Kevinsorbo_theoc_240Before getting into this Thursday’s (Jan. 4) episode of The O.C. it seems necessary to deal with a little unfinished business.

May I see a show of hands for how many people think that FOX is just gonna be oodles better off this spring with fresh episodes of Standoff and a half-baked David E. Kelley wedding show rather than finding a way to keep The O.C. around for another couple months? Bueller? Bueller? I give Standoff credit for improvement in its last couple episodes, but that improvement brings it up to "mediocre" and I don’t know how much more upside it has beyond that.

That’s just my way of saying that I’m going to miss The O.C. Much as fans probably deserved better than they were given creatively in the two seasons previous, the show certainly deserved better than the network chose (or was able) to give it this year.

Changing the subject, this has been bothering me since the last new episode two weeks ago and I hope it’s been worrying others as well: We already knew that Marissa’s father was Hercules (Tate Donovan, voice of Disney’s animated toga-wearer). Now we discover that Ryan’s father is also Hercules (Kevin Sorbo, an easier-to-recall Hydra-slayer). The mythological incestuous undertones aren’t disturbing anybody else? OK. Fine.

On with the countdown to Feb. 22.

"The My Two Dads" (no references to Greg Evigan, alas) was another solid episode, finding pleasure from some of the show’s original core strengths: We got domestic melodrama out of Ryan and his ever-intruding past (his mom and brother have already wreaked multi-episode havoc, had the show gone on, we’d have eventually met Ryan’s abusive, chain-smoking Nana) and romantic humor from Summer and Seth. There was also a less satisfying C-story featuring Kaitlin and marble-mouthed guest star Chris Brown that seemed to come out of a completely different show.

Some highlights:

  • I could watch four or five episodes of Summer and Seth’s game of marital chicken. Laughs came courtesy of a full-sized Torah, a pamphlet on the Four C’s of Diamonds (cut, color, clarity and carat weigh if, like me, you didn’t know). Both Rachel Bilson and Melinda Clarke got great mileage out of Summer’s lessons in Hebrew and brisket-ry with Julie. Only disappointment? Seth with a bunny is less adorable than Summer with a bunny. Go figure.
  • Sandy Cohen returning to his frequently referenced Bronx roots with a solidly thrown punch and Peter Gallagher’s performance throughout. But was there no way to get him to break into something from West Side Story at the end?
  • The storyline involving Ryan’s father seems to have been abruptly resolved, but I think Frank Atwood’s understated willingness to leave the scene suggests that show’s the creative team has a bit more control this season than in years past. In previous seasons, Frank/Sorbo would have stuck around for several episodes, grown increasingly threatening and Ryan would have had to shoot him. I reserve the right to be disappointed if that somehow plays out anyway.
  • Julie’s declaration, "It’s hard out her for a pimp," as part of her No Prostitution in 2007. On the other hand, throw in references to Netflix and Bachelor Bob and the episode seemed a bit further behind the pop culture curve than usual. I’ll cut the episode slack on the closing Meerkat Manor gag, because meerkats are just timeless.

    Some lowlights:

  • Speaking of being behind the pop culture curve, I confess to having very little idea of who Chris Brown is. And, after one episode of his guest run, I’m not sure that I’m going to stand in line to follow his acting career in Stomp the Yard! In addition, the Kaitlin arc had the misfortune to be only the second most amusing remedial English tutoring storyline on TV in the past two nights, with Landry and Riggins’ Friday Night Lights Steinbeck celebration taking first position.
  • If Julie and Ryan’s dad hook up, I want somebody to take out the Cooper-Nichols-Cohen-Atwood family tree and figure out how it all breaks down, because I’m betting there some wacky incest that would make Sophocles blush.

    Thoughts on this week’s episode? Any ranting you want to do on the show’s cancellation? Vent away!

  • Posted by:Daniel Fienberg