People let me tell you about him he’s so much fun, whether we’re talking man to man or whether we’re talking son to son – yes, it’s Sandy Cohen, the “OC”‘s anchor and alrightnik, and an empathetic superhero to attractive blonde girls burdened by back stories bought wholesale from Big Lots. Seriously, was Alex’s absentee dad and rough upbringing really a revelation? That was like finding out about Dalton’s philosophy degree from NYU (“pain don’t hurt”), or that bipolar crime lord Mel Profitt was making the beast with two backs with his very own sister – in other words, not surprising. Still, it was a great concept tweak to have Sandy confront Alex about the corrupting of Seth Ezekiel, only to ask for her advice and then her help in setting him straight. Yes, it’s Sandy Cohen – a guaranteed first ballot inductee to the TV Dad Hall of Fame. Take that, Conrad Bain!
That corruption of Seth stemmed from his having stayed over at Alex’s to “prep the oven”. Summer noticed his walk of shame rumple at school the next day, realized Seth was putting in work before she and huge-headed Zach, and promptly freaked out. But finding a seat at the horizontal cocktail lounge isn’t her only problem. Evidently Zach’s mom, dad, and sister are blue state intellectuals of the highest order, building houses with Jimmy Carter and preferring the plight of Kashmir to the plush of cashmere. Summer, of course, likes the latter a little bit more. But it only took one awkward lunch with the mom and self-satisfied trust fund hippie sister for our girl to start obsessing over Kofi Annan and Kuala Lumpur. As she says to a bemused Marissa, “There’s so much news!” I’m not sure about this plot line – it’s too simple to make Summer the empty-skulled rich girl, especially since she’s proven time and again that she’s smarter than you might think (last season classic: “I’m gonna out-Jew YOU.”). Plus, the news fixation is very last-season-of-“Seinfeld”, when the characters’ quirks were exploded into caricature. The Summer-Zach relationship has potential, but right now it’s running on the fumes of her last season character. Quick, give these two something to do besides argue about Seth or have hokey “I love you just the way you are” speeches. With dialogue like that, Summer’ll end up wearing a leg brace with a cast over it and falling in love with Michael Ontkean.
There’s no doubt about Sandy’s great dad status, but he still forgot about his twentieth wedding anniversary. He wants to get away with Kirsten for the weekend, but damn it if Seth’s not suddenly a ladykiller looking to be labeled as a freak and get loose on the streets of the city, only to get caught climbing out a window by Sandy. Not to mention Chino, who’s in the pool house making out with Lindsay to Journey’s “Open Arms”, cueing the inevitable awkward walk-in by his would-be mother and her half-sister. Wayward sons growing up too fast, adopted corner-brooders canoodling with unknown siblings, and an anniversary gaffe that has his wife grumbling in anger – somebody get Alan Thicke on the horn, ’cause this TV dad needs some advice!
At this point in the episode, if Alf, Martin Lawrence and a precocious redheaded boy had appeared in the Cohen foyer with a tie-up solution (“let’s have a car wash!”, or “the baby cougar was in the terrarium the entire time!”) and a very special lesson (Dudley’s dad: “You got it?” Dudley: “Yeah”. Dudley’s dad: “Good. Because if you don’t got it, you’re gonna get it, got it?”), the “OC” would be treading dangerously into “What’s Happening Now?” territory. But “hey hey hey!”, as usual, the show figured out a way to be melodramatic, cheesily predictable, and totally fucking awesome all at once.
In a move applauded at the TV dad retirement home, Sandy figures out the perfect way to make up with Kirsten, keep an eye on Seth and Ryan, engulf Alex in the Cohen family’s ever-increasing warm fuzzy aura, officially recognize Chino’s romance with the Firecracker, get Skippy a date, tune Uncle Jesse’s guitar, pimp out the den as a bitchin’ bachelor pad, and issue the first two seasons of “The Equalizer” on DVD – he sings. Ladies and gentlemen, please put your hands together for Sandy Cohen & the News. Backed by a jumble of guys who missed a few lessons at Pretend You’re Playing an Instrument acting school, Sandy rolls into a Billy Very & the Beaters-ish blue-eyed soul number that gets the principal cast members to link arms and sway in one of the goofiest moments on the “OC” yet. The show really should have ended with Sandy telling a joke from the stage and the cast caught in freeze frame laughter. Maybe next week, when Stephen J. Cannell guest stars as Zach’s dad.