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Yet another teen angst drama comes down the pike courtesy of the WB network. This one is set at Tree Hill High School and has basketball as the core of its initial episodes.

Series
One Tree Hill is the story of two half-brothers—Lucas and Nathan Scott. Sharing the same father, the two could not be more dissimilar. What is the only real similarity besides having the same father? Both are talented basketball players. However, Nathan is the star of the high school varsity team, while Lucas is the star of the local playground. Nathan and his father live together, and Nathan is constantly pushed by his dad to always be number one, no matter what the cost to others or himself. This has, of course, lead to Nathan being a spoiled brat, whose relationship with his girlfriend Peyton is predicated on his needs and wishes being the most important part of their relationship.

One Tree Hill: The Complete First Season
Lucas on the other hand is very close to his mother, and works in an auto garage with his uncle. He loves to read, but has no steady girlfriend at the time. When his uncle goes to the coach of the basketball team and tells him about Lucas' basketball ability, the coach meets with Lucas to try to convince him to join. After a few attempts, and several confrontations with Nathan, Lucas finally does join the team. This does not sit well with Nathan or Lucas' biological father, who pushes Nathan even harder to deal with Lucas and make sure that his place isn't stolen.

Nathan's position as leader of the team isn't the only thing that Lucas might take, however. Through a series of circumstances, Nathan's girlfriend Peyton and Lucas end up spending time together, and there seems to be an attraction between the two. Peyton is a talented cartoonist, but it takes Lucas submitting her work to a local newspaper for her to get any notoriety. At first upset with Lucas, after a while she begins to enjoy the work she does for the newspaper. Meanwhile, Nathan is having trouble in school, and if he can't get his grades up, he will be kicked off the team. In steps Haley James, Lucas' best friend and the appointed tutor of Nathan. When Nathan first approaches her about the tutoring, she refuses. Later, when Haley finds out that Nathan has gotten the basketball team to haze Lucas to try and force him to quit, she agrees to tutor Nathan as long as the hazing stops. She does not, however, tell Lucas of this. Of course, Lucas does find out, and eventually Haley and Lucas work through things, even when Haley tells Lucas that she is falling for Nathan.

Perhaps Nathan’s biggest obstacle is his father, Dan. Besides being both Nathan and Lucas’ father, Dan Scott, he seems unable to speak to Nathan for even a short period of time without pushing him to do better or reminding him how he needs to improve. Luckily for Nathan, his mother returns and starts to rein Dan in, in an effort to make sure Nathan is not smothered or left totally degraded by his father. Tensions escalate between Nathan’s parents, and when Nathan’s mom decides she wants a divorce, Dan threatens to expose Deb’s own sordid history unless she agrees to let Nathan live with him.

As all good teen dramas go, the four sided relationship could always do with some expanding, and Brooke, another cheerleader decides she would like to try and get Lucas for herself, so she begins her pursuit. When Lucas and Peyton fail to hook up, she puts things into high gear and really goes after Lucas. Eventually, Lucas is forced to make a decision.

The first season ends with several plot lines left dangling. Lucas has made a decision about his life. Also, Haley and Nathan have come to a decision regarding their relationship. Keith decides to try a new start, and both Dan and Whitey are left in medical crises.

One Tree Hill: The Complete First Season
I have come to believe that there are only about twenty or so actors that continually move between these teen angst dramas. They guest star on one, and the next season they have their own series. Jason Behr did it with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dawson’s Creek only to move onto Roswell. Here, Chad Michael Murray stars as Lucas. You might remember Chad from season five of Dawson’s Creek. In addition, North Carolina is again used as the backdrop for the series. Once again, think Dawson’s Creek. In fact, there is one scene where Haley and Nathan talk on a pier. Yes, it is the same pier that Dawson told Joey to go to Pacey. The makers of these shows really need to find more actors and different locales. In fact, the more I think about it, I am also beginning to believe that all teen dramas now owe some sort of  parentage to Dawson’s Creek.

Anyway, back to the actors. Murray does a fine job as a brooding Lucas. James Lefferty is very effective as Nathan. He portrays Nathan as someone who can be very scheming one minute, very sincere the next, and then scheming again. It is difficult to tell when he is being sincere and when he is plotting, which really is the essence of his character. As the season progresses, the edge on Nathan seems to dull, and he becomes less plotting. The female leads also do an outstanding job. Hilarie Burton as Peyton evolves from the jock’s girlfriend to really become the emotional centre of the show. Bethany Joy Lenz portrays Lucas’ best friend Haley, and she is the one person who seems to move between the two groups with little difficulty. Even Sophia Bush, as Brooke, moves from a one dimensional ditzy cheerleader to a three dimensional person who generates a lot of sympathy when she is caught in the Lucas/Peyton relationship.

There is a strong adult presence in this series as well. Paul Johansson does a tremendous job as Dan Scott, Lucas and Nathan’s father. When he and almost anyone else are on the screen, the tension between the two is almost palpable. He is a man that you really want to dislike, and he gets you to do that. He has moments of decency throughout, though, and just as soon as he shows that side, he shuts it down just as quick. Moira Kelly and Craig Sheffer play Lucas’ mom and uncle respectively, and they represent the (usually) sane voice of experience in the show.

One Tree Hill: The Complete First Season
Video
Surprisingly, the series is presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio. I say surprisingly, because it has become almost common practice that even though these types of dramas are broadcast in 1.33:1, they are normally filmed in the 16:9 aspect ratio anticipating their eventual DVD release (and also to take into account the HDTV broadcast of them). Unfortunately though, this one does not, and I really feel that we are the worse for it. There are some scenes (especially of Lucas on the playground with the city skyline behind him) that could benefit from the wider aspect ratio. Even in some of the indoor scenes (such as the basketball games), the wider ratio might enhance the viewing of the material. However, we are forced to make due with the standard television ratio.

The colours of the video transfer are all done very well. They are deep and they really help to make the scenes inside Karen’s Café that much brighter. Also, the blues in the team jerseys really seem to jump off the screen. The blacks do not bleed into any other part of the picture and the white levels are kept soft enough so as not to bleed either. There is little film grain to be noticed. With the exception of the aspect ratio (which is a big exception), this is a nice job.

Audio
One of the best components of these shows is the musical portion. Often a showcase for up and coming talent, One Tree Hill doesn’t disappoint here. There are many lesser name acts that appear here, and each adds something to the overall enjoyment of the material. What is one of the benefits of using lesser known acts? All of the original music appears to have been included, as I would assume that licensing arrangements for the DVD release was worked out ahead of time.

The set contains a Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround soundtrack, and it is fine. It would be nice if these could have a 5.1 track, but realistically I don’t see that happening (especially since it only contains a 1.33:1 video transfer). With that said, the audio is adequate for the material. There is little that is happening that might be able to fully utilise a 5.1 track, other than an even more enjoyable musical experience. As presented here, there is no noticeable hissing or popping, and, as mentioned, the music does come across well enough.

One Tree Hill: The Complete First Season
Extras
There is a very large helping of supplemental material to be found on the set, not the least of which is the abundance of deleted scenes from almost every episode. They are all introduced by the creator of the series, Mark Schwahn. In total, there are over forty-eight minutes (more than an entire episode) of deleted scenes. Some are small bits that were edited due to time constraints that the creator and director felt weren’t essential to the plot, while other excised scenes include entire storylines that were abandoned. One example of this is several scenes where Peyton is introduced to a troubled young orphan girl, Stella. Stella is an artist just like Peyton, and they form a bond as Peyton tries to help the young girl tell her feelings to the last family she lived with. In the end, the creators felt as though this storyline (one involving an outside character) would be more easily cut than anything which involved all of the main characters. Still, it’s a nice inclusion for completists such as me.

Other extras include three short ‘diaries’ from the set. These include shooting a long basketball scene on Chad Michael Murray’s birthday, his purchasing a truck at a local dealership and the actors in North Carolina as they wait out an impending hurricane. There is also an approximately twenty minute ‘Making of’ featurette which includes interviews with not only the stars, but also the creator and executive producers. It explains how the show began as a movie concept, to be called ‘Ravens’ (the name of the basketball team). After much discussion, it was decided that the potential present in the material better suited a weekly teen drama, and One Tree Hill was born. It also discusses the casting process for each of the leads, and talks about how the show worked around the pregnancy of one of its adult actors, Moira Kelly.

There are commentaries present as well. Four commentaries are attached to three different episodes (the final episode of the season boasts two separate commentary tracks). The creator commentaries are largely composed of what one would expect-titbits about the creation of the show, how fine the actors are, and how some of the different shots and storylines came to be. Much of the information can be found in other parts of the set (such as the ‘Making of’ featurette).

In contrast, on the final episode there are two commentaries, one done by the young actors, and the other by the adult actors. The two are similar in that they each spend much time ribbing each other about their appearance in certain scenes, or the dialogue, or what went wrong in the scene. What comes across loud and clear is their obvious affection for each other as actors. On the commentary front, a fine job done by all of the participants.

Finally, there are two more short clips. One involves the singer Gavin DeGraw (the artist who sings the theme song). Here you find a longer clip of his performance from one of the episodes. It serves as a music video for him. Finally, there is a twenty second clip which features Paul Johannson dressed in a Christmas Elf costume as a gag. Maybe it meant something more in context, but even having it explained by Schwahn, it doesn’t resonate at all.

One Tree Hill: The Complete First Season
Overall
Anyone who has read any of my reviews on shows from this genre know that I put forth the idea that one gets out of the show exactly what one puts in. To say it another way, if you take the time to invest some emotional capital in the lives of the characters, you usually will find yourself absorbed in their trials and tribulations. One Tree Hill is no different, in fact, it may be notch above some of the other teen angst shows. All of the actors are pleasant to look at, the storylines are interesting and the music is fresh and enjoyable. How could someone not enjoy this show? Do yourself a favour, and visit One Tree Hill.


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