Not since "Beverly Hills, 90210" has a nighttime soap opera taken off like "The O.C." (search)
Now there's even a reality show loosely based on — and even filmed like — the red-hot series about the poor, little rich kids of Orange County, Calif. (search)
"I've always wanted to try to do a reality show that would use the visual language of a narrative like in feature [films] and dramas instead of the visual language of a documentary," says Tony Disanto, executive producer of MTV's "Laguna Beach — The Real Orange County" which debuts later this month.
"And since the show 'The O.C.' is such a big hit with our viewers and teens in general, we thought it might be cool to see what the real kids out in the O.C. were doing," he says. "What we wound up with is a reality version of a scripted drama."
In the past, producers of MTV reality shows like "The Real World" and "Road Rules" have relied on the documentary film techniques — confessionals, voice-over narration, jerkily natural camera movements — to tell their stories. "Laguna" abandoned all that, says Disanto.
By using at least two or three cameras for every shot, hiring cameramen with dramatic TV experience and editing the show as if it were a scripted drama, the show has the look and feel of the real thing, says Disanto.
"Laguna," which finished filming only three weeks ago, follows eight high school juniors and seniors who live in a laid-back, wealthy seaside town south of Los Angeles. The local high school gave — then withdrew — permission to film there, so most of the show now takes place around the kids' in their parents' multi-million dollar homes.
At the heart of the show is a love triangle between two seniors, a pretty girl named Lauren (her friends call her LC) her childhood friend Stephen and his girlfriend, a very dramatic junior named Kristin.
Cameras stuck with the tight-knit group all the way from spring break, prom season, graduation and summer vacation to when some leave for college.
"Usually in reality shows, you handpick people and put them all together somewhere like in 'Big Brother,'" (search) says Disanto. "This group of real friends already hung out together."