Hollywood conundrum: How does a highly rated, much talked about TV show go from kudos to cancellation in just 4 seasons? Because it’s on Fox. I’m really floored that the network announced late this afternoon that the teen soaper The O.C. will broadcast its final episode on February 22nd. That first season, I thought this 90210 wannabe was very watchable because of breakouts Adam Brody and Rachel Bilson. The second season, well, wasn’t as good because it focused too much on the parents’ problems. Then it began the exploitative lesbian scenes intended to titillate audiences, and everything went to hell after that, including a major series’ no-no: killing off one of the leads. Mischa Barton may have been a wooden actress, but her character was pivotal to the overall plot. As for that other lead, Ben McKenzie, he never had the acting chops to engage the audience. Think about it: did the guy ever once show an authentic facial expression? Plus, the bitches and himbos on MTV’s Laguna Beach series — aka The Real O.C. –kinda made the fictionalized O.C. seem tame. This year’s ratings have stunk (for its first seven Thursday airings, The O.C. has averaged fewer than 4 million viewers per episode, off from last year’s 5.7 million per episode), but so have the ratings of nearly everything on Fox. The execs made the announcement of The O.C.’s death this afternoon. New shows will keep airing until the series’ finale. (Spoilers should turn up first here.) Granted, I read on the Internet that Fox only ordered 16 episodes this season, a major dip for a series that had delivered over-sized runs of 27, 24 and 25 episodes in its first three years. In addition, Fox held The O.C. back for a November premiere and launched it in the brutal Thursday time period opposite ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy, CBS’ CSI, and NBC’s so-called comedy block. (As for those rumors that The O.C. might move over to The CW network, probably no truth in them.) Really, I don’t understand why News Corp. doesn’t just shut down everything on Fox except American Idol (because no one’s watching anything else there) and fire all the lame TV suits and development execs.