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On The Culture Trail: Deep in The O.C.:

I used to watch “The Bachelor.”  Then I watched “The Bachelor II” and “The Bachelorette” and “E! True Hollywood Story: The Bachelor.”  I watched “For Love or Money,” “Joe Millionaire,” “Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire?” “Who Wants to Marry My Dad?” and who-knows-what-else that was an embarrassment to the family name.  But however faithful I was to those shows, I have never felt so attached to a TV show as I do to “The OC.”

Granted, “The OC” is a drama and the others are reality shows, but for me, “The OC” was what I needed to turn my life around – in terms of TV watching, that is.  Now I only watch (or tape) one episode of TV a week, and that’s “The OC.”  Bye bye, bachelors and bachelorettes and millionaires and millionaires-but-oh-wait-they’re-actually-construction-workers.

“The OC” has some special power. Even my math teacher watches it.  I suppose that “special power” derives from a cast of beautiful people and a soap-operaish storyline with lots of twists and turns. That twisty storyline and those beautiful people eventually become so much a part of your life that they tug on your emotions and you are hooked.  Example of “special power:” during the last episode of the first season, I sat on the couch bawling like a baby (that’s not an exaggeration…my mom had to give me a pacifier and then burp me in order to get me to quiet down).

As you can imagine, when my dad announced that he had received an invitation from the Television Academy of Arts and Sciences to attend “The OC: Revealed,” a reception and panel featuring the creators and the entire cast of the show, I almost wet my pants (okay, that one was an exaggeration…I didn’t almost wet my pants, and I was wearing a skirt, anyway).

So on Monday, March 21, my father and I drove off into the sunset to Warner Bros. Studios in lovely Burbank, CA.  We waited near the front of an exponentially increasing line with other OC admirers (the line seemed to be made up exclusively of teenage girls and their fathers). 

A girl of indeterminate age at the very front of the line was jumping up and down, shouting frantically, “Let me in!  I’m here to meet my husband!  I have to go see my future husband!”  People around her laughed uncomfortably – the fathers uncomfortable because of her shallow love for OC star Adam Brody, the girls uncomfortable because they all hoped that Adam would be their true love as well.

When we finally entered the reception, I saw a basket in which we could put questions for the cast that would be asked during the panel discussion.  I couldn’t help but notice the question in the top of the basket.  It read: “Adam, what are you doing on May 14?  MARLBOROUGH PROM!  Love, the cutie in the front row.”  I cursed myself for not thinking of this idea first.

As I munched on a peanut butter cookie, I noticed a crowd of photographers and TV cameras outside one of the doors of the room.  I headed over to the doors, and all of a sudden, I realized I was looking at Adam Brody.  Real.  Live.  Living.  Alive.  Breathing.  I uttered a tiny profanity to myself.  It was so surreal.  As I watched him mingle with the press elite, I began to fear that seeing the actors would ruin their characters on the show for me.  However, I told myself it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see these actors in person, and tried to push any negative thoughts out of my head.

When Adam Brody glanced in my general direction, I saw a look of deep fear in his eyes, and I realized that I was part of a pack of drooling girls.  I struck up a conversation with the drooling girl next to me, whose father, like my own, was standing at a safe distance from her due to the embarrassment involved with being seen lying in wait for teen heartthrobs to enter the building. 

I jokingly told her I thought I’d fling myself at Adam Brody when he walked in, and her eyes lit up.  “What a perfect idea!” she shrieked.  To avert disaster, I quickly pointed out that I thought it would be unwise to do that, reminding her that she didn’t actually know Adam at all and he might find it a bit awkward.

All of a sudden, the mob of girls collapsed inwards with a collective sigh: Adam had entered the room. As I stood there watching him get swarmed by swooning girls asking for his autograph, I felt kind of silly at the thought of asking for an autograph.  It wouldn’t be anything more than a reminder of the time I bothered Adam Brody by shoving a pen and paper in his face.  A marriage proposal from him would have been much more significant.

As the crowd jostled me closer and closer to Adam, I remembered the copy of Charles Dickens’ Hard Times I had in my purse. I’d brought it along to serve as entertainment while waiting in line.  “Ah ha!”  I thought to myself.  “What would people say if I had the cast of ‘The OC’ sign my book?”  I loved the idea – it made no sense at all.  With this change of heart, I decided that I now not only wanted autographs, I needed them.  I became more ruthless in pushing my way closer to Adam Brody, but just when I got within arms’ distance of him, he disappeared.  Disappointed, I gave up on autographs and went inside the theater to watch the panel.

The panel itself was entertaining.  Listening to the discussion, I got the impression that 28-year-old creator Josh Schwartz keeps almost all of the upcoming plot lines a secret from the cast.

As for the cast members, Rachel Bilson seemed very sweet, and Benjamin McKenzie was much more charismatic and funny than he is on the show.  The biggest surprise for me was that Alan Dale has a charming Australian accent, which he never uses in his cold-hearted role on the show.

Most of the actors seemed very much like the characters they played (Adam Brody was so true to his character that he almost reached the point of becoming annoying) and everyone seemed to get along well (Josh Schwartz fondly called producer McG an “800 pound gorilla”).          

The evening ended with a drawing for a walk-on role on the show.  As it turned out, the winner of the walk-on role works for this very newspaper…but it’s not me.  How could you, Adam Lorber?  I wanted that role.

On Thursday, March 24, I apprehensively sat down to watch the newest episode of “The OC.”  My fears of having the characters ruined by seeing the actors turned out to be true: I found Adam Brody as Seth Cohen strangely annoying, and I couldn’t help thinking that Alan Dale’s ruthless character Caleb Nichol was actually a charming man underneath the harsh exterior.

However, as I said before, thankfully “The OC” has special powers, and sure enough, ten minutes into the episode, the characters were back to their old selves in my mind, and only a faint appreciation for Alan Dale’s delightful accent lingered.

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