Teen TV and That Boy
Yesterday I was thinking about what had become of Adam Brody and how he being typecast as Seth Cohen hadn’t helped him out any… then I got the idea to write a blog about the “that boy” character, but then I watched an episode of the OC as “research” and one turned into 5 and that’s why it’s taken me this long.
In an attempt to explain the that boy character I’ve made a list of qualities that the character in question should possess, not all are compulsory, but we’re looking for a good solid 4 out of 6 to qualify.
- That boy cannot get the girl too early
- That boy must skateboard
- That boy must like comics/books/movies to an unhealthy degree
- That boy must be picked on by jocks
- That boy must have a female best friend ( who is usually secretly in love with him, while he lusts after the prettier more popular girl)
- That boy must have a strong moral code
- That boy maintains a GPA in the high threes.
- That boy always has a wisecracking remark to add.
In the medium of teen TV the original that boy can be traced back to Brian Krackow in My So Called Life. As this was an early attempt the writers hadn’t yet figured out that this character had to be hot as well as nerdy. Alas for poor Brian his ridiculous hair and love of corduroy got in the way of Angela crushing on him, who knows though, had they made a second season and Brian had gotten a makeover…..
There wasn’t really a that boy in Party of 5, Griffin was basically Catalano and Justin was too fricken nice (and not indie enough) luckily though along came Kevin Williamson offering up a TV show with not one, but two that boys, and this time they were best friends. Pacey and Dawson both qualify, yet both are lacking something, combined though Capeside’s finest become an almost unbeatable that boy. Bad boy with moral code, amazing artistic sensibilities and a GPA to match? Wowzers.
Around the same time in the small town of Sunnydale CA, a that boy was emerging in the form of Xander Harris, sidekick and member of the Scoobies, in season one he showed much promise as a that boy. Willow’s unrequited love for him, his skating antics and crush on Buffy all stood him in good stead, but as the seasons drew on and the characters grew more complex, Xander transformed before our eyes, into an actual man.
In Stars Hollow, Jesse had that boy potential, but although bookish and troubled he was way too cool and attractive to ever pull it off.
On to the most important boy in all of Orange County. Seth Cohen is the ULTIMATE that boy, the that boy which all other boys will aspire to be, he possesses all the required qualities (sans the female best friend, although it can be argued Anna played that role from time to time) to such an extent that I remember the show as being about Seth, when really he was only ever supposed to serve as Ryan’s wisecracking BFF.
The current contender to the throne is one Dan Humphrey. Yes Dan has a similar self-deprecating witticism, but the fact he started dating Serena in episode one? really.. come on now.
As bookish girls who liked comics, we fell in love with these ficitional characters in the hope that they actually did exist, what we didn’t realise at the time was all these characters are written by former real life that boys (Joss Whedon, Josh Schwartz I’m looking at YOU) who really did want to date the Prom Queen.
Hell though, a girl can dream…