‘The O.C.,’ 10 Years Later: Josh Schwartz Looks Back, Part 2

Senior Television Writer
02.22.17 16 Comments

In 2013, TV critic Alan Sepinwall spoke with Josh Schwartz, the creator of ‘The O.C.’ to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the show’s premiere with a two-part interview on the show’s run. We’re re-running that now in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the show’s final episode.

Tonight is the 10th anniversary of the premiere of “The O.C.” on FOX. Last night, I posted the first part of a very long interview with the series” creator Josh Schwartz, focusing on the show”s origins, casting the main characters and developing the sound of “The O.C.” In part 2, we spend more time on the ups and downs of the series as it continued well past the point anyone expected it to, and as rookie showrunner Schwartz had to figure out what to do after cramming three seasons” worth of plot into his first one.

(Schwartz begins sipping his coffee)

All right: Oliver.

(Schwartz just barely avoids spitting out his coffee.)

Josh Schwartz: God bless him. I love Oliver.

You did those first seven episodes through the Tijuana trip, and everybody thinks it”s all amazing. And not long after, Oliver turns up..

Josh Schwartz: He had one scene, I think, in the Chrismukkah episode. So he didn’t really come into the show until January.

Okay. But I’m saying that Oliver was really the first creative bump in what had been a pretty smooth road to that point.

Josh Schwartz: Well let me just take a moment to remind your readers that we had 27 episodes our first season. So two seasons of a cable show, four seasons of “Downton Abbey.”

Here’s the thing about Oliver, too. I mean, this is the reality, that I certainly have come to learn having done this now for ten years, especially as social media as evolved. People like yourself and other like-minded people, had a much bigger issue with Oliver than your average 10th grade viewer. So that is a moment where not just the bimodality of the show, but the bimodality of the audience became more apparent. Meaning the Oliver story, I was hearing from people, “My kid is on the edge of their seat,” or I would hear from people when Marissa shot Trey that girls were crying, and then some critics would roll their eyes at that same stuff. So we were walking a lot of tight ropes.

Okay, so to jump ahead for a minute, you kill Marissa at the end of season 3, which to a certain like-minded viewer…

Josh Schwartz: I think I did it for you. Just to get you off my back.

… for the adult audience, this is a cause for celebration. But for the teenage girls, this is the worst thing you’ve ever done.

Josh Schwartz: Yeah. And by the way, look at the ratings in season four.

Clearly there were more of them than there were of us.

Josh Schwartz: Yeah. And that has been a big lesson for me, that the Twitterverse is a one-to-one ratio. For every one person who tweets about that, that represents one person. That’s not one person representing a thousand people.

And that was a very difficult decision creatively. It was born out of a number of issues; creative, cast chemistry, ratings. There was a version of the show not coming back in season 4. We had a new network president. They had kind of moved away from doing programming like “The O.C.,” and there was a shot that there was no season 4. And on the one hand it was, as you said, cause for celebration amongst a certain kind of viewer and heresy amongst more viewers. And actually, that night I went online and I was like, “Oh, dear God, what have I done? I can’t believe I listened to Sepinwall.”

It’s all my fault.

Josh Schwartz: It’s always all your fault. But I”d been wanting to correct the show for critics who felt like the show had lost what they really enjoyed about it in season 1 and season 2.

Chrismukkah: whose idea?

Josh Schwartz: Hard to say now. With the actual name, it was either going to be Hannamas or Chrismukkah. But it was the idea of the Cohens being half-Jewish. The idea of being Jewish in Newport Beach was something that was very important to me as a part of the show. And this idea of Seth being a guy who was an outsider but also relishes outsider status; whereas some kids would feel like they didn’t know what to celebrate or how to feel about their identity, Seth very quickly would embrace the idea that this is perfect. Eight days of gifts followed by one day of many, many gifts. He exploited this holiday. We should have done a better job of trademarking it.

I totally skipped past Captain Oats.

Josh Schwartz: That was Jane Espenson. She was only with us for the six or seven episodes of the summer helping us break story. She wrote it in as a throwaway line: “Don’t talk about Captain Oats that way!” And I just thought it was hilarious and then like any joke I just couldn’t let it go and had to just keep telling it. And my dad worked for Hasbro, so My Little Pony was a big part of that. I wanted to give Summer her own version of Captain Oats.

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