Thursday, April 5, 2012

‘One Tree Hill’ goes out on ratings high

It’s hard to believe that a show about warring brothers from two different mothers and their love of basketball managed to last for nine years.

That’s just what the CW’s ‘One Tree Hill’ did, though.

Tuesday’s final episode of the show hit its best ratings for more than a year (1.4m, 0.7 demographic) – proving that there was still a nostalgia factor for the show – even though some viewers thought it should have ended at the end of last season.

Heck, if I’m being honest, a lot of viewers think it should have ended at the end of the sixth season when original stars Chad Michael Murray and Hilarie Burton – Lucas and Peyton, respectively – left the show.

When it started, ‘One Tree Hill’ had no business surviving. It had a ludicrous premise – two brothers, only a few months apart in age, being raised by two different mothers. One brother, James Lafferty’s Nathan Scott, was a spoiled child of privilege who consistently tortured his half brother (Murray’s Lucas) every chance he got.

The contrived nature of the conflict of the brothers didn’t really hold true – and show runners quickly realized that painting Lucas as a saint and Nathan as the devil wasn’t going to work.

In quick order, they softened Nathan’s hard planes and gave Lucas more of an edge – thus balancing the two brothers.

While Lucas and Nathan were the central two characters, it was the supporting characters that gave ‘One Tree Hill’ its depth, though. And yes, the show did have depth.

Bethany Joy Lenz played Lucas’ best friend Hayley – a character that essentially fell in love with and married Nathan over the course of six months (hey, I didn’t say the show was realistic). She then went on a music tour, broke up her marriage, came back home and fixed her marriage and had a second wedding.
Yeah, convoluted, I know.

The first four seasons were actually only two years on the show. In that time the core group of characters faced high school pregnancy, a school shooting, several deaths, a stalker and the usual high school hijinks that accompany these types of shows.

The other thing that made ‘One Tree Hill’ different was the “adult” cast in the early seasons.

As Dan Scott, father of the two boys, Paul Johansson crafted one of the better television villains of all time. Dan raised Nathan to hate Lucas – mostly because Dan was embarrassed of the situation. Through the years, we found out that Dan didn’t truly want to abandon Lucas – but he was also one of the worst fathers imaginable. Dan was an insecure and threatening bully that killed his own brother in season three – and yet you couldn’t help but love him.

Dan’s wife Deb Scott (Barbara Alyn Woods) started out as a concerned but absentee parent who let her domineering husband control her son. She turned into a booze hungry, pill popping floozy throughout the years – but the character had a decent heart.

Lucas’ mother – and the woman Dan didn’t marry when he knocked her up – Karen Roe was played by Moira Kelly. Kelly was only around for the first four seasons – and then did periodic guest spots – but her presence in the early years was a balancing force in a show that essentially reveled in the fact that there were no parents around to rein these kids in.

Take Peyton and Sophia Bush’s Brooke Davis, these were teenage girls that essentially stayed by themselves for almost their entire high school careers (every teenagers dream, mind you). Brooke’s parents actually moved out of town and left her, while Peyton’s father was often on business trips – leaving the girls to their own devices.

After the high school years, ‘One Tree Hill’ did the smart thing and opted not to try and pretend all these kids would go to the same college (like ‘Beverly Hills 90210). Instead, they did a time jump four years in the future that allowed the kids to play closer to their ages.

At its heart, ‘One Tree Hill’ was a show about fathers and sons. Don’t get me wrong, the women were very important to the show’s growth and storylines, but it was the three central men who anchored it (Dan, Lucas, Nathan).

Personally, I found Tuesday’s finale a little stiff. I thought they had a great finale last year, complete with young Jamie crossing the bridge in the Keith Scott Towing hoodie with a basketball – mirroring the first shot ever of the show.

This season was a little painful. From basketball thugs kidnapping and trying to kill Nathan, to the ridiculous Clay forgetting he had a son story, the show had lost a lot of its magic.

That being said, if the show runners had opted to end with the scene of all the kids running around Karen’s Café while the adults chattered away I would have been fine with the ending. Instead, they felt the need to clip on one final scene – another time jump – where Jamie was in high school and his jersey was on the wall as the all time leading scorer for the Ravens.

First of all, they only put jerseys up like that when the kid is out of school. They wouldn’t do it while he’s still in school.

Second, I don’t think any viewers believed that Jamie grew up to be the kid we see in the final shot. No offense to Jackson Brundage – because he was wonderful over the years – but he was also vertically challenged and there was no way that the final teenager we saw and Brundage could have been playing the same character.

When you add to that the fact that none of the characters looked a day past 25 – and they would have been well into their 30s at this point – the scene actually jarred the viewer into giggles because it was so ludicrous.
Of course, ‘One Tree Hill’ was never a show that should have been taken seriously.

Will I miss it?

Not really. The past few seasons haven’t been great. I will look back on it with nostalgia and fondness, though. I have a feeling it will hold up better than some of its teenage genre counterparts.
What do you think? Were you sad to see ‘One Tree Hill’ go?

Click here for the top five episodes of 'One Tree Hill.'


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