One Tree Hill: The Complete First Season

When Dawson's Creek came to its much needed end in 2003 (with arguably one of the worst finales in television history), producers at the WB network immediately scrambled for something to fill the hole left by the popular show with an exaggerated vocabulary. One Tree Hill (named after the U2 song) premiered in September '03 with a similar small town setting (both using Wilmington, NC), some similar themes and even an actor (Chad Michael Murray), who played a recurring character on the Creek. Some sceptics may have considered it an analogous replacement, but OTH easily proved it was the stronger series in the pilot episode alone. While the storylines aren't flawless, OTH used a fairly complex one to introduce the show. Set in Tree Hill (as in "there is only one Tree Hill"), the series uses high school basketball as a enticing mechanism to keep the show from moving in and out of the standard incestuous love triangles while also causing tension and problems for the characters. Lucas (Murray) is a basketball-loving young man with a confusing existence; the product of a teenage romance, and raised by his single mother Karen (Moira Kelly), he is also the subject of many whispers around the small town. His biological father, Dan (Paul Johansson), abandoned him to raise another son, Nathan (James Lafferty), the captain of the Ravens, Tree Hill's high school basketball team. The contrast between the two boys sets up the initial conflict and drama in the early episodes when Lucas, the mild-mannered kid with nothing, joins the Ravens and continually clashes with his half-brother Nathan, the spoiled, self-centred asshole. As the season rolls on, the two find themselves discovering different sides of each other through the help of three beautiful love interests, family complications and the constant angst of teenage life. It's easy to see why this show is second next to The O.C. with teenage girls — the characters are well-written and likeable, the romances are complicated and enthralling, there are moral lessons to be learned that aren't forced and there is a respectable soundtrack to help the show's sequences flow easier and give it some credibility. Unlike The O.C. though, season one of OTH left out the farcical humour and avoids taking the piss out of itself. Such seriousness isn't a problem, but there's a reason why the California kids have a lot more fun. Along with the 22 episodes comes a generous and mixed bag of extras. Over 48 minutes of unaired scenes are included, with creator Mark Schwahn explaining why each one missed the cut. Most interesting is an entire storyline featuring Peyton (Hilarie Burton) and Haley (Bethany Joy Lenz) attempting to help a fiery, misguided orphan deal with the loneliness of foster home life. "Building A Winning Team" is a behind the scenes look at the show and the close bond between the actors, as well as descriptions by the producers of how the show came to be. "Diaries From The Set" is three featurettes that follow cast members in the midst of partying and facing a real hurricane (that never hits), as well as following Murray as he uses some of his newfound wealth to buy a sweet new ride. The cast and crew commentaries add some enjoyable insight into the mix, especially the cast, who seem to gel so well together, but only four episodes receive this treatment, leaving you wondering why the other 18 were neglected. With a superb cast that also includes Craig Sheffer (A River Runs Through It), Barry Corbin (Northern Exposure) and Sophia Bush, One Tree Hill is an uplifting series that may not have the zip of its California rival, but it definitely has the bigger heart for all of the young romantics out there. (Warner)