'The O.C.,' 10 years later: Josh Schwartz looks back, part 2
Revisiting Oliver, Johnny's knee and Ryan Atwood, cage fighter
You've said to me that you knew going in this was going to be the last year. When did you know? How did you know?
Josh Schwartz: Well, first of all, I knew how on the bubble we were at the end of that season 3. So when we got the call, “We're going to bring you back, and it's going to be for 16 episode,” that basically said “the final season.” Nobody ever actually said that, and we got a rating spike at the end of season 3 with the Marissa death. Had a pretty good sense of it and you always want to believe that maybe you can bring it back, but we were in a really competitive time period and we were up against “Grey's Anatomy” and it was a monster at that time. Shows like this are not necessarily meant to run forever. It's part of the fun of 'em, but I think we felt like if this was the last season let's go out with a show we can be proud of.
So how did you decide what the finale wound up being?
Josh Schwartz: Well we always knew we wanted to bring the show full circle. The idea of the Cohen's returning to Berkeley, the idea of Kirsten being pregnant, and delivering when they're up looking at the house. I'm trying to remember everything that happened in the finale. But really just trying to bring closure to the series. Is that what you're asking about?
And also the final scene with Ryan Atwood, architect.
Josh Schwartz: Yeah. Where he runs into that kid. That, and the idea of the Cohen house collapsing and that they all would need to find their identity kind of outside of that house that had meant so much to them. That felt like a really nice way to end the show.
That season, you could have contrived to have them all go to UC-Newport Beach, and instead Summer goes off to Brown and Seth and Ryan stay home, and Taylor comes back from France.
Josh Schwartz: Yeah. Seth and Summer trying to do the long distance thing. We were trying to avoid other things. Obviously, when we were doing “Gossip Girl,” keeping everybody in New York once they were out of high school, is a lot more organic and believable than everybody going to college at UC-Newport Beach, or OCU as we called it. So that felt like the more satisfying way to try to do it.
When did “Real Housewives of Orange County” come on? While you were still on the air?
Josh Schwartz: No. “Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County” came on as we were starting season 3, which also contributed to my angst 'cause I was like, “Now it's the real version. How are we going to compete with the real version?” Then “Real Housewives” came on I think a year after we went off the air.
And I ran into (“Desperate Housewives” creator) Marc Cherry a few years ago at some Writers Guild thing, I had never met him before, and he was saying, “When ‘The O.C.’ went on the air, there were no nighttime serialized dramas really on primetime at that time, and certainly none with comedy, and that gave ABC a sense to put this show on the air.” I was like, “Wow, that's really nice. Did you guys have to completely destroy us in the ratings on top of it?” He was really nice. So, it was a moment where there weren't really any teen dramas on, the nighttime soap had kind of fallen off on primetime. And we were able to kind of come in and fill that void. Accidentally. It was just luck.
And you wound up inspiring a reality empire that's still going on.
Josh Schwartz: Yeah. I would have like to have had a piece of that. We gave birth to Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt in some weird way.
Maybe you shouldn't want a piece of that. Maybe your soul is a little cleaner this way.
Josh Schwartz: Yeah, maybe. That's probably true. When it was happening, I was living and dying by every episode, every “Television Without Pity” recap, every What's Alan Watching recap, and every ratings bump or drop in a way that I learned later to not do. With “Chuck,” I had to go through the ratings thing every week, but had kind of learned that you can't just live and die by that every week. But I did that on “The O.C.,” and one of the nice things about it being ten years now is the distance from that, and that people still want to talk about the show, people still remember the show, people still want to talk about the music on the show or this character or what have you. That's nice. It's like whatever people loved or had issues with along the way, they remember the show and that's all you can ask for.
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at email@example.com