1 Thoughts on Class and Finance from the OC Series Pilot Script | The Billfold

Thoughts on Class and Finance from the OC Series Pilot Script

Brooding puppy dog Ryan Atwood is in the clinker because his brother has just stolen and totaled an Impala full of guns and drugs. Ryan, an accessory to the crime, is in big trouble. His public defender, a surfing pair of on-trend eyebrows named Sandy Cohen, has just asked him what he’s going to do with his life. 

Ryan: “Modern medicine is advancing to the point where the average human life span will be a hundred. But I read this article which said that Social Security is supposed to run out by the year 2025. Which means people are going to have to stay in their jobs until they’re eighty. So I don’t want to commit to anything too soon.” 1

1 Social Security is currently projected to run out in 2035.


Sandy: “You’re gonna have to get over the fact that life dealt you a bad hand. I grew up–no money. Bad part of the Bronx.”

Ryan: “And look at you now.”


Ryan calls his friends and relatives but they all hate him or something, so of course he calls Sandy, who comes and picks him up: 

Ryan: “This is a nice car. I didn’t think your kind of a lawyer made money.” 2

2 Public defenders in California can make up to $140,000.

3 In 2010, almost 30% of women in dual-income marriages out-earned their husbands (Kirsten, on the OC, worked with her father at The Newport Group and was a squillionaire).

Sandy: “We don’t. It’s my wife’s.” 3


Sandy and Kirsten’s house, a mansion in Newport Beach:

“The most expensive everything. Spanish tile. The kitchen is steel and chrome. The shower has a steamer and a seat in it! And soap that looks like sea shells. A terry cloth robe hangs on the door.”

We are in an age of innocence, where bad boys wear subtle leather necklaces and California socialites wear bootcut jeans. Ryan smokes a cigarette in the driveway of the mansion and spots the beautiful girl next door, a doe with a clogged throat named Marissa Cooper. They share the cigarette. Sandy Cohen’s eyebrows come out of the house and approach them. 

Sandy, to Marissa: “We’re really excited about that fashion show fundraiser tomorrow.”

Marissa: “Me too. It’s been so much work, but it raises a lot of money for the National Charity League so–”

Sandy: “At two hundred dollars a head, it should.” 4

4 Fancy gala fundraisers are the most inefficient way for a nonprofit to gather capital, but since they are also the most glamorous, they’re here to stay.

Later, at Marissa’s house, men in suits come to the door demanding a chat with her father Jimmy, who’s been taking money from his client’s investments to support his wife’s lip injections and early-2000′s prestige footwear. 

Marissa: “Those men came by again, Dad. What’s going on?”

Jimmy: “It’s just a client. You have nothing to worry about.” 5

5 “That was his biggest regret of anything is how we were hurt. Not so much that the clients lost so much money, but how much he hurt the family.” – Ruth Madoff

6 Since the recession began, American annual pet spending has increased from $43.2 billion in 2008 to nearly $53 billion in 2012.

7 EOnline thinks that Brangelina wedding photos could sell for over $10 million.

The fashion show:

“Feels like something for heads of state. Instead it it is filled with Newport’s wealthiest denizens. Every ear, neck and wrist glimmers gold and silver. Even the dogs are well dressed. Everyone white. But tan.” 6

The after-party:

“An expensive vase getting knocked over. Shatters. No one bats an eye.” A guy takes pictures of a couple hooking up through an open bedroom door. “Total blackmail. Easy money y’all!” 7

At the party, Ryan’s puppy dog magnetism acts like a tractor beam on pint-sized hottie Summer Roberts, who is the longtime secret love of Seth Cohen, who is Sandy and Kirsten’s firstborn Death Cab poster and has never been to a party before. 

Seth misinterprets the situation: “I can’t believe you! I invite you into my world! I bring you to this party! And this is how you treat me?! Why don’t you go back to Chino. I’m sure you can find a nice car in the parking lot to steal.” 8

8 According to California law, Ryan would have been up for a felony as an accessory to his brother’s crime, punishable by either 2-4 years in prison or up to a $10,000 fine, but luckily he was a juvenile and Sandy had his back. Of course, the actor who played Ryan was 25 when the pilot was filmed.

It’s the morning after the party and Kirsten is horrified to find her one and only Death Cab poster hungover with a black eye. “Seth!” she yells. She runs to tell her husband, whose eyebrows have good-naturedly strapped on a wetsuit and gone surfing. 

Kirsten: “This is what happens when you invite that kind of element into our home.”

Sandy: “I’d rather Seth hang out with Ryan than with some trust fund kid who only cares about getting his new Beamer. He’s gotta grow up some time. There’s a real world out there. Outside of this Newport Beach bubble.” 9

9 The 2013 BMW 7-Series costs up to $140,000 brand new.

Kirsten: “You don’t seem to mind living in this bubble.”


Kirsten goes back to the house and finds Ryan’s homemade apology breakfast. “Uh, Rosa’s not here today,” she says, unsure if people who speak English can prepare food from scratch. “I made it,” Ryan says. Well, it’s not enough. Sandy takes the brooding shelter puppy home, who gazes through the window at Marissa as the sun flares golden like an early-model Instagram and a Joseph Arthur song swells bittersweet. The two of them arrive at Ryan’s mom’s chain-link-fence place in Chino: 

“The disparity between the two houses is remarkable… The house is cleaned out. Nothing. A few boxes left.”

Sandy: “C’mon. Let’s go.”

10 There have been eight novelizations of the O.C., one of which is called “Cohen!”, official O.C. fragrances, and a failed plan to combine Gossip Girl and O.C. characters in a series called “Valley Girls.”

The door closes. Ryan’s going back to Newport and our lives will never be the same. MMMMMMM WHATCHA SAYYY. 10




Jia Tolentino lives in Ann Arbor.


44 Comments / Post A Comment

melis (#42)


melis (#42)


@melis RIGHT!? jia, can you just do ALL OF THE EPISODES!?

j-i-a (#746)

@Logan Sachon YAAaaaSssssSS u are my dream editor

@melis I’ve have always wanted to know: what happened to Marissa’s GHOST?

jfruh (#161)


jfruh (#161)

@Logan Sachon also not strictly money related but can we get some analysis of LUKE’S JOURNEY and how his gay dad BROKE HIM FREE FROM HIS TRAP OF BULLYING MASCULINITY???

j-i-a (#746)

@jfruh LUKE omg and ANNA and crazy OLIVER and working-class LINDSAY and the decline of Julie Cooper to trailer park Skoal lady ahhHhHh

jfruh (#161)


bgprincipessa (#699)

@j-i-a Ohhhhh Lindsayyy!!!! Poor Lindsay. Like the socioeconomic reverse of what happened to Ryan

j-i-a (#746)

@bgprincipessa Hahahaha omg remember her “Freudian slippers”


melis (#42)

@jfruh Luke went through, I think, 14 serious character changes in the first 16 episodes alone.

j-i-a (#746)

@melis Do you remember his thing with Marissa’s mom!!!

Also “When Luke, Summer Roberts, and Seth Cohen were all thirteen years old, he had a paintball birthday party at the same time that Seth had his Bar Mitzvah. Summer’s father, Neil Roberts, was going to make Summer go to Seth’s party, but when Summer’s mother left abruptly, she didn’t attend either one to deal with the divorce. This, coupled with most students choosing to attend Luke’s party, caused Seth to have self-confidence issues for several years.” :( :(

melis (#42)

@j-i-a jia i would like to propose an OC LIVEBLOG

j-i-a (#746)

@melis OH MAN yes yes also please let me know if you are interested in simulcasting because my dream OC liveblog is like a doe and a pair of eyebrows, talking to each other on an empty stage that sits atop a dead planet, where all that’s left of civilization are several thousand film reels of the OC

theotherginger (#1,304)

@j-i-a jia, melis, I am already slightly too much of a fan. Please do this. I would be so happy.

After loving Ben Mackenzie on Southland, I keep wanting to watch The OC (I realize Southland > The OC in every way, but when you have a thing for blondies…) but couldn’t bring myself to do it. This might change my mind.

deva14 (#2,608)

@polka dots vs stripes It’s no Southland, obvs, but season one of The OC is probably my fave single season of the whole damn teen dramedy genre. Yeah, it’s super schlocky, but the presence of smart, wise-cracking Seth Cohen really adds some brains/humor to the soap opera. It goes off the rails badly after the first season, but if you love Ben MacKenzie and have any penchant at all for silly teen dramas, season one is worth your time. Says I.

@deva14 My penchant for silly teen dramas knows almost no bounds (I hit my limit at the first two episodes of Dawson’s Creek). I think I have my weekend plans set!

craygirl (#63)

The Billfold is always wonderful, but this is streets ahead of the rest.

“Uh, Rosa’s not here today,” she says, unsure if people who speak English can prepare food from scratch.

Kate (#1,408)

“Sandy Cohen’s eyebrows come out of the house and approach them.” A++++++++++++++++++++.

1. This is incredible.

2. That Ruth Madoff quote holy shit.

j-i-a (#746)

@redheaded&crazy Dude, for sure re: Ruth Madoff. That whole interview has freaked me out ever since I read it–what blind compartmentalization!

bgprincipessa (#699)

The Imogen Heap ahhhhh. This actually made me miss the show. Even though it’s awful in its great way.

j-i-a (#746)

@bgprincipessa MMM WHATCHA SaYYYy

j-i-a (#746)

@bgprincipessa for real here is the moment of all moments http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=saEzQcayEPM

bgprincipessa (#699)

@j-i-a aaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. ugh. WHAT IS THIS SHOW. Like really can somebody link me to something explaining what in the world the producers had in mind and how it reached such insane soap opera levels and yet Seth was still his same quirky self

Ahhh this made me want to watch The OC real bad.

j-i-a (#746)

@backstagebethy Frankly every time I feel emotion it makes me want to watch the OC real bad

melis (#42)

That’s pretty minty of you, son.

j-i-a (#746)

@melis AHAHAHAH maybe u need some Anna-biotics

j-i-a (#746)

@j-i-a maybe I have the Summer flu

Bloomberg has an interesting definition of “run out” which is “incoming revenue would be enough to cover only three-quarters of scheduled benefits [after 2033].”

So if I was living 25% off savings and 75% of my income, when my savings account was empty could I say I had “run out of money”?

@stuffisthings (Sorry, my only thoughts about the show itself are “hmm maybe the Bolsheviks weren’t so bad after all” — this post was great though!)

WaityKatie (#1,696)

@stuffisthings Ahhhh I ran down here just to say this. SS will never “run out,” it’s just that it’s going to be paying out more than it’s taking in. The “trust fund” reserve will be gone, which is not that great, but people working will still pay into the program, and people drawing on it will still be drawing on it. People will still get their benefits! (unless congress cuts them).

blair (#1,962)

oh my god, it’s like the economic-themed pop-up video of my dreams
& i must be Zac Efron because reading this makes me feel like i’m SEVENTEEN AGAIN (although, NGL, “Hide and Seek” is still in my Top 25 Most Played)

lucky (#2,523)

loved it. moar please.

elizabeast (#629)

It’s my duty to point out that I don’t think Valley Girls was going to be a combination of The OC and Gossip Girl. It was supposed to be about the Rhodes sisters being the queens of California.

j-i-a (#746)

@elizabeast omg you are right actually i wrote that too quickly. what josh schwartz wanted to do was have younger versions of the OC characters (presumably kirsten?) on the valley girls show so that universes would collide! also i read this on wikipedia so it’s probably not true at all.

elizabeast (#629)

@j-i-a I…love Gossip Girl too much so I can say this much: Valley Girls was supposed to be made but never quite made it so there is just ONE episode of Valley Girls in the GG cannon. That episode is the best though.

But I think about whether or not Lily and Kiki could have been friends all of the time and I’ve decided the future queen of the OC was too much of a hippie to be friends with the future Mrs. Van der Woodsen-Bass-Humphrey-Bass

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