Welcome to TV Rewind, in which we look back at iconic episodes of beloved shows and try to determine if they still hold up today. (Spoiler alert: flared jeans never do.) This week, we look at one of the most important holiday episodes of television ever produced.
Show: "The O.C."
Episode: "The Best Chrismukkah Ever," Season 1, Episode 13
Plot summary: Oh, boy. We'll put it this way: what doesn't happen in this episode? Still new to the Cohen clan, Ryan (Ben MacKenzie) gets his first taste of the Seth-sanctioned holiday, Chrismukkah (a combination of Christmas and Hanukkah), just before heading to the mall with Marissa (Mischa Barton), who acts out by shoplifting (and getting busted). Reeling from her dad's recent financial disgrace and a fight with her Mom, Marissa then gets drunk and tries to drive home from the Newport Christmas party, which Ryan prevents.
The good news? She does not drive home, and decides to get help. The bad? It's at her therapist's she meets Oliver (Taylor Handley), who turns out to be a legitimate freak. (And of course, it hits a little close to home, following Barton's history with substance abuse.)
Meanwhile, in Seth's world, he's asked to choose between Summer (Rachel Bilson) and Anna (Samaire Armstrong), and he wants to use their Christmas gifts to him as a deciding factor. Summer dresses up like Wonder Woman, while Anna makes Seth his very own comic, and everyone wonders in what universe any of this would happen. (Especially when Seth tells them he thinks they should all just be friends, and neither agrees.)
Cut to the end, when Ryan gets on board with Chrismukkah and hangs his stocking alongside the Cohens'. And even though Sandy (Peter Gallagher) and Kirsten (Kelly Rowan) had previously been dealing with Caleb's (Alan Dale) legal troubles, the four hang out and watch a movie -- effectively making it, in fact, the best Chrismukkah ever.
What still works: Other than everything? (Kidding -- and we'll get to that in a second.) Depicting teenage rebellion was pretty bang-on in "The O.C." universe, and even though Marissa seemed like a legitimate bad-ass, she was arguably the most realistic teen in the bunch: acting out, drinking, and making decisions she'd be embarrassed about as a twenty-something. Also, of course, we still adore Chrismukkah itself: eight days of presents, followed by one day of many presents.
What doesn't work: Back in 2003, we were all cheering for ither Anna or Summer. But today, there's something completely unrealistic about either woman working so hard to win Seth's affections -- because a) that never happens, and b) why would it happen with Seth Cohen, man-child spokesperson? Real talk: if he really liked either of them, it wouldn't be a difficult choice. Also, in 2013, they'd now have Tumblr, so hopefully Anna and Summer would know (thanks to blogs, GIFs, and smart people) that they didn't need to work to win a guy's attention. The right guy would just like them, Wonder Woman costume or not.
Also, Oliver. But only because that entire narrative is the most stressful thing in the world. (Honestly, not even the movie "The Town" is as stressful. And that's a movie about robberies in Boston.) And, to be fair, nobody liked Oliver back in 2003, either, so this is really just a given. What a weirdo.
The Verdict: Obviously our affections for "The O.C." haven't waned in ten years (I mean, hello, we're writing about it in 2013, for heaven's sake), and despite the "ugh" factor of Ryan's leather wrist cuff and flared jeans, "The Best Chrismukkah" solidifies itself as a go-to holiday episode.
Not too defined by token holiday sentiment, and just messed up enough plot-wise (after all, Christmas is the token holiday for awkward run-ins and drinking too much), it's exactly what you'd expect from "The O.C." -- especially in its drama-ridden first season. (Never forget how it ends with Ryan leaving for Chino, and Seth sailing into the sunset.)
And despite the added "ugh" factor of watching Summer dress up like a super hero in hopes of getting Seth Cohen to choose her (come on, Summer! Pull a Kelly Taylor and choose yourself!), there's still the spirit of Chrismukkah throughout the whole episode. The last shot of the Cohens (including Ryan) sitting down to watch a movie, like they were that family you just wanted to join? Perfection. And in both 2003 and in 2013, we totally want to join their family. They had a pool house!