'The O.C.,' 10 years later: Josh Schwartz looks back, part 1
Olivia Wilde as Marissa? Garrett Hedlund as Ryan? And whose idea was Rooney?
Music is one of your passions and was one of the fundamental part of the show. Did you know going in that it was going to be wall-to-wall with your favorite stuff?
Josh Schwartz: Yeah, that part I knew. There were songs written into the script of the pilot. That Joseph Arthur song at the end of the pilot, I heard that, and was like, “Okay, this is how the end of the show is going to feel,” and that allowed me to write well. The first six or seven episodes was really literally stuff off of my iPod.
So you knew the Phantom Planet song. That wasn't given to you?
Josh Schwartz: That wasn't given to us but it's funny, because we thought about the Phantom Planet song and then we're like, “Well, everybody knows that song already.” It had already been on the radio. And so we thought we can't use that song; it's already out there. But we had to show the network something before we finished the pilot. So we cut a sizzle reel, that would show what we had shot. And that they were going to order the series or not based off of that. So we put the Phantom Planet song in there because we thought it was instantly recognizable, everybody knows this song, and that will give the suits something to hook into. And what we found was nobody really knew the song; everybody's like, “What's that song? That song is incredible.” And we realized that just because me and Steph and some of the writers had known that song, that song didn't really get played that much outside of L.A. and KROQ or whatever at the time. So we're like, “Okay, people don't really know that song,” and then it became a kind of an outright hit in its own right, but that was its second life after the show went on the air.
So a lot of the music was stuff that was coming off of the iPod and going to Amoeba Records, listening to a bunch of CDs, bring it in for the show. And then very quickly I'd sort of like exhausted my iPod. I knew I had saved Huey Lewis for “Chuck” several years later. So, out of music. So we brought in (music supervisor) Alex Patsavas, and she was a great resource in turning us on to all kinds of stuff. It's funny now, it feels like I'm talking about something that took place in the 1800s, but this was a time where there was no iTunes and satellite radio I don't really think was in existence, and MTV was not playing music videos, and terrestrial FM radio was like the same eight songs per hour, and “Hey Ya!” ever hour on the hour. Some of the bands that we reached out to were these indie rock bands, and that was all we could afford. But a lot of these bands probably would have had deeper reservations about having their music debut on a Fox teen soap, but there was no other way to get their music out. And I think once artists started to see how we were using their music and the kind of music we were using, they started to feel much better about it and safer about it. And the labels were very into it, because we would mention Death Cab for Cutie on the show and sales would, you know, go up. Even Rooney, we artificially inflated their sales for a couple of weeks.
Whose idea was the Rooney episode?
Josh Schwartz: I'll take responsibility if you're looking to cast blame. “Shakin'” was a very catchy song. But they saw a crazy, like 200 percent increase the week after. And then it built to a place where we got a call that the Beastie Boys would like to world premiere their song on your show. U2 would like to world premiere a song on the show. Coldplay had a new album, and I was told to come to Capitol Records, listen to the album and pick a song, and they’d set it aside for me. I heard “Fix You,” and said that could work great for the show. So, you know, there was a lot of great opportunities and then we had some artists cover stuff for us like “Champagne Supernova” or “If You Leave.”
Now with season 2, you had The Bait Shop, where you could basically do the Rooney episode every week. Do you feel ultimately that was a successful venue for the show?
Josh Schwartz: We drove a lot of story through it. It was probably a less organic way of bringing music into the show. It was a little more in your face. It was successful for a lot of those bands. I mean, it certainly was successful for The Killers. I think my appetite for seeing bands lip sync their playback on a fake set may have been greater than some of our audience members but, hey. It was fun. When else was I going to get that chance?
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org