Ok, so I've watched almost every season of OTH for whatever reason and I felt the need to write a fairly un-bias review of this show; mainly for those who may be considering buying this DVD and have never seen an episode. This is coming from me, someone whom isn't a hardcore fan but likes the show for the crazy mess it is. I had seen random episodes of this show over the years and enjoyed them without really understanding what the heck was going on. But I eventually bought the DVDs and I was half pleased with them... but also wondered why the hell I was watching this show. Let me explain:
The Good: OTH is at its best this season and doesn't rely on so much appallingly over the top drama and plot contrivance. This season is far quieter than the future ones and holds onto character focus to drive the plot forward. The basic premise for the show is two half brothers (Nathan and Lucas Scott) one born illegitimately (Lucas) and one (Nathan) born and raised by Dan. The boys eventually find their way onto the same OTH basketball team at school. Lucas was raised not knowing his father (Dan) by his mother Karen, and consequently hates Dan for abandoning her after she became pregnant in her senior year of school. Nathan was raised by his father Dan and his mother Debra who became pregnant in the first year of university. Both boys dislike one another and were raised very differently hence their opposing attitudes. Lucas as the quiet, intelligent boy and Nathan as the atypical womanizing teenage boy obviously influenced by his Machiavellian father. As a consequence wackiness ensues.
The acting from the adult cast is always high quality and one can often tell they turn flat writing into decent material. One thing OTH did well was advancing the character arcs for several characters; most notably Peyton who I could not stand in the first few episodes but her journey over the course of the season was well written and sympathetic. The Jake storyline was my favourite and was handled in a realistic manner; the romance that he eventually becomes involved in is one of the only well written love stories this show has ever produced - one that progresses steadily here and on into next season. Kudos to the writers on that one. They obviously took great care in the way they wrote it, and it showed. Credit where credits due: Dan; he's complex, manipulative and one of the most well acted and intriguing characters on this show. Another character worth the mention here is Nathan portrayed by James Lafferty who in turn managed to create this wonderful redemptive arc for his character in a believable manner. OTH has some funny and vibrant episodes; not to mention some wonderfully emotional moments that resonate far more than the campy drama. There is enough redeeming value in the series to make it enjoyable but... it just could have been so much better.
The writing this season is ranges from very good (`Every Night is Another Story', `Spirit in the Night', `The Search for Something More') to mediocre (the Pilot) to bad (`The Games that Play Us', `Hanging by a Moment' etc). OTH season one is about as good as this show gets, it's the most cohesive season and flows with some narrative fluidity. At the end of the day continuity will not be spinning in her grave because the episode to episode continuity in season one is surprisingly good.
The Bad: The "acting", or rather the lack thereof. Don't get me wrong many of the actors on this show are either competent or improve over the course of the season; the high calibre of which include Paul Johansson, Bryan Greenberg and Moira Kelly. The weak links being Hillarie Burton and The Chad (Chad Michael Murray who plays Lucas), coincidently the two leading cast members. Hillarie Burton improves a great deal thanks to her character growth over the course of the season and also thanks to many scenes with stronger actors including Barry Corbin and Bryan Greenberg. The Chad on the other hand was abominably miss-cast for this role; he doesn't appear to be able to act at all (Lucas comes off smarmy and self-satisfied as opposed to sensitive and intelligent) which is a shame seeing as everything else I've seen him in he was either `competent' or `good'. Which leads me to the inevitable opinion that he phones in his performance as Lucas because he either doesn't think television is worth his `skillz' or he is was miss-cast. Either way his performance isn't up to scratch and both the character and the audience suffer for it. In the hands of a better actor the role could have been well acted; or in the hands of a more charismatic actor even mildly interesting. Seeing as OTH is focused upon Lucas it doesn't help the series any that the lead actor isn't a very strong contender.
And the Delusions of Grandeur: Mark Schwahn (the creator) really seems to believe OTH is some poetically beautiful show full of emotional resonance and "organic" storytelling. When in reality it's often pretentious, asinine and irritating (at its best OTH is poignant, funny and enjoyable). I recommend going into this show with only a plan to watch this season and perhaps the next one, after that it really isn't worth it. OTH is fun for what it is but let's not fool ourselves into believing it's a quality one hour drama when in reality it's a trashy teen soap. By all means accept it for the latter and enjoy its inherent silliness, but don't pretend its poetry. If you're after an intelligent romantic comedy then I'd recommend watching The OC especially Season one and four (there's a reason it's critically acclaimed!)