HOLLYWOOD — James Lafferty's got game. Chad Michael Murray doesn't. But, through the magic of TV, you'll never be able to tell when you watch "One Tree Hill."
The new drama, which debuts Tuesday at 8 p.m. on WB/Ch. 30, features Murray and Lafferty as a pair of half-brothers who are both great basketball players. Which is only half true in real life.
"I've played my whole life, so I got game," said Lafferty, who was named MVP of his high-school team. And he played Steve Alford in ESPN's Bobby Knight movie, "A Season on the Brink."
And, his co-stars and producers assure us, the scenes in the pilot of Lafferty on the court — including the dunks — are for real.
Not so for Murray, who wants to be "honest" about the fact that he "sucks" at basketball. But he's working on it with a coach provided by the producers.
And the end result is that both of them look good on the court. And "One Tree Hill," which is about more than just basketball, looks like a good bet following "Gilmore Girls" on Tuesday nights.
Lafferty plays Nathan, the spoiled, pampered high-school hoops star whose abilities on the court mean his bad behavior is overlooked. His father, Dan (Paul Johansson), is a former Big Man On Campus himself at Tree Hill High School. He got two girls pregnant; married Nathan's mother; and ignored both his other son, Lucas (Murray) and Lucas' mother, Karen (Moira Kelly).
The half-brothers have steered as clear of each other as they could in a small town. Lucas eschews organized sports until several players are suspended from the Tree Hill team and the coach (Barry Corbin) comes calling. Which sets up an open and seemingly bitter rivalry between Lucas and Nathan — a rivalry made all the more interesting because of Lucas' interest in Nathan's girlfriend (Hilarie Burton).
It sets up what has all the makings of a good teen-oriented prime-time soap. Heck, it's even filmed in Wilmington, N.C., with much of the crew from the departed "Dawson's Creek."
Not that it's all about the teenagers. The adults have complicated relationships of their own, including Dan's brother (Craig Sheffer), who has maintained a strong relationship with Lucas and Karen.
And not only will the largely female audience of "Gilmore Girls" find "One Tree Hill" worth sticking around to watch, but the show should appeal to young males as well.
Which should give Murray plenty of time to hone his basketball skills.