It Was The Best Of Times...

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So two of the shows I regularly watch - One Tree Hill, and Friday Night Lights, are in seemingly paradoxical states.

Okay, different, but somehow similar. One Tree Hill, currently in its sixth season, is facing the imminent departure of the shows two stars - Hilarie Burton (Peyton) and Chad Michael Murry (Lucas, er, kind of THE star of the show). Worst of all, it looks like they'll pull a cheesy wedding day death based on a totally random, spontaneous incident where Peyton having a baby is vaguely fatal. While Lucas and Peyton have never ever ever been my fave characters, their story is kind of the heart of the show - much like Karen and Keith's was a few seasons ago (again not my faves). Without them, I'm not sure where they're planning to take the series...but we'll get back to that.

On the flipside, Friday Night Lights (FNL) has gone through 3 seasons - the latter two of which they've stretched the age of some of the main characters - Tyra, Lyla, and Tim in particular all seemed to be seniors or at least juniors in Season 1, yet are just graduating now with established sophomores come seniors Landry and Matt. The funny thing is, FNL was taped about a year ago, aired on Direct TV about eight months ago, and got renewed for two more seasons two weeks ago. So you do the math - it's been a few very swan song, poignant episodes packed with tears and drama and heart. Now the big question on all the fans lips is where do we go from here? I stated my theory already, Coach T is going to get fired and head for team underdog at East Dillon High - which gives them more flexibility if they stayed at their current school with a new cast. My friend Sarah thinks they might move to San Antonio to keep dreamtastic Timmy Riggins on the show. We'll see...

So here is the paradox. Both shows are losing some of their core cast members. What now?

One Tree Hill has suffered a bit last season, but moreso this one, because the show lacks the momentum of the four high school years (in fairness! they stretched each year - 11 and 12 - over two seasons and acknowledged it). Back then, it was about the State Championship and getting out of high school alive. The producers made a relatively wise choice of fast forwarding past college - more tideous basketball and watching them grow apart - and brought things together in a emotionally fraught and interesting season last year.

This year however, there's been zero momentum. The interesting career positions each character was in at the beginning of S5 have all been erased - Lucas' career options recently abruptly shutdown, Peyton is semi-managing a record label under a mega label, Brooke is doing nothing but working in an empty storefront and designing endless wedding dresses, Hayley has quit her teaching job but also isn't interested in singing again, and Nathan is in a minor league for basketball but with little to show for it on the home or work front. Where are we going? Where's the ambition? I want things to *finally* happen for Brooke, and I want the writers to decide whether they want to give Hayley or Nathan a fairy tale career ending as they snatched them away over the last two years. S6 did start off with a bang (literally) but it's quickly degressed from there without a final build-up.

My question with OTH in relation to FNL is would OTH have benefitted from college years? I'm not sure. I think the lateral drift of the characters would have been depressing, as it is on most shows that go to college, but at the same time the forced closeness (and desire to stay in Tree Hill) today is equally irritating. So is the prospect of killing off a major character for contractual / dramatic reasons. Just have her leave people. Have you learned nothing from S3 of The OC?

FNL...I'm guessing the grads will not be seen in college. The writers have two choices as I've mentioned - to send them off gracefully with a story arc like Smash & Street, or to feature them as minor recurring characters in their other lives. Another theory my friend Sarah had was Coach Taylor might end up at San Antonio state, thus giving him a chance to at least continue coaching Riggins, but we'll see.

Before I depart, let's rank the success of college seasons on other shows I've watched:

Dawson's Creek - 3.5/5: The show actually did a decent job of portraying college in its 90s pretentious way, Joey got better hair, and they finally did away with Dawson by making him exist in a world separate from the rest of the Creekers.
Pros: Less Dawson, continued enjoyable drama, the awesome episode with Joey and Pacey in the K-Mart.
Cons: Noticeable (although acknowledged) drift of the characters, Extreme emo Dawson and the death of his father, Busy Phillips as Audrey = worst cast addition ever.

Gilmore Girls - 4/5: A friend of mine is watching GG for the first time on DVD right now (thanks to moi) and it's making me reflect that the high school years really were fun - with the wider cast of characters from Rory's school definitely outweighing her college castmates. That being said, the show was about Rory's academics / future more than her friends, and ultimately, about family ties which the show never lost - other than that patch at the beginning of S6.
Pros: Smart move on the writers to make Rory choose Yale - it invoked serious family drama, but ultimately kept the family bonds in tact with Rory/Lorilei, Also Logan was a welcome change of pace from Dean, and seeing Rory evolve into someone more confident was nice. Plus Paris (realistically) stuck around. Also the show just let Rory grow more because it wasn't just about "getting into college" it was about boyfriends and futures and careers.
Cons: Some people complain Rory became too stylized in college which I somewhat agree with. Also, the loss of Madeline, Louise, the Puffs, and the various other high school castmates was sad, but realistic.

Buffy - 4.5/5: Let me clarify. Buffy herself went to college for approximately 1.5 seasons - but really, Season 4 of the show was "the college year" that made lots of puns and metaphors, and also heartbreaking drama, of typical college experiences (one night stands, missing home, and getting stupidly hammered to name a few). By the middle of season 5 we had nary a class scene with Buffy, who dropped out as explanation, and returned for one ill-fated class at the beginning of S6. That being said - I give Buffy a 4.5/5 for the college years because to me, Seasons 4-7 are the best of the series (4-6 really), and Willow was attending college for most of them. Season 4 was a transition / turning point, and thus, I gave it a solid mark.
Pros: The show always used typical high school drama as metaphors for the monsters it created (ex: Angel in S2). In college (s4), it did the same thing, but with a few seasons of doing this under their belt, it was much better executed (imo), and generally the funniest season of the show. S5-S7 were just way better in overriding story arcs than the earlier seasons. The fact Buffy never seemed to be in class (nor did Willow or Xander) was finally more logical, and honestly, freeing. Also, glad they acknowledged that Xander was the Pacey of the bunch - not in school, and struggling a bit, but ultimately both work it out.
Cons: S4 in particular had a relatively weak story arc, and mostly rested on its funny / smart college metaphors. Also, Buffy & friends never complete schooling which somewhat makes this a moot show.

The OC - 1/5: Marissa (Mischa Barton) died at the end of Season 3. It was stupid. The one thing I was looking forward to was seeing Ryan go to college, move on, and possibly add a new interesting female to the cast (and playing a guessing game as to who it would be?!?!). Well. The writers decided to predictably - for casting reasons, not for actual story / character relevance - pair him up with goody two shoes/show ruiner Taylor (Autumn Reeser), which, if you watch the beginning of S3 again, is ludicrous. Aside from that, Seth - the token brainiac - wasted away his unwanted gap year and decided to randomly become a movie critic by season's end, and Summer's experience at Brown was laughably bad - thus she dropped out early.
Pros: None. I hated all the characters added / focused on at this point (especially Taylor, Katelin, and Summer's stupid hippie friend) and the 3 main young leads felt disconnected without bonding together to save the day for Marissa.
Cons: Everything. See above.

That's all I can think of off the top of my head...till next time.

Britt's On

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