Arrow, not Greg Berlanti’s first show

Greg Berlanti is behind some the greatest hits on TV, but what was he doing before? Quite a lot, in fact.

If you are a TV fan, you have probably heard the name Greg Berlanti by now. This name is associated with the CW’s mega hits  Arrow and The Flash, the upcoming Legends of Tomorrow, Supergirl and brand new Blindspot.

Greg Berlanti has joined the ranks of successful [and prolific] CW executive producers, right next to Josh Swchartz (The OC, Gossip Girl) and Julie Plec (The Vampire Diaries, The Originals). He may be relatively new to The CW but he has been around TVland forever!

Before Arrow, Greg brought us a number of favourites [where he was actually more involved]. Why not take a minute to go down TV memory lane? Let the nostalgia begin:


Premise: After the death of his wife, a hot shot surgeon moves his family from NYC to a small mountain town in Colorado [called “Everwood”]

Who was on it? Treat Williams, Tom Amandes, Gregory Smith (Rookie Blue), Chris Pratt [yeah that Chris Pratt], Emily VanCamp (Revenge), Scott Wolf, Sarah Drew (Grey’s Anatomy).

Berlanti’s involvement: Creator/executive producer/writer 89 episodes

This takes me back to my high school days… back when The CW was the “WB” and schools were full of teenagers instead of vampires. Warner produced some of its best and most memorable classic shows during that time. First Dawson’s Creek and Felicity; later Gilmore Girls and the first Greg  Berlanti show: Everwood. The show revolved around a New York doctor (Treat Williams), whose life is turned upside down after his wife dies in a tragic car accident. The absent father and husband is suddenly forced to take care of his teenage son and even younger daughter. For reasons no-one understands, he moves his family to a remote Rockwell-looking town in Colorado: Everwood.

The supporting characters were great [a grandma, who was an army nurse and rides a motorcycle? Now, that’s cool] and had a great cast that included TV vets and up and coming new actors – whose careers have taken off by now.

I always thought Everwood found the perfect balance between a teen show and a family drama. It wasn’t as sensationalist as most teen shows are and wasn’t as preachy as family dramas tend to be. It was well written, characters were rounded, it was sweet, it was sad and it was not superficial. It was the first time I remember seeing the name Berlanti on my screen and never forgot it since.

Political Animals

Premise: Former first lady of the US sets up in motion her plan to become President while she tries to keep her family together.

Who was on it? Sigourney Weaver, Ciaran Hinds (Game of Thrones), Carla Gugino, Ellen Burstyn, Adrian Pasdar (Heroes), Sebastian Stan (famous for playing the “mad hatter” on OUAT) and James Wolk (famous for his record breaking cancelled show LoneStar, he was also on Mad Men).

Berlanti’s involvement: Creator/ Directed 1 episode/ executive producer (4 episodes)/writer (2 episodes)

Political dramas come in many shapes and sizes. You have the cynical vision of House of Cards, the intense- character-driven view of Homeland, the sexy hyper-reality of Scandal and even the removed reality of Battlestar Galactica. Political Animals was something that hasn’t been done a lot: It was a political drama focused on a family [only other examples that come to mind are Commander in Chief and Madam Secretary]. It wasn’t about terrorists or greed or secret organizations inside the government. It was simply about a woman and the people surrounding her.

The show was originally conceived as a USA miniseries with hopes of expanding it to a full series. Sadly it never happened. There are only 6 episodes available, but I think it is worth watching [plus it has a decent enough resolution]. Just pretend it is a British limited serial.

Brothers & Sisters

Premise: “The story of the drama surrounding a family of adult siblings” (IMDB, 2014)

Who was on it?  This was one of those shows where “fresh faces” were non-existent. The cast was comprised of TV/movie vets including Sally Field, Rob Lowe, Ron Rifkin (Alias), Calista Flockhart (Ally McBeal), Rachel Griffits (Six Feet Under), Matthew Rhys (currently on The Americans and The Bastard Executioner) and the list goes on [and on and on].

Berlanti’s involvement: Executive producer/writer (3 episodes)

There was nothing particularly edgy or innovative about this show. It was simply the story of a family and the diverse struggles they had to face. Nothing wrong with a straight forward family drama when it is well made, and this was one of the best. With Brothers & Sisters Greg Berlanti did what he does best: entertaining, heartfelt family drama. The show rested on Sally Field’s character Nora – raise your hand if she reminded you of your own mom – and I think everyone could identify with one of her children [I personally pick Sarah]. You had the political reporter, the Type-A business woman, the lawyer with a conscience, the vet with a heart of gold [and a drug problem] and the self-made family man.

Not a cult-hit for sure… but it was a beautifully made show and I enjoyed every minute of it.

Dirty Sexy Money

Premise: A lawyer takes over his father’s job as the personal counselor [more like ‘consiglieri’] for one of the most powerful families in NYC: The “Darlings”. The catch? His father was most likely murdered by one of the members of the family.

Who was on it? Donald Sutherland, Peter Kraus (Six Feet Under, Parenthood), Seth Gabel (Fringe, Arrow, Salem), William Baldwin, Blair Underwood and Natalie Zea (Justified, The Following). 

Berlanti’s involvement: Executive Producer (23 episodes) but the show was created by Craig Wright

I discovered this show due to a DVR mistake. First I was annoyed because I didn’t record the show I actually wanted to watch, but I decided to give it a go because Donald Sutherland was on it. I instantly loved it! This might be one of the strongest shows on the list. It’s also very different from the other “family dramas”. Instead of the idealistic family “trying to reconnect with human values” we had a corrupt, greedy, selfish [and possibly murderous] crowd. At first glance, the Darlings were just as bad as the Bluths from Arrested Development; however, it was impossible to hate them! (*) Yes, they were greedy, they were corrupt and often obnoxious, but they were lovable at the same time. Achieving that was quite a feat. Donald Sutherland was [to no-one’s surprise] amazing. He managed to be menacing and endearing at the same time. The rest of the characters were equally compelling [Yes I even liked Natalie Zea, she was one of my faves]. I think this is a lesson on TV characters: even spoiled, rich people can be loved, when their characters are well written.

Dirty Sexy Money was a family drama in a “Whodunit” setting. It had edge and heart, something you don’t see very often. I would recommend it to anyone who loves ensemble dramas, but doesn’t like overly idealistic POVs.

Sadly, this show was never too popular and only lasted a couple of seasons. The name actually made it sound more risqué than it actually was, perhaps that was the issue…

(*) FYI I don’t hate the Bluths either, but it is a comedy and let’s face it, they are horrible people.

Eli Stone

Premise: The life of an unscrupulous lawyer is turned upside down when he starts having hallucinations that may or may not be messages from God.

Who was on it? The cast was SO GOOD! Jonny Lee Miller (Elementary) played the title character and was backed by some of my favourite actors including: Victor Garber (Alias, Deception), Tom Amandes (Everwood, Scandal) and Tom Cavanagh (Ed, The Flash).

Berlanti’s involvement: Creator/Executive Producer/ writer (2 episodes)

When I heard about this show, I thought it had the most ridiculous premise! A lawyer who hallucinates musical numbers? Plus he might be a prophet? As a general rule I avoid anything that has religious implications [unless it’s something controversial like Big Love]. I would have never watched this if it weren’t for Victor Garber. But since I love the man, I decided to ignore the stupid concept and give it a go. I am so glad I did!

The premise is absolutely ludicrous, but the show is so much fun. I went in with prejudice; but after I started watching, I saw everything under a different light. It had lawyers, it had dance numbers, it had Victor Garber being potentially evil, it had George Michael singing Faith on top of a coffee table! What can be better than that? This was better than Glee! OK… the musical numbers were not as spectacular as they are on Glee… but they were part of the plot instead of just people breaking into song.

My other concern was the religious aspect. But, as it turns out, it wasn’t a prominent aspect of the show. The word “prophet” is used a couple of times [his delusions pushed him to help people in need], but it never goes too deep into theological terrain.

Above all… Eli Stone was great because it was different. There have been SO MANY lawyer shows over the years. This was, without a doubt one of the most originals. Short-lived, but definitely enjoyable. An WHO doesn't want to see Victor Garber singing and dancing?

Jack & Bobby

Premise: The story of a young boy who grows up to become the president of the United States.

Who was on it? Christine Lahti, whose character is one of my favourite female characters of all times. In addition… the entire cast of Mad Men was on this show. Seriously, title character Jack was played by Matt Long (famously fired by Peggy on Mad Men), John Slattery (Roger on Mad Men) was also one of the main characters and funny enough Jessica Paré (Megan on Mad Men)  played his daughter.

Berlanti’s involvement: Creator/Executive Producer (1 episode)/ writer (1 episode) [Mickey Lidell took over as executive producer for the rest of the season].

This was another sweet character piece about a single mom and her two kids overcoming adversity. Not a unique premise or style, but the structure was very interesting. The show combined mockumentary style with classic drama. The main action took place in the present, while the mockumentary interviews were set in the future. Through the interviews, we learn that younger brother – Bobby – would eventually become President of the US [we also learn about Jack’s fate, but I don’t want to spoil it].

It was a wonderful show, full of heart and perfect to watch with the family. Unfortunately, it was around that time when the WB’s line up was filled with “teenagers gone wild” shows. Somehow, J&B felt out of place.

Berlanti tried this type of structure again on Golden Boy [starring Theo James], which was axed by CBS after only one season. He also attempted a mockumentary style with No Ordinary Family. This is the one Berlanti show I wouldn’t recommend watching. I watched all of it and it was OK. It had Julie Benz (soon after she departed from Dexter) and Michael Chiklis (The Shield). They were obviously good. The show wasn’t AWFUL, but the mockumentary style did not work. It slowed down what should have been an action packed show… A live action version of The Incredibles , not the supernatural-drama version of Modern Family.

But there you go… proof that Greg Berlanti has been around forever…

If you are a fan of Greg’s fan you should check out these shows because they are definitely worth it.

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Alejandra spends her days watching TV, writing for TV, writing about TV. Hopefully, one day, she will get substantially paid for all three. Follow her on twitter @azannier

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