'O.C.' Creator Reflects on the Show's End
On the even of the finale, Schwartz shares some thoughts
"Just stop it," Schwartz says, when I toss out the idea that tears might flow.
He pauses, getting a bit serious.
"You know, it's like I can't even absorb what's going on. It's overwhelming. It's like graduation day. We have a lot of work to do to get everything done today, because there ain't no reshootin', so I think everybody's just trying to keep their wits about them and get their work done and I'm sure that around nine o'clock tonight, it'll get very emotional."
After a tumultuous four years that saw it transition from guilty pleasure to pop culture phenomenon to slumping punchline to brilliant-but-cancelled, "The O.C." ends on Thursday (Feb. 22) night with an episode titled "The End's Not Near, It's Here." Down in the Nielsen dumps this season against the dueling behemoths of "Grey's Anatomy" and "CSI," "The O.C." will probably welcome more than its averaged 4.05 million viewers due to a mixture of both finale curiosity and the kind of robust lead-in it's been denied all season, a little competitive show called "American Idol." Schwartz has been toyed with enough this season.
"That will be nice," he says of the "Idol" boost. "I'm sure at the last minute it'll be switched out for two encore episodes of 'Stacked.'"
The fourth season launched in November without magazine covers and with minimal promotion. Instead, there came a steady stream of reviews suggesting that the series was the best it had been in years. Nobody watched. After recovering from their grief, many fans agreed that the death of Mischa Barton's Marissa, a damning loss for certain viewers, actually revitalized several storylines and opened the door for breakout co-star Autumn Reeser. Nobody watched. The show's writers experimented with the format and delivered episodes that were fresh and creative. Nobody watched and it became immediately clear that the season, already shorted to 16 episodes, would be the last.
"If I had to choose, I'd rather do this -- I'd rather make a show that I'm incredibly proud of that's getting the living daylights beaten out of it, than make a show that a lot of people are watching that I don't want to put my name on," Schwartz insists.
Along the way there were questions of whether a different lead-in ("Happy Hour," "'Til Death" repeats and "The War at Home" each did their damage) or a different time period might help, but FOX didn't budge. Although he felt frustration at the time, Schwartz gives FOX some credit.
"Look, I've certainly shared my dissatisfaction with how a lot of things went down with the network, but one thing I will say is that they ordered us for 16 episodes and we did 16 episodes and they let us do them on our terms. And for that, I'm grateful."
Schwartz isn't giving anything away when it comes to the finale, with follows last week's emotional "Night Moves," in which the core characters survived a major earthquake that shook Newport Beach and leveled the Cohen family's abode. Given that the show began with the Cohens giving a home to delinquent Ryan (Ben McKenzie), it's easy to see the resonance building.
"It certainly doesn't feel like another episode of 'The O.C.,'" Schwartz promises. "I think it feels really big. Hopefully it will feel fun and satisfying and everyone will feel a real sense of closure... and a sense of satisfaction that you've gone on a journey with these characters, that you're sad to see them go, but excited for their futures."
Schwartz didn't get any downtime after production wrapped on "The O.C." He has a pair of pilots -- NBC's "Chuck" and The CW's "Gossip Girls" -- to keep him busy.
"That's better for me. I think if I had to stop and reflect, I would just become overwhelmed with emotion and collapse. I think it's better that I just keep looking forward and don't look back."