The Show Must Go On

After two months on hiatus without even reruns to keep us company, One Tree Hill has returned to The CW to air its final four episodes of season 7, and fans are left wondering if those will also be the final four episodes of the series.

One Tree Hill began in 2003 as a “teen drama” focused on the lives of five teenagers, but more specifically on the relationship – or the lack thereof – between half-brothers Nathan and Lucas Scott.

Despite the stigma surrounding “teen shows,” One Tree Hill has always managed to appeal to a broader audience by incorporating strong and intriguing adult characters, and spending time on family dynamics instead of trying to produce endless scandals to satiate the teen set.

One Tree Hill has always been a show with a lot of heart, explaining why its fans are among the most loyal in all of television. Show creator Mark Schwahn and the other writers deserve credit for the compelling drama, managing to offer storylines that haven’t been done (and redone!) before. The writing on One Tree Hill has been enhanced by the use of classic literary voiceovers and a quality soundtrack unparalleled in television.

But even though One Tree Hill has enjoyed seven years of success, and the actors, cast, and crew are already signed on and enthusiastic about making an eighth season, The CW has yet to issue an official renewal for one of their most successful shows.

The obvious question is “Why?” and the obvious answer is money. After all, seven years of success equals a hefty production cost, and comes with a price tag that The CW doesn’t seem to want to pay. However, you get what you pay for, and the CW gets a great return on its investment in One Tree Hill.

Quality programming is disappearing from the airwaves at an unprecedented rate thanks to reality TV, which happens to be the cheapest medium to produce (along with game shows). Scripted dramas cost more money, because they feature actors and writers who must be paid for their contributions.

In the same vein, younger shows with inexperienced casts (like The CW’s 90210, for example) come cheap because the actors are in first-time roles and haven’t earned the salary of a seven-year veteran actress like One Tree Hill’s Sophia Bush.

This might serve to illuminate The CW’s decision to grant renewals to shows like America’s Next Top Model, 90210, and Gossip Girl, while leaving One Tree Hill in limbo.

However, when you look at the numbers, there is still a disconnect in that logic. Cheaper production costs is one thing, but ratings still matter, right? When advertisers see big numbers tuning into a show, they’re more willing to shell out money to air commercials during that show, or pay for product placements to be used within the show.

Gossip Girl is The CW’s darling because critics took an initial interest in the show and everybody was talking about it. The CW has promoted Gossip Girl relentlessly in every possible avenue. They even incorporated mentions of Gossip Girl into episodes of One Tree Hill! Why would they do that? Because One Tree Hill, without the articles and the interviews and the attention of Gossip Girl, still managed to pull in significantly higher ratings. In fact, One Tree Hill’s LOWEST rated seasons match Gossip Girl’s HIGHEST rated seasons. Something seems a little backwards there, right?

Then, consider The CW’s remake of 90210. Its series high ratings were from early in the first season – 5.14 million viewers. People who loved the original 90210 tuned in to see if the new one would match the original. Unfortunately for The CW, those ratings quickly went into a freefall and settled in to around two million, with one episode as low as 1.48 million. Still, 90210 got an early renewal from The CW, because even though their ratings are in the tank, it still costs very little to produce and has struck the interest of the teen set.

The only CW shows yet to see renewal are One Tree Hill and the freshman drama, Life Unexpected. I have heard that it’s a good show – something with a little more substance than 90210 or Gossip Girl, at least. In order to create an audience for the show, The CW put it on the air initially right after One Tree Hill and marketed the new drama to One Tree Hill’s loyal fans. Then, they sent One Tree Hill on hiatus for two months and put Life Unexpected in its time slot, so that viewers used to tuning in on Mondays at 8pm would naturally watch Life Unexpected instead. I might not have minded the bait and switch quite as much were it not for the fact that The CW left these two shows hanging, in seeming competition for the sole remaining time slot on their fall docket. Did they think that One Tree Hill fans would just forget about their show of 7 years and accept a premature cancellation in exchange for a new show that’s only aired for half a season?

After The CW renewed all their shows but One Tree Hill and Life Unexpected (besides the obviously-over Melrose Place), polls started popping up online asking fans to decide which show should be saved. I can’t imagine the results surprised anyone: fans wanted BOTH shows to stay, but having to choose only one, One Tree Hill was the obvious winner.

Oops. I guess The CW should have weighed its options a little better before offering up early renewals for shows with dwindling audiences before considering that it might be in their best interest to keep both One Tree Hill and Life Unexpected around for another full season. (Life Unexpected, by the way, is pulling in higher ratings than 90210 or Gossip Girl, but still about half a million viewers lower than One Tree Hill.)

Further proof regarding One Tree Hill’s viability came in the form of E!Online’s Save One Show Campaign, wherein fans vote to save one “bubble show,” and the winner gets a big push in the press. Nineteen shows were in the running this year, but it came down to a top five including: One Tree Hill, Life Unexpected, Chuck, Better off Ted, and Parenthood. Twitter support brought Heroes back into the running for the final vote, as well. During the campaign, E!News decided to champion Chuck and lend that show some extra support to drum up votes. The Daily 10, meanwhile, threw their support behind Life Unexpected. The rest of the shows were on their own. Still, when the votes were tallied on the official poll and on Twitter, the results broke down like so:

Official Poll:

  1. Chuck – 52% of the vote
  2. One Tree Hill – 20% of the vote
  3. Life Unexpected – 11% of the vote
  4. Heroes – 8% of the vote
  5. Better off Ted – 5% of the vote
  6. Parenthood – 4% of the vote

Twitter Mentions:

  1. Heroes – 36%
  2. One Tree Hill – 32%
  3. Chuck – 28%
  4. Life Unexpected – 2%
  5. Parenthood – 1%
  6. Better off Ted – 1%

Combining the two lists, the obvious top three are: Chuck, One Tree Hill, and Heroes. You’ll notice that One Tree Hill came in second place for votes as well as Twitter mentions. What may not jump out at you right away, though, is that both Chuck and Heroes air on NBC – one of the “Big Three” networks. And while The CW is now considered a network (and is owned by CBS), they do not bring in ratings comparable to the big three. So, Chuck has 6.5 million viewers, and Heroes, once a ratings powerhouse, now brings in about 4 million viewers. Conversely, One Tree Hill’s success in the poll came from its 2.5 million viewers – 4 million less than winner, Chuck. Also of note: One Tree Hill was on hiatus (and had been on hiatus for over a month) when this campaign began. So, One Tree Hill had significantly less viewers, and was effectively “out of sight, out of mind,” but STILL managed to come in second place in both polls.

If I were a CW executive, I would take those numbers straight to my advertisers and point out that while One Tree Hill has a smaller audience by comparison, the fans are obviously devoted to the show, passionate, and involved in social networking – in other words, a marketing dream for advertisers hoping to push products on viewers. (Raise your hand if you watch One Tree Hill and you’ve ever bought Sunkist!)

In case The CW needed any more proof that One Tree Hill fans are a force to be reckoned with, the fans have been busy campaigning for Season 8. Christy-Anne, over at One Tree Hill Bugs, accepted fan donations to mail out uniform postcards on behalf of each fan who wanted to express their support to the network.

Meanwhile, fans took it upon themselves to start their own show-specific mailing campaign by sending thousands of basketballs to The CW, like Ali’s below:

The bottom line is this. One Tree Hill has devoted fans who have stuck with this show for 7 years, through a major network change (from the WB to the CW between seasons three and four), numerous schedule changes, a four and a half year time jump, and even the loss of two original cast members after season six. Any one of these things can cripple or end a show, but One Tree Hill has continued moving forward seamlessly, rewriting the playbook at every turn.

These fans, along with the creator, cast, and crew of One Tree Hill, deserve to see their show get its “happily ever after” ending – not to be dropped in the middle of developing storylines. When it is time for One Tree Hill to end, fans should know about it before the last season even begins, so that the writers have time to give it the sendoff we have all earned.

“No matter where you go, or who you become, this place will always be with you. There is only one Tree Hill. And it’s your home.” – Karen Roe, “The Games That Play Us.”

Along with emailing The CW and voting in the various online polls, I’ve decided to lend my voice to the show I love via this blog. So, if you’re a regular reader who doesn’t watch One Tree Hill, then I would first suggest adding season 1 to your Netflix queue post-haste, and second, bear with me as I have two more installments on the way. I first wanted to address why The CW should keep One Tree Hill from a business standpoint. In Part II, we can reminisce about why we love this show in the first place, and in Part III, discuss what we’d like to see happen before One Tree Hill eventually leaves the air.

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35 thoughts on “The Show Must Go On

  1. I think renewal for OTH is a NO brainer for CW, but I would not be surprised if they flouted all convention and common sense and canceled it. I also think that if they do they will have a virtual riot on their hands and possibly a literal one. Other companies have learned in this economic climate that they sacrificed customer loyalty for the sake of getting new clients, and it did not pay off. Perhaps this network will resist the temptation to kill its best and most watched show for the sake of drawing new people to the network with recently created shows. New viewers does not equate to increased number of viewers if you take OTH off the air!

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  2. Great job writing this! It’s very insightful, I didn’t even know a lot of the statistics mentioned. One Tree Hill’s time is not up, and I will most likely cry if we don’t get a proper closing to this wonderful series. If the series would have ended last season, I would have been fine with the happy ending there, but they opened a new door with these new characters (who I love) and we need MORE TIME!

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  3. Absolutely great job. Great research on the topic, on the numbers on the varying support causes. I agree one hundred percent with everything you’ve said and I can’t wait for the next installments to see what you have to say about this show that we all love so much.

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  4. agree!!!! I have stuck by this show for 7 Years,…it had influenced me in all possible ways that other TV Series haven’t.. And honestly I can’t believe it myself that 7 years have passed by already…OTH deserves a happy ending…they can’t keep us hanging like this and it’ll definitely be TheCW’s lost if they let go of OTH!!!! ;( I won’t accept it if they decide to leave it just like that!

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  5. what a great letter! i actually made me a little emotional.
    OTH needs to come back at least for one more season so we can have a proper send off!

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  6. This is such a great blog entry about my favorite show of all time and the fact is that I never wanted this entry to end, this is such an amazing entry and you should send it to The CW. P.S. You are totally right about Gossip Girl, I’ve been watching lately and the story lines are flat, the cast doesn’t know what’s right from left and they’re are missing the heart that One Tree Hill has. We’ve all seen the heart (it’s on Peyton’s wall and Brooke’s clothing line – kidding) it’s the thing that keeps the show going. I will make sure to send on this blog entry and tweet about it and I can’t wait for Part II and III, if they’re not up yet, I better check if they are

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  7. I’m from the Wilmington area, and I’d just like to thank you for sharing FACTS that support the validity and success of One Tree Hill.

    It makes no sense to cancel right now even though I was a huge Peyton fan. To me, this is one of the last great dramas on TV. My other favorite is Parenthood. Amazing writing.

    Life Unexpected did not do it for me, but I’m incredibly loyal to OTH and had a feeling the network was trying to offer up an alternative.

    Thanks again! Can’t wait to read your other blog posts.

    SAVE ONE TREE HILL!

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  8. I’m so glad I read this. You took the words out of my mouth. I don’t understand why they wouldn’t renew OTH. I’m hating all these reality shows now; they’ve taken over TV. You either have to be a crime show, a hospital show, a supernatural show or a rich kids show to stay on the air no matter what the ratings. OTH is the only one that incorporates things from a show like LUX and things from GG but manages to balance it out so you don’t get tired of it.

    LUX is boring. It won’t go anywhere. Yeah, there’s hype now, but it’s like Ugly Betty. It was such a good show in the beginning and then they started re-using storylines like crazy. Give LUX another 13 episode season and give us a last season with 13 episodes (I can stand that, as long as they say “This is the last season.” That will definitely benefit them because more people will tune in knowing it’s the last season. When Ugly Betty ended, a show I hadn’t watched in about 2 years, I tuned in to the finale to see how it ended.)

    I’m definitely getting prepared for it getting canceled. But should that happen, I’m not watching anything on The CW again. Hopefully, it won’t come to that though. And it shouldn’t if they’re smart and listen to the fans pleads. Can’t wait for your next blog entry!

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  9. yeah. I definitely started to tear up when I got to the Karen quote. Because it is so incredibly true. Of all the countless television shows that I have watched and loved, few hold even a candle to One Tree Hill. Because there is truely only one Tree Hill, and it will always be in my heart, my home for whatever night the network decided to air it. Afterall, home is where the heart is, and my heart will always lie with One Tree Hill.

    I agr

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  10. oops… I agree that if it’s going to be cancelled we should know in advance that it is being cancelled. If they were going to end it, it should have ended at the end of season 6. There is nothing I hate worse that a show being cancelled without an ending, i.e. My So Called Life. I have invested years of my life in one Tree Hill. I was 14 when it started. I deserve to see my characters get their happy ending rather than leaving me with so many questions!

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  11. I totally agree that One Tree Hill should come back for another season. One Tree Hill has such dedicated fans and I don’t think any other fans would go to the extent that we do. I personally don’t want to see OTH end, I’ve been watching since season 1 and I don’t plan to stop anytime soon. The CW would be making a HUGE mistake if they don’t listen to the fans and bring back One Tree Hill for an 8 season!

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  12. One Tree Hill is my favorite show of all time. It has gotten me through difficult events in my life. I’ve laughed and cried and fallen in love with the characters and even the state of North Carolina and all of its beauty. That being said, I think that season 7 has been a huge disappointment. I’m sure you can guess that I am a die-hard Leyton fan, and I feel their absence in every episode. I think that is is ridiculously unrealistic that Lucas and Peyton would have up and left Tree Hill once having a baby. Tree Hill was a place both characters cherished, Peyton’s biggest problem in life was people always leaving. SO why would she leave? And I am so disappointed that the writers have yet to mention where they went and why. They expect us to believe that Luke would not have come home for his best friend’s mother’s funeral. Come on! If they couldn’t keep Chad and Hilarie, whatever, things happen. But it is so unfair of them to give die-hard, day one fans zero explanation as to where their two favorite characters disappeared to. I have still watched every week with the vain hope that either my questions will be answered or that Luke & Peyton will return. The season finale of 6 was phenomenal. It was OTH at its finest. Everything was wrappped up in a neat little bow. If they do bring One Tree Hill back, I pray that they bring the REAL One Tree Hill back to us. Cough up the dough and get the two MAIN characters back! The show was centered around Luke for 6 seasons and now he’s gone without a word. It’s complete crap. I love Nathan & Haley, Brooke & Julian, Skills & Mouth. I am not a fan of the new characters and I think that the writing this season has been lackluster and predictable. Oh you don’t say, that actor leaked the sex tape. Oh really, Skills is going to see a photo of Lauren & Mouth and figure it all out. And I bet you all, dollars to donuts that Haley is in fact pregnant and she lied to Nathan for whatever reason. Get it together, OTH writers and give my show its HEART back! I used to watch this show and feel moved. Now I force myself to watch it every week out of loyalty. I would love for One Tree Hill to continue for 8 more seasons, but not the way it’s been going. Bring back Lucas, Peyton, Dan, even Karen once in a while! And if Luke & Peyton don’t ast least swing by for the series finale, my favorite show will have been completely destroyed.

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  13. One Tree Hill is my favorite show of all time!! I have been watching One tree hill for many years now. I agree that they should stop the show, only after the full story line is completed with a Happily Ever After! But Season 7 was a let down to me! As you can see I am a true Leyton FAN! I haven’t been watching season7 because Chad (LUCAS) and Hilarie (PEYTON) were not in it! I looked up to Peyton’s character and I was excited to see more of her, but she left. 😦 THey just had a baby! THey just left. There life should be just begininning because they had their baby and got married! At least let them guest star once in a while! Please bring back the heart of the show! You will get higher ratings because we, fans will bring it higher! ANd dan was the villian! Every show needs that! please at least let KAREN, LUCAS<3, PETYON<3, and DAN come and visit. PLEASE PLEASE listen to the fans! PLease let them guest star, or else I want be watching my favorite show EVER!
    Thanks for listening!! PLease take the advice!

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  14. Yes Jina, I totally agree. Luke & Peyton’s life, their true story was just beginning. I totally get it if Chad & Hilarie just didn’t want to do it anymore or if there were just politics that the fans don’t know about, but at least EXPLAIN where they went! It is awful to leave loyal fans high and dry like that. You cannot take away Leyton and give us the wretched new characters, (Alex Dupre, anyone), and expect that to be okay! Bring back Leyton & season 8 can be phenomenal. Otherwise, just end it. I have all the seasons on dvd & I refuse to purchase season 7 when it comes out. Because it is not my show anymore. My show ended last year and it had the fairy tale ending that the characters deserved. ALSO! Has anyone else noticed that they’ve made Brooke the new Peyton? Like all the horrible stuff happens to her now? It’s crap. They’ve taken a strong woman and have broken her down. The opposite thing they did with Peyton. She was broken and weak and they made her a strong woman. It’s no[t fair to Brooke fans to make her be the one who always gets crapped on now.

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  15. All I have to say is that if the CW doesn’t renew One Tree Hill, they are stupid and does not know how to please their viewers.

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  16. One tree hill must go on its the best show ever i hope everyting goes well and smood and im shure that it will continue and if not well the world is going to loose very very much Best wishes and good luck 🙂

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  17. Oh and for s8, they need to drop all the guest stars. It’s annoying seeing Alexander & Victoria getting storylines while Brooke is in the backround, i’m disappointed her sterility issue was dealt with in like 2 episodes and then bye bye.

    I want Brooke & Haley pregnant at the same time if we have a s8.

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  18. wow – i get the link from tdw and i love it. i’m from Israel an i love oth. i watch every episode on line and we need season 8. thank you fior this…

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  19. Hi Guys… I am happy to announce that Amanda (the owner of this site) has given me exclusive permission to send this letter to the CW with my last box of postcards & all the other goodies I am putting in there… each one of you have also written some amazing comments & I will be using these to add to the packet going to the CW… Congrats Amanda!

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  20. Really great article! I love One Tree Hill, and would love a season 8, so fans and the show, can have a proper ending.

    I hope The CW get their heads together and renew it!

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  21. I am so glad you wrote this! i totally agree with your beautifully written post and I hope to see One Tree Hill for an 8th season!!!

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  22. Oh and for s8, they need to drop all the guest stars. It’s annoying seeing Alexander & Victoria getting storylines while Brooke is in the backround, i’m disappointed her sterility issue was dealt with in like 2 episodes and then bye bye.

    I want Brooke & Haley pregnant at the same time if we have a s8.

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  23. please please SAVE one tree hill
    it ‘s my favourite tv show and nothing could be able to replace it. my favourite characters are haley and nathan i love their story but i also love brooke… please don’t bring me away ONE TREE HILL

    there are a lot of fans who love this program like my …now it’s part of our lives…i hope with all my heart to see an 8 season of this beautiful program with all it’s main characters!!!!

    hurray for ONE TREE HILL !!!! ❤ ❤

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