Wednesday, January 11, 2012

An Open (Thank You) Letter to Mark Schwahn

Mark Schwahn is the creator, head writer, and executive producer of One Tree Hill, a television series entering its ninth and final season tonight. Though many creators move on after their show is established, Mark chose to stay true to the story he built about two half-brothers, a bitter father, and the redemption that happened in a little North Carolina town called Tree Hill. This is my letter of thank you to him…

Dear Mark,

You always said you set out to make “someone’s favorite show.” Thank you for making mine.

Before I get too far, I need to offer you an apology. I didn’t watch the first season when it aired on television. I boycotted it because I didn’t believe another drama, after Dawson’s Creek was filmed in Wilmington, should be set in North Carolina, with similar landscape and recognizable filming locations. I was wrong.

At the beginning of season two, my husband started graduate classes on Tuesday nights. After my daughter fell asleep, I slipped off to visit a town named Tree Hill. At first, I didn’t know what I was watching. But I soon grew to love a show where lines from great literary works pulled me into a redemptive story, one that faithfully reminded its viewers why sons need good fathers and why when they don’t have them, someone must pick up the task.

On your show, you honored life by treating babies in the womb as human beings. You fought for marriage by way of a couple named Nathan and Haley. You invited us to see women to be more than objects or sizes, even when the network pushed and shoved you toward the contrary. You said all those short, tight outfits they insisted on using were merely "a smoke screen" compared to the heart of the show. You knew the story you had to tell.

In most television shows, I identify with one main character. In your show I identify with five. Or six. Or seven. Honestly, I don’t really know how many. Over the years, I lost count. Your characters wrestle with understandable dreams and disappointments, and I see a piece of myself in each one of them.

Thank you also for providing me with a beautiful soundtrack to put to almost a decade of my life. I didn’t know I could love music so much until you (with the help of music supervisor Lindsay Wolfington) used it so powerfully on your show. And all those other shows using the familiar “coda” at the end now? I know it’s because of you. You consistently did it well.

Speaking of paving the way, thank you for skipping the boring college years and getting on with the show. You made “what if?” happen, and it allowed those of us not in our teen years to identify with a group of young adults trying to build families and careers. You mirrored our own struggles to not allow the “sins of the fathers” to continue in our own lives. You helped your characters form friendships in new and different ways, just as we were doing.

Each year, the network asked, “Should there be another season of One Tree Hill?” You never doubted. You loved your show. You were always ready with more stories to unfold.

We believed in you. After all, only the fans of One Tree Hill would launch a campaign to mail pieces of trees to network president Dawn Ostroff when the show’s fate was unsure around season four or five. After a couple more seasons, even ol’ Dawn admitted only you could pull off more than one psycho stalker rolling into one small town. It’s true. Only you. You gave us three.

With that many psychos showing up, I have to admit sometimes things got silly. I kept watching though. Something makes me think you enjoyed creating the crazy, outlandish excitement. You know, for fun. Yet, you always returned to the heart of your story. A story you told with great continuity and passion.

The critics were never fans. It’s too bad because I think you offered something unique through your show, and I look forward to your future projects.

So, I’m here today, at the beginning of the final season of One Tree Hill, to say, “Thank you.” Thank you for creating my favorite show. You did exactly what you set out to do.


Rebecca Stone

*Over the years, I read numerous articles and interviews with Mark Schwahn. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to provide more hyperlinks. Some information was also from podcasts no longer available and DVD extras.

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