Sunday, June 19, 2005

TV Review: Body Washing the Stump: One Tree Hill

90210, relaunched the teen craze for most viewers today and it was followed with misses (Hyperion Bay) and hits (Dawson's Creek). The WB can't give up on the formula because they've had very little success with much else. So when fall seasons roll around, count on adults tossing a back pack over the shoulder and pretending to be high schoolers -- and count on the creative geniuses behind the camera to work in "shocking" details and shirtless scenes for the male wanna-be hunks.

One Tree Hill excells in the Body Wash Operetta genre, which isn't a compliment. We can't call it "an episodic drama" with a straight face and the "plights" don't rise to the level of "soap opera." The show wants nothing but to be trendy and display the wares of the "boy" actors so we think Body Wash Operetta is a good name for the genre.

In last week's episode, new "bad boy" Felix (Michael Copon) came up with a daring challenge. We know it was "daring" because Felix called what he left in everyone's locker "dares." Oh the shocks. Oh the drama. Brooke (Sophia Bush) has to walk out of a restaurant without paying!
Nathan (James Lafferty, 20 years old next month) and Tim (Brett Claywell) have to get a body wax! Nathan takes a pass but, by the looks of him, only because he already had a body wax the day before. For the "joke" to work, shouldn't at least one of the guys be hairy? We don't mean they needed the forest of hairs that is Pete Sampras, but isn't some growth required for it to be humorous? Lafferty left high school some time ago so possibly he and other males are already waxing to appear younger? Lucas (Chad Michael Murray, 24 years old in two months) has to wear a bra! And strip down to his boxer briefs! In a mall! Karaok is another dare! Felix and Brooke have to get their picture taken in an open grave! Peyton (Hilarie Burton) and Haley (Bethany Joy Lenz) have to go to church!!! And as if that isn't bad enough, one of them has to confess something!!!!!!!

Kids today. Wild for the salt peter apparently. Sedated. The show should come with D.A.R.E. braclets and chastity pledge cards. The dilemmas facing James Dean, Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo in Rebel Without a Cause look positively Shakesperian by comparison. You've gone a long way backwards, kiddies!

These Body Wash Operettas always need a twist. On this show, the twist is that blond wanna-be hottie Lucas (where's the rest of nose -- anybody else wondering that?) is the half-brother of brunett wanna-be hottie Nathan (whose most prominent feature may be his forehead). Lucas is just a poor boy from the wrong side of the tracks as the old song goes. But toss Lucas in a bra onscreen and suddenly it seems so fresh, or wants to.

A lot of our e-mails have praised (and praised) Chad Michael Murray's "chewy nipples." We actually found them "creamy" and not "chewy" and might make a strong case for that were it not for the fact that we're confused as to whether we call him "Murray" or "Michael Murray" -- three first names leave reviewers in doubt. With Lafferty, the phrase that came up most often was "the pits." Now we don't mean that our e-mailers can't spell and that they intended to convey he was the pitts (of acting, perhaps), we mean that some of our readers have written in to praise, repeatedly, his arm pits. We weren't sure what to expect. Cher's been praised for her armpits by some designers, so we "sniffed" around to see what all the fuss over Lafferty's pits was. And we were lucky because Lafferty and the creative team behind the cameras obviously are quite proud of his pits as well since we were given ample time to examine them during the body wax that wasn't.

Honestly, it was as though the WB were trying to promote scratch & sniff TV. No one handed us our cards, so we were left with just our eyes and, honestly, weren't all that impressed.

He does have armpits. Two of them, in fact. And they are there, on camera. They don't really do anything which convinces us that they were truly Lafferty's arm pits and not some body double's. Does Lafferty add anything to the show or is does he just fill up space?

At one point, after the body wax that wasn't, he and Claywell (who appeared to get his butt waxed -- if that was needed, all body hair growth on Claywell must go right to the ass) dressed up as Lady Lepracons (think Girl Scouts). They have to attempt to sell cookies door to door.

Lafferty actually has to say, "Good evening Mr. and Mrs. Tree Hill resident. We're selling these delicious cookies to raise money for Lady Lepracons . . . an organization that empowers us girls to be strong, beautiful, independent women."

After the sun went down. Did we mention that both men (playing high school boys) were dressed up in outfits similar to Girl Scouts? Little short skirts, sashes and blouses?

Two grown men come to your area dressed up as Girl Scouts and identifying themselves as "us girls," you think some neighbor's not going to call the cops? Doesn't happen here which was actually somewhat of a relief since Lafferty grunted and muttered with all the sparkle of Jim Belushi in a dramatic role. Honestly, if the camera hadn't kept finding him, you could have easily forgotten he was in the scene.

Murray, or Michael Murray, hell, we'll just stick with all three, Chad Michael Murray has the sparkle of a star. We'll give him that. Whether he's running through the mall in the boxer briefs with little Chad Michael Murray bouncing all over in the pouch -- but never springing free, this isn't cable television after all -- or taking off his shirt to reveal a bra, the only word to describe him is "saucy." Put him in a pair of cut-offs and high heels because he's obviously been passed the torch by Catherine Bach. Of course, she never had to show off her nipples on The Dukes of Hazzard but back in the old days, you had to work a little harder for fame. Then again, maybe she just didn't possess the "chewey nipples" that so many feel Chad Michael Murray does?

He was never more alive than when using a cell phone to take a photo of himself. We think that says a great deal. We also think "saucy" comes with an expiration date. (Chad Michael Murray might want to check with Bach on that.) Michael Copon's passed his. He's like John Leguizamo still thinking the world wants to see him shirtless even though the waist continues to thicken, to the point that it's now a tree trunk. Copon has "solo jerk-off porn" written all over him and he'd be wise to cash in on that before another year passes because at twenty-four he's exceeded his sell date.

Could anyone act on the show? The women weren't bad. In fact, we felt like we were watching Welcome Back, Kotter in reverse. The women did all the heavy lifting and the males were like "Bambi" and assorted other "babes" -- there to make the case for eye candy.

It was always going to be a weak case for the males of One Tree Hill but they were only promised their day in court, no one said they'd win. And seriously, what did happen to the rest of Chad Michael Murray's nose? The upturned button nose looked cute on Debbie Reynolds and Valerie Bertinelli but will Chad Michael Murray be able to parlay the look into a future? Didn't Nicole Kidman already film Bewitched?

Can a show suceed on the "hotness" of questionable males? Did Dawson's Creek not last five seaons? But when's the last time you heard anyone pining over James Van Der Beek or Joshua Jackson? Damned if they weren't all the talk of 1998 and 1999, for all the silence that surrounds them today. Run a camera over a face and broadcast it on screen and, sure enough, some will rush in to declare not only can he act, but he's "hot." (Point of reference, anyone who can lay claim to fame with Mighty Ducks should never have the term "hot" applied to him.) The women did all the heavily lifting in that show too (Michelle Williams more so than Katie Holmes). It's sort of a tradition for all WB Body Wash Operettas.

It's also a tradition that these "boy" stars aren't really all that good looking. They're, if they are lucky, in a cute phase. It's always a brief one. And chunky waists and male pattern baldness linger just around the corner, but for their moment in time, millions of adolescents (of both genders) think they're "hot." They get all excited over a Jack Wild (H.R. Pufnstuf) one moment and a Kirk Cameron (Growing Pains) the next. Remember, Leonardo DiCaprio was "too hot" to become a TV star. Kirk Cameron was Mr. Big Star. Then the shine faded and Cameron's "left behind" while Leo goes on to become the biggest male movie star of the 90s.

That's how it works because, on some level, even the fans don't think the "boys" are sexy. What they are is "safe." And when they're on a "safe" show like One Tree Hill that thinks the height of daring is a card saying a woman must kiss someone in the room (remember, these are high school students), they're beyond "safe" -- they're wearing gold plated chastity belts. The little doggies are down there, kiddies, but don't worry, they're kept on a short leash. Translation, like Ken dolls, they have no life below the belt.

So the kids are left to create fantasies. "Oh, I bet Lucas smells fresh and minty! Like a toothpaste! Imagine if I was walking on a beach holding hands with him!" "Oh, Nathan, is so sweet, I bet his arm pits never stink! We could be so happy together in our non-perspiring, kiss on the cheek world!" With such an active fantasy life, it's no surprise that the same viewers can convince themselves that either Lafferty or Chad Michael Murray can act.

But older (and hopefully wiser) viewers will be left scratching their heads and marveling over how tame high schoolers are today. They're so tame because they're being sold to an elementary and middle school audience. Check out One Tree Hill now (no, we don't know why there's a "One" in the title while the characters call it "Tree Hill" either) to see the flash in the pans before they burn out. Chances are you won't catch Lafferty, Chad Michael Murray or Copon in a lead role again, so get a pool going and place your bets on which one will fade first.
It'll be far more exciting than any plot One Tree Hill manages to come up with. And it'll give you a chance to see what's momentarily captivated the pre-pubescent set.

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