When I saw last year's premiere of this glossy soap, I questioned how cool, working-class Ryan (Benjamin McKenzie) would form a plausible friendship with rich, geeky Seth (Adam Brody) after Seth's parents invited Ryan to live in the family's fancy home in Newport Beach, Calif. As the second season begins, I worry that the formerly alienated teen from Chino maybe blending in a bit too well.
"You're the bad boy; you're the outsider," Seth has to remind Ryan as they get ready to return to high school in the Nov. 11 episode. "You're supposed to be leading me into temptation, not homeroom." A moment later, Ryan announces his intention to "brood silently."
Dialogue like this is an encouraging sign that the people who make The O.C. don't take it much more seriously than I do. Remember the first-season finale back in May, when Ryan and Seth left town and went their separate ways? Rather than reveal too many details of the second-season opener (Nov. 4), let's just say the writers nudge the boys back to Orange County, where Ryan is disappointed to discover that his flame Marissa (Mischa Barton) spent the summer dallying with a habitually shirtless young man described by her friend Summer (Rachel Bilson) as not only "hot" but "hot-hot." In fairness to Marissa, maybe she needs the sex to relieve chronic tension. When her mother (Melinda Clarke) asks what's bothering her, the willowy beauty throws a screaming fit that's either preposterously overdone or deliberately funny. To enjoy this show fully, go with the latter.