the Bait Shop, which became the main hangout on "The OC" this season, this might be the most unrealistic club on the planet. First of all, it's never crowded, even though they frequently have bands like The Killers playing there. Second, they don't card at the door, but there's a full bar. Third, it's the only music club in America where it's possible to have full conversations without shouting at the top of your lungs, even when the band is playing on stage. Fourth, there are no fights, no mosh pits, no obnoxious bouncers, no marijuana smoke, no cigarettes and nobody ever throws up. And fifth, none of the characters on the show are aspiring musicians along the lines of David Silver, who would have belted out
"Precious" on stage at least six times by now. So why even have the Bait Shop? Again, I'm confused.
MAJOR EDGE: 90210.

Glaring and embarrassing exclusion of any African-American characters: At least "90210" had a black manager at the Summer Club, or the episode when Brandon butted heads with Vivica A. Fox, or the one where Brandon nearly exposed the rule-bending on the hoops team. I'm not sure I've even SEEN a black person on "The OC." Has it happened? Did I miss it?

Originality: "90210" mastered the love triangle -- which was shamelessly ripped off by every subsequent show of this ilk, including most of the excruciating "Dawson's Creek" -- as well as those preachy storylines involving alcohol, the loss of virginity, drugs, diet pills, drunk-driving, bi-polar girlfriends, elephant tranquilizers, bestiality and everything else you can imagine. It also invented the "outsider deals with rich people" concept, as we discussed before. "The OC" mastered the "parody of a 90210-type show that somehow carries the weight of a real show" dynamic, which is harder than you think ... but not enough to take thiscategory.
EDGE: 90210.

Inexplicable homoerotic overtones: When Brandon and Dylan grew matching sideburns and started calling each other "B" and "D," you would have thought they were a lock for this category. But between Seth and Ryan's "Single White Female"-like friendship and Marissa's new relationship, this isn't even close.

Cultural Impact: Brandon and Dylan started the sideburns trend back in 1991, leading to my ill-fated attempt to grow them during my senior year in college. I'd rather not discuss this again. Ever. But "The OC" never inspired me to do anything. Not even throw up in my mouth.
EDGE: 90210.

Watershed ridiculous episode (through two seasons): For "90210", it's the episode where Brandon dumps Emily Valentine and she melts down -- any show that ends with a crazy girl threatening to set herself on fire on the school's homecoming float is one for the ages. Of course, Brandon visited her in San Fran a few years later and there was no mention of any of this. You had to love "90210." As for "The OC," I'd have to go with the Tijuana episode, which ended with Marissa overdosing and Ryan carrying her in slow-motion through the streets of Mexico, one of those "I can't believe I'm watching this" moments in life that you can never get back. Throw in a homecoming float and we would have had a winner.
EDGE: 90210.

Final verdict: "90210" invented this genre, whereas "The OC" tried to re-invent it (throwing in a little self-parody to boot). "90210" didn't make many mistakes during those first two seasons, whereas "The OC" made a bunch of them (most famously, the Oliver debacle). More importantly, I can't believe I just spent 2,000 words trying to figure this out.
FINAL EDGE: 90210.


I would like to say, as much as I have grown to like the OC, I have to admit it doesn't come close to filling the void that 90210 left, and I believe Bill would agree with me. Your thoughts, ladies? (and any gents brave enough to admit they watched it. Go ahead, you can do it.)


dammit sami said...

I emailed this post to a friend of mine, who is perhaps the most knowledgable authoritay on all things 90210 of my acquaintance. She fell in love with the OC during it's first season and begged me repeatedly to watch it, citing it's good writing, ironic humor, HOT actors, and the fact that it paid homage to the Niner in nearly every episode. I rebelled, sensing perhaps that she might PREFER the OC to 90210, which was unacceptable even though I had never seen the show. I went to visit her for a weekend 2 years ago, and in a fancy (to me) Manhattan restaurant, she told me she thought the OC might be a better show that 90210. I seriously almost decked her right then and there. Luckily for our friendship and for 90210's ranking on the roster of Awesome Primetime Dramas, but unhappily for Thursday nights, the second season of the OC kind of sucked. My pal has ammended her opinion.
As a side note about how awesome she is, she can apply quotes and lessons from 90210 to ANY situation. Case in point:

dammit sami said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Eddie said...

I have no idea how the OC is since right after i purchased the boxed sets for seasons one and two, my girlfriend snatched it from me and subsequently after we broke up, my best girl friend set up camp in her house for a month to go through an all out OC diet.

I've just recently gotten them both back and intend to watch them as religiously as they did. well maybe NOT as religiously, i am a guy after all, and I do need my daily dose of Girls Next Door.

However, 90210 was something memorable. I grew up watching 90210 for many reasons, none of which happen to be sensible since i'm Malaysian and have no inkling whatsoever on how it is to be and act as a rich spoiled brat living in Beverly Hills.

But i could relate to 90210 because it was charming. It showed how a group of friends (pre college years) supported one another through trials and tribulations, through heartbreaks and break ups...but most importantly I remembered how i constantly wished that i would one day have friends like them.

Keep up the good work. :)

Undecided said...

Well, after last night's OC, I'm thinking you really aren't missing much by not watching it. They pulled the expelsion card last night...and the only thing missing were chants of "Donna Martin Graduates!" I think next week might be my last OC, unless somehow they end up getting a guest appearance of Brian Austin-Green attempting to sing while playing his synthesizer alongside Babyface as the girl he's about to have sex with in the limo is standing on the side of the stage with googly-eyes and virginal Donna has no idea what's coming to her. If that's the case, I'm totally in.

Be proud that you're a male that can admit to having watched 90210 and enjoyed doing so. Not many will do so; but I say in the end, the ones to admit will be the ones that get the ladies. We all want a man to watch trashy t.v. with.

the ill na na said...

NOOOO! You can't stop watching now! I think it's a really good show! And it does smack of 90210, bu that's what I like about it. I totally said the "Donna Martin Graduates" thing to Dammit Sami just last week. Funny, we're still thinking the same way! Can'twait to see you! By this time next week I'll already be back in the ATL. Wow.

dammit sami said...

The actress who played Ariel (the aforementioned plucker of David Silver's flower) is now on General Hospital playing Reese the FBI agent, who is involved with mob boss Sonny Corinthos. She is also the long-thought-dead best friend of Sonny's ex-wife Carly. She betrayed Carly somehow when they were kids - I don't know. Anyway, she's on GH. Is that an upgrade or a downgrade?
She was also in Anaconda - downgrade!
You should stick with The OC - I believe it has an appropriate level of camp to keep one with a sense of humor (such as yourself) engaged - although it is a little too self-conscious for my taste. Bill Simmons got that right.

nick said...

I just found your site and will take that challenge. Not only did I watch 90210 when it originally aired, but I would schedule my courses so that I could watch reruns of it in the morning and in the afternoon. When they cut it down to one episode a day I was ca-rushed. There was no longer anything to do. I can't say I have gotten into the OC in the same way, but I do catch epidsodes here and there.