Everwood is more than worth your money as one of the finest written and produced family dramas ever to make it to television. I am almost reluctant to use that tag, "family drama," as I fear that for a lot of people, that means a sort of watered-down, saccharine approach to story-telling. Not so for Everwood, creator Greg Berlanti's four-year labour of love. While like any television drama, Everwood has to accelerate the speed at which drama enters the lives of ordinary people, the writers of the show have given viewers a testament to the wonder of human living and loving, in all its successes and failures. Chief among Everwood's great charms is that it treats every generation as having stories worth telling, from grandparents to pre-teens, and not just the "sexy teens" so characteristic of the bulk of the programming on the now-defunct network, The WB (since 2006 merged with UPN to form "The CW").
Truth be told, there is a little bit of slipping toward toward the WB's teen focus in Everwood's last season. Two of the show's most gifted writers, Michael Green ("Kings," "Smallville," "Green Lantern") and John E. Pogue (who had also helped hold the previous seasons together as Executive Story Editor) are absent for this final set of episodes, and it shows. Everwood could frequently hit notes in its writing that were more literary in their depth than one usually sees on a regular television series, and Green and Pogue were frequently episode-writers who delivered that quality. Their absence could be seen in the greater emphasis on the teen characters in this last season, or, for example, the drift of some of the dialogue between characters like Amy and Hannah to a "cuteness" more characteristic of a show like Gilmore Girls. But this is still a minor shift, not an utter break in continuity or style: Everwood remained a show with far more heart than one can normally find on television.
The fourth season DVD set suffered from some of the flaws I detailed in my review of Everwood: The Complete Second Season: Warner Brothers' abominable treatment of their product in gutting the musical score in order to save some money means that DVD viewers generally get unreleased (and therefore inexpensive for the network) songs that "sound like" the sort of music they replace, but which of course cannot have the same resonance that current or classic popular music could have in the score. When the change in song or lyrical content actually changes the overall meaning of a scene, that's a particularly offensive savaging of the artistic efforts of the music and scoring crew, all of whom can significantly contribute to the whole mood of a scene. The episodes in their original form may still circulate in the depths of the internet, but I regret anyone new being introduced to this treasure of a story who is not able to get the full effect of the original, and to appreciate the efforts of the crew in this way. Likewise, Seasons 2 and 3 suffered enormously in not having the sorts of DVD extras one typically can enjoy, which are also sacrificed to Warner Brother's putting out the cheapest possible product. Season 3's few paltry outtakes turned out to actually be from season 2, which was not only embarrassing, but effectively left season 3 with no extras at all. The Season 4 set does a little better. Before Everwood was inexplicably canceled in favor of alternatives like the already-canceled 7th Heaven or the doomed Runaways with their lesser ratings, there was season finale material with Madison that was shot, looking ahead to the never-produced Season 5. (Huge props have to be given to the entire cast and crew for managing to provide a real ending to the show at the last minute.) There was also a subplot with a relationship between Andy and Amy's professor that was dropped, and these are both present in outtakes. No episode commentaries have been included since the Season 1 set, which was a normal, un-delayed and un-mangled release by Warner. This is particularly a tragedy in a show where the writers are so much more obviously the "stars" of the show: the people that the actors love working with and are enthusing over. In the Season 1 commentaries the cast are almost giddy with delight in the quality of what the writers are giving them. Not being able to hear the writers, directors and producers comment on their intentions for their characters and stories is especially painful in a show like this one, which could fairly be described as TV's "Great American Novel."
Nevertheless, despite Warner Brothers' apparent desire to chip away at their own masterpiece, what is still available in the Season 2-4 DVD sets is still a fabulous experience for any new viewer about to watch them for the first time. That, too, is a testimony to how well this show was made: that even in a slightly watered-down form, Everwood will be as strong for its genre as other recent classics like Lost or Battlestar Galactica were in theirs. Beautifully written, honestly acted, and soulfully executed, Everwood is that rare gem of a show that you could watch with your peers, your grandparents or your (reasonably mature) kids, depending on your age. There's beauty here for every kind of eye to behold.