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I’m an avid follower of high quality TV dramas. From the ever-excellent 24, to Alias to The West Wing and The Shield. They are amongst the several shows that I regard to be compulsive viewing. Whether it be the addictive stories, the sharp scripts, the clever characterisation or the high-octane antics, each show has many components that make it so compelling. When I first heard about The OC I could not possibly believe that it would compare, in any way, shape or form. My mind harked back to childhood memories of Neighbours and Heartbreak High and all I could imagine of this show was Smallville without the super powers. Despite Channel 4 and E4’s powers of persuasion, I managed to stay clear for quite some time, unable to understand what all the fuss was about. And then I came across the first season on DVD and watched an episode. Within a week I had finished all twenty-seven episodes and was desperately yearning for more. When it was released, I polished off the second season with as much excitement and was left with the mother of all cliff-hangers, impatient to find out what happened. Finally I have.

The OC: The Complete Third Season

Series


Setting the scene, The OC is about a rich community in the small town of Newport, Orange County (California) where everybody appears to have everything they want. Of course, if you scratch below the surface you soon realise that almost none of them are content, despite how much they try to buy their happiness. At the core of the drama we have the Cohen family, headed up by the father, Sandy (Peter Gallagher), a public defence barrister with a heart. He’s a good man and he’s pretty cool to boot in the grand scheme of soap dads. He’s married to Kirsten (Kelly Rowan), a beautiful and loving wife who happens to be he eldest daughter of a bigwig called Caleb ( Neighbours’ Jim Ramsey and the Vice President from 24, Alan Dale) owner of most of Newport. Sandy and Kirsten have one son, Seth (Adam Brody), a very atypical soap character—a comic-book-loving champion of sarcasm who represents one of the most prominently cool nerds in soap history. Also in the household we get the rebellious Ryan (Benjamin McKenzie), an outcast from Chino who Sandy takes into the fold. Through Ryan, Seth discovers a new kinship and gains a significant amount of confidence, while Ryan learns how to better deal with his bottled-up emotions.

The OC: The Complete Third Season
The first season largely revolved around Ryan, seeing him arrive and be taken in by the household, Sandy and Kirsten go through a rough spot in their marriage and in their careers and the two boys getting to know the local ladies—most importantly neighbours and best friends Marissa (Mischa Barton) and Summer (Rachel Bilson). Ryan has to go a long way to prove that he is in the same league as Marissa but, after her father Jimmy (Tate Donovan) goes bankrupt and her shallow plastic mother Julie (Melinda Clarke) shacks up with the mogul Caleb (quite openly for his money) Marissa is left having to learn that maybe money and status do not rule her life after all. Seth similarly has an uphill struggle with the cute-as-a-button but eminently clueless Summer, pulling out all of his comic superhero stops to try and win her heart over. Cut lots of break-ups and make-ups, jealousy and passion, love and hurt with a season finale that basically sees almost everyone go their own separate ways—leaving lots of broken hearts in the wake.

The OC: The Complete Third Season
Of course it’s not long into the second season before they put everything back together and the relationships seem to be just like they were. Again we have relationship struggles, this time with Sandy’s wife Kirsten finding trouble both in the shape of a new business partner and at the bottom of a bottle. Her fun-loving but irresponsible sister, Hailey (Amanda Righetti), also causes her added stress, rolling in and out of town and striking up a brief but passionate affair with Marissa’s dad. Meanwhile Caleb (Kirsten’s father) is investigated for corruption, something which results in an unexpected, twisty-turn resolution. The Ryan-Marissa, Seth-Summer relationships are stretched to the limits, both by Ryan’s potential fatherhood with his ex-girlfriend from Chino and new love interests all around (who eventually only goes to prove just how much the two couples should be with their respective partners). The arrival of Ryan’s bad-boy elder brother, Trey (Logan Marshall-Green), only leads to trouble and the whole season rollercoasters to a shock conclusion that involves Ryan, Trey and Marissa fighting and a gunshot.

The OC: The Complete Third Season
The third season picks up where the cliff-hanger left off, dealing with the immediate aftermath of the shooting, with twists put in straight away about who admits blame and who points the finger at others. Marissa’s twisted mother, Julie, sticks her nose in and starts manipulating the truth and, before long, everything is far more complicated than it should be. Although this initial shake-up takes a while to resolve, things do eventually get back to normal, but you get the impression that nothing will really be the same. New characters are injected in to stir things up, from Kirsten’s shady rehab buddy Charlotte Morgan (the gorgeous Jeri Ryan, famous for playing ’Trek’s Seven of Nine) to the fascist new Dean at the High School (Eric Mabius, from Resident Evil), whose job it is to investigate whether or not Ryan and Marissa should be excluded for their past exploits. One of Jimmy’s (Marissa’s dad) past clients comes back to haunt him, threatening physical violence unless he pays up, and several new (and old) love interests appear in the lives of our favourite OC community, including Seth’s ex, Anna (Samaire Armstrong), bad boy Volchok (Cam Gigandet), Ryan’s ex, Terera (Navi Rawat) and Marissa’s equally emotionally baggage-laden little sister Kaitlin (Willa Holland).

The OC: The Complete Third Season
The third season is pretty-much what you would expect from The OC, with relationship upheavals, shock revelations, scandals, money problems, alcohol and drug problems, temper problems and so forth, along with a much greater emphasis on surfers. This time, however, it seems a little darker and more mature than over the previous two seasons. The kids have finally grown up (about time, as well, since they are looking far too old to be graduating from high school—although nowhere near as old as the perpetual school students from Smallville) and have more adult issues to deal with. Ryan and Marissa take the next step in their relationship (about time) and Kirsten and Sandy have an uphill struggle ahead of them with the future of their Newport Group. Of course, there are exceptions, with Summer still acting the child and trying to out-do one of her silly classmates in a bid to have the best school fair (something which, admittedly, does grow into quite an interesting story arc). It’s a bit of a mixed bag really, because the overall impression is that the writers and producers did not know whether to make this another fun, frivolous series which dealt with serious issues like the past ones, or just make it distinctly tragic. They go for more of the latter than before and it leaves you with a bitter taste in more than one episode, where in the past you would merely be keen on seeing what happens next.

The OC: The Complete Third Season
Then there’s the ending. Personally, I am not sure as to the future of The OC given the climactic final episode of this season (I found out about it before seeing the season, which was a horrible spoiler, so I refuse to pass the secret on) and I do not think that fans will be quite as satisfied with this third year when placed alongside the previous two. But if the creators can take the drastic changes they have made and run with them (a la Dawson’s Creek), fusing them into a different animal for the next year then perhaps the future is not as bleak. Personally, having become so addicted to the show, I am eager to see it return to the glory of the first two seasons.

Episode List:

1. The Aftermath
2. The Shape Of Things To Come
3. The End Of Innocence
4. The Last Waltz
5. The Perfect Storm
6. The Swells
7. The Anger Management
8. The Game Plan
9. The Disconnect
10. The Chrismukkah Bar Mitz-vahkkah
11. The Safe Harbour
12. The Sister Act
13. The Pot Stirrer
14. The Cliffhanger
15. The Heavy Lifting
16. The Road Warrior
17. The Journey
18. The Undertow
19. The Secrets And Lies
20. The Day After Tomorrow
21. The Dawn Patrol
22. The College Try
23. The Party Favour
24. The Man Of The Year
25. The Graduates

The OC: The Complete Third Season

Video


The episodes in the third season of The OC come presented in gloriously sun-drenched 1.78:1 aspect ratio anamorphically enhanced widescreen transfers. The picture quality is very good indeed, perhaps even better than the region one versions of the previous two seasons. Detail is excellent, with no noticeable softness or edge enhancement and negligible grain which is only apparent during the night-time sequences. The colour scheme is expectedly broad and luscious, as you might expect from this Californian coastal community, with vibrant green landscapes, deep blue oceans and golden beaches. All in all, this is very rich material presented in a near picture-perfect way.

Audio


To accompany the show, we get a standard Dolby Digital 2.0 track which is anything but. It must be one of the best stereo mixes I have ever come across; comparable even to some of the poorer 5.1 remixes out there. The dialogue is presented clearly and coherently from the frontal array, with a few nice effects (from punches to waves crashing to crowds cheering). The most significant aspect of this mix is clearly the soundtrack, which includes Royksopp, The Dandy Warhols, Youth Group, Radiohead and of course Phantom Planet, who provide the excellent opening theme song, ‘California’. Each and every song (whether live or merely backing music) is presented superbly and they all come together to make the episodes sound great.

The OC: The Complete Third Season

Extras


In the way of extras, we only get two of the many extras that our friends across the ocean receive: ‘Making of The Subways Video’ and ‘What’s in a Name?’. The music video featurette lasts just a couple of minutes and features no participation from the cast or crew (other than the fact you catch a behind the scenes glimpse of them), and brief interviews from the Subway band members. The ‘What’s in a Name?’ featurette takes a fourteen-minute look at the various character names across the show, from all three seasons. The creators and producers talk about where the names came from and how they could not be bothered to make them up, instead naming the characters after the real-life friends of theirs. The featurette is a little bit random, in that the trivia it offers is so far removed from anything to do with the show that it leaves you feeling like you have wasted your time here, but from a vague curiosity point of view, it is interesting to see the rather different real-life people that were referenced via the character naming.

The OC: The Complete Third Season

Overall


The third season of The OC is still compulsive viewing, although perhaps not quite up to the standard of the excellent first two seasons. New characters, darker stories and unhappy outcomes all come together to leave viewers slightly less satisfied than before. Technically, however, the set is very good, especially considering that it only has Dolby 2.0 to play with. The region two edition lacks many of the extras from the region one set, including the commentaries, which is a disappointment, but otherwise fans will no doubt have to pick this up to find out what is happening to this complicated Californian community. I highly recommend the show to newcomers but, trust me, you’ll have to start way back at the beginning—it’s worth it.


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Media Copyright Acknowledgement (Fair Use) © 2006 Warner Bros Entertainment Inc. All rights Reserved. Courtesy Warner Home Video.