One Tree Hill is nothing if not a gutsy show. With recent casting news indicating the exit of central couple Lucas and Peyton (Chad Michael Murray and Hilarie Burton) from the show, the perpetual shark-jumping CW series will head into its 7th season without its main stars. A risky move indeed, but I have a feeling it might just work for One Tree Hill, a series that’s already done everything that you shouldn’t do (marry off your characters, introduce kids, redeem villains, time jump, etc…).
The reason I think it might work week in and week out without Lucas and Peyton is that it hasn’t been Lucas and Peyton that I’ve been tuning in for. Sure, this season was finally devoid of their usual “will they or won’t they” drama, making them far more tolerable, even to the point of making them somewhat likable. And sure, the season’s low points had nothing to do with the corny blond lovebirds (that honour is reserved, once again, for the infamous nanny Carrie). But the fact is that I couldn’t care less about Lucas and Peyton and their self-proclaimed “destiny”; in fact, I was sort of rooting for Peyton to die in the finale so the couple’d have a smooth transition out of the lives of their friends and family in Tree Hill.
It’s that friends and family part, that’s what makes me tune in, especially this season. The best decision Mark Schwahn and his team ever made was to skip ahead in time and let their characters grow up. Yes it let them avoid the problematic college years, gave the characters a bit more wisdom to guide them and allowed for them to leave the drama of high school far behind them, but mostly it gave Jamie some time to learn to walk and talk. The single greatest thing about these last two years in Tree Hill has been a little boy named Jamie Lucas Scott, son to actually interesting couple Nathan and Haley. Born on graduation day, the time leap made Jamie into a full-fledged little man, complete with gifted IQ, a passion for basketball, a penchant for stand-up comedy and a winning attitude. Whether he’s celebrating his father’s dreams, setting his uncle Skills up with his teacher, or wearing a cape to school, Jamie is the coolest kid in Tree Hill- and that includes his basketball star father, recording artist mother and best-selling author uncle.

Jamie’s parents Nathan and Haley are one of TV’s most watchable couples: more fun than dramatic; Skills is the smoothest operator ever to spend 90% of his time babysitting (his walky-talky code names for him and Jamie were Macaulay and Denzel); Brooke remains the most endearing “it” girl around (and she was around long before Serena and Blair came onto the scene), her new love interest, Julian, is promising too; Mia is a great addition to the show, and provides for a great sound track; and even Mouth and Millie are tolerable in small doses.

This season we said a very sad “goodbye” to Quentin, a tumultuous, and at times lovely, “hello AND goodbye” to Sam, “I love you” to Julian, “I do” to Lucas and “you can do it” to Nathan.

The finale saw every character realize their dreams (Nathan makes it to the NBA, Peyton survives her pregnancy and her and Lucas have a baby girl named Sawyer, Millie moves back to Tree Hill to be with Mouth, Mia’s record comes out and Chase says he’ll wait for her and Brooke confesses her love to Julian and gets her company back). It also saw the return of Lucas’ mom Karen and retired Ravens basketball coach Whitey. And villainous parents Dan Scott and Victoria Davis found redemption, whether it was in a second chance from an old mentor or forgiveness and understanding from a daughter.

So after a great season (hilarious as a whole, touching at moments and plagued with only a few massive issues- hello nanny Carrie, Skills’ affair with Deb, Brooke’s attack and Dan’s heart being eaten by a dog), One Tree Hill stands to get even better with the loss of their more tedious characters.

Now that everyone has achieved their goals, fallen in love and carved out a little place for themselves in the world, I can’t wait to see how the writers tear them down for another season of Tree Hill drama. I’m hoping for more of the Nathan Scott Family, the return of Sam, a record release for Haley and more screen time for Skills!