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Patrick Freyne: On Selling the OC, Alex has the recipe for a good relationship. It’s a nice, alliterative list – all the C-words

The Netflix reality show involves glamorous ladies and hunky gentlemen quaffing champagne and talking about their problems at length

Selling the OC – working title: The Hunks of Capitalism – is back on Netflix. It involves glamorous big-haired ladies and hunky gentlemen wandering stiffly around massive dolls’ houses in fancy frocks, huge heels and tight-fitting suits, quaffing champagne, talking about their problems at length and consuming resources conspicuously. It is, in short, the adaptation of Barbie that Mattel probably had in mind before Greta Gerwig turned up with her self-aware feminism.

Ironically, the property company at the core of Selling the OC is named the Oppenheim Group, and Oppenheim sounds like the prequel to Oppenheimer (the cinematic Skeletor to Barbie’s She-Ra), which will surely, in turn, be followed by Oppenheimist, which will combine the best of both cultural properties (“I am become Death, the purveyor of stunning California real estate”). Yes, I’m saying that Selling the OC lies on the nexus between Barbie and Oppenheimer. That should be the headline.

Anyway, there comes a time in every hunktrepreneur’s life when he looks at his warring, sexually charged hunkforce and thinks, “You know, instead of hiring a HR department I’m going to get a documentary film crew.” The Irish Times has done something very similar in recent years. (Editor’s note: Patrick, we actually do have an HR department, and you have a meeting there this afternoon.)

Oppenheim has a twin. He is, coincidentally, also called Oppenheim. The Oppenheims are little bald men, barely visible to the eye, who are basically the Dian Fosseys of the hunks in the mist. They live amid the giant hunks, imitating them and learning their ways. As the hunks form love triangles, eat hors d’oeuvres, gambol and groom one another, the Oppenheims scamper at their feet, taking notes and making money somehow.


I suppose the houses the Oppenheims sell are very expensive. The property one female hunk named Kayla is selling costs $28,495,000, which I’m pretty sure is a barcode, not a real price. As Kayla wanders the vast halls of this gloriously hotel-like property she drops globs of advice for a coworker: “I got lost in wanting everyone to like me. My advice honestly is to keep tunnel vision: focus on yourself.” This you will, of course, recognise from the sayings of Jesus Christ.

Selling the OC is pretty dystopian, really. In the western world in recent years, rich people’s understanding of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs somehow got stuck on “shelter”, and so now the world’s toffs do endless property deals with one another as the planet burns and/or watches them on Netflix.

Frequently on Selling the OC people discuss the “views” from the mansions. These, as far as I can tell, are largely of a parched desert landscape or else of the sea, which nobody can drink.

This does not bode well. As the episodes progress I expect to see burning oil fields, mushroom clouds and marauding Mad Max-style bikers in the “view” as the Oppenheims and their hunktastic realtors quaff cocktails and sign documents. It’s hard not to look at all those swimming pools without assuming they will eventually be used to hoard drinking water.

But let me introduce more of the hunks. Tyler is a lovelorn and bestubbled hunk in the throes of a full-blown hunk funk. He and the chief female hunk, Alex Hall, were in a sort of relationship, but now they are estranged. This season, we first see Tyler returning from holiday carrying a surfboard-shaped case. It doesn’t take an idiot to work out what’s in that case. It’s skincare products, probably.

Tyler, like all the other hunks, wishes to discuss his wants and needs when he probably should be working. “I want kids. I want a house and puppies and all the stuff,” he says, and it is so specific a vision of the future that I begin to wonder if puppies might be part of the hunk life cycle.

Does Tyler imagine he might give birth to puppies? I look at his big sad eyes and am convinced this is possible. If so, I support him. Tyler giving birth to puppies on Netflix would be significantly less grotesque than the luxury-property business in sun-scorched Los Angeles.

His former consort, Alex Hall, who loves property so much she’s named after a stately home, is meanwhile discussing the ways in which Tyler falls short of her mother’s recipe for a good relationship. What is in that recipe? Well, it’s “consistency, commitment, communication, cunnilingus”. It’s a good list. It’s alliterative. Also, some of these words are in the articles of the Irish Times Trust.

My favourite character is Gio, a man who is so wedded to the idea of flipping luxury properties in Orange County that his second name should probably be Location. Gio Location says things like, “I know I am the best agent in this office, and if anyone gets in my way they will regret it.” Look, he could well be the best agent in the office. It’s a terrible, terrible office.

Gio doesn’t appear to have top buttons on his shirt, and he travels from place to place by yacht. He is literally all yacht and no top buttons. Yachting from place to place works fine for Gio in the first episode, because he’s moving from one mansion’s dock to another across a bay of undrinkable saltwater. I imagine it will get trickier when he has to commute from the dock to the Oppenheim Group’s open-plan office, farther inland. The title of the episode, for the record, is Big Dock Energy. Frankly, after all this, it will be cleansing to my eyes to witness Tyler giving birth to puppies in the series finale. (I’ve decided this is going to happen.)

A Man in Full is being seen by some as Netflix’s attempt to succeed Succession. Jeff Daniels, wielding the Foghorn Leghorn accent discarded by Kevin Spacey on the set of House of Cards, is a grotesque and boorish billionaire being chased by a bank for his debts. Succession came out of a very British tradition of seeing something tawdry, petty and small in the lives of the rich and powerful. A Man in Full goes back to a more American tendency to be impressed by money and status while lampooning it. (It is, in fairness, based on a novel by the literary rich-person-obsessive Tom Wolfe.)

So even when Daniels is driving outlandish jalopies, wrangling actual snakes and making lesser men watch horses mate, he’s taken more seriously than the cartoony bureaucratic schmucks trying to take him down. Also, unlike in Succession, where the arcane business shenanigans are less important than the wisecracking hilarity of the Roy family’s intergenerational trauma, there are moments in A Man in Full when we’re actually meant to follow book-keeping details. Yes, they’re making us do accounting. I don’t want to do accounting. I want to work in a hunk-based firm and go to work every day in a yacht.