Created By: Stephen Tolkin and Lori Loughlin
Starring: Lori Loughlin, Shawn Christian, Merrin Dungey, Ryan Kwanten, Jesse McCartney, Taylor Cole, Kay Panabaker, Nick Benson, Zac Efron
For obvious reasons, Summerland rings in dead last, but we’d be remiss to completely omit the series because of its leading star. There’s still much about Summerland that’s oddly iconic. First of all, the one-two punch of Jesse McCarney and Zac Efron — full stop. If you say didn’t have a crush on both or either of them, then you’re lying like Lori Loughlin did to get her daughters into USC. But should you ever be tasked with describing to Gen Z what 2004 was like, The WB’s flash-in-the-pan summer sensation is without question textbook 2004 — cheesy and perfect.
Summerland began with fashion designer Ava Gregory (Lori Loughlin) receiving custody of her nephews, Bradin (Jesse McCarney) and Derrick (Nick Benson), and niece Nikki (Kay Panabaker) after their parents die suddenly in a car accident.
The kids move from their home in Kansas to Ava’s beach house in Playa Linda, California, where they deal with their grief and the monumental culture shock. Although it’s difficult to settle into their new lives in a new place with new people, they soon find themselves entangled in personal and romantic matters in the land of summer.
After finding moderate success in the summer of 2004, more than likely bolstered by the fervent fandom of then “it” boy Jesse McCartney, the second season failed to find a stable ground on The WB’s midseason schedule the next year. Had the network held Summerland as a summer exclusive instead of rushing to capitalize on its success, this could have been a very different conversation.
Whether you watched every episode religiously or caught up when it re-aired on The N (how’s that for a throwback?), you have to admit Summerland rode the wave of The WB’s legacy.