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''One Tree Hill'': Somebody's Favorite Show

By RD Heldenfels Published: July 18, 2006

In the despair over the end of ''Everwood,'' some observers complained not only that it was gone but that the new CW network dropped it while making room for ''One Tree Hill'' and ''7th Heaven.''

Prime time, after all, is limited real estate -- although The CW could well have more if it wanted. Like its predecessors, UPN and The WB, and like Fox, it chooses to program only two prime-time hours on weeknights, while CBS, ABC and NBC program three. A really bold new network would have been one that filled 22 hours a week (three Monday through Saturday and four on Sunday). Then The CW might have faced fewer questions about shows it decided not to keep.

CW Entertainment President Dawn Ostroff had other reasons for dumping ''Everwood'' -- it was the oldest-skewing show on either UPN or The WB, she said-- but I still wish she hadn't done it. At the same time, I am a little dismayed by the dumping on ''One Tree Hill,'' as when one reporter dripped sarcasm while asking Ostroff how the show ''fits into your strategy of picking the best shows from either (previous) network.''

I'm not saying ''One Tree Hill'' is a great show. But it has its fans, including one I happen to be married to. So at a CW press party last night, I asked series creator Mark Schwahn how he felt about being seen as the unacceptable alternative to ''Everwood.''

''It sucks,'' he said. ''It's par for the course. We've never been a critical darling, but we're somebody's favorite show. ...  Television is a public medium and i have to say -- no disrespect, because there's some fantastic criticism -- but i'd rather have the people in my corner than the critics, because that's what saved my show.''

Indeed, even though ''Everwood'' fans mobilized to save their show, Schwahn was encouraging ''One Tree Hill'' fans to do likewise -- and he ''by design'' stirred them up even more with a big cliffhanger as his season finale.

''I said (that) I'm not wrapping up my show. I have to bet on my show, I believe in cliffhangers, I believe we have one of the best shows on TV and I believe we're coming back. And some fans said, 'Thanks a lot, Mark.' And I said, I gotta tell you guys I am not going to come online and tell you how the show was supposed to end because I want to marshal an army to march on The CW and tell them 'You have to bring the show back.' ''

As for the show's season premiere (on Sept. 27), he said, ''We're gonna start from the moment we left ... people on the bridge and, as you know, Lucas is on his way to the bridge. ...

''I'm gonna use a little voiceover that is more from Lucas's heart instead of literature quotes,'' Schwahn said. ''Lucas has to chase a new dream this year because he's not playing ball. And he's going to start writing. We're going to hear a lot of the time what he's writing, and it allows me to recap our world for a new audience -- if a new audience is going to come with a new network.... I want them to hear  what an adolescent kid who has been affected by this, what's on his mind. The literature quotes have served us well but the fans have really responded when we let characters speak from their heart. We did more of that last year and we'll do more this year.''

I asked especially about Dan, the baddest character in prime time, played by Paul Johannson. (In fact, I had gone over to talk to Johannson, and he introduced me to Schwahn). ''Paul and I talked early on about when we would be redeeming the character,'' Schwahn said. ''And I said, I don't know if we're going to.'' Even now, he added, ''I don't know if he's going to be remorseful.''

Still, Schwahn said, ''He is the funnest character to write. The writers line up for the Dan subplots. ... He killed his brother, yet when he told Nathan he was proud of him the audience said, there's a heart in there.''

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