"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 two more nominations in 2008 and 2009. From creators Ken Olin (actor and "Alias" producer) and playwright Jon Robin Baitz, “Brothers and Sisters” 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).
Season 2 picked up where season one left off. “Brothers and Sisters” managed to add more drama and stellar guest stars to an already complicated and finely performed series. In season two, Kitty’s fiancé Senator Robert McCallister (Rob Lowe) 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 relationship with Scotty (Luke Macfarlane) 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. Also in this season, Justin’s relationship with Rebecca takes a surprising turn.
What would season three without another dramatic beginning for “Brothers and Sisters”? The biggest reveal is the fact that someone involved with the family had a son named Ryan. At first, the Walker family chooses not to track him down, but Holly takes it upon herself to find out more about him. Meanwhile, Kitty and Robert are trying to adopt a child, and while some of their meetings with the birth mother are a bit rocky (she attends a Walker family dinner for starters), it’s Robert’s sneaking around to run for governor and a health issue that weighs on their relationship. In season three, Nora starts to move on with her life by starting a charity for women. This sees her letting go of something things from her and William’s past. Kevin focuses on his relationship with Scotty, while keeping his distance from brother Tommy who fired him as Ojai’s lawyer. Additionally, Kevin isn’t the only Walker to leave Ojai, as Sarah quits the family business and starts up a new online company with two younger guys.
Season three is a lot of the same, but it does lack some of the prior seasons humor. While there are still some humorous scenes with the siblings bickering or just talking with one another, the third season of the series does lack a bit of the balance of prior seasons and often leans towards a heavier tone. The second half of season three really picks up when things start to unravel for the Walker family, including Justin and Rebecca having relationship issues since their families are always on opposing sides. Additionally, Kitty starts to have interest in another man. Finally, Justin takes his life into his own hands and decides to pursue becoming a doctor and Tommy tries to get Holly out of Ojai illegally, which is soon discovered by Rebecca. The final episode follows the Walkers South of the border as they seek to retrieve one of their own.
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.
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 majority of the series manages to keep the drama from becoming like a soap opera, there are moments that teeter on that fine line between daytime and nighttime drama. Still, 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.
40. 3- 1 28 Sep 08 Glass Houses
41. 3- 2 5 Oct 08 Book Burning
42. 3- 3 12 Oct 08 Tug of War
43. 3- 4 19 Oct 08 Everything Must Go
44. 3- 5 26 Oct 08 You Get What You Need
45. 3- 6 2 Nov 08 Bakersfield
46. 3- 7 9 Nov 08 Do You Believe in Magic?
47. 3- 8 16 Nov 08 Going Once...Going Twice
48. 3- 9 30 Nov 08 Unfinished Business
49. 3-10 7 Dec 08 Just A Sliver
50. 3-11 4 Jan 09 A Father Dreams
51. 3-12 11 Jan 09 Sibling Rivalry
52. 3-13 18 Jan 09 It's Not Easy Being Green
53. 3-14 8 Feb 09 Owning It
54. 3-15 15 Feb 09 Lost & Found
55. 3-16 1 Mar 09 Troubled Waters (1)
56. 3-17 1 Mar 09 Troubled Waters (2)
57. 3-18 8 Mar 09 Taking Sides
58. 3-19 15 Mar 09 Spring Broken
59. 3-20 22 Mar 09 Missing
60. 3-21 19 Apr 09 S3X
61. 3-22 26 Apr 09 Julia
62. 3-23 3 May 09 Let's Call The Whole Thing Off
63. 3-24 10 May 09 Mexico
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.
“The Ojai Exeperience" sees cast members (Olin, Wettig, Rifkin, Annable and Rhys) taking a trip to a real-life family winery in Ojai California to learn the truth about running a family wine business. There’s incredible footage of the family vineyard and wonderful interviews with cast and crew about the idea and experience of visiting an actual family wine business in California. This feature is especially great since it’s not only the behind-the-scenes footage of the cast interacting with one another off set, but also a behind-the-scenes look at the winery and some of the work that goes into it. With lots of footage and interviews, this is definitely worth a look, especially given the added layer of seeing how a winery works.
“In-Between Scenes” is a look at the way the cast interact with each other off camera and some of the ways they entertain themselves (pull-up contests, playing with props, relaxing on location.) With some interviews about how the cast get along like a real family, some behind-the-scenes looks at filming locations and props, and some pretty funny glimpses into the cast hanging out, this is a fun addition to the DVD set.
“The Mothers of Brothers & Sisters": Personal reflections from TV icons Sally Field and Patricia Wettig as they discuss their roles, pivotal scenes and their storied characters. Found on Disc 3, this ten minute feature is a nice look at two of the strong mothers in the series, Norah and Holly. With interviews from the cast as well as others involved in the making of “Brothers and Sisters”, this is a very nice look at how the actors/crew relate their own mothers to the one’s portrayed on television, as well as some overall thoughts about the women who portray them.
“Bloopers and Outakes” At around five minutes, there’s lots of laughter and flubbed lines that fans will surely enjoy. It’s nice that this is included on what felt like a more serious season.
Commentary for “Troubled Waters, Part One” with Rob Lowe, Matthew Rhys and Executive Producer Monica Owusu-Breen. Instantly, you’re drawn into the commentary as the group start joking that they were having budget issues so for the hospital scene, they used footage of Sally Field on ER. This continues to be an entertaining, humorous and informative commentary throughout. Worth a listen.
Commentary for “Troubled Waters, Part Two” with Rob Lowe, Matthew Rhys and Executive Producer Monica Owusu-Breen. This commentary is a little more toned down, but still enjoyable to listen to. It seems that they’re watching the show more this half than commenting, but the commentary does have some nice moments and insight.
Also included on the DVD is a commentary for “Mexico” with Executive Producers Alison Schapker and Monica Owusu-Breen and Ken Olin. There are also several Deleted Scenes included with this release. Deleted Scenes can be found on each disc. While not necessary to the plot, the deleted scenes are fun to watch, especially for fans of the show and characters.
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Final Thoughts: Although the balance of warmth/humor and drama are a bit tipped towards drama in the third season, the series still offers excellent performances and solid writing in this round of episodes. The DVD set boasts excellent audio/video quality, as well as a fine set of supplements. Recommended.