Can you still be considered a boy wonder at age 31? It’s been four years since Josh Schwartz broke out with The O.C., a smart, self-aware reworking of the prime-time teen melodrama that established him as the youngest person ever to create an hour-long network series. The show’s first year was a phenomenon, moving at such a breakneck pace that it felt like the entire run of Beverly Hills, 90210 jammed into one season. “We were blowing through stories as fast as can be,” says Schwartz. “Which is what I think made that first season so much fun.”
Not surprisingly, Fox quickly commissioned Schwartz to create a second series and, not surprisingly, splitting his time left him creatively exhausted. In an Icarus-esque flameout, The O.C. was canceled this year after four seasons, dimming Schwartz’s wunderkind glow.
Schwartz is now writing his second act. Or, rather, two second acts. He’s the creative mind behind both Chuck, an action-comedy he pitched to NBC as “The Office meets Alias”, and Gossip Girl on the CW, based on the popular books about private-school kids on the Upper East Side. And this time around, he claims to have learned the hard way what it takes to sustain a series. For one, he knows his limits, even if he doesn’t always respect them. (“Don’t do two shows at once...oops!”) Then there’s the matter of not blowing through all of your plot ideas in the first season. Still, he says, “I have very few regrets. If you were to tell me right now that Gossip Girl was going to have the exact same run that The O.C. had, I would shake your hand and say, ‘That sounds fantastic.’”