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Warner Home Video presents
Everwood: The Complete First Season (2002)

"I wasn't there the day Doctor Andrew Brown's life changed forever. But like most folks in Everwood, I've heard the story enough times to be able to tell it."
- opening narration Pilot episode

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: September 07, 2004

Stars: Treat Williams, Gregory Smith, Vivien Cardone
Other Stars: Debra Mooney, Jon Beasley, Vivian Cardone, Chris Pratt, Stephanie Niznik, Tom Amandes, Brenda Strong
Director: ark Piznarksi, Kathy Bates, Danny Leiner, Michael Schultz, Arlene Sanford, Stephen Gyllenhaal, Jason Moore, Steve Gomer, Robert Duncan McNeill, Lev L. Spiro, David Petrarca, Sandy Smolan, Mel Damski, Michael Katleman

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mild mature themes and language)
Run Time: approx 17h:00m:00s
Release Date: September 07, 2004
UPC: 085393343828
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B B+BB B-

DVD Review

Family dramas can be an exceedingly risky proposition, because the dramatic scale needs to be properly balanced between maudlin and engaging. All of the age-old clichés need to be there (death, humor, sex, romance), but they have to packaged them in such a way as to not scare off more seasoned viewers, at the same time welcoming those who maybe aren't quite as hardened. The WB network has become a favorite landing pad for all kinds of target "dramas", whether it be teen-oriented material like Dawson's Creek or uber-family stuff like 7th Heaven, and the premise is usually quite formulaic. Pleasant settings, attractive people, and problems that can generally be tied up either in 40 minutes or through a convenient music montage, nestled in between some well-earned life lesson.

With Everwood, which premiered on the WB in 2002, the setup follows the usual genre guidelines, though the end product is certainly more credible than something like the long-running 7th Heaven—a show that has taken Stepford-ish smiley-nice to all new levels. This first season six-disc set, collecting up all 23 episodes, catches the series before it became noticeably more soap operatic in tone, and as a result is probably the strongest, most natural writing of its run. This particular series was created by writer Greg Berlanti—a chap familiar with the genre, having had his hand in Dawson's Creek as well as the upcoming Jack & Bobby WB series. Treat Williams is well-to-do workaholic neurosurgeon Dr. Andrew Brown, living successfully in New York City with his wife and two children, and in the pilot episode the requisite tragedy strikes: in this case the sudden death of his wife. Acting on a wish that she made well before she died, Dr. Brown decides to honor her memory and proceeds to pack up the kids, moving to the idyllic small town of Everwood, Colorado.

The core of this drama is built around Brown adjusting to the death of his wife and the whole relocation-/culture-shock thing, as well as the good ol' shaky father/son dynamic between him and his slightly hostile 15-year-old son, Ephram (Gregory Smith); thankfully things are somewhat better between Doc Brown and his cute-but-not-cloying 8-year-old daughter Delia (Vivian Cardone). But, in order to learn lessons, things have to go bad before they get better, and even in Everwood the doctor is still a workaholic and all-around lifesaver, Ephram broods in between trouble in high school and wooing a girl, and yet Delia somehow remains cute as a bug through it all. Sure, she's got her problems too—like her puppy-eyed desire to have a Thanksgiving dinner just like Mom used to make (Thanksgiving Tale) or questioning her belief in God (Deer God)—but in comparison to the rest of the drama, her storylines fall under the "aw, that's sweet" category.

You can look at the structure of Everwood and see how it was put together to attract a couple of different audiences. There's what I call the "Treat Williams factor"—a familiar face to older viewers and a solid, likeable actor who, here, is far removed from his angrier, edgier days (as in Prince of the City). Gregory Smith represents what I call the "teenage factor", and he is figured as prominently on the DVD cover art as Williams is. Poor Delia, it seems, just didn't make the marketing cut. The show itself veers across storylines ready-made for the one-hour drama format, things like sexually transmitted diseases, teenage pregnancy, comas, and good old-fashioned teenage romance. I suppose it depends on your age whether you identify with Ephram or Doc Brown, but the depth and range of these two characters is laid out in such a way that their actions evolve naturally and realistically, at least to a point.

So does it work as family drama? Yes, it most certainly does. When comparing it to the neo-Waltons series, 7th Heaven<), the other big family drama on the WB, Everwood avoids overdosing audiences on endless platitudes and niceties, while still operating within the typical genre guidelines. Williams seems exceedingly comfortable in the lead role, and his presence makes his occasional verbose pontifications slightly more watchable, thanks to his performance.

A show like this won't change your world, but the messages about values and the like are positive without being too sugary, and the dialogue flows with an easy, natural cadence.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: In 21 of the 23 episodes here, the presentation is 1.33:1 as it was originally broadcast. The pilot and the season ender, however, are shown in 1.85:1 nonanamorphic widescreen. The transfers are fine and dandy, with only some moderate grain issues to contend with at times. Colors are warm, though not overly bright, and fleshtones appear natural and evenly rendered.

Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Audio is available in 2.0 Dolby Digital Surround. Presentation is pleasant, with clean dialogue and moderate imaging across the front channels. This isn't the kind of series that begs for an aggressive surround mix, and Warner has provided an acceptable transfer that is nothing other than ordinary.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 138 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
7 Deleted Scenes
1 Documentaries
1 Featurette(s)
4 Feature/Episode commentaries by Greg Berlanti, Mickey Liddell, Treat Williams, Rina Mimoun, Gregory Smith, Vanessa Taylor, Tom Amandes, Emily VanCamp, Michael Green
Packaging: Box Set
Picture Disc
6 Discs
6-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Extras include four commentary tracks, one each for the episodes Pilot, The Unveiling, Episode 20 and Home. Commentary contributors include writer/executive producer Greg Berlanti, executive producer Mickey Liddell, actor Treat Williams, supervising producer Rina Mimoun, actor Gregory Smith, writer/supervising producer Vanessa Taylor, actor Tom Amandes, writer/supervising producer Michael Green and actress Emily VanCamp; Berlanti and Liddell show up on all four tracks, and they're really the most consistently interesting elements here. Admittedly this isn't necessarily a series begging for any in-depth explanations, but Berlanti offers up the usual dose of story origins, locations and casting info.

In Search of Everwood (24m:15s) does what the commentaries try to do, but in less time. This is a nice, quick snapshot of the show's origins and intent, with input from the principals intercut with scenes from various episodes. The cleverly named Everwood Casualties (10m:02s) is actually a set of seven deleted scenes, available with an optional commentary track from Berlanti. Lastly is the Greg and Emily Cam (02m:59s), a supposedly "wacky" set of handheld footage shot by the two young stars of Everwood. Some of the stuff looks staged, and this had all the charm of a blooper reel, which to me isn't really so charming.

Each episode is cut into six chapters each, and features optional subtitles in English, French or Spanish.

Extras Grade: B-

 

Final Comments

Not the be all, end all of series television by any means, Everwood is an extremely watchable family drama. This six-disc first season set finds the writing and characterizations less soapy than in later seasons, and infinitely more down to earth.

Recommended.

 


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