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10 Reasons Why Orange County Is an Underrated Comedy Classic

Orange County

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Released during the heyday of American Pies, Road Trips, and Van Wilders, the 2002 film Orange County flew under the high school sex-romp radar when it was released. Written by future Enlightened co-creator Mike White and directed by frequent Freaks and Geeks collaborator and Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story helmer Jake Kasdan, the movie has a darker, almost-bleak undercurrent running throughout, one that stands in stark contrast with the booze-filled house party atmospheres of the other teen flicks from its time. And because it’s often left out from conversations about worthy high school comedies, it’s about time we all revisit Orange County and discover why it should be listed alongside venerable favorites like The Breakfast Club, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and Clueless.

But if you’re unconvinced, here are 10 reasons why Orange County is an underrated gem of a movie.

10. Mike White (School of Rock) wrote it.

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Coming off an Independent Spirit Award win for Chuck & Buck, screenwriter Mike White knows a thing or two about crafting flawed, neurotic characters that audiences can root for. With a funny, relatable pathos that’s very reminiscent of Freaks and Geeks, White’s style is deeper than candy-coated fluff but still very fun to watch.


9. Colin Hanks proves he got his dad’s chops.

Paramount

Like the siren song of an old Bosom Buddies episode, there’s just something about a young, frantic Hanks on screen that’s so eminently watchable. Confirming that his dad passed down his charisma gene, Colin plays Shaun Brumder, a very likable and believable character that is far more three-dimensional than your typical high school movie lead.


8. It’s a movie for the fringe.

Paramount

Orange County follows a young writer’s pursuit of getting into Stanford so he could become like the author who changed his life. There are no subplots of pining for the unattainably cute girl, scrambling to lose one’s virginity, or planning the ultimate keg party. Shaun is meant to be relatable to the bookworms, art snobs, and A.V. geeks who were trying to hone their craft and creative obsessions in order to be like their idols.


7. The parents in this movie are truly awful, narcissistic people.

Paramount

There’s no trace of a Paul Dooley or a Mr. or Mrs. Bueller in a parental role here. Shaun’s mom and dad, as well as the other parents in this movie, are deeply troubled, self-centered individuals who clearly should’ve never had kids. And it’s in their imperfections and inability to offer guidance that makes Shaun’s plight more difficult and empathetic.


6. Schuyler Fisk plays a character you don’t often see.

Paramount

Colin Hanks isn’t the only one who inherited a parent’s best qualities. Displaying the same natural grace and sweetness as her mother, Sissy Spacek’s daughter Schuyler Fisk plays Shaun’s girlfriend Ashley and isn’t the prototypical ditzy side character. She feels very real not only as a high school sweetheart but also as the only thing in Shaun’s life that isn’t a living nightmare.

5. The cameos are delightfully strange.

Paramount

For a teen comedy, Orange County really isn’t courting cheers from a Gen-Y demo with its brief celebrity appearances. These cameos, alongside supporting characters Catherine O’Hara and John Lithgow, include older greats like Lily Tomlin, Chevy Chase, Garry Marshall, and Harold Ramis, as well as left-of-the-dial favorites Ben Stiller, Jane Adams, Kevin Kline, and Leslie Mann. Of course, we can also thank Orange County for giving Jack Black one of his earliest starring roles.


4. It makes the perfect companion piece to Mean Girls.

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Like the Tina Fey-penned movie Mean Girls, Orange County draws much inspiration from ’80s black comedy Heathers in its dim view of high school popularity. The beautiful and well-liked prom royalty — who, in both movies, possess a vapid sense of entitlement and personalities that command very little sympathy — underscore the awkwardly cerebral qualities of the leads in a way that only those who lived through high school could understand.


3. It’s a treat for those who miss Enlightened.

HBO

Co-created by Mike White and Laura Dern, the criminally under-watched HBO series Enlightened was canceled after two stellar seasons, leaving its cult of fans desperate for anything like it. And while there is a discernable difference in tone, one can see seedlings of Dern’s character in Shaun, and the flaws and neuroses in the cast of Orange County wouldn’t seem at all out of place in Enlightened.


2. The palpable sense of joy to be validated by an idol.

Paramount

After one disheartening setback after another, we finally see Shaun meet Marcus Skinner, the author who inspired his love of writing and to whom Shaun sent a rough, autobiographical novella. In a very touching scene, Skinner remembers the draft and commends Shaun on its many qualities. And Shaun, dewey-eyed from the affirmations and recognition, tells him, “You have no idea what that means to me,” and gives him a hug. It’s the type of situation every writer, artist, or creative person dreams of.


1. It’s “It gets better” by way of “People are alike all over.”

Paramount

Shaun desperately wants to move away from his dysfunctional home life in the hopes that college will solve everything like a social panacea. However, as he witnesses firsthand, college — and, by extension, everywhere else — is just like high school with the same collision of positive and negative personalities. And while many young folks might find liberation after going away to school, Orange County reminds us that not everyone needs to escape their physical boundaries to excel beyond their creative or emotional ones.

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

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Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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