Back in 2004, a team of MTV producers turned up at a Southern California high school on the hunt for the right group of charismatic teens to front their latest brainchild: a real-life, docu-soap version of Fox’s runaway-hit drama The O.C.

“We’re sitting there in class, and over the daily announcements they announce, ‘Okay everyone, MTV’s here. They’re going to cast a reality show on Laguna Beach. If you’re interested, sign up in the quad at break,'” Christina Sinclair (née Schuller) recalled to Time in 2014. “And I think for any 18 year old, that’s a dream come true. It’s like Grease—when they say they’re going to film their prom and it’s going to be on national television. Oh my gosh, I have to do it!”

In a pre-Kardashians, pre-Real Housewives world, what the network was after was fairly groundbreaking—a glossy-looking, new form of reality TV that simply followed a group of intriguing subjects around waiting for them to make good television. 

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