Case Number 14498


Warner Bros. // 2008 // 759 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Katie Herrell (Retired) // September 11th, 2008

The Charge

Four years is over. Life begins!

Opening Statement

No ugly college years for this high school drama. Season Five of One Tree Hill fast forwards four years from the end of high school to real life. While the setting seems a bit stale as a result (sure looks like they're still in high school), the story line skips along realistically.

Facts of the Case

Peyton, Lucas, Brooke, Haley, and Nathan are each others best friends forever, complicated by blood, marriage, sex, and work. They helped each other survive (literally) the four years of high school despite a tsunami of drama threatening their well being every episode. Now, in Season Five, they are post-college (if they went) and all well into quarter-life crises. Together they deal with the drama the only way a high school drama turned adult drama can -- dramatically.

The Evidence

The beginning of Season Five teases the senses with the characters hob-nobbing across the country. Peyton is living in LA -- although we never see any real footage of LA, only the inside of a droopy record label. Brooke is in New York City, a flashy fashion designer with her own label unfortunately run by her viscous mother.

Haley and Nathan are now married and the parents of Jamie an almost five year old. They live in a gigantic pool-side mansion in Tree Hill, apparently purchased with a NBA pre-signing bonus. Lucas is also living in Tree Hill, in his mother's house as she sails around the world, with his girlfriend and book editor (isn't that a conflict of interest) Lindsay.

None of the Hillers are especially happy, Nathan and Haley predominantly so as Nathan's hot headedness resulted in a bar fight somewhere during the missing four years which left him with a spear of glass in his back. In the opening episodes he is a long-haired, long-beared drinker in a wheelchair. The rest of the clan is mildly unhappy, although for reasons more fitting of regular 20-somethings: lost love, over-worked, under-worked, etc.

We learn of Nathan's accident through a series of flashbacks that define the earlier portion of the season, an effective tactic to fill in all of that missing time. However, this season is also a little nostalgic for the happier (that's debatable) high school days and some of those flash backs are a bit redundant considering they were shown in earlier seasons.

Early in Season Five, Brooke and Peyton decide to return to Tree Hill and with that the cast is reunited and new characters are filed in to fill out their lives (and, likely, prevent the viewer from becoming bored of the same five characters). We meet Crazy Nannie Carrie, the hot nanny Haley hires who ends up swimming naked and flirting, then more than flirting, with Nathan. In the series' 100th episode, number 15 of this season, Carrie will bring Tree Hill's drama to an all-new level (well, aside from the school shooting) and incite the heroic return of jailbird Dan, Lucas and Nathan's father. Carrie is a great addition to the series, even if her role is cliched.

We also meet musical Mia (the real-life singer Kate Voegele) who, after breaking with her band led by none other than guest star Kevin Federline, becomes a breakout artist on Peyton's new Tree Hill-based record label. Mia/Kate is representative of the great, slightly under the radar music that defines the entire Tree Hill soundtrack. Much thought is given into the musical numbers in the various scenes and this season is no different although there wasn't one tune that really stuck out from this season; nothing I wanted to seek out and download after watching.

Among the regular characters, Brooke really shines this season as her raspy voice deals with her booming fashion label and her mother's antics. (Brooke's mother Victoria is played by Daphne Zuniga and she truly is a Bitch.) Another actress might take Brooke's outward self centeredness and make it appear whiny or tacky, but Sophia Bush makes Brooke sassy and daring and dominant, while still allowing her to be vulnerable and caring and loving.

This season is a bit of a letdown for both Peyton and Lucas as their storyline continues to revolve around their unrequited love, a storyline that gets old real fast. (Even though they were together at the end of Season Four, they never really felt together.) In Season Four Peyton was the center of all the drama as the object of affection for Crazy Stalker Derek. In Season Five Peyton's problems are more mundane and they seem to deflate the character.

Lucas has become the Tree Hill High basketball coach joined by assistant coach Antwon "Skills" Taylor (Antwon Tanner -- a great addition, even if he's the token character of color). While I have nothing against Lucas as the basketball coach, it does mean a lot of the season is shot at One Tree Hill High, on the basketball court, a tired locale for the series. There's even one episode where all the girls come to cheer on the guys in a b-ball game and end up getting locked in the library. Really?

The same tiredness of the setting is applicable to the staging of Tree Hill. In Season Four the series went on the road for a couple of episodes and the change in scenery was a shot in the arm for this Wilmington, North Carolina-set series. Only twice in Season Five did I ooh and ahh over the scenery: once when Brooke returns to NYC and there's an overhead shot (from a helicopter?) of a quintessential NYC street, and once when Nathan is on the series' favorite outdoor court and the fog and sun of a beautiful day are rolling in stage west. The rest of the time everything seemed staged and tired, setting wise.

But all is forgiven with a dramatic 100th episode (a milestone the cast waxes on about about in the too long special feature "One Tree Hill at 100"). There's a staged wedding, a kidnapping, a recovery, and heated and emotional words all around; it is t.v. drama at its finest. The episode was written by executive producer/show creator Mark Schwahn (who plays an awkward role as a record store owner as well) on the cusp of the writers' strike. It is a banner episode for the not critically-acclaimed series (100=syndication!) and feels like the season finale.

The rest of the series plays out existing storylines and characters, and my disappointment in watching these final episodes could be blamed on the writers' strike, or the fact that I'd seen several of the episodes already.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

The special features I watched were a bit lackluster. For the diehard fan, the one who is going to buy a series/season they have already watched in its entirety, the DVD collection should really have a bit more bells and whistles. The gag reel and unaired scenes only confirmed that the series has good editors. The music video of Kate Voegele's song "Only Fooling Myself" was amateur at best. Usually the commentary on episodes is insightful (so much so that it steers my opinion of a series and to avoid that I didn't watch these), but do real fans want commentary on the making of a show or do they want to see, say, a real day in the life of Lucas (Chad Michael Murray)? I'm guessing the latter.

Closing Statement

Season Five of One Tree Hill successfully avoids jumping the shark (in fact, viewership returned to an all-time high) and will likely become a lesson to all those high school dramas on how to handle the post-high school years.

The Verdict

Not Guilty.

Review content copyright © 2008 Katie Herrell; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 93
Audio: 100
Extras: 85
Acting: 95
Story: 95
Judgment: 94

Perp Profile
Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)

* English
* French
* Spanish

Running Time: 759 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Unaired scenes
* "One Tree Hill Fast Forward"
* "One Tree Hill at 100"
* "One Tree Hill Musical Stars"
* Kate Voegele music video
* Commentary on 2 episodes with series creator March Schwahn and various cast and crew
* Gag reel

* IMDb

* Official Site