The script doctor is in

Jul 15, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Greg Berlanti had never been to Colorado, hated cold weather and didn’t know much about medicine. But that didn’t stop him from penning a new drama for The WB’s fall schedule about a neurosurgeon who moves to the small fictional town of Everwood, Colo., to start a new life with his children.
The network latched onto the show fairly quickly-it had no notes for Mr. Berlanti when it screened the first cut, and in early June it was the only new series for The WB’s fall lineup being promoted in TV commercials. New York Post TV critic Adam Buckman has already deemed “Everwood” the best new show on TV.
Mr. Berlanti, 30, seems to have the magic touch. He has risen quickly as a writer in Hollywood and has lost nothing of the fresh optimism that led him West eight years ago after graduating from Northwestern University. He wrote for “Dawson’s Creek” for four years and became the head writer and executive producer in only his second year on that show.
Now he’s the creator and executive producer of “Everwood,” a drama that grew out of his affection for shows such as “Picket Fences” and “Northern Exposure.”
“When you were flipping through the channels and stopped, you knew you were in that world. They felt like real places that existed only on that time at that night,” he said.
With “Everwood,” he hopes he has created an honest family drama with a sense of place, people and community that his audience will identify with. The series’ story centers on a neurosurgeon who leaves New York and starts a general practice in Everwood after his wife dies in an auto accident. The doctor had promised his wife that if anything ever happened to her, he would do whatever it takes to be the kind of father to their children that she always believed he could be.
“I think he will find himself conflicted by the amount of work and how to keep his promise to her,” Mr. Berlanti said.
Mr. Berlanti’s writing method is rather like holding up a prism to the town and the characters he invented, said Mickey Lidell, Mr. Berlanti’s co-executive producer on the show. “He does something with Everwood, this sweet, real pretty town, and he shows all the sides of it. He twists and turns and shows you both sides of people,” he said.
Before Mr. Berlanti became a wunderkind, like many artists, he eked out a living bouncing from odd job to odder job. He worked as a telephone operator at a mall, a tutor for the English portion of the SAT exam and a script typist for “The Young and the Restless” and “The Bold and the Beautiful.”
Between these unusual jobs and his stint at “Dawson’s Creek,” he wrote and directed his first feature film, “The Broken Hearts Club: a Romantic Comedy,” which was produced by Mr. Liddell.
Their partnership is perfectly complementary. “What I do is worry about scripts from the ether to when it becomes the white draft that will be shot-and Mickey worries about everything else,” said Mr. Berlanti.
One recent worry was how to keep the cast and crew warm when the show was shooting in chilly Calgary, Alberta, Canada. “We were on the set and it was minus-30 degrees, and I thought, `Why couldn’t it be Everwood, Hawaii, and someone could have said, `Mauna Loa, Dr. Brown,”’ he recalled.
But then, he said, part of being a Hollywood writer is dreaming up unusual stories and not expecting them to amount to much and being pleasantly surprised when they do-even if it means dressing in layers.