Matthew Perry, R.I.P.
Plus, 'Welcome to The O.C.' countdown, 'The Gilded Age,' 'All the Light We Cannot See,' and 'Lawmen: Bass Reeves'
This week’s What’s Alan Watching newsletter coming up just as soon as I’m trapped in an ATM vestibule with Jill Goodacre…
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Buy my book! Buy my book! (But for real this time)
Serious fans of The O.C. probably can tell exactly why Seth Cohen looks so shocked here. But for our purposes, let’s pretend that he’s freaking out over the realization that there is now less than a month until the November 28 release of Welcome to The O.C., my oral history book about the seminal mid-’00s teen drama. I may have mentioned this before, I think? But with so little time left until pub day, I feel like I need to go even more seriously into pitchman mode. So here are the things you need to know:
It features interviews with the entire regular cast, several notable guest stars (from recurring players like Navi Rawat to memorable one-shots like Colin Hanks), the majority of the creative team, network and studio executives, bands whose careers were boosted by being featured on the series, and even the minds behind the reality shows that were inspired by The O.C.
Everyone is extremely frank about the bad times on the show, even as they’re celebrating the good ones, and some of the directions the conversations took really surprised me. The chapter on Mischa Barton’s exit, for instance, is not at all the story everyone has assumed for years.
As I’ve said before, while this is obviously a book for lovers of The O.C., I also think it’s a good story for TV fans in general. There’s a whole lot in here about the series’ development, about the huge instant success and gradual slide into obscurity, about interpersonal conflicts and arguments with the network, and about the challenging grind of making any show. And that all could apply to any number of series I’ve covered over the years.
The early response to the book has been strong. Publishers Weekly said, “The insider perspectives are refreshingly candid and offer new insights into what went into making the much loved show. The O.C. fans won’t want to miss this.” And Kirkus Reviews said the book, “Skillfully captures the show’s surprising sizzle without letting anyone off the hook for its many shortcomings.”
You can preorder the book right this minute. To repeat a familiar point, preorders have become a huge deal in publishing, because they send a signal to retailers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble what kind of interest there is in a book, and how much to have in stock beyond the preorders themselves. And if you preorder it in any format, and upload proof of purchase here, you’ll get a free bonus chapter right now, weeks ahead of publication.
Before we move on to non-O.C. subjects, here’s the Seth Cohen scene in gif form:
Adam Brody and Josh Schwartz had some thoughts on this one — and then there are a lot of complicated thoughts from everyone on the Marissa/Alex relationship itself — which you can read in a little book called Welcome to The O.C.
Odds and/or ends
As promised in the last newsletter, I made the argument that in Season Two of The Gilded Age, the TV character Bertha Russell most resembles is Walter White. Was it a convincing argument? You have to decide.
I never read All the Light We Cannot See, so I can’t speak to how the story works in prose form. But the Netflix adaptation is a corny mess. (And, at least according to my pal Dan Fienberg, a mess that takes significant deviations from the novel. I’m fine with adaptations that don’t hew closely to the source material, but the changes have to be interesting ones.)
An extremely silly thing came to light this week regarding HBO and me. I think my statement in the story speaks for itself.
As coincidence would have it, HBO held a press event the morning after that story was published, so Casey Bloys could preview HBO and Max’s 2024 slate, and take questions from reporters. (And also to attempt to explain the behavior that came to light in that earlier story.) A lot of it was trailers for things like True Detective: Night Country and House of the Dragon. The most interesting, and disappointing, thing to me was about a show that does not seem likely to come any time soon, if ever. I asked Bloys about Barry Jenkins’ plans to make a sequel season to The Knick, focusing on Andre Holland’s character. Bloys said that the scripts he and his team saw weren’t quite right, and it does not sound like it’ll be moving forward. That’s a shame. The Soderbergh Knick seasons were incredible, and I’ve desperately wanted to see Jenkins try television again after his stunning adaptation of The Underground Railroad.
Could I BE any sadder?
Finally, we come to the saddest TV development of the last week. Friends star Matthew Perry died in his home last Saturday at the much too young age of 54. Though Perry had his demons, addictions, and other health problems over the years, it was still shocking to realize that any member of the Friends cast was gone, when the original conceit of the show was built so heavily around the characters being young.
I did my best under the circumstances to write about Perry’s comic genius that was always on display as Chandler Bing. (Or, if you prefer, Miss Chanandler Bong.) But while I alluded to the show’s importance to Generation X — and now to the members of Gen Z who fell in love with it on Netflix and Max — there were some aspects of this that I didn’t really get into in the column.
The first is that there are plenty of other wisecracking beta male characters from the Nineties and earlier whose behavior seems much less charming when viewed through a modern lens, like Xander on Buffy. But Chandler has aged quite well, I think. It helps to a degree that he was a tertiary character on the show for a very long time. He was often prominent in individual scenes because Perry was one of the funniest members of the cast, but Chandler stories tended to take a backseat to the Ross and Rachel love story, to what Monica was up to, etc. So there’s a significant chunk of the show where Chandler’s primary function is to deliver jokes. (And the jokes could be cutting, but were rarely mean, unless they were directed at himself.) And when the writers put Chandler and Monica into a relationship, it came out of nowhere. There was no long buildup where he was pining over her without telling her how he felt, no period where he was acting wildly possessive about her, if not outright entitled to date her, in the way that Ross can now seem about Rachel in certain stretches. I’m sure some of you in the comments will point out Chandler moments that are unsavory in hindsight, but the passage of time on the whole has been kind to him, I think.
The second is that there are an awful lot of people — mostly guys, but not only guys — who were young enough when they first saw Friends to base a large chunk of their personalities on Chandler Bing. At one point in my 20s, I was one of those guys, and I’ve heard similarly from a lot of people ever since my tribute was published on Saturday night. Chandler meant more to a lot of people than your typical character on a hit sitcom, in the same way that Friends as a whole did. Even as someone who ultimately prefers other Nineties NBC sitcoms like Seinfeld, Frasier, and NewsRadio, Friends has an emotional resonance with me that those shows mostly don’t. (Frasier definitely has more than the other two.) So Perry’s death hits even harder as a result.
That’s it for this week! What did everybody else think?