Friday, September 16, 2016

Everwood "Foreverwood" Review

The CW famously cancelled the low-rated Everwood for the ancient 7th Heaven. Then President Dawn Ostroff thought 7th Heaven would provide a boost to the new network, but it didn’t. 7th Heaven lasted another season before ending again. Rina Mimoun, Greg Berlanti, and the rest of the Everwood staff wrote an episode that worked as a season and series finale. The last minutes of the episodes were the only scenes swapped out for happier, more conclusive scenes. Hannah’s college choice would’ve been a cliffhanger, but in the finale she chose Colorado and Bright Abbott, and Madison returned to upheave Ephram’s stable life, but, because of the cancellation, Amy and Ephram ended the series together.

“Foreverwood” basically concerns itself with loose ends and relationship resolution., i.e. “Who will end up with who?” Low stakes for a show that began with a dead wife, a possibly mad grieving husband, a town without its center, and a broken family. My favorite piece of closure belongs to Harold and Edna. The two sparred from episode one on about this and that, rooted in Harold’s unresolved feelings about his father’s absence from his life and her guilt about her absence from his life because of the war. Her choosing to spend the rest of her life with her son and daughter-in-law, with a little baby to boot, given to them by the plot devices introduced a few episodes earlier, was the sweetest way to end their story.

Andy didn’t propose until the finale’s penultimate scene despite Jake “freeing” Nina at the end of part one. Before his proposal, Andy flew to New York and traveled to Julia’s grave to bid a final goodbye to her, to apologize for becoming the man she always deserved after her death, in a speech that captured the essential themes of Everwood: pain, suffering, tragedy, the important things in life such as going to sleep with the knowledge you were the best friend and parent you could be that day. Nina said yes, of course, because it was the finale of a family drama, and because they belonged together. She was a partner to him long before they realized it was romantic.

Delia got the horse promised to her by Andy in the “Pilot”, his way of buying her vote for the move to Everwood, as seen in the "Pilot". Andy gave his children two speeches. His speech to Ephram was about the importance of being happy on his own, and reminding him that one cannot rely on another to fill an empty spot, to provide happiness, to fill a hole. My mother always told me: "A person should add to your life." His speech to Delia is better: it touches on their bond, of the inevitable rough spots ahead as she grows and changes, of his constant and consistent role in her life as her father who will always listen to her and always remember. Delia helped carry him through those early Everwood days when Ephram hated him, when the town thought he was mad. Delia reached out and grabbed his hand when he danced with Julia’s shade, his memory of her, at the Fall Thaw. Her unconditional love for him lifted his spirits in a time he felt lost and alone. Ephram refused to take that love of hers from him during the nonsense at the end of season three. Lovely stuff.

Other odds and ends were taken care of during the episode. Jake summarized his arc in his goodbye speech to Nina. Harold and Andy shared a last scene together full of recalls and callbacks. The Abbott family spent more time together than they had all season. You know, typical finale fare.

Of course, Ephram and Amy ended the episode. They spent the season apart, aside from their hookup in “Getting to Know You”, because of the old axiom that it’s better for the audience to want two characters together than it is for the those two characters to be together. It’s not dissimilar from Dawson’s Creek’s fifth season for Pacey and Joey. The writers got around their intense relationship and bond by not bothering with it. They didn’t want them together. No good reason existed to keep Ephram and Amy apart except for the reasons that keep every couple apart in a multi-season show: the drama of it. The montage of their deep bond throughout the series in the penultimate act makes the heart sing, especially those season one scenes. Everwood fans famously rented a Ferris wheel in hopes of saving the show from its cancellation because Amy rented a Ferris wheel and saved her soulmate from sailing away with another soul.

No, Everwood wasn’t the same show it was when it premiered by the end. I loved it less, but its last season still had those special Everwood gems unique to the spirit of the show. The first two seasons, but season one especially, bring me back to a nostalgic place and a nostalgic time in my life when I was a teenager, in high school, dreaming of my Amys and Josephine Potters. I don’t associate the final two seasons with a time and a place because I had moved past it as a marker in my life and as something I related things and happenings in my life to. I never planned to write about season two, three, or four when I re-watched and wrote reviews for my first summer re-watch in 2011, but I wanted to finish what I started. I wrote about season one because in March of that year, 2011, like the town of Everwood, like Andy and his children, I lost the center (or one half of the center, for I still have my Mom) of my life, my father, and it was one way for me to make sense of life without him. I related with this tender story about loss and hope differently that year. It understood me and my loss.

Everwood, in a way, is like an old friend I can turn to when I feel low.

Final Thoughts:

-Yes, indeedy, I began my Everwood posts five years ago. I wrote a post about the series finale in December 2011 because I thought I wouldn’t write any more reviews. It’s a quite lazy and thrown together post. I wrote about season two in 2012. I covered season three in an abbreviated format, due to my dislike of the season, at the end of 2015 and into 2016. I thank anyone that read any of my Everwood reviews over the years. Once upon a time, a healthy few stopped by The Foot to read some of those posts. I like knowing the show still has meaning for people.

-I would’ve preferred a different ending for the various relationships having re-watched it again and having aged. TV finales primarily cater to the fans’ wishes, but they often place the characters in the same small, comfy, insulated space they’ve been. Amy used to dream of Princeton. Ephram used to dream of Julliard. Their reasons for remaining in Everwood were different and understandable. Amy stayed for her mom. Ephram resolved his musical ambition and reconciled it with his desire to be a family man and a good husband wonderfully in “The Land of Confusion.” Bright explained exactly why Hannah experiencing new things in Notre Dame would be great and positive. I liked Stephanie as Ephram’s next girlfriend. She lacked the dramatic qualities and baggage of both Amy and Madison. In the end, our characters chose the familiar and safest option. That’s great and happy for those of us who loved and may’ve vicariously lived through Amy/Ephram during a brief spell between age 16 and 17, as well as for the Bright/Hannah folks, but it’s also a bit of a bummer.

-Josh Reims & Anna Fricke wrote the first part. Bethany Rooney directed it, her only episode of Everwood. I wonder how that came about. Rina Mimoun & David Hudgins wrote the second part. Perry Lang directed it.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Everwood "Goodbye, Love" Review

One death brought Andy Brown to a new town and changed it forever. Irv Harper, who admired Andy so much that he wrote a book about him, will do the same in his death. He gradually changed the hearts and minds of Everwood through his marriage to Edna. “Goodbye, Love” shows how Irv touched the lives of Harold and Rose, Ephram, Amy, and Bright, as well as how he indirectly impacted their lives going forward. This episode’s strange, though, because of the flashbacks and for how central Irv apparently was despite his spare interaction with the rest of the show’s characters.

How did Irv impact everyone’s life? Amy remembers her junior year, post-Colin, when she lived with Edna and Irv during her sad and depressed rebellious streak, after she reaches for a mug in her grandmother’s kitchen. Amy broke the mug. Irv fixed it. Ephram stopped by to rekindle their friendship or make more of an effort after they had an unseen fight, though one assumes it copied their fight about Amy using him as a backup plan earlier in season two. Anyway, Ephram told her that her soulmate would wait for her until she believed he existed. Her belief in a soulmate died with Colin. The memory and the repaired mug act as an epiphany, with the mug serving as a symbol for her, and who fixes the mug for her when she breaks it again while remembering the memory? Ephram, the guy who waited for her for two years and who returned from Europe to wait some more, who always was there for her during her worst moments, who always protected her, and loved her.

How else? Bright credited Irv for his relationship with Hannah because he urged him to take responsibility for his life. During season three, the stretch of time between “A Mountain Town” and “Fait Accompli”, they spent mornings together, drinking coffee, discussing life. Irv and Edna had separated. Bright reeled from the sexual harassment incident at work. I can’t remember a single scene with only those two anywhere else in the series.  Bright told Hannah his Irv story. At the end, they held hands, giving the viewer hope for a Bright/Hannah happy ending in the finale.

The rest of the flashbacks include Irv as an anecdote, a periphery figure. Ephram saw him for the last time the day Andy bought Nina an engagement ring, which occurred after their moment in “All the Lonely People”. (Andy actually gave him a clean bill of health, a cruel kind of irony atypical of Everwood’s writer). Harold’s story simply visualized a story Berlanti told in Everwood’s earliest days (and more poignantly in “The Kissing Bridge”).

“Goodbye, Love” is the only episode in the series to provide a “day in the life” story, of what the characters do between the drama. Apparently, Andy and Ephram ate lunch together. Irv had coffee in the morning and afternoon at Sam’s. Nina went to work! It’s a decent episode. Greg Berlanti returned to co-write it with Rina Mimoun, his first written by credit since “The Day is Done”. Irv was the voice of Everwood for two seasons. Saying goodbye to the character, and Everwood’s voice, before the finale felt right.

Greg Berlanti & Rina Mimoun wrote the episode. Joe Pennella directed it.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Everwood "Reckoning" Review

The Internet opened opportunities for fans and staff of a TV show to interact. LOST’s run used to be the apex of fan-creator interaction and fan obsession until Game of Thrones existed. Obsessive fans always want the latest spoiler. They scan websites to find stills from a shoot or episode titles or episode synopses. Fans studied the season six GoT trailer for every spoilerish detail. LOST made fan interaction an integral part of its online marketing. Games, book clubs, scavenger hunts all helped fans feel more involved in the experience of LOST. LOST famously shot three alternate endings to season three’s finale to prevent the Internet learning about the greatest twist in TV history in advance.

Writers like to tease the die-hard obsessives, too. Twitter gave writers’ rooms an easy way to tease, torment, and trick the viewer. Girl Meets World, one of TV’s lowest stake shows, a show so inconsequential, has a writer’s Twitter feed that taunts its most fervid base of fans. Here’s an example: 
“Tonight: Maya shoots everybody, Riley dies and the world ends twice.” 
Some context: it’s about best friends that like the same boy. Read that nonsense again. It’s like a tease for a gritty AMC show, but not even the bombastic AMC shows use such hyperbole. NBC’s Grimm has a writers feed where they’ll pre-apologize (as a tease) to fans for what’ll happen to their favorite characters. Grimm and Girl Meets World share some small things in common besides tantalizing tweets. Both shows feature confounding plotting, plot holes the size of Siberia’s giant holes, odd pacing, inconsistencies, willy-nilly characterizations, and writers who seem oblivious to these shortcomings.

LOST’s Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse subverted the tease, for example, by telling everyone that Charlie would die in “Flashes Before Your Eyes.” The audience, then, thought something or someone would save Charlie. No such thing did happen, which made his death hurt harder.

Everwood’s writers couldn’t use Twitter to tease a big storyline or character choice or an impending death. Obsessive fans scoured episode titles for clues. “Goodbye, Love” follows “Reckoning.” The pre-Twitter days played with the die-hards in ways a more casual viewer wouldn’t know about it. The writers knew some fans would wonder which character would die in “Goodbye, Love.” Who would it be?

“Reckoning” has misleads, forebodings, and an elderly long-lost parent. Would Rose’s cancer return? She already made her decision not to fight its return, so maybe. She asked Edna to come home for her retirement adventures to take care of Harold “for awhile.” Her PET scan was clean, though. She’s cancer free.

Would Bright survive his fall through the bar window? Bright’s brush with death is the most abbreviated version of Everwood’s annual “Life or Death health situation” for a character. Halfway through the episode he hurts his head, and no one knows whether he'll survive. The montage sequence recalls Colin’s first and second surgeries, as well as Rose’s. Ephram buys Amy something. Everyone’s huddled, praying, and hoping. He’s fine, though. Hannah’s plea for him not to die wakes him up.

Did Andy’s absent father return to make amends with his son because he was dying? No. Andy’s father entered the narrative to complete the arc of Andy’s life from the moment he heard his wife died and he took his kids to a small, forgotten town in the Colorado Mountains to his present life as a family man and family doctor. His father did the opposite of what Andy did after he lost Julia.

TV always loved swerving its audience. In Buffy, Joyce seemed on the mend and fine until Buffy walked home and found her prone dead body on the couch. The Summer girls thought they avoided the worst thing in the world until they didn't. It seems the audience avoided death in “Reckoning” by the end, and that “Goodbye, Love” would bid farewell to Nina, Jake, and Sam, who will leave for a new life in Los Angeles after Nina told him she chose him. The last scene of the episode found Irv preparing breakfast for Edna before his old, poor heart gave out on him.  Irv’s heart hadn’t been a plot point for a long time. Rose and Harold will have to look after Edna “for awhile.”

Death at the end of an episode, whether it’s Irv, Joyce Summers, or Mitch Leery, breaks the formula. In TV, that last scene is strange. The viewer may wonder why he or she needs to watch Mitch Leery use an ice cream cone as a microphone while driving or why he or she needs to watch Irv make breakfast, then the viewer glances at the clock, and he or she understands, “Oh, something bad is coming.” In life, one’s routine, one’s own private formula and structure, is thrown off by bad news.

“Reckoning” is an interesting episode, especially the second half of the episode with Bright’s fall and the impressive amount of melodrama the writers condensed into twenty minutes. We needed Andy stepping in to perform miraculous surgery on him, but alas.  Nina made her choice to leave Everwood. Ephram met a woman and brought her to the party right in time for Amy to realize she still loves Ephram. Typical end of season stuff in an otherwise untypical episode.

David Hudgins wrote this episode. David Petrarca directed it.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Everwood "Enjoy The Ride" Review

“Enjoy the ride” as a phrase has become a tired cliché that means nothing, so one shouldn’t expect an episode titled “Enjoy The Ride” to be much, and it isn’t. It is a transitional episode.

The writers wrote Reid out of the story after his suicide attempt before he started to deal with what trying to end his life meant. Everwood did a similar storyline with Amy in season two, as the character told Reid during their heart-to-heart. Would Justin Boldoni have returned in season five? I do not know. He’s a CW star now, though. The character didn’t fit into the show. He was tangential, as most new characters become the later into the series they’re introduced.

Nina played married couple with Andy to help him with a middle school dilemma concerning Delia’s Bat Mitzvah. Jake remembered he cared about Nina being in his life, and he remembered how threatened he felt by Andy’s affection for her before the writers switched his problems with Andy to relate to his recovering addict issues. In “All the Lonely People” she realized she loved Andy too. Now, she has a choice. Jake’s story will take him back to LA for his counseling career. Will she go with him or stay in Everwood with Jake? The answer is already clear, if you watched any primetime drama ever.. Nina’s happier with Andy than she is with Jake, but they can’t get together until the last episode because of an outdated TV writing habit involving two characters destined to be together.

The writers contrived a happy ending for Rose and Harold by introducing an expecting mother who’s incapable of caring for her daughter because of schizophrenia, and a dying father. The audience learned Harold treated the woman since age fifteen to establish trust between the Abbotts and the couple. This storyline so transparently telegraphs the endgame for Harold and Rose. They’ll have a new baby. Their story has repeated through season four. The adoption storyline could be interpreted as a way for them to forget their next challenge as a married couple as empty nesters (sort of).  This latest chapter ended as previous chapters have for them—with vows of commitment.

Bright and Hannah inched toward a friendship, but Hannah told him she didn’t look forward to the day when they told each other about other dates as if they never meant so much together. Fortunately, Amy’s annoying college centric storyline has disappeared. Her and Hannah are friends again, but Amy’s been a drifter in the narrative this season. Ephram’s a drifter too. I wonder what will happen to those two.

Natasha Billawala wrote the episode, her lone writing credit. She worked as Marti Noxon’s assistant on Buffy during season seven. Not bad. Charlie Stratton directed the episode.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Everwood "All the Lonely People" Review

“We will get through this,” Harold told Bright during their rare tender father-son moment. Harold’s line could function as the most emblematic of the series—Everwood at its most reflective of life. People endure and overcome hardships. Andy overcame the death of his wife and his fraught relationship with Ephram. Amy overcame Colin’s death. The Abbotts endured and overcame Rose’s cancer. Though people get through tough times multiple times in their lives, it never feels familiar nor is it easier. One acquires wisdom because of the hardship. Ephram compared the experience to breaking a limb at the end of “The Last of Summer” when he wanted to comfort Amy, and he touched on it again in his essay, written for Amy’s Princeton application, about his fatal flaw.

The key part of Harold’s line is “We.’ The line becomes a bearable proposition because of the ‘we’. Bright’s not alone despite how alone he feels. Reid functions as the opposite of Bright. Both made mistakes, but only Bright had other people, his mother and his father, his sister, and his best friend, there for him. Reid had no one. His mother, to overemphasize the contrast between the boys, blamed herself for failing to give her son the support Bright never lacked.

I also see Reid’s suicide attempt as a meta commentary on the challenges of introducing and writing a new character in an established world. Where does a new character fit in any veteran show? He or she usually doesn’t. See Nikki and Paulo. But the millions of readers may challenge that Hannah seamlessly fit into the show last season—only she didn’t. The writers hoped Hannah would challenge the Ephram/Amy relationship, but Sarah Drew and Gregory Smith lacked chemistry. Instead, she fit as Amy’s best friend. Reid acted as a rival to Ephram, but he fit in as Bright’s roommate; however, the writers forgot about Reid for stretches. Ephram told Amy that he was friends with Reid, but the audience saw them have two conversations. So, not really, but Ephram served as an Everyman for their most dramatic story points.

Anyway, Reid’s suicide attempt may reflect the lonely writers trying to inject change and new life into a medium that, largely, rejects change and new life. Audiences want what they always loved. If what they loved permanently changes or dwindles quality-wise, they don’t want it at all. They want that nonsense cancelled.

Of course, Reid’s suicide attempt touches a quiet part of the college experience: loneliness. Stress, too. TV and movies created and maintained the myth of college as the best years of one’s life, full of fun and happiness and people. People don’t start college ever thinking they’ll feel so alone, but they do. The University of Pennsylvania had 10 suicides in three years. Reid had what students called “Penn face.” They appear as if everything is fine when everything is not. The pressure to be perfect overwhelms them. Failing, or struggling through, college represents their first failure in life, especially at an Ivy League school, and they don’t know how to deal nor do they want anyone to think less of them for struggling. Reid wrapped up his college hopes and dreams in his bipolar brother. Failing med school meant he failed him. One of the more poignant lines of the episode belongs to Reid’s mother, who’s mortified and heartbroken to know that not even she knew her boy was lonely.

Ephram serves as the ‘Why didn’t I see this coming?” character, with Bright and Amy unsure how to react. Reid told Ephram that he couldn’t have done anything, because he would’ve never let him know he needed something done. I can’t remember whether TheWB aired a PSA after the episode urging anyone struggling to reach out to hotline or not, but I’m sure they did. Suicide can’t be ignored or hidden like a shameful secret or perceived as a weakness.

Reid’s story is the crux of the episode. Harold’s and Bright’s parallel problems with the women in their lives is a little side story that leads to their moment. Rose helped Hannah deal by introducing her to the pillow method. Also, “All the Lonely People” begins Everwood’s final stretch, so, of course, Nina remembers she loves Andy.

Anna Fricke wrote the episode. Joyce Chopra directed.

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.