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The Complete First Season
Starring: Chad Michael Murray, James Lafferty, Hilarie Burton, Bethany Joy Lenz, Sophia Bush, Paul Johansson, Barbara Alyn Woods, Barry Corbin, Craig Sheffer, Moria Kelly
Running Time: 944 Minutes
Studio: Warner Bros.
Retail Price: $59.98
Specs: 1.33:1 Full Screen, English Dolby Surround Stereo, English Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, French Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Episode Selection, Chapter Index (6 Chapters Per Episode), Six-Disc Set
Released: January 25th, 2005
The lives of Nathan Scott (James Lafferty) and Lucas Scott (Chad Michael Murray) are on the verge of changing in the town of One Tree, North Carolina. They both share the same father, Dan Scott (Paul Johansson), who abandoned Lucas and his mother (Moria Kelly) long ago in hopes to become a basketball star. However, Dan now lives vicariously through Nathan in nearly every aspect of his life. Lucas and Nathan live pretty separate albeit interesting lives when it comes to what they have (intimate and personally), but that changes when Nathan's coach puts Lucas on the high school basketball team. This move creates quite the shake-up, as relationships are tested and triangles emerge (such as the one between Nathan, his girlfriend Peyton and Lucas).
Even though "One Tree Hill" is getting a lot of press now and a lot of attention has been on its young stars, the show almost seemed destined for cancellation when it debuted on the WB network in September 2003. The show didn't receive rave reviews, and the ratings for the series premiere was pretty low &emdash; even for WB standards. Somehow though, the network kept some faith (that's kind of rare these days for television), and the show chugged along and ended up thriving. Through certain powers (word of mouth and Internet fanbases, perhaps?), the show gained an audience as there was interest to be had for the lives of the Scott brothers. Now, "One Tree Hill" is a pretty popular show that keeps gaining fans.
The first season of the show was actually pretty strong, and there was a bit of an evolution that can be noticed. Unfortunately though, the show fell victim to what I feel happens to a lot of dramas toward the end of their first seasons: showrunners and network executives already expect a pretty solid fan-base of sorts, and that a show has already achieved a tremendous amount. With that said, too much drama and over-the-top incidents are packed on &emdash; things that don't mesh well, things that manipulate audiences for no real reason at all and things you'd come to expect in later seasons. While"One Tree Hill" is a show that's guilty of doing, it's a mistake in my eyes &emdash; because if a show does last pretty long, I find that some elements tend to retread and can't maintain what it had earlier. With "One Tree Hill," the last several episodes of the season that involve violent crimes, too much complexities in certain relationships and the conflict of the father having to coach both of his sons.
Thankfully though, "One Tree Hill" works for the most part and the good outweighs the bad. The show starts out a bit slow but really has a tendency to really grow on a person, thus making some of what happens toward the end of the first season forgivable. There's no denying that "One Tree Hill" has a strong sense of its characters, and the show has its heart in the right place (which counts for a lot in my opinion). The stories the show is trying to tell, as well as the prevalent themes, are clearly defined for the most part. And while some of it does border on the cliché, that's also excusable &emdash; the show has a certain freshness, and there's a lot that adolescents can relate to.
The show does a pretty spectacular job of contrasting and juxtaposing the lives of Nathan and Lucas, as their similarities and differences are well highlighted. Having the two half-brothers come together and becoming entangled with one another is certainly one of the show's strongest selling points. But also having a solid focus on the adults in their lives who have their own problems and haunting memories of the past is really great, as this type of melodrama has quite a few parallels that can be drawn and tied in to the teens. The show's writing is pretty sharp with natural dialogue and usually realistic and well-developed plotlines, tight directing and some damn good basketball sequences.
The cast of actors is pretty fabulous, and they're all very appealing. Chad Michael Murray and James Lafferty show a remarkable amount of talent and charisma as the conflicted half-brothers. Hilarie Burton (yes, the MTV VJ) is particularly impressive &emdash; she really can act, and expresses much vulnerability as Peyton. Two other young, pivotal ladies (Bethany Joy Lenz and Sophia Bush &emdash; the latter who's now engaged to Murray) show good acting chops as well. The adults are also well cast and play their roles just right, especially character actor vets Moria Kelly and Craig Sheffer (it's good to see them again). The actors certainly add a sense of realism to the show, and delve quite a bit into their characters which helps make the show more watchable.
If you rolled your eyes a bit while reading this review, then chances are good you couldn't care less about serialized TV drama meant for teens (not even as a guilty pleasure) and that "One Tree Hill" isn't for you. However, if you can't resist teen angst, conflicted relationships, love triangles, flawed parents and everything you come to love in WB shows, but with an added touch of depth, then give "One Tree Hill" a shot. It could be your new favorite program or guilty pleasure.
All twenty-two first season episodes are presented in 1.33:1 full screen, and overall the transfers are pretty decent. There are flaws to be had though: there is some noise, the episodes look a tad bit grainy (especially in the scenes without much lighting) and here and there there's a dirt piece to be found on an episode print. And while the episodes don't look incredibly sharp, there is a lot of nice touches to be found within them: fine fleshtones, strong detail and rather delicate and vibrant color saturation. I'm sure the teenage demographic won't care too much for how the episodes look, but if you're a videophile then you know you've seen better picture quality on TV shows that have been released on DVD.
On the audio side, all the episodes have English Surround Stereo tracks which are pretty good but nothing special. I think this is the kind of show that may benefit more from 5.1, but these tracks &emdash; while limited &emdash; do have a few nice surprises in them that can be a little engaging. The show's music, mainly a lot of pop/emo/whatever the teens are into to these days, fits on the tracks well. Dialogue is very clear and gets across easily, while the sound effects do shine a little bit but not as much as you think (the basketball games have energy but could use even more, while certain more-violent events make an impression). This is straightforward but solid stuff overall. English closed captions are included, as well as subtitles in English, French and Spanish.
The first season of "One Tree Hill" on DVD is sure to please casual and more hardcore fans of the series in its bonus features, which are all rather satisfying and plentiful making this one of the more debut seasons for a TV show on DVD I've seen lately. First up are four Audio Commentaries. For the Pilot and the eighteenth episode, "To Wish Impossible Things," show creator/writer/executive producer Mark Schwahn is joined with executive producer Joe Davola. Their commentaries are slightly dense, but two get along well and dispense quite a lot of information on the show's production and stars. The two are very chatty, as they share their influences, casting and general background information. That's all well and good, but to be honest, I would have liked more focus on the show's plotlines, themes and characters. Maybe for season two?
The season finale, "The Games That Play Us," features two separate commentaries: one from the teens (Chad Michael Murray, James Lafferty, Hilarie Burton, Bethany Joy Lenz and Sophia Bush) and one with the adults (Paul Johnansson, Moria Kelly, Craig Sheffer and Barbara Alyn Woods). The younger actors are very laid-back, and just tell some stories about the episode's production and point out random things... which is fun, but gets tiresome after awhile (nonetheless, the cast's chemistry together is very apparent). The adults are pretty fun as well, and while there isn't a tremendous depth to this commentary either... their remarks are more relevant, their additional experience in the entertainment world comes into play and they take it all a bit more seriously which is interesting. Anyway, I think only the show's biggest fans should sit through these. You can tell however that these commentaries were edited &emdash; it seems some comments are just cut off in the middle, as if the players had more to say at times. Ah well.
What I'm sure will appeal to many fans are the Unaired Scenes spread across the six discs for various episodes. The scenes are in great quality, and in total, you get about 48 minutes worth of deleted material which is definitely quite a bit. Mark Schwahn does Introductions for the deleted material, which is hit and miss: he puts the scenes in context but doesn't really explain why they were cut specifically (other than his intro on the first disc, which is an obvious broad generalization). Nonetheless, enjoy these.
Disc two features an Unaired Gavin DeGraw Performance (he's the guy who sings the show's theme song) which is in good quality. He performs "Chariot," so if you have a penchant for singer-songwriters...
Disc three features the bulk of the video-based supplements. Building A Winning Team: The Making Of One Tree Hill is a near-eighteen minute look at the series. Schwahn, Davola, executive producer Mike Tollins, executive producer Brian Robbins give background on the show and the origins of the project. The main cast also speaks, and everyone is pretty candid about the show's rise, how the show wasn't an out-of-the-box hit, the development of the characters, fan responses and how the shown has developed. Very well done.
Diaries From The Set are divided into three short segments (about two minutes each), which is more or less fun random behind-the-scenes footage of the cast on and off the set. The segments are "Birthday Boy," "Behind The Wheel" and "Eye Of The Storm." Fluffy but enjoyable. There's also the Christmas Elf Gag, which also features an introduction from Schwahn in how some tension on the set was let lose.
"One Tree Hill" is decent teenage melodrama from the WB, which is either a good or a bad thing depending on your tastes. If this series is your kind of thing though, then this show will definitely grow on you. This is a really strong first season set that features the right mix of extras: deleted scenes, commentaries, featurettes and a few fun bonuses. The episodes look and sound pretty good too. Those who have been getting into the show will want to pick it up, and I'm sure if you're a fan you've already plunked down the cash for it. Here's looking forward to the second season DVD set, which I'm sure will be even stronger in its bonus materials.