did a hilarious compare/contrast of The O.C. and 90210:
Q: Who's on your list of celebrities that you're waiting to run into on the street and talk to? Personally I wouldn't mind running into Tom Cruise, patting him on the back, and with a look of utter compassion say, "I'm really sorry about Goose."
-- Danny Smith, Miami Beach
SG: I already peaked in this category two years ago, in the Jimmy Kimmel Live green room, when my buddy Tony and I convinced Luke Perry to reenact the "fall to the ground, hold both fists in the air and scream" scene after his father blew up on "90210." I wish I was kidding. These are the things that happen when you work for a late night TV show.
(That reminds me ...)
Q: I know it's only halfway through the second season, but has the time come to seriously compare "The OC" with the grandaddy of the genre, "Beverly Hills: 90210"?
-- Michael Tedesco, Hopewell, NJ
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.
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.
MAJOR EDGE: The OC.
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.
EDGE: The OC.
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.
EDGE: The OC.
Theme Song: I can't believe I'm saying this, but ...
EDGE: The OC.
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!
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.
EDGE: The OC.
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?
WORST OFFENDER: The OC.
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 this category.
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.
GIANT EDGE: The OC.
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.
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.
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.
The only nitpick: he says that Ryan is from Encino instead of Chino.