LOS ANGELES - "Once and Again" keeps moving. Again and again and again.
It's been bounced between Monday and Tuesday and now has landed at 10 p.m. EST Wednesday on ABC. Through the dislocation, however, this superior drama has never lost its way or its heart.
"Once and Again'' delicately records the protracted implosion of divorce and its effect on a family, including parents, children, siblings and grandparents. Even bosses are counted in.
Sela Ward, who just matched her best actress Emmy with a Golden Globe trophy, and Billy Campbell star as Lily and Rick, divorcees balancing their new love, parenthood and work, not necessarily in that order.
The drama has focused more on their kids this season, with this week's episode a sterling example: Jessie, the 13-year-old daughter of Rick and ex-wife Karen (Susanna Thompson), is in counseling for an eating disorder.
An excellent student and athlete, Jessie's fallen into neurotic perfectionism. In a previous episode, she casually told the therapist that she gets all As - except for one B, changed to an A at her mom's insistence.
"I guess if you got a C you could never show your face again,'' is the therapist's loaded comment.
"Why would I get a C?'' fires back Jessie (a touching Evan Rachel Wood).
Following that was a wrenching scene in which Rick and Karen confront each other in a parking lot, with Jessie fearfully stealing glances at them in a car's rearview mirror. She's looking back to see her present disordered life.
The trauma of adolescence fascinates series creators Edward Zwick (who's seen as the therapist) and Marshall Herskovitz, both parents of teen-agers.
They are also fathers to "thirtysomething,'' "My So-Called Life'' (and, on the theatrical side, the acclaimed "Traffic,'' a likely Oscar contender which they produced).
"When we first did 'thirtysomething,' we always felt the want of being able to talk about being parents because the kids (depicted on the show) were so young,'' Zwick said. ``Yet we were spending a disproportionate amount of our time being parents and talking about being parents.''
The pair began to explore the inner life of teen-agers in "My So-Called Life,'' but the youth-oriented show they produced was ahead of its time and was quickly axed.
"Maybe 'Once and Again' has given us, at least occasionally, an opportunity to fulfill that promise,'' Zwick said.
The issue of teen-agers and body image was something he and Herskovitz and been pondering. Zwick's sister is a therapist who works primarily with girls suffering eating disorders, and she served as a sounding board for the storyline that began in December.
The producers met with young actress Wood and her mother to discuss what was in store for her character.
"We said 'This may be sensitive and difficult.' We just wanted to make certain that we were not in any way asking a kid to go to a place emotionally that she doesn't want to go,''' Zwick said.
Wood rises beautifully to the challenge and so does Zwick, making his first appearance as an actor. (He and Herskovitz write and direct a share of the episodes.)
Zwick insisted on auditioning for his partner and the series' casting director. After all, Herskovitz had done the same thing when he made a brief appearance as a surgeon last year.
"We didn't want to embarrass anybody, least of all ourselves. We have to hold on to some vestige of moral authority with everybody here,'' Zwick said wryly.
Stepping in front of the camera had paid unexpected dividends.
"It's a treat for me to have this kind of relationship with the actors, very intimate, to be in the process with them. ... It's about making yourself vulnerable.''
Such sensitive introspection is a hallmark of Zwick-Herskovitz TV - and not, admittedly, a universal taste. The angst-driven boomers of "thirtysomething'' were loved by some, reviled by others as spoiled whiners.
More is at stake in ``Once and Again,'' and the pain is honestly and beautifully etched. If some viewers are put off (and the ratings have yet to match the series' excellence) it may be because it is so emotionally grueling.
"God help me, that's the terrain we picked,'' Zwick said. "There's a lot of episodes that are quite light and lovely, and somewhat romantic and comedic. But I have to say, for better and worse, that's been our stock in trade - and it's not going to change.''