The O.C. is at its most basic is a story of coming of age for four young people and the other people that affect them. Ryan, a young man from Chino, is adopted by a family in Newport Beach and is thrust into a world of luxury that is just as dangerous as the mean streets he grew up on. Accompanying Ryan's storylines were the storylines of his wealthy friends, Seth Cohen, Summer Roberts, and Marissa Cooper, along with their wealthy families.
The series premiered to critical acclaim and relatively high ratings, with many critics proclaiming it to be the next Beverly Hills, 90210. However, during its second season, the show fell out of favor after being placed into a highly competitive timeslot and has failed to completely recover. In the fourth season, the series' ratings plummeted to a record low average of 4 million viewers per episode, leading FOX to announce that the fourth season would be the show's last. Nonetheless, at the height of the show's popularity, it spawned the common phrasing of "O.C." as a somewhat sarcastic term to describe Orange County, as well as popular reality knockoffs such as Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County and The Real Housewives of Orange County that will continue to remain on the air past The O.C.'s finale.