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TV Reviews: 'Everwood' uneven; 'Body & Soul' intriguing

Monday, September 16, 2002

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

The WB's new drama "Everwood" is the inverse of the network's "Gilmore Girls."

Instead of a mother and daughter who are so different they get along like best friends, this promising new show focuses on a father and son who are so alike they fight constantly.

 
 
"Everwood"

When: 9 tonight on WCWB.

Starring: Treat Williams, Gregory Smith

   
 

Doc Brown (Treat Williams) mourns the death of his wife (guest star Brenda Strong), while teen-age son, Ephram (Gregory Smith), has 15 years of pent-up rage directed at his workaholic, often absent father. Their fights are not TV-friendly; they're visceral, realistic, shocking and hurtful.

"I wish you died instead of her," Ephram shouts.

"I wish I did, too, you little bastard," Doc Brown shouts back.

"I hate you," Ephram screams.

"I hate you right back."

To some parents, these confrontations may sound grudgingly familiar. When "Everwood" hits these believable notes, it shows promise as a great drama. Unfortunately, it also hits some dissonant sharps and flats.

Doc Brown moved Ephram and 9-year-old Delia (Vivien Cardone) from Manhattan to Everwood, Colo., not long after the death of his wife.

Sullen Ephram, a sensitive kid who plays piano and collects a particular genre of comic books, reacts with predictable alarm when his father brings up the idea of moving: "That's Harrison Ford in 'Mosquito Coast' crazy!"

They go anyway, but Ephram isn't happy about it, even after fellow student Amy (Emily VanCamp, the only good thing about last season's "Glory Days"), takes an interest in him. She has an ulterior motive for befriending Ephram that will likely color future episodes.

Doc Brown has his own clashes, particularly with Dr. Abbott (Tom Amandes), the town's sole general practitioner before his arrival. Abbott is a caricature, over-the-top in his arrogance. He does everything short of twirling a mustache to shout, "I'm the bad guy!" This is where "Everwood" hits a bump.

With such realism in the relationship between Ephram and his father, it's a shame series creator and writer Greg Berlanti ("Dawson's Creek") went down such a conventional, only-on-TV path in creating this other adversarial relationship.

It's also unreal that, although Doc Brown is a famous neurosurgeon with deep pockets, he'd open his practice in Everwood and not charge for his services.

Williams plays the scenes with Smith just right, but he can't help but be trumped by the teen. With deep, mournful eyes and an attitude that's all too real, Smith could be the season's break-out teen star. Whether or not teen-age guys will identify with him, girls everywhere will want to comfort him.

Parents, though, may be put off by the all-too-real friction between father and son. Though it airs after "7th Heaven" (season premiere tonight at 8), "Everwood" is not comfortable TV. It's even a little racy.

Ephram calls his dad a nickname for "Richard" in tonight's premiere and in a future episode Doc Brown will treat a gonorrhea of the throat epidemic that's sweeping through the high school.

On "Everwood," the quiet, contemplative moments compete with flashy, highly promotable plot turns. Here's hoping the former wins out.

'Body & Soul'

A clumsy, amateurish mix of comedy and drama, Pax's "Body & Soul" is nonetheless more intriguing than either of the new medical dramas on the major networks.

Dr. Rachel Griffen (Larissa Laskin) has been on leave from Century Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, but now she's back with a newfound penchant for holistic and complementary medicine.

 
 
"Body & Soul"

When: 9 tonight on Pax TV.

Starring: Peter Strauss, Larissa Laskin

   
 

For reasons that go unexplained, her mentor, Dr. Isaac Braun (a shouting, scenery chewing Peter Strauss), doesn't just disagree with her, he takes it personally.

"I don't have time for your touchy feely routine," Braun barks, sounding every bit like the fake TV doctor he is.

The show is fairly racy by Pax standards (at least two uses of the word "hell"). It also gets downright weird. At this point, it's tough to say whether this is good or bad thing, because "Body & Soul" doesn't settle into any consistent rhythm in its premiere. One minute it's serious, the next, a leading character is smushed on the sidewalk, flattened by a patient who jumps out a window. (Next week's episode strikes a better balance.)

Later in tonight's premiere, after breaking hospital rules and laws to boot, Griffen and some of those sympathetic to her way of seeing things, manage to evade authorities and wind up back working in the hospital. There was no logical explanation on an advance tape, but a Pax spokeswoman said scenes would be re-shot to clarify matters. Oh, and one character may have gained paranormal powers by the end of the premiere.

Laskin, who brings to mind a less twitchy Calista Flockhart, provides a nice counterbalance to Strauss' vehement sputtering.

"Body & Soul" doesn't always make sense, but that makes it at least a little intriguing in a "what next?" way.


Rob Owen can be reached at rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582. Post questions or comments to http://www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Forum.

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