Even without the benefit of two seasons worth of knowledge to fully appreciate the character histories of the ensemble cast, it was fairly easy for this newbie to simply dive right into former Dawson's Creek scribe Greg Berlanti's excellent Everwood.
Similar to Gilmore Girls, it's that rare type of series that's able to pique the interest of viewers from all ages as characters range from middle school upwards to the elderly in this warmhearted, intelligently written and thoroughly engrossing dramedy set in a small Colorado town.
Although when prominent New York City surgeon Dr. Andrew Brown (Treat Williams) initially arrived in Everwood years earlier, in the attempt for the previously workaholic hotshot to reconnect with his children following the death of his wife he was a Northern Exposure style fish-out-of-water. However, by the time the third season rolls around, he seems perfectly acclimated to the slower pace, wholesome values and flannel wardrobe of his surroundings where there's no such thing as privacy or strangers.
In welcoming back his piano prodigy son Ephram (Gregory Brown) from summer study at Juilliard, Andrew seems initially torn about whether or not he should finally reveal a life-altering secret he's been keeping from his son in an attempt to protect him. Focused only on his son's bright future as a pianist, Andrew and his colleague Dr. Harold Abbott (Tom Amandes) ultimately agree to once again remain silent about the events surrounding Ephram's ex-girlfriend's disappearance from the community since the two men don't want to disrupt not only his patched relationship with Andrew but also his budding romantic relationship with Harold's daughter Amy (Emily VanCamp).
Adding a nice comedic relief to the series as well as a great irritating foil for both doctors, Party of Five cast member Scott Wolf arrives in Everwood from his post as a top Los Angeles plastic surgeon, also escaping from the hustle and bustle of La La Land. With an unfailingly upbeat demeanor and a proactive method to health care, he's soon arranging group walks around the town and advertising his movie star smile on whatever ad space he can find, before Wolf's Dr. Jake grows increasingly attracted to Andrew's best friend, confidant and fellow single parent neighbor Nina (Stephanie Niznick). However despite his charm and carefree attitude, on their first date together Nina realizes that she's begun to spark not with Jake but with somebody altogether unexpected... if that is, she can find the courage to tell him.
Also joining the cast in the third season is the terrific addition of a Minnesota native high school junior, Hannah Rogers (Sarah Drew) who stays with Nina while her parents are rumored to be away on business to Hong Kong. However, much like Dr. Jake, the residents of Everwood soon ascertain that Hannah too may be keeping a painful secret hidden, as she eventually goes from awkward new girl to Amy's best friend, even if Amy tries her best to distract the bookish girl from her hopeless crush on Amy's aimless older brother Bright (Chris Pratt).
Weaving in a new complicated romantic prospect for Andrew Brown in the form of a stroke victim patient's wife played with a great balance of humor and sensitivity by Anne Heche along with cases of mixed signals, missed connections, and startling discoveries regarding the hidden secrets and desires of many major characters, Everwood only took a handful of episodes on the first of its five disc set to turn me into a true fan.
To this end, I'm eager to not only go back and seek out the first two installments but look forward to the fourth and final series of what is arguably Berlanti's strongest work as a television producer and one of those rare family series that – like Life Goes On or Gilmore Girls -- are few and far between in Hollywood.
While the show's Achilles Heel seems to be in its obsession with soapbox speech-making as every single character (and most often Andrew or Harold) seem to deliver monologues that are perhaps better suited to the stage than the small screen since after witnessing more than five within forty-five minutes, they do ultimately begin to wear you out slightly, because the overall impact of the show is so dynamic and engrossing, it's easily forgiven.
Likewise, Everwood is able to move believably from near tears to laughter as the season progresses over the course of twenty-two episodes into a tension filled finale. A genuinely earnest series that's as unafraid of nostalgia as it is of making its flawed main characters look both honorable and/or terrible (sometimes at the same time) is the type of program currently missing from the airwaves and moreover one that would serve as an ideal model of the type of television show that channels like The CW and ABC Family should turn to for inspiration.
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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.
Labels: TV on DVD