Sunday, June 11, 2006

Fare the Well, my friends

I've been gone a month and this is the best I could come up with? Actaully, the man has been working on a scrennplay. I finished it last week and when all is said and done, the tone of the script owes a lot to my (now cancelled) favorite drama, "Everwood"

Television still seems to get a bad rap among people I know. Probably because so much of it is disposable and forgotten soon after the set is switched off. But the emergence of “The Sopranos” as one of the most significant works of art in the last 10 years has really made a lot of folks reconsider the craftsmanship that goes into television. I’m a TV junkie. I grew up on it, rarely going to the movies. That I chose to become a screenwriter had more to do with watching movies on a VCR than actually getting into the theater. I would love to someday have my own series, primarily because I enjoy GOOD television. And since we started subscribing to TiVo, well, I ONLY watch good television.

This past week "Everwood" was unceremoniously cancelled by its network. It was a victim of the merger between the WB and UPN networks. Unlike many shows that struggle to gain an audience, this one had a strong audience (for a WB program). I loved “Arrested Development” on FOX and think it was the best sitcom in 10 years, since the heyday of “Seinfeld” and “The Larry Sanders Show”. But, despite FOX sticking with it for three years, it never caught on. Oh, you can go and blame the network for shifting the show around (which didn’t help), but when it did promote the show (which it did, regularly), no one watched. When the WB moved “Everwood” from its original slot on Mondays to Thursdays (against “CSI” and “The OC”, two shows with much larger audiences) “Everwood”s fans followed it. The audience was there. Unlike many so many long running shows that have run their course, should have been cancelled years earlier, and get year long send offs by their network (we heard that it was the last year of “Will & Grace” for eight months, and “The West Wing” made it clear from the get go that this would also be its last season), “Everwood got the shaft. It was placed on hiatus in January to make room for a reality show, then, long after its hiatus sho7uld have ended, it finally returned sometime in March back in its old timeslot. Then the merger was announced and no show was safe. Still, the WB promoted the series finale of its flagship series, “7th Heaven” for two months and it appeared as if “Everwood” would still be back next season. When “7th Heaven” had huge ratings for its series finale, the new network (the CW) decided to renew 7th and can “Everwood.”

Come on! I mean, even I turned in to see how they would end “7th Heaven”, and I thought the show was horrid. And when it’s your longest running show, of course anyone who ever watched an episode wanted to see if a fireball from hell would finally bring an end to their heaven. Luckily, the producers of “Everwood” were wise enough to shoot two endings to their last episode, one which would create a cliffhanger, and the other to tie up enough loosed ends to create the kind of happy ending the fans all wished for. Personally, I believe that the producers were sure they weren’t coming back much earlier than they let on. The creators of the show signed a new deal with a different company in March, and several key storylines, including the death of one of the main characters (a character who was the original narrator of the series) died in the penultimate episode.

I think it hurts for a lot of people to see a show like this end so abruptly because it was real. It was beautifully written and shot; the actors were marvelous, in particular Treat Williams, Gregory Smith, Emily Van Camp, Scott Wolf (the great, great Scott Wolf) and Chris Pratt and the music was warm and fuzzy. Still, it was that these people could have been any one of us. They weren’t saving the world in one day, eating bugs for survival, running the free world, or trying to impose values on people. There were hard questions asked by all of the characters and over the four years, each character grew and changed. I’ve always been drawn to shows like this one. “My So Called Life”, “Party of Five” and “Once and Again” are three of my favorites. And even though I love “Homicide” and “St. Elsewhere” and “MASH” and even “Starsky and Hutch”, those were all fantasy characters to me. I didn’t KNOW people like the one’s in those series. In “Everwood”, I could point out a character and say, “Yeah, I know a guy like that”.

Most importantly, though, was that this show had heart, and it offered hope. That's right, hope. In the age of irony and cynicism, it was refreshing to watch something that was gooey and left a bad taste in your mouth, but still made you feel good about life. That is someting I'll always try to instill in my own writing, at least the things I really care about.

I’ve been to couple of the "Everwood" fansites and I don’t want to come off as some heartbroken teenager. I’m not going to send a pinecone to the Network exec that cancelled the show. I signed an online petition. That was enough. But there will definitely be emptiness to my Monday’s come this fall.

Good thing I ordered “Everwood” on DVD.

I believe that with so many series getting DVD releases these days, people are finally appreciating all of the hard work that goes into making a TV show. Someday, maybe, people will rediscover this show, like they open old classic books or pop in forgotten about movies, and they will find a wonderful world in which people were just people.

Aloha and RIP “Everwood”

No comments: