Monday, August 29, 2016

Everwood "Truth..." Review

“Truth…” would’ve marked the end of Everwood’s midseason run, if not for the long ratings-based hiatus between December and March. Like “A Kiss to Build a Dream On” and “So Long, Farewell”, this episode did not age well. Much of the episode’s tension, except for Irv’s side story, comes from secrets some characters held from other characters. The fallout from these revealed secrets would wait until the four or six week hiatus ended and the narrative, again, re-shifted for the final six episodes of the season. The long winter hiatus eliminated a brief hiatus between #416 and #417. The audiences waited a week to the fallout from the inept and stupid choices of our beloved characters, but I’ll get there in my next post.

TV schedules can and do make an episode work as the writers and producers want. This episode’s designed to keep viewers on the hook for weeks, wondering what would happen to Bright and Hannah, and sad Reid. Ever notice in your binge watches that you don’t see an episode full of dramatic reveals and frustrating cliffhangers until the season finale? Creators for streaming sites don’t need to worry about keeping viewers on the hook during a hiatus, but they do need to keep them hooked at the end of each episode so that they click the sweet and golden ‘Next episode’ button. The tactic works best during the first viewing, but never as well on rewatch. If a person rewatches a show, it’s not because they crave the re-experience of the twist or that gnarly/heartbreaking cliffhanger; the twist/cliffhanger is now superfluous, an archaic cheap trick to make sure the viewer doesn’t forget your show. A person rewatches because of they love unique reality of the story.

This episode hinges on will Bright tell Hannah about his cheating and will Harold tell Rose about the cancer lie. The overall episode’s theme is the truth hurts but not as much as not telling it. Both Abbott boys didn’t want to, but it came out someway. Hannah went into a kind of catatonic hysteria while Rose and Harold confronted the scary truth that they won’t be free of cancer for another five years. I still don’t like either story; however, the cancer storyline reinforced the solidity of the Abbott marriage, and Bright, who one may thought hadn’t changed, had changed but he realized it after his bad mistake.

Of course, in #316, a secret caused a seismic event in the lives of the Brown and in the relationship between Ephram and Amy. Amy used her choice not to tell Ephram about Madison and the baby as a reason why Bright should tell Hannah the truth. Everwood, no matter how hackney and convoluted the melodrama, always used the past to inform its characters for the future.

One needn’t ever rewatch “Truth…” because the recap before “All The Lonely People” includes the highlights, but if one does rewatch it, it’s worth more for the Harold/Rose scene in Act V, for the Ephram/Amy scene but only for Ephram’s line about the impossibility of totally connecting, on all levels, with another human being (not for the nonsense melodrama parts), and Irv’s decision to makeup for the time he lost with his daughter. The rest of it is only a reminder of TV’s bad habits.

Nancy Won wrote the episode. Matt Shakman directed it.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Everwood "The Land of Confusion" Review

The Kyle arc was a way for Ephram to make peace with his past. Kyle shared the same father issues, the same piano gift, and the same genius-loner personality trait as his teacher, but he let Ephram experience a modicum of what life would be like with as a father. He helped Kyle come to peace with his identity. Ephram helped pay for Kyle’s college application fees. And he tried to help Kyle avoid the mistakes he made a few years earlier. Kyle was a simulacrum of every aspect of Ephram’s life. Ephram learned and forgave because of the experience. At the end of their arc, he learned he taught piano well enough to land Kyle an audition at Julliard. He made peace with his past, but what about his future?

Ephram’s story in “The Land of Confusion” is one of my favorites in the season and the series because he chose a life where he could have it all—piano, family, a lover, children in whose lives he’d make a difference, and children of his own. It marks the culmination of season four’s Ephram redemption story. The writers needed to bring him back from his miserable character assassination in late season three. The show’s full of characters that think a choice is singular, an either/or. The either/or obsessed Ephram in season three. If he couldn’t make time for Amy, he’d lose her, but he’d lose Julliard if he couldn’t make time for piano. Ephram made the first adult choice of any young character in the series. One’s life is what one wants it to be.  The writers tied up the loose Madison thread without her making an appearance by having Ephram calling her to apologize for his behavior in the cafĂ© when she told him about their son. Wonderful. Thank goodness The CW cancelled the show.

Jake runs parallel to Ephram but Jake’s story returns to that dreadful therapy session he had with Andy in “Free Fall”. Ephram made a choice Jake seems incapable of choosing for himself: a healthy work-life balance. Nina made him aware that he cut his hours at the office but made up it by starting a clinic and acting as sponsor for every addict in Everwood. Jake told Andy in the therapy session that he didn’t like what Andy represented, which was a curious admission in a story predicated by Andy kissing his girl; however, in this episode, it crystallizes, especially because of the echoes and flashes of Andy’s neurosurgeon life in Manhattan. Andy represented Jake at his most flawed. Jake saw his reflection in Andy, but he’s not close to achieving the peace Andy found in Everwood.

I basically have ignored the Hannah/Bright story aside from a sentence or three. They’re in the motions of TV coupledom, so they’re dull. Hannah’s too passive, and Bright’s too horny, but they suck at communication. Bright cheated on Hannah with Ada, the girl last seen making a fake ID for Ephram in season two. Of course, he feels remorse after it’s done, and, of course, Hannah’s full of apologies and understanding after their brief fight about communication, so she praises honesty and thinks they’ll be super together as long as they’re always honest. Bright couldn’t be honest with her if the annoying kid from Liar, Liar wished it for his birthday. They start their ‘new’ post-fight phase dishonestly. This relationship was a drag. (Fun fact: Chris Pratt sliced his tendon cutting frozen steaks before the episode and the writers wrote in the ‘broken hand by bad karate chop’ detail to explain the sling).

The viewer may’ve noticed the slight, subtle narrative shifts. Andy remembered his feelings for Nina when she mentioned marrying and having a baby with Jake.  Her relationship with Jake is uncertain though. Bright and Hannah, of course, are headed for crying, resentment, and separation. Ephram figured out his professional/vocational future, a choice motivated in part by his love for Amy, and Amy will leave her annoying self-righteous phase soon. The doldrums of mid-season for a network drama with 22 episodes to produce are ending. The narrative is about to refocus on what’s most important for our favorite characters.

Tom Garrigus wrote the episode. Charlie Stratton directed.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Everwood "Across the Lines" Review

Sometimes, I write about Everwood as if the ‘lesson’ type episode is rare, but it’s not. Everwood always had a moral and a tidy theme for each episode. The difference between Everwood and 7th Heaven was the substance around the moral or the lesson. The Everwood characters made uncomfortable or bad choices or both, but they discussed different perspectives of an issue. People shouldn’t keep their mouths shut for politeness’ sake. 7th Heaven preached and made its audience feel as if they were trapped in Sunday mass.

“Across The Lines” is a dialectical episode where the comfy illusion of ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ eludes the characters and where they learn that not talking’s far worse than saying what they think others want to hear.

Andy and Jake helped a drunk driver after a crash. Andy wanted to report the incident to the police, but Jake wanted to help the man by giving him another chance. These two don’t communicate. Jake doesn’t trust him, and Andy feels envious of him. The writers used their prior antipathy for a story that seemed likely to end with Jake upset with Andy for doing something at his, Jake’s, expense. The story goes to the expected plot point, but it evolves their friendship.

The incident motivated Jake to open an addiction support group in Everwood, which brought back the character of Everwood, the town, and its invisible citizens, as antagonists of progress and change. You know, the town that wanted to banish Andy after Colin’s death, the town that banished Linda because of her HIV, the town that forced Harold Sr. and Jr. to perform abortions in tight secrecy, and the town that had Brenda Baxworth as its personification. Nina fears the close-mindedness of the town, citing Linda as an example, whose practice and life in Everwood was ruined by a disease, to Jake during their conversation, but Jake finds an ally in Andy. Andy called the police on local town drunk, but Jake learned it didn’t mean Andy opposed him. No. Andy suggested the first addiction support meeting take place at his office.

Other discussions in the episode revolve around medical marijuana, passive-aggression, struggling grades but none of the characters come off well—except maybe Reid because he tried to be good.

Amy’s still trapped in her self-righteous arc as typical college freshman that has resulted in a lingering coolness between her and Hannah. The two friends sort of make up but don’t. The audience has to endure the conventional scene that happens during the college years when one character feels ostracized by another and his or her new friends. The writers wrote a dinner scene that tried to capture realistic dialogue for 18-19 year old freshman girls without causing hemorrhages in family rooms across America, so one of Amy’s friends refers to oral sex in lollipop terms while admiring the sultry and sexy dance of couscous, the purpose of which was to show what we already know: Amy’s in an awesome new world and place but Hannah only wants to talk about Ephram.

Amy’s rude and condescending during this arc of hers while Hannah’s forever passive and polite. The Ephram of it all between the girls has inconsistences too. Amy said she hadn’t spoken to him in weeks, but she met him in a library to help him through Kyle’s crisis last episode. Everwood’s always been loose with time, but come on. I know Amy’s personal Europe arc ends soon but I can’t remember when and I hope it is soon.

This episode features the B players in Everwood. Reid and Rose have prominent storylines. (Amy’s essentially been a B character this season.)  Rose’s storyline repeated the beats of the Abbott marriage arc. She didn’t communicate her fears about the adoption with Harold. Harold feels hurt. They make up. The writers threw in a cartoonish adulterous character named Bill Schmicker to spice up the arc. Also, worries about the adoption won’t matter because Harold lied about Rose’s cancer on her medical form.

Reid, off-camera for weeks at a time, got a storyline all his own that’s heading to a serious subject Everwood hadn’t covered: suicide.

Onward and jawnward with season four.

Barbie Kligman wrote “Across The Lines” and Peter Markle directed it.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Everwood "An Ounce of Prevention" Review

“An Ounce of Prevention” is a ‘lesson’ episode. The ‘lesson’ episode, or ‘An Aesop’, preaches a moral or a point or a lesson. This episode was a catch-all for the family drama lesson episode. In one story, Andy faced a tough ethical decision regarding a girl who tested positive for the breast cancer gene. In another, Ephram faced the truth that his student, Kyle, is gay. I already wrote about Berlanti’s ideal for Everwood in a previous post this season and in my posts for seasons one and two four and five years ago, but it bears repeating that he admired Norman Lear’s ability to create conversations about uncomfortable subjects through his TV shows. Though Berlanti left his day-to-day duties on Everwood after season two, that spirit of the show continued.

Kyle’s coming out story isn’t great, primarily because of Ephram. The show established Kyle’s multiple roles/functions as a character in Ephram’s story. He’s a device from which Ephram will learn and gain perspective. All the mistakes Andy made Ephram has made as Kyle’s teacher. His place in Kyle’s story is strange. He becomes his father figure despite a small three-year age difference. I think the writers knew how strange Ephram’s place in the coming out story is. It starts with Kyle rejecting a dance invite, followed by Reid suggesting Kyle may’ve turned the girl down because he’s gay, but Ephram argues that he’s too young to be gay. See, this is where the writers wanted the conversation to begin. Amy, then, agreed that Kyle is too young to know he’s gay, and she knows Ephram will figure out how to handle the situation because he does. Of course, Ephram never figures it out. He fled to Europe, thereby derailing his life and the most important relationship of his life. He’s all over the place, going from slightly homophobic to wise old sage after Kyle comes out, because of the demands of the story.

This storyline marks the end of Ephram’s Kyle arc. He learned a final lesson about the purpose of prevention, specifically why his father didn’t tell him about Madison and the baby. It’s removed from Kyle’s story. In fact, Ephram went on about his love for Amy after Kyle came out to him as a way to relate stories of rejection. “An Ounce of Prevention” and “You’re a Good Man, Andy Brown” are a whirlwind for Ephram and Kyle: absent fathers, guilt, and homosexuality. Conversation starters in 2006, for sure.

Madison and the baby shadowed Andy’s story. He tried to control the situation only to understand he couldn’t, but with the girl who fears getting breast cancer early he offers radical options without advising her which option to choose. Like Ephram’s story, the writers wanted to start a conversation. Andy made up for his mistake. The girl realized she was too young to make a drastic decision about her life and her body.

The best scene in the episode involved Harold, Hannah, and Bright and a case of rare food poisoning. Of course, Harold’s part of the worst scene in the episode too. He lied about Rose’s cancer on the medical paperwork for the adoption in a move blatantly devoid of reason and removed from the essence of the character for the purpose of soapy bullshit for later in the season. Everwood could be great and it could be wretched.

Bryan M. Holdman wrote the episode. Perry Lang directed it.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Everwood "You're a Good Man, Andy Brown" Review

“Ghosts”, “Lost and Found,” and this episode have been about the past. These characters searched the past in hopes of figuring out their future, as if their past, like the wings of butterflies, have intricate patterns one may study and learn from. The past, for them, though, does not concern ‘learning.’ Ephram wants to fill a hole left not by Amy or piano but by the son he’ll never raise or know, for example. Andy Brown’s in the title, though, which means it’s his episode, and Andy never rooted in the past for long because he lacked a past with his children. Everwood meant renewal for him and his children. It was his private way of showing his wife the depth of his love for her.

Andy feels that he isn’t a good man for much of the episode. His children feel disgruntled with him. Delia’s mad because he missed her New York childhood, and Ephram’s mad because his dad doesn’t get “it.” Nina and Jake ask for Andy to fix their relationship though they know of his love for Nina. They give him no time to fix his own life. Though he can fix any broken brain on the operating table or any broken bone in his office, he cannot fix every relationship—he can barely keep his family mended.

His children restore his soul in the final act of “You’re a Good Man, Andy Brown.” Delia’s speech about what he did for her in Everwood filled him up. Ephram told him what “it” was, i.e. the hole in his heart left by the son he’ll never know. Both of the moments with his children revealed to him, again, that mistakes can be corrected and that forgiveness is possible. It’s a great episode for Treat Williams, especially in the scene when Delia reads Andy the speech. His story encapsulated a piece of his overall arc in the series. He tries to be a good parent and neighbor and doctor. He tried to move past Nina by using online dating. When he’s at his lowest point in the day is when someone reminds him that his role as parent, neighbor, and doctor matters. Andy Brown, however flawed and imperfect he is, because what human isn’t, is, indeed, a good man.

Ephram’s arc with Kyle continued as he urged Kyle to meet his father for lunch, because Kyle’s a proxy for Ephram three years ago and for Ephram’s son. Ephram’s still written like a 35 year old, despite him being two or three years older than Kyle, but maybe that works because freshmen in college have the fattest perceptions of themselves. They’re so mature and forward thinking and liberal and wise. Ephram’s a mix of wise, reflective, and a tad patronizing. Amy’s the worst kind of college freshman, as I wrote in my last post, as she continues her journey of self-discovery in the Joey Potter model. Her professor became worse, blaming Amy, an 18-year-old freshman, for Harold’s decision not to help teach the procedure and for commenting on Andy’s sexiness with her. Whereas Ephram perceives himself as a wisely mentor for Kyle, Amy feels she’s beyond Hannah’s small mind and narrow belief (a plot line that mirrors the rift between Bright and Ephram last season; this one will be as meaningless as that one). Both characters will experience the same thing at the end of their respective arcs: a thing which comes to fictional characters more quickly than to people in the world watching fictional characters: self-awareness.

As I wrote in the “Lost and Found” post, these post-hiatus episodes have a great deal of finality to them, a retrospection writers engage in when they know the end is near, but the writers didn’t know any of that yet. I remember the post-hiatus run as consistently strong, especially for long-time fans. Stories and characters build off the past, which is satisfying for the viewer.

Anna Fricke wrote the episode. Arvin Brown directed it.

About The Foot

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Originally, I titled the blog Jacob's Foot after the giant foot that Jacob inhabited in LOST. That ended. It became TV With The Foot in 2010. I wrote about a lot of TV.