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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.

Paramount

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.

Paramount

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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Final Countdown

The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

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Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…