Warner Bros. // 2004 // 1022 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Diane Wild (Retired) // October 13th, 2004
It's somewhere between father and son.
True family dramas are rare on television. Everwood is that rare series that has appeal for teens and adults. It's not a 7th Heaven-style wholesome family drama where moral issues are reduced to a simple package and tied up in a neat bow after an hour. It's more like a thought-provoking Dawson's Creek if that show had well-developed parental characters, and if the trials of Dawson and Joey alternated equally with the tribulations of the adults.
Dr. Andrew Brown (Treat Williams, Dead Heat) is a world-renowned neurosurgeon from New York City whose wife recently died in a car crash. Based on a promise he made to his late wife, he uproots his children, 15-year-old Ephram (Gregory Smith) and 9-year-old Delia (Vivien Cardone), to the quirky town of Everwood, Colorado. A former workaholic, Andy must finally get to know his kids while adjusting to life as a single father and country doctor. Delia adjusts well, but Ephram resents his father's past neglect and present bumbling attempts to reconnect.
Harold Abbott (Tom Amandes, When Good Ghouls Go Bad) is the other doctor in town -- the one with a stick up his butt, as his mother Edna (Debra Mooney, Tootsie) is fond of pointing out. His capacity for love is exhausted on his family -- his world revolves around his wife, daughter Amy (Emily VanCamp), and son Bright (Chris Pratt). He despises people in general, Andy Brown in particular. Amy, however, is drawn to Ephram, who otherwise finds himself the high school outcast.
The Episodes are:
One of two episodes to be presented in widescreen, the pilot introduces the Browns and the rest of the Everwood folk. The heart of the episode, and the heart of the series, is the fragile relationship between Andy and Ephram. The death of Julia Brown is shown in flashback, followed by Andy opening a free clinic in a town he had never even visited. Ephram's bitterness towards his father for being absent most of his life is compounded by the upheaval.
* "The Great Doctor Brown"
Andy's life in the Rocky Mountains gets off to a rocky start as he is caught talking to his dead wife. He also begins to return to his workaholic roots, leading to another blowout with Ephram. Andy has more success with Delia, who gets in trouble at school only to be defended by her dad from a harsh teacher. Everwood's Fall Thaw Festival is the backdrop as Ephram also learns from Bright that Amy's friendship may be hiding a hidden agenda. Her boyfriend Colin has been in a coma for four months after a tragic accident, and she wants Ephram to encourage his father to take the case.
* "Friendly Fire"
The Browns' neighbor Nina is ostracized when the townspeople find out the baby she is carrying is not her own, and that she is acting as a surrogate for a woman in her 50s. Andy ineptly tries to defend her, and ends up delivering the baby with Ephram's help. Ephram is despondent when he is disinvited to a party by Amy's popular friends, and Delia struggles with the school bully.
* "The Kissing Bridge"
Andy and his nemesis Dr. Abbott put their differences aside to educate the town's students when a spate of STD cases reveals the misconception that safe sex means everything but intercourse. Ephram encourages Amy to follow her heart when the fall dance makes her miss Colin even more. Edna is upset at the scheduled demolition of a town landmark.
* "Deer God"
Edna helps Delia when the girl questions the existence of God. Ephram and Andy bond while leading a lost deer back to the wilderness, and Ephram finally tells his father about Amy's request to look into Colin's case.
* "The Doctor Is In"
Traveling psychologist Dr. Trott (Jane Krakowski, Ally McBeal) riles Dr. Abbott and helps Andy, who has conflicting emotions after refusing to perform surgery on Colin. Delia's only friend can't play with her anymore after his parents discover them with dolls and playing dress up.
* "We Hold These Truths"
Andy has decided to operate on Colin with the support of his old friend and surgical partner, while Ephram comforts Amy in the waiting room. Bright confesses to his father that he was the one driving when the accident happened and seeks forgiveness from Colin's family.
* "Till Death Do Us Part"
Andy pretends that his upcoming wedding anniversary isn't on his mind, while frantically trying to help two troubled couples, including Dr. Abbott and his wife Rose. Ephram wants to be there for his father but his class gets stuck in a mine on a fieldtrip during a snowstorm. There, he shares his first kiss with Amy, who becomes distant afterwards.
* "Turf Wars"
Ephram and Delia's grandparents unexpectedly come to visit and tempt Ephram to live with them in New York. Ephram sneaks out to go to a party with Amy, who is heartbroken over Colin's inability to remember her and his parents' order that she stay away from the hospital. Delia's grandmother and Edna Abbott compete for her attention.
* "Is There a Doctor in the House?"
Delia and her grandmother throw a birthday party for a reluctant Edna, which is marred by a fight between Andy and Ephram over his desire to move to New York. When the guests become stranded during a snowstorm, matters get serious when Bright's appendix bursts and Andy, his father-in-law, and Dr. Abbott must improvise and perform emergency surgery.
* "A Thanksgiving Tale"
At Delia's request, Ephram attempts to recreate their mother's Thanksgiving traditions. Amy helps, leading to their second kiss and her second retreat from Ephram. Andy searches for the town hermit, who may be a match for his brother who requires a kidney transplant. In a twist on the It's a Wonderful Life theme, Dr. Abbott tries to reform his curmudgeonly ways after a health scare.
* "Vegetative State"
Colin is coming home and Ephram is pushed aside as Amy plans his homecoming. Andy assesses Nina's son after the school insists he be put on Ritalin, and Andy and Dr. Abbott join the conservative town's debate on medical marijuana.
* "The Price of Fame"
Edna's Hollywood friend comes to town to direct the annual play, and Andy is miscast as the lead. After her friend tries to hide her newly relapsed cancer from the community, Edna takes over and alienates everyone with her drill-sergeant direction. Colin wants to befriend Ephram, much to Amy's dismay.
* "Colin the Second"
Colin is finding the adjustment to Everwood difficult, since his memory hasn't returned but people expect him to be who he was before the accident. He and Amy are even voted Homecoming King and Queen. Newcomer Ephram becomes his only confidante, and starts to see signs that Colin may not be completely well. Andy tries to convince the talented Ephram to resume piano lessons. Nina's husband, a traveling salesman, returns after months on the road, but the struggling Nina is left unsatisfied by his brief visit.
* "Snow Job"
Colin invites Ephram to come on the church ski trip, and he accepts despite Amy's protests. Ephram helps Colin pretend to remember a moment with Amy, leading to their first kiss since he awoke from his coma. Uptight chaperone Dr. Abbott tries to ruin the kids' party plans, but is neutralized by the resourceful students. Andy accompanies a friend to a singles mixer, but it takes a panic attack to make him realize he's not yet ready for the dating world.
* "My Funny Valentine"
Traveling psychologist Dr. Trott returns and sparks a romantic encounter with a hesitant Andy, who as therapy writes a Valentine letter to his late wife. Edna's husband Irv (John Beasley) recovers from a mild heart attack and alienates his wife by joking about it. Dr. Abbott alienates his by dismissing couple's therapy, which she insists they need to regain their romance. Ephram asks Colin's sister Laynie out on a date at Amy's urging.
* "Everwood Confidential"
When a 78-year-old man suffering from dementia confesses to a 30-year-old murder, Dr. Abbott and Andy join forces to clear his name. Ephram's new piano teacher helps him arrange a date with Laynie at a jazz club over Andy's objections, but Laynie suspects Ephram has stronger feelings for Amy than he's willing to admit.
* "The Unveiling"
On the anniversary of Julia Brown's death, the Browns get ready to travel to New York for her headstone unveiling ceremony. Ephram recalls memories that make him suspect Andy cheated on her, creating more conflict between the recently reconciled father and son. Amy tells her father her concerns about Colin's health after he becomes ill on their date, then is furious when Dr. Abbott shares that information with Colin's doctor, Andy.
* "The Miracle of Everwood"
A journalist comes to Everwood to interview Andy, and despite Andy's cautions, shines a spotlight on Colin's "miraculous" recovery. Ephram sees more evidence of Colin's drastic mood swings, though Amy and Bright aren't ready to admit he is not recovering well. Delia decides to spend the night in a museum and Andy panics when he finds she's missing.
* "Moonlight Sonata"
Ephram's nerves make him edgy before his big piano recital, and he discovers his piano teacher's indiscretion with another student. Amy and Edna investigate strange lights seen in Everwood, which some believe are aliens.
* "Episode 20"
Andy is put in a difficult situation when he is asked to perform an abortion on an 18-year-old girl, and he finds help in an unexpected place. Ephram is humiliated when Bright sets him up on a blind prom date only to have her make out with someone else at the dance, then Amy and Colin fight when she tries to console Ephram.
* "Fear Itself"
Ephram has a serious boating accident when he accompanies his father and Irv on a trip to a remote cabin. Andy's terror leads to a touching moment between father and son, and gives Andy the strength he needs to counsel Colin's parents about the new surgery he is facing. Nina finds out her husband is having an affair.
This is the second episode presented in a letterbox formant. In preparation for Colin's second risky surgery, Andy and his children travel to meet his mentor, who advises him not to try the procedure. Colin takes Amy and Bright on a memorable road trip the day before the surgery. Complications arise during the surgery, but a cliffhanger ending leads the audience to wonder if Dr. Brown has managed a second miracle.
Everwood the town and Everwood the television series are populated with eccentric, earnest characters struggling to relate to each other. Created by Greg Berlanti, formerly of Dawson's Creek, and airing on the WB network, the show often tackles moral issues without coming down on one side or another. The abortion episode, for example, has characters behaving in unexpected -- but surprisingly fitting -- ways, and doesn't lead to easy answers. It is also (according to the commentary) the first time since Maude back in the '70s that the procedure was made part of a storyline. Yet "Episode 20" raised little controversy because of its sensitive handling of the divisive issue.
The characters on Everwood are fully realized and develop in interesting ways throughout the season. The relationship between Andy and Ephram remains tenuous at all times, but from episode to episode it takes steps forward and back. Dr. Abbott could be the comic relief as an uptight nemesis to Dr. Brown, but instead he becomes an almost-friend to Andy and shows warmth and vulnerability when he relates to his family. Bright Abbott begins the season as a stereotypical bully, but becomes a more interesting character with time as he shows his insecurities, tragic secret, and sweet side.
Treat Williams is perfect as Andy Brown, bringing humor and humility to the role of the rock-star brain surgeon turned country doctor. His neighbor and friend Nina (Stephanie Niznik) is his perfect foil, with none of the underlying romantic tension (yet) that would make it the tiresomely typical television relationship with the opposite sex.
Gregory Smith emerges as the best kind of heartthrob -- brooding and slightly geeky. He even makes the name Ephram seem cool. Smith does a good job of making the potentially irredeemably sulky Ephram into a likeable teen. After all, his resentment towards his dad is justifiable. Emily VanCamp is a great girl next door -- attractive enough to be the object of two boy's affections but down to earth enough to appear in jogging clothes and no makeup when the scene calls for it.
Everwood is best appreciated at a TV schedule pace. The melodrama is a bit much within the condensed viewing required for, say, review purposes, and the episodes are best when they are balanced with the humor that punctuates many of them. The Boyfriend in a Coma drama in the early episodes in particular is over the top, but it is played with such sincerity that it is mostly heart-warming rather than eye-rolling.
The voiceover narrative, by the otherwise underutilized John Beasley, is an attempt to add another dimension to the story that is unfolding on the screen. It doesn't quite work, but it's not obtrusive enough to be annoying either.
Everwood comes on six discs packaged in a Digipak. The series is presented as originally broadcast, with 21 of the 23 episodes in 1.33:1 fullscreen, but the pilot and the season ender in 1.85:1 nonanamorphic widescreen. There is some graininess to the picture, and it's not always as sharp as it could be, but the colors are warm and the contrast good. Audio is in 2.0 Dolby Digital Surround, which is good enough for the dialogue-heavy drama but doesn't always optimally present the musical soundtrack.
The extras include commentary on four key episodes, which are informative (but often feature long gaps followed by overlapping comments by the many participants). For those who are encountering Everwood for the first time on DVD and don't want to know what comes next, be warned that significant spoilers for Season Two are contained in the commentaries.
The deleted scenes with optional commentary add even more dimension to the characters. The Making-Of Featurette does a lot of complaining about the -30 degree weather the cast and crew contended with while filming the pilot in and around Calgary, Canada (no, it's not always that cold there!), and show the Utah location that was used for the rest of the series. The Greg-and-Emily Cam is 5 boring minutes of behind-the-scenes footage, at least some of which is actually from Season Two.
Everwood is emotionally true, manipulative, and addictive all at the same time. Teens will watch for the Ephram and Amy dynamic, while adults can appreciate the mature storylines affecting Andy and Dr. Abbott, among other distinctive characters. Well-written and thoughtful, Everwood is a welcome addition to the family drama lineup.
Everwood is guilty of getting teens and adults alike hooked on its soapy charms.
Review content copyright © 2004 Diane Wild; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (pilot and "Home")
* Full Frame (other episodes)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 1022 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Unaired scenes
* Greg-and-Emily Cam
* Extended version of pilot
* Making-of featurette "In Search of Everwood"
* Commentary on 4 episodes
* Official Site