On the 15th anniversary of The O.C., its influence on pop culture can’t be ignored. Without Seth, Summer, Ryan and Marissa, shows like Laguna Beach and Gossip Girl wouldn’t exist.
Believe it or not, it’s been 15 years since we heard Summer’s first “Ew!,” witnessed Ryan and Marissa’s fateful introduction at the end of the driveway, and received the warmest welcome to The O.C. (b*tch!). On Aug. 5, 2003, The O.C. premiered on Fox and never looked back, churning out zeitgeist-defining moments until its eventual end in 2007. For a phenomenon that burned bright but fast, the teen drama sure left behind a lasting legacy of influence.
Of course, The O.C. wouldn’t have been able to grab a new generation of young viewers without those that came before it and carved the teen soap path. Beverly Hills, 90210 laid the foundation, while others like My So-Called Life, Freaks and Geeks, and Dawson’s Creek pushed the limits of what a teen drama could be. The O.C. was a perfect storm of each of these shows, but there wasn’t a Donna Martin or Lindsay Weir in sight. This show was lightning in a bottle.
Like all pop culture phenomenons, The O.C. inspired a slew of mid to late-2000s shows. Whether it was the unique blend of self-awareness and high drama or the way the series employed music as a chief storytelling technique, a number of shows wouldn’t exist without its precedent. Without The O.C., Gossip Girl wouldn’t have benefited from the renewed interest in privileged youth, Laguna Beach would still just be a town in Southern California, and there wouldn’t have been a market for the 90210 reboot.
A lot has changed in 15 years, but The O.C.’s legacy has not. Between its iconic characters and landmark water-cooler moments, the series’ greatest gift to pop culture was its impact. These five shows owe a debt of gratitude to the classic that came before them.
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