Fans recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of The O.C.'s premiere episode, which sparked both a huge wave of nostalgia in me and the distinct feeling that I am getting really old. It's not just that the bright and shiny dramedy has been off the air for so long or that its OT4 has long since moved on to other projects and major life events (marriage! babies!) that remind me The O.C. 's reign was long ago; it's also the pop culture references that riddle almost every episode's script.
Like any self-respecting fanboy, Seth Cohen defined himself by the movies, games, and comics that he loved; Summer Roberts was a teen TV fiend; and Marissa Cooper always knew when the coolest new band would be playing The Bait Shop. (Ryan Atwood was old school, but got into these things by friendship osmosis.) Each one of these references places The O.C. in a very specific time period; one that I don't mind remembering. In fact, when I'm on my tenth series rewatch in the 2030s, I fully expect the show to send me back to my old Death Cab albums and Michael Chabon novels to ruminate on my lost youth.
Here are 11 ways that The O.C. serves as a handy time machine straight back to the '00s.
1. Death Cab For Cutie
Seth Cohen's favorite band and the soundtrack to his emo teen years are still around, but they arguably hit their heights with the release of the album Transatlanticism in 2003. Seth even composes new holiday lyrics to the song "A Lack Of Color" for a very special Chrismukkah. Summer is not a fan.
2. The Adventures Of Kavalier And Clay
Published in 2000, the Michael Chabon novel has two very special distinctions: firstly, it's a Pulitzer Prize winner; secondly, it provided the inspiration for Zach and Seth's intimate yet strained working relationship on their comic, Atomic County.
One of the show's most romantic moments was lifted right out of the first movie in the Sam Raimi/Tobey Maguire Spider-Man franchise. That's a while ago; I estimate moviegoers have been introduced to roughly 16 or 17 new Peter Parkers since then.
4. Grand Theft Auto
"Do you want to play Grand Theft Auto?" And so began one of pop culture's greatest dude friendships.
5. "Mr. Brightside"
Can you listen to this Killers song without belting the chorus at an ear-splitting volume? Me neither, and I haven't been able to since its release in 2003.
6. Sex, Drugs, And Cocoa Puffs
After his grandfather's death, Seth loses himself in Chuck Klosterman's book of essays, published in 2004. It's practically a Seth Cohen bible, containing treatises on John Cusack, Saved By The Bell, and The Empire Strikes Back.
7. Sin City
Seth is also a huge admirer of these gritty graphic novels by Frank Miller. They'd already been out for a few years by the time The O.C. began, but were back in the zeitgeist thanks to the 2005 movie adaptation.
8. The Valley
The Valley was a show-within-a-show parody of The O.C. itself, but I'm still counting it as a pop culture reference. Lots of fans (myself included) saw ourselves in Summer Roberts, and it was a comfort to know that she would have been obsessed with The O.C. too.
I've seen this band several times in the last ten years and they always close out their set with the song that once rocked The Bait Shop. As they should.
10. Bring It On
The boys are reluctant to give the girls full control over movie night, since they usually pick the 2000 cheerleader comedy. And who can blame them? It's endlessly quotable.
11. The Lord Of The Rings
Peter Jackson's LOTR trilogy owned the box office over three consecutive holiday seasons, from 2001 to 2003. Seth certainly owned all the extended editions and would make his friends sit through every commentary and behind-the-scenes documentary.
So, if you're ever missing the rise of post-college emo or Kirsten Dunst shaking her pom-poms, The O.C. will always be there to remind you of a very special decade.