The story behind the quirky family drama ''Everwood'' -- Treat Williams' career takes off again with the sweet and strange WB hit
Credit: Gregory Smith, Treat Williams, Vivian Cardone Photograph by Dan Peebles

Treat Williams is soaring again. It’s been too long since he’s been this high — about three weeks, to be exact. Whenever his hectic schedule on The WB’s new family drama ”Everwood” allows, the 50-year-old actor prefers corkscrewing and looping at 10,000 feet in his canary yellow stunt plane. But on this October day, flying over the greater Salt Lake City area where ”Everwood” is shot, Williams is piloting his other aircraft, a kinder, gentler, twin-engine Seneca — a gracious concession to his jittery journalist passenger. The sapphire sky is glassy smooth. The hills below are ablaze with fall color. And suddenly, Williams decides to force a flying lesson on his helpless passenger.

”So this is what I want you to do,” says Williams, his tenor voice crackling over your headphones. ”I want you to take the controls.” You blanch. Horrific images and Daily Variety headlines flash through your mind (”’EVERWOOD’ STAR, JOURNO DIE IN FIERY PLANE CRASH”). ”Okay, don’t white-knuckle it,” says Williams, demonstrating his technique — gentle nudges on either handle. ”Now, slowly take her up a bit.” The plane rises, as if perched atop a balloon that has suddenly inflated. ”Now, take her down. Congratulations! You’ve just flown a plane,” says Williams. ”Nothing to it, right?’

Actually, you’re too stunned to speak. Kinda like finding out your school is having an outbreak of ”gonorrhea of the throat,” or the girl who you think likes you is only flirting with you to get your dad to perform life-saving brain surgery on her comatose boyfriend — to mention just a couple of the many disconcerting narrative twists on ”Everwood.” Williams plays arrogant New York City neurosurgeon Andrew Brown, who reacts to the sudden death of his wife by moving his angry, piano prodigy son Ephram (19-year-old breakout Gregory Smith) and tomboy daughter Delia (”A Beautiful Mind”’s Vivien Cardone) to an idyllic mountain town packed with quirky locals.

Unabashedly sentimental yet peppered with a salty sense of humor, ”Everwood” would be just like its hit lead-in, ”7th Heaven,” if all of Reverend Camden’s kids were half Jewish, and they all yelled at Dad a lot and referred to him as ”a dick.” Pulling in 6.4 million viewers a week, the series tweaks the feminine formula (see: ”Buffy,” ”Felicity,” ”Gilmore Girls”) that has long fueled the network’s business. ”The father-son relationship is new to us,” says Jordan Levin, president of The WB. ”We’ve had success with young women, but we haven’t really portrayed young men to the extent we wanted to. That’s been a mission for us.”

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