The O.C.'s Most Controversial Relationship Got an Important Last-Minute Edit
Julie Cooper’s affair with her daughter’s ex-boyfriend was the storyline that made Melinda Clarke “officially love” the show.
The O.C.'s perfect 27-episode (!) first season has everything one could possibly want from an early aughts TV series: drama, sex, drama, sex, Death Cab for Cutie, drama, fights at high society events, sex, drama, Peter Gallagher's eyebrows, sex, etc.
One storyline in particular delivered on many of these season 1 promises (drama, sex), and gave two of the show's most underutilized players, Luke Ward (Chris Carmack) and Julie Cooper (Melinda Clarke), a much-needed spotlight.
Enter: Julie Cooper's affair with Luke, her teenage daughter's ex-boyfriend.
The O.C. pushed the boundaries of network TV often, but in this case they were careful to keep the May-December romance aboveboard.
Ahead of the launch of her O.C. rewatch podcast with Rachel Bilson, Clarke told InStyle that a (now iconic) line was added to the script to make the affair a tad more palatable — and, uh, legal.
"The kids are technically 16," she said of the season 1 teens. "But there's a scene in The Mermaid Hotel where [Luke and Julie are] having their rendezvous. In the morning he's like, '[I don't want to be late for homeroom],' and Julie goes, '[You have] homeroom. Right … because you're in high school [and you're only 18].' So they added that 18 … He started late or got held back." Given what we know about Luke, I'm willing to bet on the latter.
"Tate Donovan [who played Julie's first husband, Jimmy Cooper] used to tease the hell out of me, because I was like, 'Yeah, this is a great storyline,'" Clarke continued. "That was one of the [storylines] where I was like, I officially love this show. It was juicy, you know? It was very Desperate Housewives. That's when the show started getting a lot of its flavor and they started writing for the characters, so I gravitated toward it. I was all in. It was fun."
Today, the storyline might need more than a line-tweak to make it to broadcast.
Discussing how things would be different had the show aired in 2021, Clarked hoped "it would be a lot more diverse," adding that the show's signature humor might need some fine-tuning: "there's a fine line between humor and hurting people's feelings."
New episodes of Welcome to The O.C., Bitches! launch every Tuesday.