"Brothers and Sisters" premiered in 2006 and quickly gained a following and a few Emmy nods, leading to 2007 Emmy win for Sally Field’s portrayal as Nora Walker, and a second nomination for 2008. From creators Ken Olin (actor and "Alias" producer) and playwright Jon Robin Baitz, is a large family drama (both in terms the amount of family members and the amount of different stories the series covers on any given week) that follows the Walkers, an affluent family from California.
The first season opened with Kitty (Ally McBeal herself, Calista Flockhart), a political radio show host heading back home to confront her mother (Sally Field) who she's had a difficult relationship with and her father (Tom Skeritt), who ran the family food business. Other siblings include: a gay, workaholic brother named Kevin (Matthew Rhys); a former soldier named Justin (Dave Annable) who served in Afghanistan and who's trying to get over substance abuse; Tommy (Balthazar Getty), who's helping the family business, and Sarah (Rachel Griffiths), a businesswoman who is trying to handle motherhood and a troubled marriage.
As the family all gathered around the household, it suddenly became apparent to them that things were not entirely what they seemed. Justin spotted his father chatting sternly with another woman, Holly (Patricia Wettig) in his office, while Sarah began to realize that all was not right with the family business. The company had a cash flow issue, and Sarah found out that uncle Saul Holden (Ron Rifkin) may have been behind it. Moments after everything became crystal clear to Sarah, a surprising event happened. While most shows have something like this that occur midway through or to end a season, "Brothers and Sisters" used it as a jumping-off point, and it worked. The series continued to add twist and turns, including a surprise from Holly about her daughter Rebecca (Emily VanCamp)—she is a Walker, too.
Like a lot of shows, I appreciated "Brothers and Sisters" more on DVD, where the flow of the show wasn't interrupted and I could watch the episodes back-to-back. The series doesn't overplay its hand, finding the drama and happiness in little moments and the general theme that the ones you love may grow and change and not share the same views on politics and the world, but you still love them just the same, and when times get difficult, there are no better ones to have in your corner. The show's bigger dramatic moments are also played well, not seeming manipulative or overly sentimental.
Picking off where season one left off, “Brothers and Sisters” manages to continue to add more drama and stellar guest stars to an already complicated and finely performed series. By the end of season one, Kitty was engaged to Senator Robert McCallister (Rob Lowe), Tommy and wife Julia (Sarah Jane Morris) had to decide what to do regarding their newborns, and Justin was going to Iraq. When the season starts, Kitty is having trouble balancing her role as the senator’s fiancé and staff, which will be the least of their problems as the season progresses.
As McCallister decides to run for President, he and Kitty are put through several tests (regarding their relationship and politically). The rest of the Walker family members don’t have it any easier, as Sarah tries to get custody of her children while struggling to keep Ojai Food Co. afloat without any outside influence (by the end of the season, Holly finds herself playing an important role in Ojai Foods and Sarah’s struggle). Kevin (Rhys continues to deliver a witty performance) works on his relationships and tries to get information from Saul, whose been hiding some secrets of his own. Tommy starts eyeing someone new as he and Julia have marital trouble while coming to grips with the loss of a child. Meanwhile, Norah has a few love interests, especially with Isaac Marshall (Danny Glover) who works for Senator Robert McCallister. Justin returns from Iraq wounded and has his family concerned that he may be doing drugs again.
In this season, Justin’s relationship with Rebecca takes a surprising turn, which is one of the problems I had with this season. This season takes what we learned about Rebecca and her mother’s affair with William Walker and shakes it up, and not necessarily in a good way. While the rest of the season still manages to keep the drama from becoming like a soap opera, the twist about Rebecca teeters on that fine line between daytime and nighttime drama. I’m curiously looking forward to seeing how the new storyline progresses and what they are able to do with it. Season two ends with another secret left by William Walker that will surely impact them all in season three.
There’s a lot going on in season two, but just like season one, “Brothers and Sisters” manages to balance the weight of family drama extremely well. The creators certainly worked to get a talented ensemble cast, and their efforts have paid off - not only are the performances marvelous, but the cast has good chemistry with one another. The writing is intelligent, warm and even a little funny on occasion to offer some comedic relief when appropriate. The new character additions in season two are also fantastic here, especially Rowe and Glover. While I didn’t necessarily understand some of the storyline choices here, it doesn’t take away from the series. Overall, I really like this series - it's a strong, emotional drama with great performances and consistently high quality writing.
24. 2- 1 201 30 Sep 07 Home Front
25. 2- 2 202 7 Oct 07 An American Family
26. 2- 3 203 14 Oct 07 History Repeating
27. 2- 4 204 21 Oct 07 States of the Union
28. 2- 5 205 28 Oct 07 Domestic Issues
29. 2- 6 206 4 Nov 07 Two Places
30. 2- 7 207 11 Nov 07 36 Hours
31. 2- 8 208 25 Nov 07 Something New
32. 2- 9 209 2 Dec 07 Holy Matrimony
33. 2-10 210 13 Jan 08 The Feast of Epiphany
34. 2-11 211 10 Feb 08 The Missionary Imposition
35. 2-12 212 17 Feb 08 Compromises
36. 2-13 213 20 Apr 08 Separation Anxiety
37. 2-14 214 27 Apr 08 Double Negative
38. 2-15 215 4 May 08 Moral Hazard
39. 2-16 216 11 May 08 Prior Commitments
VIDEO: "Brothers and Sisters" is presented by Buena Vista in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is a marvelous presentation of the series, as it certainly looks better than the non-HD network broadcast. Sharpness and detail are excellent, as the picture remains crisp and detailed throughout the show. No edge enhancement or flaws on the elements were seen, but a couple of tiny instances of artifacting were seen. Colors remained bright and natural throughout, with no smearing or other concerns. Overall, this was an excellent presentation with no major issues.
SOUND: The series is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. The series is mostly dialogue-driven. Some slight surround use for ambience and reinforcement of the music is occasionally heard. Audio quality is fine, with crisp dialogue.
“Home Front” commentary with Executive Producer Ken Olin and actors Patricia Wettig and Matthew Rhys. The commentary, while it doesn’t start off very chatty, does add a laugh when Ken Olin says “Those are swings. In America, Matthew, um children often play on swings.” to which Matthew Rhys replies, “ah, we had mud and sticks where I grew up.” Matthew later refers to Ken as “Obi-Wan-Ken-Olin”. Despite the laughs, there were times when I actually forgot I was watching a commentary, as Olin, Wettig and Rhys stop talking for long periods of time. When they do get going, they add some interesting bits of information, and discuss other cast members and their memories from certain locations/scenes.
“36 Hours” commentary with actors Dave Annable, Sarah Jane Morris and Emily VanCamp. This is one of the more lively commentaries, as the actors have a lot of energy and seem to have fun chatting together. They comment on the cast whenever they’re on screen and sort-of talk like friends watching other friends. Dave Annable seems to know a little something about everyone’s career and willingly adds information to the commentary, and tries to carry the conversation along. Definitely worth a listen.
“Prior Commitments” commentary with Executive Producer Monica Owusu-Breen and actors Matthew Rhys and Luke MacFarlane. It’s so surprising when the commentary starts, because one forgets that Matthew Rhys is actually from the UK, which he hides exceptionally well as Kevin Walker. There’s very little conversation here and it feels like they are watching the commentary and forgetting to talk. Rhys adds some laughs. The conversation picks up as the episode progresses, as talk veers towards story development and characters.
There are 7 deleted scenes. While the deleted scenes are well acted, it’s easy to see how the scenes didn’t necessarily add much to the storyline. They do, however, manage to provide some extra moments worth watching.
A fun look at the guest stars that appeared on season two of “Brothers and Sisters”. Ken Olin (Executive Producer/Director) talks about the shift in actors wanting to perform on television, more than in the past. The cast discuss having guest stars on the set, and how it was intimidating at times. Sally Field and Danny Glover talk about how they’ve worked together before, and what it was like having the opportunity to do so again. Some of the guests actors and producers talk about the guest roles on the show, as well as their experience coming on the set. This is a wonderful feature with lots of interviews, clips, and information about the characters that add to this second season. Some guest stars include: Danny Glover, Chevy Chase, Garry Marshall, Steven Weber, Denis O’Hare, Bill Smitrovich, Luke MacFarlane, Emily Rose, even Executive Producer Ken Olin has a role.
TV Dinners: Food From Season 2
“Brothers and Sisters” Food Stylist, Jessica Sieben talks about the food she creates for the show. Sieben shares about preparing the food, doing research for certain dishes mentioned/made on the show, how some meals are requested by the cast when the food isn’t scripted for a scene around a meal, as well as making adjustments for the cast (someone’s allergic to onions, and another cast member is a vegetarian). This is a nice feature because it’s something that isn’t often talked about. It’s interesting to hear how much thought is put into the food, from choosing food that’s colorful so it’s picked up by the cameras, as well as knowing what the plates look like when a scene is filmed over a couple of days. Very nice and informative behind-the-scenes look. For purchased DVDs, there’s a collection of “Nora’s Favorite Family Recipes”.
Open House: Designing the Brothers & Sisters Set
Production Designer, Denny Dugally shares how she talks with directors and producers about the look of the show. Dugally and Set Decorator, Bryan John Venegas show some sets and talk about the feel they were going for in each room (from older pieces, to family photos, to some rented pieces). It’s fun to hear how the pictures around the house are from the actors, to add a authentic family feel to the living space. Another interesting bit of information is designing space enough not only for actors, but for the crew, as well as backdrops that bring the outside world in. It’s so interesting to hear the thought that goes into designing/decorating the set, especially how much consideration is put into who the characters are and what kind of pieces they would have around them, perhaps collected in their lives. This is worth a look, as it’s informative and interesting, and will surely give you more appreciation for the background.
Bloopers & Outtakes
This is an enjoyable collection of bloopers and outtakes that show the cast having fun together, which is especially fun when the show is usually so serious. There area lot of genuinely funny moments that leave you smiling, especially as the feature progresses.
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
Dirty Sexy Money
Brothers and Sisters
Final Thoughts: Once again, "Brothers and Sisters" offers a solid season, with compelling drama and rich performances. The DVD set boasts very good audio/video quality, as well as a nice selection of supplements.