Every major TV show needs that one moment, the one unforgettable image or line that imprints itself not just on fans, but on culture. For Game Of Thrones, it was the Red Wedding. For Mad Men, it was Don Draper’s “carousel” speech. And for One Tree Hill, the CW soap opera that lasted nine seasons despite not a single person ever watching it, it was that time a dog scooped up a dude’s replacement heart and trotted off with it.
Oh, you haven’t seen it? Merry Christmas.
Not only was the scene discussed and dissected ad nauseam online, but The Soup made it a regular fixture alongside chicken tetrazzini and “Kiss my ass!” And now, eight years later, The Ringer has gifted us with an oral history of this landmark moment in television history.
But first, a quote from Parks And Recreation’s Mike Schur outlining just why this clip is so absurd:
Mike Schur (executive producer, Parks and Recreation, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The Good Place): It’s the undisputed champion of out-of-context TV scenes. Why is there a dog in the waiting room? Why, when the heart comes tumbling out onto the floor, does literally nobody move? And why, in the name of all that is holy, does [Chad Michael Murray] look at [Paul Johansson] with a look on his face that seems to say, “I told you so”?
It began as a joke, unsurprisingly, one inspired by an English bulldog named Gromit, but was then shepherded to production by Joe Davola, an eccentric director who many believe to be the inspiration for Seinfeld’s “Crazy Joe Davola” character. And while the dog they initially hired, Catfish, ended up getting fired, they found a natural in the golden retriever that ended up on screen.
So easy was the dog to work with that it was directing the cast’s reaction (or lack of one) that proved the most difficult task, especially since it wasn’t in the script for anyone to attempt to retrieve the wayward heart. Everyone just had to stare… at the dog… eating the heart… and trotting away.
Joe Davola (director, “Searching for a Former Clarity”): I remember Chad that day going, “What do I do?” I said, “You read it, what did you think?” He goes, “I can’t fucking believe this is happening.” And I said, “That’s exactly how you have to react.” And that’s the reaction I got out of him.
John A. Norris (writer, 2005-11): I really love the reaction from Dan [Paul Johansson]. We have this scene that is so clearly absurd but played serious because this guy’s really not getting his heart. The reaction is funnier to me than the dog eating the heart, just because it’s played so serious.
Zachary Haynes (script coordinator, seasons 3-5): The funniest thing is, nobody in the scene makes an attempt to get the heart back.
The best revelation, however? The dog was supposed to be stoned. Read the whole thing over at The Ringer.