Will ‘The O.C.’ ever be must-see again?

Gabrielle Santanna

Remember that time when “The O.C.” was good? I mean really good. Like, tape-it-if-you’ll-miss-it, can’t-wait-to-talk-about-it-at-school-the-next-day good? It was three years ago when the series first premiered. I discovered the show that summer and was instantly hooked by the drama and intrigued by the abnormally good-looking characters, including Ryan Atwood, the brooding bad boy; Marissa Cooper, the troubled girl-next-door; and Seth Cohen, the sarcastic nerd pining for his dream girl. I eagerly anticipated Thursday nights and I would sit in front of the television to watch every delicious second of the witty banter and dramatic storylines.

Yes, the first season was good. But in the midst of its glory days, something happened – something television critics term “jumping the shark.” You see, in creating all the addictive drama of the first season, head writer Josh Schwartz practically wrote himself out of a possible future for the series. After only one season, the bad boy became reformed (and hooked up with the girl-next-door); the nerd got the girl. Heck, Marissa’s mom even slept with her ex-boyfriend. The second and third seasons of the show were, to the say the least, a continual disappointment, save a few redeeming episodes.

However, at the end of last year’s season, something happened which proved to be a turning point in the series. In the season finale, Marissa died in a car accident. When the initial shock of the bold move subsided, I started questioning. Why? Where could they go from here? How can the show possibly survive? And I got my answer just a few weeks ago when the fourth season of the series premiered in its new time slot – Thursdays at 9 p.m.

This season picks up months after Marissa’s death, and the first few episodes focus on the various ways the characters are coming to terms with their loss. Summer is a freshman at Brown, where she’s turned into an environmental advocate, while Seth remains in Newport, waiting to reunite with his girlfriend in Rhode Island for the winter semester. Plagued by memories of Marissa, Summer avoids Seth’s calls from home, and her visits back to Newport demonstrate the distance that has developed between the couple. Meanwhile, Ryan has withdrawn from the Cohen family and resorted to his bad-boy ways. With the help of Julie’s private investigator, he tries to track down Volchek and avenge Marissa’s death. Julie, meanwhile, has been neglecting her daughter and husband, and her marriage seems to be in jeopardy.

This season also introduces two new series regulars, characters who premiered last season – Taylor Townsend, Summer’s animated friend, and Kaitlin Cooper, Marissa’s younger sister and apparently the new troubled girl of the series.

I don’t think I’m sold on this season yet. So far, like the second and third seasons, this one lacks the over-the-top juiciness that made the first season of “The O.C.” so great. However, something is different in this season – the writers have practically been given a clean slate to create all sorts of new drama. Rather than resort to tired clichés and duplicate the first season’s level of drama, glamour and humor (which the show attempted in the second and third seasons), hopefully the writers will use this clean slate to their advantage.

Like the second and third seasons, I think I’ll give this season the benefit of the doubt and hope for the comeback of the days when “The O.C.” was truly must-see TV.