Reviews

Everwood

Elena Razlogova

As I watched Everwood, packed with numerous poignant moments, my own strongest feeling was a longing for South Park's biting critique of 'quiet little mountain towns.'


Everwood

Airtime: Monday, 9pm EST
Cast: Treat Williams, Gregory Smith, Emily Van Camp, Debra Mooney, John Beasley, Vivien Cardone, Chris Pratt, Tom Amandes
Display Artist: Greg Berlanti, Mickey Liddell
Network: WB
Creator: Mickey Liddell
Amazon

Apart from gorgeous panoramas of the snowy Rockies, Everwood offers little fresh material. The story begins as famous neurosurgeon Andrew Brown (Treat Williams) neglects his wife, son Ephram (Gregory Smith), and daughter Delia (Viviene Cardone). After his wife dies in a car accident on her way to their son's recital, which he misses, Brown decides to move to Everwood, Colorado, a town his wife once called a "heavenly" place where she would have loved to live. He intends to start a free medical practice and become a model parent. I know what the show is getting at, but as I watched the pilot, packed with numerous poignant moments, my own strongest feeling was a longing for South Park's biting critique of "quiet little mountain towns."

Executive producers Greg Berlanti and Mickey Liddell seem to have culled the show's main dramatic conventions from other successful dramas about small-town family and community life. Most obviously, Dr. Brown moves to a small town from the big city like the protagonists of Ed and Providence (in fact, his talks with his dead wife recall Sydney's conversations with her dead mother). Everwood also airs right after 7th Heaven, a moralistic drama about a preacher's family living in a small town.

Still, the creators of Everwood miss any compelling aspects of the storylines they ransack. In interviews, Berlanti has compared Everwood's focus -- Brown's relationship with Ephram -- to that of Gilmore Girls, about a mother-daughter relationship in yet another quirky small town. But a single woman who chose to have a daughter at 16 and raise her on her own while holding a full-time job has little, or rather nothing, in common with a world-famous neurosurgeon who moves to a small town on a whim, having raised his children by proxy, with enough money saved to play doctor for free. Girls, in other words, explores a set of class and gender issues that Everwood avoids.

In crafting this fantasy, the show does a disservice to diverse populations living in small Northwestern towns. And that includes the white middle-class people at the center of Everwood, as well as those it leaves out, for example, the seasonal immigrant and tourism industry workers who populate most small Colorado towns. The only racially provocative storyline in the show underscores Everwood's homogeneity. Dr. Brown hires local nurse named Edna (Debra Mooney), who served two tours in Vietnam, rides a motorcycle, and is married to a black bus driver, Irv Harper (John Beasley, also the voice-over narrator). It turns out that the local doctor Harold Abbott (Tom Amandes) is her son, had employed her as a nurse, and fired her because she married Harper. Unfortunately, Edna and Irv appear as aberrant, oddball characters in otherwise snowy white town.

In short, Brown and Ephram's emotional problems are completely insulated from any social, economic, or other everyday-life concerns. Ephram seems only to resent his father for forcing him to leave New York and for being "10 years too late" in parenting. At one point he screams, "I wish you died instead of mom." It is difficult to see how this basic generational conflict might sustain the series, particularly since father and son arrive at quiet reconciliation by the end of the pilot.

Everwood's lack of context is particularly odd since Berlanti worked for a year on Dawson's Creek, where the main characters have much more complicated intellectual and social histories. Unlike pop-culture-savvy and hyper-articulate Dawson, Ephram musters only one meta-cultural comment in the pilot -- that a move to Everwood would be "Harrison-Ford-in-Mosquito Coast crazy." How disappointing for a brainy adolescent musician from New York.

Once the family arrives in Everwood, however, they do form some relationships that promise more complex plot twists. Ephram romances the extremely attractive Amy (Emily Van Camp), who has two ulterior motives for flirting with him. She hopes Ephram's dad can help her boyfriend, who lays in a coma in a Denver hospital, and she wants to get back at her father Dr. Abbott, whose local practice is threatened by Brown's arrival. Van Camp is very good as a teenage girl trying to be a femme fatale, a character similar to her role in last year's Glory Days. And Van Camp's and Smith's tandem performances are more subtle and believable than the overwrought father-son conflict.

Predictably, this show trying so hard to glorify quirky small towns is as a perfect example of Hollywood's assembly-line production and marketing. Television producers, it appears, like the show even more than their target demographics. Variety reported that "all" network executives wished to have Everwood on their schedule. Perhaps they like the show because it lionizes their own self-serving practices under the guise of a small-town drama. Brown's conflict with the town's doctor can be read as a primer for corporate takeover: Brown sets up his clinic right across the street from Abbott's office, hires Abbott's former nurse, and offers his services for free. Hard to compete with that.

Or, more likely, TV networks just prefer to invest in predictable and banal storylines that pacify and reassure rather than challenge viewers. WB Entertainment President Jordan Levin explains to the Hollywood Reporter why he banked on Everwood's blandness: "It's an incredibly flexible piece -- it has numerous time slots that it can play in." Sadly, the producers' formulaic strategy has paid off, at least for now. Nielsen reports that Everwood beat last year's same slot season premiere of the dark urban vampire series Angel by 51 percent. It is not clear whether the pilot succeeded because post-9-11 viewers long for sentimental life-affirming dramas, or because the WB began aggressively promoting it in June. I hope the latter.

Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

Run the Jewels - "Ooh LA LA" (Singles Going Steady)

Run the Jewels' "Ooh LA LA" may hit with old-school hip-hop swagger, but it also frustratingly affirms misogynistic bro-culture.

Books

New Translation of Balzac's 'Lost Illusions' Captivates

More than just a tale of one man's fall, Balzac's Lost Illusions charts how literature becomes another commodity in a system that demands backroom deals, moral compromise, and connections.

Music

Protomartyr - "Processed by the Boys" (Singles Going Steady)

Protomartyr's "Processed By the Boys" is a gripping spin on reality as we know it, and here, the revolution is being televised.

Music

Go-Go's Bassist Kathy Valentine Is on the "Write" Track After a Rock-Hard Life

The '80s were a wild and crazy time also filled with troubles, heartbreak and disappointment for Go-Go's bass player-guitarist Kathy Valentine, who covers many of those moments in her intriguing dual project that she discusses in this freewheeling interview.

Music

New Brain Trajectory: An Interview With Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree

Two guitarists, Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree make an album largely absent of guitar playing and enter into a bold new phase of their careers. "We want to take this wherever we can and be free of genre restraints," says Lee Ranaldo.

Books

'Trans Power' Is a Celebration of Radical Power and Beauty

Juno Roche's Trans Power discusses trans identity not as a passageway between one of two linear destinations, but as a destination of its own.

Music

Yves Tumor Soars With 'Heaven to a Tortured Mind'

On Heaven to a Tortured Mind, Yves Tumor relishes his shift to microphone caressing rock star. Here he steps out of his sonic chrysalis, dons some shiny black wings and soars.

Music

Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras' tētēma Don't Hit the Mark on 'Necroscape'

tētēma's Necroscape has some highlights and some interesting ambiance, but ultimately it's a catalog of misses for Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras.

Music

M. Ward Offers Comforting Escapism on 'Migration Stories'

Although M. Ward didn't plan the songs on Migration Stories for this pandemic, they're still capable of acting as a balm in these dark hours.

Music

Parsonsfield Add Indie Pop to Their Folk on 'Happy Hour on the Floor'

Happy Hour on the Floor is a considerable departure from Parsonsfield's acclaimed rustic folk sound signaling their indie-pop orientation. Parsonsfield remind their audience to bestow gratitude and practice happiness: a truly welcomed exaltation.

Music

JARV IS... - "House Music All Night Long" (Singles Going Steady)

"House Music All Night Long" is a song our inner, self-isolated freaks can jive to. JARV IS... cleverly captures how dazed and confused some of us may feel over the current pandemic, trapped in our homes.

Music

All Kinds of Time: Adam Schlesinger's Pursuit of Pure, Peerless Pop

Adam Schlesinger was a poet laureate of pure pop music. There was never a melody too bright, a lyrical conceit too playfully dumb, or a vibe full of radiation that he would shy away from. His sudden passing from COVID-19 means one of the brightest stars in the power-pop universe has suddenly dimmed.

Music

Folkie Eliza Gilkyson Turns Up the Heat on '2020'

Eliza Gilkyson aims to inspire the troops of resistance on her superb new album, 2020. The ten songs serve as a rallying cry for the long haul.

Music

Human Impact Hit Home with a Seismic First Album From a Veteran Lineup

On their self-titled debut, Human Impact provide a soundtrack for this dislocated moment where both humanity and nature are crying out for relief.

Music

Monophonics Are an Ardent Blast of True Rock 'n' Soul on 'It's Only Us'

The third time's the charm as Bay Area soul sextet Monophonics release their shiniest record yet in It's Only Us.

Film

'Slay the Dragon' Is a Road Map of the GOP's Methods for Dividing and Conquering American Democracy

If a time traveler from the past wanted to learn how to subvert democracy for a few million bucks, gerrymandering documentary Slay the Dragon would be a superb guide.

Music

Bobby Previte / Jamie Saft / Nels Cline: Music from the Early 21st Century

A power-trio of electric guitar, keyboards, and drums takes on the challenge of free improvisation—but using primarily elements of rock and electronica as strongly as the usual creative music or jazz. The result is focused.

Books

Does Inclusivity Mean That Everyone Does the Same Thing?

What is the meaning of diversity in today's world? Russell Jacoby raises and addresses some pertinent questions in his latest work, On Diversity.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews
Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.