Quarantine Consumption: Rise of teen TV

So, this year has been weird. In the last seven months, many of us have spent more time alone than ever before, and as much as arts and entertainment can be a great way to bond in person, they are just as important when we are stuck in our rooms. This term, I am going to be asking Lawrentians what piece of art or media has gotten them through quarantine, what captured their imagination or made them feel less alone during these hard times. From the silly reasons to the serious ones, what is it and why is it important to them?

Teen dramas get a bad rap. They are deemed as lowbrow, poorly written and unrealistic. Yet, they remain popular nonetheless, with many viewers more or less agreeing with said criticisms. So, what draws people into these shows that are objectively less than prestige television? Well, junior Mads Layton knows, as she was sucked into nine seasons of “One Tree Hill,” an early 2000’s teen drama series, over quarantine.

“It takes place in an actual town in North Carolina called Tree Hill” says Layton as she introduced the series,. “It starts off as a pretty typical, you know, high school show where there’s this cast of characters, and they have all their high school problems.” Storylines that begin with “boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love,” end with “everyone in the friend group dating each other” by the finale. Layton sort of smiled to herself and explained the extent of these high school perils, “You know [the writers] just have to come up with more things [for the characters] to do. There’s like way too many car crashes — it just doesn’t make sense how many car crashes happen within one group of people!”, she laughed. But this is what Layton loves about “One Tree Hill.” “It has to keep getting more and more absurd, you’re like ‘this stuff doesn’t happen?!’” Layton continued, “Like the probability of all this happening to this small group of people just doesn’t make any sense. You can just imagine being in this writer’s room and they’re like uhhhh, car crash! Uhhhh kidnapping, uhhhhhh pregnancy scare!” Layton expained how the writing was essentially throwing tropes at the wall. 

Layton described how invested she got into the ridiculous lives of the characters who live in Tree Hill, N.C., “[The show] was at its best in the beginning when they were actually in high school, but you get yourself so invested by the fifth season … you can’t just stop [then]!” While Layton was at home binging “One Tree Hill” this summer, her sister brought her a nitro cold brew home from Starbucks. And while that may seem irrelevant, that source of caffeine fueled Layton to write approximately 1,500 words about “One Tree Hill.” Layton described how in her caffeinated frenzy she wrote about why she adores the show, “I love the sense of friendship that’s happening there, like it’s this group of people who keep saying they hate each other for whatever reason, and then they come back together and there is this really strong hope [that] things are going to turn out alright and love is a powerful thing.” 

She then retreated a bit calling it all a bit “stupid,” but then pivoted back to how it really makes her feel, “It’s so satisfying to see everything work out in the end,” and even in the most cliche of ways, like the brooding bookish boy ending up with the cool alternative chick. Layton explained how the show was so much fun for her, especially as she spent so much time in her room by herself; it provided a much needed comfort. Layton would relax and paint while watching it a lot, as the show is not incredibly detail-oriented. She said, “You don’t need to be paying attention to like sneaky handoffs or whatever.” 

On the days where doing anything but sitting and doing nothing was a challenge, she would hang out in her room and watch “One Tree Hill” or go to donate plasma and watch “One Tree Hill.” There, “[It was Layton] in the plasma chair with tears rolling down [her] face” because her favorite couple got together “FINALLY!!!” 

This column has sort of had a trend over the course of this term, and it is that no matter what people binged over quarantine, it was pure unadulterated fun for them. “One Tree Hill” may be a soapy teen drama that “takes itself so seriously…it’s kind of crazy.” But it is fun, and to Layton, that is all that mattered.