Judge Diane Wild grants a stay of execution to this WB drama.
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.
Facts of the Case
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:
• "The Great Doctor Brown"
• "Friendly Fire"
• "The Kissing Bridge"
• "Deer God"
• "The Doctor Is In"
• "We Hold These Truths"
• "Till Death Do Us Part"
• "Turf Wars"
• "Is There a Doctor in the House?"
• "A Thanksgiving Tale"
• "Vegetative State"
• "The Price of Fame"
• "Colin the Second"
• "Snow Job"
• "My Funny Valentine"
• "Everwood Confidential"
• "The Unveiling"
• "The Miracle of Everwood"
• "Moonlight Sonata"
• "Episode 20"
• "Fear Itself"
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.
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