by Paola Cesarini
The 2013-15 Turkish series "Medcezir" is one of those rare cases in which the adaptation surpasses the original. Loosely based on 2003-07 American TV show "The O.C.", it is a stunning production boasting an all-star, outstanding cast; an excellent script; and a simply amazing soundtrack by none other than the incomparable Toygar Işıklı. "Medcezir" became the fifth most successful TV series of all time in terms of net sales in Turkey, and consolidated Çağatay Ulusoy's status as a cinematic youth icon.
In the first episode, "Medcezir" closely follows the original. Successful lawyer Selim Serez comes to the rescue of Yaman Koper, a boy from the wrong side of the tracks, when the latter gets into trouble on account of his wayward brother's shenanigans. Although he 'grew up in the mud', Yaman is smart, charismatic, honest, honorable and always true to his values.
Recognizing himself in the boy, Selim convinces his wife Ender to take Yaman into the family and, as a result, their seemingly perfect world is turned upside down. Soon, it becomes abundantly clear that it is the well-to-do community of Altinkoy that derives greater benefit from Yaman's inclusion, rather than the other way around.
A few episodes into the series, "Medcezir's" plot diverges substantially from "The O.C." in a direction meant to attract an older audience. The love story between the two gorgeous protagonists -- Mira and Yaman -- is much less adolescent-like, and at the same time more romantic and tasteful than Marissa and Ryan's teenage tryst. Indeed, "Medcezir's" protagonists are college students, rather than high-schoolers as in "The O.C." Moreover, in the Turkish series, the grown-ups are not empty caricatures, but strong characters with their own independent and interesting story lines. Most relevantly, "Medcezir" seriously confronts the social and cultural issues that "The O.C." only superficially touches upon. And finally, the American show's indie-rock soundtrack is replaced with outstanding Turkish musical performances by "Medcezir's" talented protagonists themselves.
Overall, three factors contribute to "Medcezir's" success. First, the intelligently revised script and heartfelt interpretations elevate this show way above the teen genre. For this reason, the series and the two main leads won numerous awards -- including the coveted Golden Butterfly Award for Best Actor. Second, "Medcezir" owes a great deal to the remarkable chemistry between the two young protagonists. Both gorgeous, skillful, and musically talented actors, Çağatay Ulusoy and Serenay Sarıkaya transform a shallow adolescent drama into a heart-warming and mature love story that viewers keep going back to, again and again. In comparison, the two young leads in "The O.C." appear juvenile, superficial and frankly miscast. And third, the perhaps more conservative approach of the Turkish series, which de-emphasizes sex and drugs in favor of cultural and class tensions, allows for a more substantive story line. In conclusion, those who have seen "The O.C." will surely enjoy "Medcezir's" new and improved version of the show. And those who have not are in for a treat.