‘The O.C.’ Creator on Season 3: ‘Everything the Show Mocked, It Kind of Became’

The O.C. is one of the most successful teen dramas of the early 2000s. But just like any other TV show, the storyline ebbs and flows. That’s where The O.C. Season 3 comes in. Missing the mark with many fans, the show’s third season is widely considered to be the program’s least popular. 

‘The O.C.’ ran on Fox from 2003-2007

'The O.C.' cast poses for photos at a viewing party for the show
‘The O.C.’ cast | Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Debuting on Fox August 5, 2003, The O.C. follows Orange County teens living in Newport Beach, California. One of the main characters is Seth Cohen (Adam Brody), a sarcastic teen who doesn’t relate to any of his water polo-playing, Abercrombie-wearing peers. 

Everything changes when Seth’s parents take in Ryan Atwood (Ben McKenzie), a troubled teen from a broken home. Together, Seth and Ryan navigate high school with their love interests Summer Roberts (Rachel Bilson) and Marissa Cooper (Mischa Barton). 

Getting a warm reception from fans, The O.C. catapulted McKenzie, Brody, Bilson, and Barton to levels of fame they’d never experienced. The show ran for four seasons before going off the air for good in February 2007.

‘The O.C.’ creator says network notes are behind season 3 

Josh Schwartz on the set of 'The O.C.'
Josh Schwartz on the set of The O.C.| J. Emilio Flores/Corbis via Getty Images

The reason for the departure of The O.C. fans had grown to love is because of network notes. According to Josh Schwartz, the creator of The O.C. and an executive producer on the series, a change at Fox marked a shift in the show. 

“We had a new network president who wanted us to introduce a more adult soap storyline,” Schwartz said, according to Elle.

He added that ABC’s success with Desperate Housewives may have led to the new storylines in The O.C. Season 3. 

Schwartz continued, saying The O.C.’s attempt at reaching older audiences fell flat. 

 “I think we just started making a different show, we were trying to make a show that delivered on the melodrama,” he said.

‘The O.C.’ writers and creator ‘had no idea what to do with’ Charlotte Morgan character

Among the other notes Schwartz and the rest of the people behind The O.C. received from Fox? The addition of a new adult female character.

Actor Jeri Ryan joined the show as Charlotte Morgan, a woman trying to scam Kirsten Cohen (Kelly Rowan) out of money. 

“We were told to add this Jeri Ryan character to the show that we had no idea what to do with,” Schwartz told Vulture in 2007.

Members of 'The O.C.' cast with Josh Schwartz
Members of The O.C. cast with Josh Schwartz | Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic for Us Weekly Magazine

‘The O.C.’: Do Seth and Summer Get Back Together?

He continued, saying, “We were just told we had to add an adult female character. It went nowhere, and we had no plan for it, and it just didn’t fit the show.”

Yet another note from the network? The addition of more teen drama. Enter alcoholic surfer, Johnny (Ryan Donowho), who had a thing for Marissa. Schwartz felt the storyline didn’t resonate at all. 

“And then we went down the wrong road with this kid playing Johnny,” he said. “It was just flat. All of a sudden, everything the show mocked, it kind of became.”

Despite the many network notes that led to a lackluster season, Schwartz says The O.C. found itself again in the show’s fourth and final season.