The shrink-wrapped packages lay waiting on my pristine desk.
The complete second seasons of “The O.C.” and “One Tree Hill” — on only 13 discs — awaited my penitent gaze. I had neglected them, failing to watch a single episode for over two years. Yes, I was living in a cave in Mongolia, but what kind of an excuse is that?
Finally, here was my chance to sacrifice a weekend to the pop-culture goddess.
For those of you who spent the last two years in the cave with me, “The O.C.” and “One Tree Hill” are the new generation of high-quality television programming.
I knew I had to watch them when I heard that one of the main characters of “The O.C.,” Ryan (Ben McKenzie), is from the “ghetto” of Chino. My roommate is from Chino. Maybe that explains her gangster rap, wife beaters and bling.
Both dramas are set in beach towns — “O.C.” in Newport Beach, Calif. and “One Tree” in Tree Hill, N.C. — only the ocean and the color of the state changes. Lest you think that this is a trivial difference, think a moment: where would you rather live, North Carolina or California?
I hope you’re done thinking because we’ve got 13 discs of brilliant television to get through.
Let’s start with the theme songs. Phantom Planet has it easy with a subject like “California”; where can you go wrong? The “One Tree Hill,” “I Don’t Want To Be” song gets annoying around the … oh, first time it comes up on the title screen. (According to the insightful commentary, the show’s creators “never get tired of it.” I have much to learn, kemosabe.)
I don’t want to spoil the plots for my fellow cave dwellers, but here is a brief summary of both shows: The “O.C.” parents have more infidelities than the kids. Every possible romantic combination is explored, skeletons are pulled out of the proverbial closets, and it rains in sunny Southern California.
Basically the same thing happens in Tree Hill, only the “O.C.” got to the whole lesbian-kissing thing first.
And yes, all these kids are all still in high school, despite the fact they should have been safely ensconced in corporate cubicles by now. (Hey, if we dress Seth (Adam Brody) up in “Geek Chic” he can look at least five years younger. Right?)
Now we proceed to the meat of the box sets: the commentary. I am sure that my patient instructors have much to teach me.
First, the creator and guest star comment on “One Tree Hill.” The brilliant deductions about the nature of the drama — “It’s very Shakespearian” — by one of the commentators almost drowns out the script. Is this a good thing?
Next, my guide instructs me about the action: “They’re not trying to shove a message down your throat …They’re doing what real teenagers do.” Five minutes later, Peyton (MTV’s Hilarie Burton) records her voice for a time capsule, “Sex … it’s the easy part. Giving your heart to somebody, that’s the hard part.”
Zipping back to the West Coast, I find that the commentators are a bit more laid back. The creators point out the Ford credit and say “Shameless promotion for money, which we need.” We can all learn from their integrity.
The special features promise more delight. Oh the joys of DVDs! I remember the days of VHS, rewinding, and dare I say, when Beta didn’t mean late night groping.
Never fear! Today we have such feature gems as “Beachy Couture,” “Diaries from the Set” and “The O.C. — Obsess Completely.”
Shorter than an episode, these bonuses are fun, but not as cool as the “O.C.” gag reel. Unfortunately “One Tree Hill” is just too cool to have out-takes — if we could all aspire to such heights. Instead, we are offered a reel of all the new characters in season two. What fun! As if we hadn’t already seen the entire season, here are the Cliff notes! Brilliant!
The rest of the special features are all designed to make it clear that music is central to the integrity of “One Tree.” My patient instructors inform me that every episode is named after a song. Now you all (y’all?) can wow your friends in the nursing home when you play Trivial Pursuit 60 years from now.
Until then you can enjoy the “One Tree” live concert tour, which developed “naturally” from the show. It was just serendipitous that the same character who “got on the tour bus” during the fictional show headlines the tour that they announced that night. It “seemed so organic.” Manufacture a connection to get more money? Never!
And did I mention you can get $50 back by mail-in-rebate?
Next on my list for torture, ahem, viewing pleasure? Smallville.
After my time spent worshiping at the altar of the teen (and up) fad spirit, I can say that I finally understand why all of my friends go inexplicably missing every Thursday night. Recording and saving “The O.C.” for later also seems to be running rampant.
Strangely, Tuesday night — “One Tree” night for those of us “in the know” — doesn’t seem to be nearly as busy. I have no idea why.
(cough) “The O.C.” is better (cough).
Now, the blue and red volumes of DVD goodness rest on my bookshelf between Moliere and Kant, their mission completed. That, my friends, is a Yale bookshelf in all its glory.