It’s been over 15 years since the premiere of Everwood, an unassuming family drama that, as time went on, nestled in to become one of television’s most underrated gems. The concept was simple, yet heartbreaking: A hotshot Manhattan neurosurgeon, Dr. Andy Brown (Treat Williams), uproots his brooding teenage son, Ephram (Gregory Smith), and precocious young daughter, Delia (Vivien Cardone), to small-town Colorado after the abrupt death of his wife. Over the course of four seasons on the now-defunct WB network, the series challenged TV norms by leaning into difficult subject matter like grief, interracial marriage and abortion, without being preachy or having an agenda.
For creator Greg Berlanti, who has since masterminded over a dozen successful shows since the Sept. 16, 2002 debut (see: Brothers & Sisters, Arrow and The Flash, among others), Everwood marked the first series he created and brought to life on the small screen. That, in itself, holds special meaning for the uber-producer, who channeled life’s tribulations as a young man through the Brown family. It’s not lost on him that since the series ended in 2006, the majority of his resume has been filled with shows shaded in the realm of heightened reality via superheroes, sci-fi and fantasy.
“It’s hard not to contrast it with everything else. In life, had it been a partner that I had been with at that moment, we would’ve gotten married, but it was a show, so you have to break up and say goodbye,” Berlanti, 45, tells ET in a joint sit-down with Everwood producer Rina Mimoun recently of his relationship to the show now. “You’re living with this thing in your mind and you’re thinking, ‘That was awesome! Why did it end?’ But also, life happens and that was very much what the show dealt with -- that life goes on and you move on to other things.”
“It’s always the thing that I wish I could have done more of,” admits Mimoun, who took over showrunner duties from Berlanti midway through Everwood’s run. “I haven’t done anything like it since. I get a lot of Mistresses thrown [my way], and I’m like, ‘Can someone throw me an Everwood kind of a show again?’”
There’s a reason Berlanti hasn’t gone back to revisiting the simplicity and timelessness of a straight family drama like Everwood, but its absence seems to have sparked a renewed interest in him to do so. “To be honest, part of it probably is because for me personally, I felt like that was what I had to say at that moment in my life,” Berlanti said, adding that he “didn’t necessarily have that size story inside me again.” “I like to wait until it makes itself known to me, like, ‘OK, it’s time to write something like that again.’ I can definitely see myself doing something like [Everwood] again.”
“They were so mad about that because we wanted to play it out. I remember that being a big fight for season two because they were like, ‘Isn’t Amy’s depression going to be depressing?’ We were like, ‘We think it’s going to be pretty real,’” Mimoun said, noting that the network wanted it to be wrapped up in six episodes. “Then, it became the whole season because the show never cut corners that way and you were really with the characters. There was no way Amy was getting over Colin in six episodes. I remember episode 16 of the second season [titled “Unspoken Truths”]; that was a memorable episode for me when she almost OD'ed and [her father, Harold] had to come get her. That was her breaking point. She had hit her rock bottom before she came out the other side.”
Berlanti credited the response to the show’s first Thanksgiving episode in 2002 as tangible proof that Everwood was stepping out of the shadows and carving its own niche. “That was when the show finally connected with the audience, in the sense of people started writing that the show wasn’t trying to be [7th Heaven] -- and no offense to 7th Heaven,” Berlanti said. “We were on right after and people didn’t know how to score the circle, I think. For us, we looked at ourselves and thought, ‘The show’s working,’ and that was a relief.”
The catalyst for Everwood hinged on the death of a mother and a wife, and Berlanti, without using so many words, has profound empathy for how the loss of a loved one shapes a person’s constitution that he didn’t foresee back then. “I lost my mother in May. Knowing that this character, Ephram, went through that in the beginning [of the series], I couldn’t have perceived that,” he said. “That definitely changes how you perceive things. I’m not sure if that makes me less inclined or more inclined to watch more episodes.”
If anything, Berlanti and Mimoun -- who hope to reunite professionally in the near future -- hope Everwood continues to leave a lasting footprint in the TV world, even if it ends up being a small sliver. “If you follow your heart and do stuff that you really care about and believe in -- that you can have just as much good fortune -- [you] might as well follow your heart,” Berlanti said. “That’s what we did at the beginning, and everyone who signed on to the show after that was doing it for the right reasons. It ended up being the best of both worlds.”
All four seasons of Everwood are available to stream on CW Seed.