The WB (and CWTV) ran several series that interested me ten years ago, and another one for me to review is “Everwood”, which started in the fall of 2002 and ran for four seasons (ending in the spring of 2006). Sometimes reruns appear on ABC Family. The series was created by Greg Berlanti (also, “Jack & Bobby” and “The Tomorrow People”, to be discussed later, with the latter of these dealing with teens with “powers”, and reminds me of NBC’s “Heroes”).
The premise is that a successful NYC neurosurgeon Andy Brown (Treat Williams) loses his wife to a tragic auto accident in an ice storm. He moves himself and his two kids to the town of Everwood, CO, deep within the Rockies. He sets up a general practice and doesn’t even charge (believe that in these days of Obamacare), which draws the ire of the competing doctor Abbott (Tom Amandes).
Brown has two gifted children, a younger daughter Delia (Vivienne Cardone), and her older brother Ephram (Gregory Smith), who is supposed to be turning about 15 when the series starts. The family is Jewish but secular, but Ephram has already bad a bar mitzvah. Brown’s moral values are typical for his background, a kind of careful individualism, unsettled when right and wrong are not as clean cut as they should be.
Ephram’s gift is piano, and the potential to become a concert pianist. Much of the plot of the series revolves around Ephram’s progress toward getting into Julliard. In one episode, he has “learned” the entire Beethoven Appassionata Sonata overnight. Ephram tends to be moody, but clever, and has a faceted personality.
When he is about 16, Ephram has a fling with a 20 year old college student named Madison. He is naïve, and has his first experience, in a scene quite well done. Madison gets pregnant. Andy decides to keep her pregnancy a secret from Ephram, a soap-opera-like idea that can set up a final confrontation when Ephram approaches the Julliard audition.
Eprham writes a high school essay called “My Greatest Flaw” which is “my inability to change”. Does this mean that there is a moral imperative to grow into someone that can support a future bigger than the self? You hope “that you’ll never have to change again.”
There are several other compelling subplots. One of these happens in season 1 when Abbott’s son Bright (Chris Pratt, later to appear in “Zero Dark Thirty”, “Moneyball”, “Her”) has an auto accident with another teen, Colin (Mike Erwin) in the car sustaining a head injury. At first, Colin seems to recover OK, but then Andy discovers that Colin has a hematoma or aneurysm that must be removed or it will eventually rupture. Colin agrees to the surgery. But he dies at the end of Season 1 when the risky operation fails, and the entire town ostracizes Andy for his playing “Ben Casey”.
There is another subplot where a female doctor patient has HIV acquired from treating a patient in Africa, and tells Delia. Others find out from Delia, and soon her own practice is destroyed by fearful patients, and her gay ex-husband tries to get custody of her kids. Through complications, Dr. Abbott winds up being threatened with loss of his malpractice insurance.
Later in the series there is an extraverted Dr. Jake Hartman (Scott Wolf), a skiing enthusiast.
The series always started each episode with some music that sounded like the slow movement of a late 19th century piano concerto, but what one? The music may have come from Eugen d’Albert’s first piano concerto, written at age 18 or so, and inspired by Liszt, and filled with many familiar themes for such an obscure work. Hollywood knows obscure romantic music well. Maybe the work should be called “The Everwood”.
Toward the end, after Ephram has given up Julliard and has to work playing piano at clubs to support his child, and also gives piano lessons (at 18), he takes on a gay teen pupil, Kyle, (Steven R. McQueen, grandson of the famous actor. Had the series continued, probably Kyle would have become the important character with a professional career.
In August 2005, I drove (from DC) to a “party” at King of Prussia Mall near Philadelphia, where I met Gregory Smith and Chris Pratt. Smith, now 30, stars in “Rookie Blue” and has directed two episodes, and has also produced a comedy “Wieners” for Screen Gems, and, in a change of style, a documentary about doomsday preppers, “Training for the Apocalypse”.
Maybe the best outcome for this series would be a sequel movie based on the characters. What has happened to Ephram, now in his mid 20s? Has Kyle’s career taken off? Or did Ephram somehow go to another music conservatory? Yale would be interesting. Maybe a movie, maybe a cable or web series. Warner Brothers no longer has a separate brand for independent film (this would have been a logical release from “Warner Independent Pictures”, a brand that the company should bring back).
There is a newer series on CWTV, “Hart of Dixie” (2011- ), created by Lelia Gerstein. about another transplanted (to Alabama) doctor (a woman, Zoe Hart, played by Rachel Bilson) that seemed rather underwhelming.