Goodbye, O.C.

Does wishing for the demise of a show set in my home town make me a bad person?  I hope not, because I was glad to read this:

LOS ANGELES, California (AP) — “The O.C.,” the once-hot teenage soap opera that saw its ratings plummet like a delinquent student’s grades, has been canceled.

Based in the affluent Orange County, California, city of Newport Beach, “The O.C.” caught fire in its first season, 2003-04, as the top-rated drama among advertiser-favored young adults and with a total audience of nearly 10 million.

“The O.C.” didn’t sustain its momentum, dropping to about 7 million weekly viewers during 2004-05 and then to fewer than 6 million last season. This year, returning in November after Fox wrapped its postseason baseball coverage, “The O.C.” has only drawn about 4 million viewers.

Somehow, the real Orange County became a magnet for producers of bad television over the past few years.  “The O.C.” scraped the bottom of the 90210-esque barrel from day one, yet somehow found enough of an audience that it spawned two Orange County-based reality shows:  The Real Housewives of Orange County and Laguna Beach.

I’ve seen all three shows, just out of curiosity.  There are definitely people who live that way, but they’re a relatively small number.  TV show fans do weird things sometimes; I wonder how many folks have moved here because of those shows, and what they think of the place after living here for a while.

The true reality of Orange County life goes down two seperate paths.  The high-life that everyone associates with O.C. is frequently a person with a $100,000 income living in an overpriced, rented apartment and driving a $150,000 car, leveraged to the hilt in order to finance an lifestyle they cannot afford.  That’s not going to last.

The other reality is comprised of ordinary people living normal, sensible lives.  I’d say that accounts for 95% of the county’s residents.

What you don’t see on TV is the sense of entrapment the real estate values place on homeowners here.  I can’t tell you how many people I’ve talked to who say that they couldn’t move even if they wanted to because the high cost of real estate and the step up in tax basis on their home would make even a downward move unaffordable.  They’re wealthy on paper, but that’s it.  There are homeowners with multi-million dollar homes on Balboa Island who couldn’t even afford to pay the property tax on their place if it wasn’t for Proposition 13.  They’ve simply owned the place for 30 years and bought when it was affordable down there.

I suppose these nuances don’t make for good television, but I dislike the reality shows because there’s a segment of the population that expects and wants Orange County to be as vapid and shallow as what ends up on screen.  It’s perplexing.  When shows like “Dallas” were on the air, nobody thought it represented the real city of Dallas.  Of course, that was twenty years ago; the definition of “reality” has undergone some plastic surgery since then.  I hardly recognize it.

I like Orange County.  I just don’t like the way it’s portrayed to the world on these B-roll TV series.  The sooner they go, the better.  Let the glare of Hollywood’s reality craze warp someone else’s community for a change.

  1 comment for “Goodbye, O.C.

  1. Jason
    January 15, 2007 at 12:16 pm

    Here, f’n, HERE! Huzzah and hurrah!

    I couldn’t agree more. Television has only spread the falsity that Orange County is devoid of history, culture, art, creativity and genuine humanity. Goodbye, MTV. See ya later, VH1. Please leave now, “reality” shows. You’ve had your time.

    Oh… and btw, Happy Birthday, Ron! I’m sorry that I missed out on the festivities.

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