The first new FOX network series of the 2003-2004 season, The O.C. was co-produced and co-created by McG, director of the Charlie's Angels theatrical films, and Josh Schwartz, a 26-year-old University of Southern California graduate, upon whose academic research the series was based. The titular initials stood for "Orange County," as in California. A troubled and troublesome teenager from a rough neighborhood and an unhappy home environment, Ryan Atwood (Benjamin McKenzie) was on the verge of becoming a full-time lawbreaker when he was taken under the wing of public defender Sandy Cohen (Peter Gallagher). Much to the dismay of his social-climbing, ex-beauty queen wife Kirsten (Kelly Rowan), Sandy invited Ryan to live with his family in the high-class Orange County community of Newport Beach. Also participating the series' Beverly Hills 90210-like plot convolutions were Adam Brody as the Cohen's intellectual-loner son Seth; Mischa Barton as gorgeous girl-next-door Marissa Cooper (one of the few "nice" characters amongst the spoiled and narcissistic teen population of Newport Beach); and Tate Donovan as Marissa's rich father, Jimmy. Jumping the gun on the standard September startup date, The O.C. premiered August 5, 2003.
by Hal Erickson synopsis