For its seventh season, One Tree Hill
leaps ahead a year and into the lives of two new characters: Clay (Robert Buckley), the agent of aspiring basketball player Nathan (James Lafferty), and Quinn (Shantel VanSanten), sister of rising singer/songwriter Haley (Bethany Joy Galeotti). The rocky romance between these two (is there any other kind in Tree Hill, North Carolina?) forms one of the core story lines of this season, replacing departing actors Chad Michael Murray and Hilarie Burton as the popular Lucas and Peyton. But Nathan, Haley, and Brooke (Sophia Bush) remain from the original cast, along with other characters who have trickled in over the past few seasons.
What was once an earnest high school sports-centered drama has become a high-gloss soap opera. Even though it's still nominally set in a small town, the characters grapple with issues it's hard to imagine their audience can identify with, like choosing between the NBA or playing for a basketball team in Barcelona, struggling to find funding for a film, or trading a stolen designer dress for cocaine. On the other hand, hiding secrets, talking behind people's backs, obsessive love, and suicidal impulses are eternal adolescent concerns. The entire cast never appears without perfect hair and makeup, even when getting out of jail (this perpetual sheen makes it sometimes hard to distinguish between the near-identical petite brunettes who make up most of the female cast). Dramatic events rise and fall with speed; after losing a close relative, Haley suffers from a crippling depression… for about an episode and a half. But this is what the show is about: it's all storms or sun breaks, all catastrophe or joy, with very little in between (well, there are soulful smoldering glances and wistful life-is-tough shrugs). Fans who have grown to love these characters will doubtless continue to follow their heartbreaks and happiness, but newcomers should start from the beginning. --Bret Fetzer