Reviews

One Tree Hill

Tracy McLoone

Nathan represents establishment and conformity, while Lucas represents rugged individualism.


One Tree Hill

Airtime: Tuesdays, 9pm ET
Cast: Chad Michael Murray, James Lafferty, Hilarie Burton, Bethany Lenz, Paul Johansson, Moira Kelly
Network: The WB
Creator: Mark Schwahn
Amazon

One Tree Hill is obviously meant to be a replacement for the WB's now terminated soap opera Dawson's Creek. It even references that show, when one character refers to a "Joey loves Dawson scenario." But there are significant differences. Where Dawson's was about relationships, especially between boys and girls, One Tree Hill tries to be about masculinity, especially as negotiated through sports.

This may be an attempt by the WB to appeal to a young male as well as a young female audience. But if the melodrama of the pilot is any indication, One Tree Hill will likely be cast as a "girl's" show (much like Dawson's), despite its focus on male athletes. This doesn't mean boys won't watch it, just that they won't talk about it.

The story is familiar: a contest between a stoic conformist and a rugged individual, two different flavors of traditional masculinity. The premiere episode opens by cutting between two scenes. In one, high school basketball star Nathan Scott (James Lafferty) plays hoops before cheering crowds. In the other, his half-brother Lucas (Chad Michael Murray) plays two-on-two on a street court, with only a few people watching. This sets up their dynamic. Both are skilled players, each has his own style. Nathan represents establishment and conformity, while Lucas represents rugged individualism.

Their stereotypical differences are apparently underlined by the "dark secret" of their shared father, Dan (Paul Johansson), though really it's really no secret at all. Everyone in Tree Hill, NC, knows already. Lucas actually stopped playing organized team basketball (he was in the same league as Nathan) because of being teased that he was the "bastard son," and to spare his mother Karen (Moira Kelly) from having to confront Dan on a regular basis, reminding him of his other "family," the one he would rather forget.

One Tree Hill is less about the two brothers than about Lucas, the sympathetic "outsider." He's intuitive, reads Steinbeck and Shakespeare, and "keeps it real" by having some black friends -- one called Skills, the other nameless -- whom we only glimpse on the streetside basketball court.

By contrast, Nathan's world is all white and letter-jacketed. Further, he's rude to his girlfriend Peyton (Hilarie Burton) and engages in un-sportsmanlike conduct when he elbows Lucas in the face while the two are playing ball. Lucas toughs it out and refuses to call the foul, and so wins the moral upper hand: not only is he sensitive, but he's also resilient -- and a gifted athlete.

This last trait makes him look good to the Tree Hill Varsity coach, Whitey (Barry Corbin), who was also Dan's high school coach, who sees Lucas playing one day and decides he wants him for the team. At first Lucas refuses, preferring the playground to the high school gym. Dan also doesn't want Lucas on the team, thinking he'll somehow hurt Nathan's chances to be a star as well as tarnishing his image as a family man.

After a midnight basketball shootout between Lucas and Nathan, Lucas has a change of heart and decides to be on the team after all, setting up the competition for future episodes. Lucas and his version of masculinity are victorious, with the individualist winning out over the conformist. But that's just one battle, and the war isn't over yet.

Another battle being set up by the show is over who is hotter, Lafferty or Murray. Since our sympathies are with Murray's character, and if the WB website message boards are to be believed, Murray is winning by far. Murray, whose career was spawned on the WB (with small roles on The Gilmore Girls and Dawson's, and his own failed series last fall, The Lone Ranger), here plays the surly lad from the "wrong side of the tracks," even if that "wrong side" comes with a charming home and a loving mother, Karen. This is the WB's version of a rough life.

Lucas is devoted to Karen, who raised him alone after being abandoned by Dan, a smarmy car salesman to boot. A former high school basketball star himself, he puts tremendous pressure on Nathan, his "legitimate" son, to succeed, and says he wishes Lucas were never born. Dan's brand of masculinity is conventional to the point of aggravation: he's the provider and the ruler of his household. Again, all of this setup is old (recalling other small-town melodramas like Peyton Place), even as it's appealing to young viewers; perhaps the target audience won't recognize the source materials.

It's no coincidence then that Lucas and Nathan compete not only on the court but also for Peyton, a cheerleader with blonde curls (and who, like many high school students on the WB, looks older than a high school student). Perpetually cranky Peyton tears around town in a vintage car, listening to loud rock, and wearing a Ramones T-shirt, none of which fits with a typical cheerleader image. At one point Lucas asks her why she's a cheerleader, noting that she's "the least cheery person I know." She responds, "You don't know me."

In fact, she's right. The girl is a walking contradiction. Peyton embodies aspects of the good girl (cheerleader) and bad girl (rocker), clumsily incarnating the split between the half-brothers, serving as the prize to be won by the coolest one. Nathan is certainly the coolest guy in his school, but Lucas is the coolest guy on One Tree Hill. Ultimately, One Tree Hill is not as concerned with Peyton herself as it is with her relationships to the boys.

As on Fox's other new soap opera focused on young white males, The O.C., this series promises many fistfights. But the important battles will concern basketball and girls. The focus of One Tree Hill promises to be on relationships rather than on keeping score or the thrill of a game. This will make it popular among teenage girls, but whether the boys will follow -- even with the fistfights -- is less certain.

Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Television

Padma Lakshmi's 'Taste the Nation' Questions What, Exactly, Is American Food

Can food alone undo centuries of anti-immigrant policies that are ingrained in the fabric of the American nation? Padma Lakshmi's Taste the Nation certainly tries.

Film

Performing Race in James Whale's 'Show Boat'

There's a song performed in James Whale's musical, Show Boat, wherein race is revealed as a set of variegated and contradictory performances, signals to others, a manner of being seen and a manner of remaining hidden, and it isn't "Old Man River".

Music

The Greyboy Allstars Rise Up to Help America Come Together with 'Como De Allstars'

If America could come together as one nation under a groove, Karl Denson & the Greyboy Allstars would be leading candidates of musical unity with their funky new album, Como De Allstars.

Music

The Beatles' 'Help!' Redefined How Personal Popular Music Could Be 55 Years Ago

Help! is the record on which the Beatles really started to investigate just how much they could get away with. The album was released 55 years ago this week, and it's the kick-off to our new "All Things Reconsidered" series.

Music

Porridge Radio's Mercury Prize-Nominated 'Every Bad' Is a Wonderful Epistemological Nightmare

With Every Bad, Porridge Radio seduce us with the vulnerability and existential confusion of Dana Margolin's deathly beautiful lyricism interweaved with alluring pop melodies.

Music

​​Beyoncé's 'Black Is King' Builds Identity From Afrofuturism

Beyoncé's Black Is King's reliance on Afrofuturism recuperates the film from Disney's clutches while reclaiming Black excellence.

Reading Pandemics

Colonial Pandemics and Indigenous Futurism in Louise Erdrich and Gerald Vizenor

From a non-Native perspective, COVID-19 may be experienced as an unexpected and unprecedented catastrophe. Yet from a Native perspective, this current catastrophe links to a longer history that is synonymous with European colonization.

Music

John Fullbright Salutes Leon Russell with "If the Shoe Fits" (premiere + interview)

John Fullbright and other Tulsa musicians decamped to Leon Russell's defunct studio for a four-day session that's a tribute to Dwight Twilley, Hoyt Axton, the Gap Band and more. Hear Fullbright's take on Russell's "If The Shoe Fits".

Music

Roots Rocker Webb Wilder Shares a "Night Without Love" (premiere + interview)

Veteran roots rocker Webb Wilder turns back the hands of time on an old favorite of his with "Night Without Love".

Film

The 10 Best Films of Sir Alan Parker

Here are 10 reasons to mourn the passing of one of England's most interesting directors, Sir Alan Parker.

Music

July Talk Transform on 'Pray for It'

On Pray for It, Canadian alt-poppers July Talk show they understand the complex dualities that make up our lives.

Music

With 'Articulation' Rival Consoles Goes Back to the Drawing Board

London producer Rival Consoles uses unorthodox approaches on his latest record, Articulation, resulting in a stunning, beautiful collection.

Film

Paranoia Goes Viral in 'She Dies Tomorrow'

Amy Seimetz's thriller, She Dies Tomorrow, is visually dazzling and pulsating with menace -- until the color fades.

Music

MetalMatters: July 2020 - Back on Track

In a busy and exciting month for metal, Boris arrive in rejuvenated fashion, Imperial Triumphant continue to impress with their forward-thinking black metal, and death metal masters Defeated Sanity and Lantern return with a vengeance.

Books

Isabel Wilkerson's 'Caste' Reveals the Other Kind of American Exceptionalism

By comparing the American race-based class system to that of India and Nazi Germany, Isabel Wilkerson makes us see a familiar evil in a different light with her latest work, Caste.

Film

Anna Kerrigan Prioritizes Substance Over Style in 'Cowboys'

Anna Kerrigan talks with PopMatters about her latest film, Cowboys, which deviates from the common "issues style" approach to LGBTQ characters.

Music

John Fusco and the X-Road Riders Get Funky with "It Takes a Man" (premiere + interview)

Screenwriter and musician John Fusco pens a soulful anti-street fighting man song, "It Takes a Man". "As a trained fighter, one of the greatest lessons I have ever learned is to walk away from a fight without letting ego get the best of you."

Books

'Run-Out Groove' Shows the Dark Side of Capitol Records

Music promoter Dave Morrell's memoir, Run Out Groove, recalls the underbelly of the mainstream music industry.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.