Sunday, June 18, 2006

Happy Father's Day, Andy Brown

I have just finished watching the pilot episode of the television show that eased my way to healing my "distraught heart." That's the term the narrator and one-man Greek chorus uses for the malady afflicting the main character, Dr. Andy Brown (Treat Williams), when told the good doctor speaks out loud to his dead wife.

The show is Everwood, a family drama set in an eponymous fictional town in Colorado, to which world-renown neurosurgeon Brown has moved from New York City with his son Ephram (Gregory Smith) and daughter Delia (Vivien Cardone) after the death of his wife Julia (Brenda Strong) in a car accident. In the picture above, from left to right: Ephram; Dr. Abbott the local doctor (Tom Amandes), jock son Bright (Chris Pratt); Delia; Andy; Amy Abbott, Ephram's love interest (Emily Van Camp).

Throughout the show, the most powerful character for me was the affable, sometimes corny, always quick-with-a-quip Andy. The character is fiftyish, only a year younger than me, yet often enough I adopted him as my role model. I ached as he attempted to communicate with his concert-piano genius son, he engaged in rediscovering love in middle age, attempted to grapple with his own demons and those of others, even as he made a fool of himself.

This particular drama never topped the charts through the four years that it ran before its last episode on June 5, but it was the top of my "must see" TV for two and a half of those years. It was, however, a show that delivered to TV-land the two essential actresses of the top-rated Desperate Housewives. Wisteria Lane's deceased Alice, whose death and narrator role set off the first season of Dantesque desperation, played in an earlier incarnation, so to speak, none other than Andy Brown's Julia. Similarly, Marsha Cross was Dr. Abbott's HIV-infected sister before she was Bree Van De Kamp.

But as narrator Irv (John Besley) might have said in Everwood, you could find out that and more anywhere else.

My interest in Everwood arose in a particular way. For 25 years I had not had a television; then I bought my first color TV in the middle of Everwood's second season in the winter of 2003.

Like Everwood's Andy Brown, I suffered from a distraught heart. My wife had left after 27 years of marriage and I was living in an emotional haze as confusing as Andy's and with difficulties communicating with my younger son that rivaled his own struggle with the sarcastic, often cutting Ephram. Amid the disintegration of my family, I was ripe for the picking of any television producer with a clever way to pluck at the heartstrings.

No surprise, then, that when I found Everwood, it became my sacrament, my therapy and my most precious entertainment. Case in point: I was asked to serve on the board of a nonprofit for which I volunteered and only agreed when I found out that board meetings did not coincide with the show.

My first viewing of the pilot came later, when I was given the boxed set of the first season, which had begun in 2001. For one summer I eased my Everwood-withdrawal with the episodes I had never seen before.

My viewing it again on Father's Day this year -- today -- probably has something to do with my knowledge that Andy and Ephram, who started out so rough with each other in the Oedipal struggle depicted in the pilot, gave me hope. Over the years they eventually talked things out, and as Andy stabilized and Ephram matured, they came to have a worthy relationship.

It's a hope that has not come to fruition in my life yet. Today, neither of my sons has called nor written. (Really, it's not their fault, even though it's a symptom: their mother, in a classic case of pre-emptive rejection, banned the celebration of Mother's Day; the now-grown children's assumption was that I felt the same way, even though I do not, see here.)

Nor am I on the path to a final romantic resolution, all tied with a bow as TV could do in the final episode, when Andy finally wooed the woman we've all been cheering for him to connect with.

Still, two weeks ago, when the camera panned away from the final kisses and embraces, to reveal the sleeping town of Everwood in its last night, I wished I could go there once again one day. Alas, I can't. There is no Everwood; the show, indeed its network, has been cancelled.

But I can still spend Father's Day with my favorite father and wish Andy, wherever he is, a well-deserved day.

No comments: