"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 William (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, Nora 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 be 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 four takes the Walkers in some new directions. Kitty learns that she has cancer around the same time Robert is trying to play down his heart attack for upcoming elections. Sarah runs off to France only to have her love interest Luc (Gilles Marini) follow her. Kevin and Scotty decide they’re ready for a baby, and Kevin stops working as he tries to figure out what he wants to do while Scotty opens his own restaurant. Justin and Rebecca begin planning their wedding, learn some news that will change their lives, and must decide if they want the same things for their future. Meanwhile, Holly has some financial issues, Ryan makes some big changes and even bigger gestures, and Nora continues to hold the family together but ends up pushing Kevin away after a big secret about his and their family’s past is revealed.
While a lot happens in season four, it’s the ending that truly suggests changes on the horizon. Ojai Foods has played a major role in the drama from the get-go, and by the end of season four something happens with Ojai Foods that leaves you wondering where the show is headed next. More mysteries surround Ojai and the family go on a quest to find the answers. But it’s not only Ojai Foods that sees changes; of the cast members leaves the show in what is a dramatic and emotional season finale.
Picking up in the fourth season of “Brothers & Sisters” would probably lend itself to a great deal of confusion, as well as missed plot points and unexpected twists. The Walkers have come a long way since the series premiered. When the series started in 2006, I was eager to take a look since I was already a fan of several of the actors and writers. The first few seasons offered a nice balance between drama and humor, but as the series progresses it begins to lean more towards dramatic especially when focusing on some of the feuds concerning Ojai foods. While drama certainly has a place in a series like this, one can’t help but feel that some of the drama has been done before, and better, in earlier seasons. Still, it must be said that some of the more emotional issues addressed in season four, and throughout the series, are handled very well thanks to such finely honed performances and skilled writers. I just wish for a bit more humor to help balance the series.
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.
4-01 27/Sep/09 The Road Ahead
4-02 04/Oct/09 Breaking the News
4-03 11/Oct/09 Almost Normal
4-04 18/Oct/09 From France With Love
4-05 25/Oct/09 Last Tango in Pasadena
4-06 01/Nov/09 Zen & the Art of Mole Making
4-07 08/Nov/09 The Wig Party
4-08 15/Nov/09 The Wine Festival
4-09 29/Nov/09 Pregnant Pause
4-10 06/Dec/09 Nearlyweds
4-11 03/Jan/10 A Bone to Pick
4-12 10/Jan/10 The Science Fair
4-13 17/Jan/10 Run Baby Run
4-14 31/Jan/10 The Pasadena Primary
4-15 21/Feb/10 A Valued Family
4-16 28/Feb/10 Leap of Faith
4-17 14/Mar/10 Freeluc.com
4-18 11/Apr/10 Time After Time (Part 1 of 2)
4-19 11/Apr/10 Time After Time (Part 2 of 2)
4-20 18/Apr/10 If You Bake It, He Will Come
4-21 25/Apr/10 Where There's Smoke…
4-22 02/May/10 Love All
4-23 09/May/10 Lights Out
4-24 16/May/10 On the Road Again
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.
“Deleted Scenes” overall there are around 22 deleted scenes spread throughout the six disc set. In a series filled with storylines, it’s no wonder that several scenes might have to be cut. Though not always necessary to the plot, some of the deleted scenes are certainly worth watching, if anything for the performances and writing.
“The Red Carpet” is an 8 minute look at the season 4 premiere party. Hosted by Dave Annable’s assistant and longtime friend, Scott Scherick this is a fun addition to the DVD, featuring interviews with the cast and crew.
“Off the Clock” is one of the more interesting extras featured on the DVD. It is a look at the cast and crew interacting off the set, as well as some of their other interests and how those interests bring them together. Some of the interests include an art showing set up to feature some of the cast and crew’s artwork, softball games, and a triathlon in Malibu.
“Bloopers” are also included on the DVD.
“Lost: The Final Season,” “Cougar Town: The Complete First Season,” “Scrubs: The Complete Ninth Season,” “Private Practice: The Complete Third Season,” “FlashForward: The Complete First Season” “Legend of the Seeker: The Complete Second Season,” “Ugly Betty: The Complete Fourth and Final Season,” and more.
Final Thoughts: Overall, "Brothers and Sisters" remains a moving, emotional drama with an excellent cast. The DVD set provides solid audio/video quality, as well as a nice set of extras.