Web Exclusive: Don’t bother with new season of “The O.C.”

Robert Taylor

“The O.C”

Starring Peter Gallagher, Kelly Rowan, Benjamin McKenzie, Rachel Bilson, Adam Brody

Thursdays at 9 on Fox

Stater rating (out of five):*1/2 (out of 5)

After such a mediocre third season of lows and lower lows, fans might be curious as to whether to give the new season of “The O.C.” another chance after the promise of creator Josh Swartz taking a more active role in the show and additions to the cast that include Autumn Reeser and Chris Pratt.

Don’t bother.

The first episode of the new season picks up five months after Marissa Cooper’s death. While many thought that her demise came about because she probably only ate Tic-Tacs and bottled water for weeks at a time, it was, in fact, the result of a car accident.

The citizens of Orange County aren’t handling things well. Julie Cooper is self-medicating, Mini Cooper is buying boots that are eerily similar to something you’d see in bondage porn, Summer has become distant with Seth, and Ryan … well … Ryan has decided to become a cage fighter (seriously) in the producers’ newest ploy to get Benjamin McKenzie shirtless.

Something is seriously missing this season, and it’s not Marissa. The show has lost its focus, vivacity and wit. Actors seem to be sleepwalking through scenes with half-baked dialogue, not investing in their work.

Rachel Bilson has lost much of the glow that she had in the first three seasons, and only gets one zinger to deliver during the entire episode: “I’m not sarcastic anymore. I’m post-modern.” McKenzie is bland as always, and Adam Brody has no one to play off of. Only Peter Gallagher and Kelly Rowan retain some of their respect in their small roles in the first episode.

What a shame. These used to be characters we could root for. This show used to have dialogue we felt smart quoting. This show used to be about something meaningful. Now it’s about cage matches.

Contact ALL correspondent Robert Taylor at [email protected].