"Brothers and Sisters" is the latest drama added to the ABC line-up. In the show's first season, it proved a successful addition for the Network to their Sunday night shows, managing to not only pull in solid ratings and reviews, but a few Emmy nominations, as well. The series, 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 series opens with Kitty (Ally McBeal herself, Calista Flockhart), a political radio show host, having her date interrupted by having her family call her constantly. She heads home to confront the mother (Sally Field) she's had a difficult relationship with and her father (Tom Skeritt), who runs the family food business. Other siblings include: a gay, workaholic brother named Kevin (Matthew Rhys); a former soldier who served in Afghanastan who's now trying to get over substance abuse named Justin (Dave Annable); Tommy (Balthazar Getty), who's helping the family business) and Sarah (Rachel Griffiths), a businesswoman who is now trying to handle motherhood and a troubled marriage.
As the family all gathers around the household, it suddenly begins to become apparent to them that things are not entirely what they seem. Justin spots his father chatting sternly with another woman (Patricia Wettig) in his office, while Sarah begins to realize that all is not right with the family business. The company has a cash flow issue, and Sarah finds that uncle Saul Holden (Ron Rifkin) may be behind it. Moments after everything becomes crystal clear to Sarah, a surprising event happens. While most shows have something like this occur midway through or to end a season, "Brothers and Sisters" uses it as a jumping-off point, and it works.
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 performances are also terrific, especially the underappreciated Rachel Griffiths, who does an excellent job portraying a woman struggling to heal her marriage and finding herself having to lead the family business back from the depths that it's in as the series opens. Sally Field is also terrific as a mother trying to hold her family together. Rifkin, Flockhart and others also offer stellar supporting efforts, as 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.
Overall, I really like this series - it's a strong, emotional drama with great performances and consistently high quality writing. Hopefully it will hold its place in the network's line-up for a long time.
1. 1- 1 24 Sep 06 Patriarchy
2. 1- 2 1 Oct 06 An Act of Will
3. 1- 3 8 Oct 06 Affairs of State
4. 1- 4 15 Oct 06 Family Portrait
5. 1- 5 22 Oct 06 Date Night
6. 1- 6 29 Oct 06 For the Children
7. 1- 7 5 Nov 06 Northern Exposure
8. 1- 8 12 Nov 06 Mistakes Were Made, Part 1 (a.k.a. Glass Jumps)
9. 1- 9 19 Nov 06 Mistakes Were Made, Part 2
10. 1-10 10 Dec 06 Light the Lights
11. 1-11 7 Jan 07 Family Day
12. 1-12 14 Jan 07 Sexual Politics
13. 1-13 21 Jan 07 Something Ida This Way Comes
14. 1-14 11 Feb 07 Valentine's Day Massacre
15. 1-15 18 Feb 07 Love is Difficult
16. 1-16 4 Mar 07 The Other Walker
17. 1-17 1 Apr 07 All In the Family
18. 1-18 8 Apr 07 Three Parties
19. 1-19 15 Apr 07 Game Night
20. 1-20 29 Apr 07 Bad News
21. 1-21 6 May 07 Grapes of Wrath
22. 1-22 13 May 07 Favorite Son
23. 1-23 20 May 07 Matriarchy
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.
EXTRAS: There is a deleted episode included called "State of the Parties", with an introduction by Jon Robin Baitz, who explains the reasons why the episode was not used. As for commentaries, "Affairs of State" offers a track with Jon Robin Baitz, Craig Wright, Patricia Wettig, and Matthew Rhys, "Northern Exposure" with Jon Robin Baitz, David Marshall Grant, and Molly Newman, "The Other Walker" with Alison Schapker, Monica Breen, Marc Guggenheim, David Annable, and Emily VanCamp and finally, "Matriarchy" with comments from Ken Olin, Sarah Caplan, and Balthazar Getty.
"Creating the Walker Family Tree" is a nearly 30-minute documentary that discusses how the series was brought to life, starting with the development of the show and changes that occured along the way with the story and characters. We also hear from the actors on playing their characters and thoughts on the show. "Family Business" chats about the business in the series and the family that the production has become (as well as how different family members work on the series.) We also get some moderately funny bloopers and a featurette about the actors that play the three brothers.
Final Thoughts: I didn't follow "Brothers and Sisters" closely when its first season aired, but I was impressed by this powerful and superbly acted drama while catching up with it on DVD. The DVD set offers excellent audio/video quality and a nice helping of supplements. Recommended.