TV Nation
One Tree Hill: Grasping or Genius?



tree Hill, North Carolina, isn't much different from any other town that's the site of a teen melodrama: it's a venue for bed-hopping, cat-fighting, pregnancy scares, murder plots, and, of course, a couple of clubs where bands from the real world can drop in from time to time. At its core, the show One Tree Hill centers around two basketball-playing half-brothers, Lucas (Chad Michael Murray) and Nathan (James Lafferty) Scott, who are coincidentally the same age and whose father Dan (Paul Johansson—who played Steve Sanders's obnoxious frat brother John Sears on 90210) is an alumnus and former basketball star of Tree Hill High.

As wrong-side-of-the-tracks brother Lucas and golden-child Nathan grow from on-court rivals to allies against the always-meddling Dan, their separate lives become increasingly intertwined. Nathan's ex-girlfriend Peyton (ex-MTV VJ Hilarie Burton) grows sweet on Lucas; Lucas's best friend Haley (Bethany Joy Lenz) marries Nathan; and Lucas begins dating head cheerleader Brooke (Sophia Bush). (Bush and Murray actually got married in April of 2005, but are currently separated. Both remain on the show.)

Like so many other TV shows, One Tree Hill allows the outside world to reach in through the town's nightclub Tric and Karen's Cafe (run by Lucas's mom, the ever-charming Moira Kelly) for performances by such hip bands as Jimmy Eat World, Sheryl Crow, and Gavin DeGraw, whose song "I Don't Want To Be" is OTH's theme song. But OTH sets itself apart by constantly reaching back out to the real world. While other TV shows make real-world references, like the Soho Prada store and Carrie's Manolo Blahnik collection on Sex and the City, OTH has on several occasions spun off its storylines into the world, blurring the line between television script and reality.

The first occurred a year ago: Maverick recording artist Tyler Hilton (no relation to Paris and Nicky) appeared on the show as Chris Keller, a local musician who collaborated with Haley on a cover of Ryan Adams' "When the Stars Go Blue." After a performance by Michelle Branch's side project the Wreckers at Club Tric, Chris and Haley were invited to open for the group on its tour, a tour that actually happened. The "One Tree Hill Tour" stopped at 23 cities in February and March of last year and featured the Wreckers, Tyler Hilton, and Bethany Joy Lenz, with a few appearances by Gavin DeGraw. While Lenz was out on the road, OTH never forgot Haley, as various characters took road-trips to visit her on tour, keeping her in firmly ensconced in the show’s storylines.

Upon Haley's return, she became Brooke's roommate and urged her to stop obsessing over boys long enough to discover a miraculous talent for clothing design. Brooke launched her own clothing line, Clothes Over Bro’s (yes, the errant apostrophe was even discussed on the show), at clothesoverbros.com. Whole episodes have been devoted to Brooke's creative process, her struggle to keep up with the deluge of orders on her web site, and her decision to compete at a cheerleading tournament instead of showing her clothes at a NYC designer showcase called Rogue Vogue. And of course, alongside announcements of "Tonight's episode featured music by...", Sophia Bush smiles for the camera and shills for the COB online store.

Alongside its concert tours and specialty clothing lines, OTH has released soundtrack albums, like many TV shows. The first OTH soundtrack was released last year and featured many of the artists who had performed on the show. However, this season, OTH took its soundtrack one step further, actually creating a storyline within the show about the compilation of its second soundtrack. Brought together by a love of music, Peyton and her breast-cancer stricken birth mother Ellie (Sheryl Lee, aka Twin Peaks's Laura Palmer) began compiling a benefit CD for the National Breast Cancer Foundation. They road-trip to convince Nada Surf to contribute to the CD, they call up Fall Out Boy, and they even convince Haley to contribute her song "Halo." Ellie draws the artwork on the show and comes up with the title, Friends With Benefit (referencing both the charitable donation and teenage promiscuity). After weeks of build-up inside the show, the album was released this month, exactly as portrayed, almost eerily so: even though Bethany Joy Lenz is recording a debut album for Epic Records, her contribution to Friends With Benefit is under her character's married name, Haley James Scott.

All these real-life crossovers come across either as genius cross-marketing or as OTH grasping for fans against more popular shows like The O.C. But while the show itself may not be breaking much new ground with its teen plotlines, the constant blurring of the line between its script and the real world is. By bringing teen dramas one step closer to unscripted reality TV, the show is pushing the boundaries of how shows promote themselves to young viewers. And with the One Tree Hill Friends with Benefit tour, featuring Tyler Hilton and various OTH cast members, coming soon to a town near you, chances are you could find yourself on the show in the coming months.


By: Catherine Lewis
Published on: 2006-02-22
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