There’s something about this family that’s instantly infectious. There’s this charm, this reliability, this hint of modernism that makes them . . . real. It’s a family that, while created through the minds and pencils of creative types, functions like an actual family. They fight, they laugh, they disagree, they hold grudges, all of that. In short, they’re well handled. And while not every episode is a home run and not every character is as interesting or developed as one may want, it’s still a very solid program.
Touted as the next great family drama, Brothers & Sisters explores the highs and lows of The Walkers – a postmodern American family and their delicate relationships. The series features an all-star lineup of Emmy, Golden Globe and Oscar winners including Sally Field (Norman Rae), Tom Skerritt (Picket Fences), Rachel Griffiths (Six Feet Under), Calista Flockhart (Ally McBeal) and Rob Lowe (The West Wing). William (Skerritt) and Nora (Field) have raised five unique children, all battling complex problems. Kitty (Flockhart) is an outspoken political commentator who begins a relationship with charismatic Senator Robert McCallister (Lowe), while Sarah (Griffiths) balances motherhood with managing the struggling family business. Tommy (Balthazar Getty) is the loyal son who manages the Walker family business with Sarah. Kevin (Matthew Rhys) is a gay lawyer coming to terms with his sexuality, while Justin, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, battles drug addiction.
Like most shows available on DVD, everything flows much better without the interruptions. Whether it’s a week between episodes or a month of repeats, having the entire season available at your disposal really helps with the overall flow of the series. Things seem to play out more naturally and the dots connect much quicker. Brothers and Sisters is no exception. Things move quite quickly after the pilot, as the pilot is basically when everything is thrown into turmoil. Things are not all as they seem with the father or the business itself, those plot points are used as a stepping stone to launch the series. It’s a risky move, but it pays off.
I understand that people may be growing a bit tired of shows about well-off families, but this one seems a bit different. They actually seem like a real family. And I think this is accomplished by how the show handles its’ assorted moments, whether it’s funny moments, emotional moments, or very dramatic scenes. Who could forget the scene where Sally Field’s character breaks into a food fight with Patricia Wettig’s character? Just an excellent scene, very emotional, but it’s also hilarious. Brothers & Sisters knows when to relieve the tension, and that’s a perfect example of just that.
One thing I appreciate about the show is how it shows what a family is. Everyone may have their different viewpoints, may fight, and may not even speak to each other for ages, but, when push comes to shove, they come together. And the cast itself seems to exude this camaraderie. I believe that plays a big role in the show’s success and, if for some reason, the show was unable to achieve the balance they have, the show wouldn’t have made it past the first season.
Acknowledgement is deserves for the performances here. Sally Field and Rachel Griffiths, in particular, are probably the strongest performers on this series. They both shine as women struggling with their marriage, the family business, and coping with the fall-out of the series pilot. They’re trying to hold it together, but you can just tell, behind their eyes, they are struggling. And any show which makes Calista Flockhart seem likable is a huge achievement. And these performances are aided by the intelligent writing and production of the series. They don’t play anything out for emotion, but for honesty. Honesty in the characters. Honesty on how a family would react to any type of news, good or bad. . I think all of this, whether it’s the actors, the moments, the writing, all of it brings it together for a strong emotional drama that doesn’t try to manipulate the viewer. It’s a solid television, one worth checking out.
And, I have to admit, I like how the season somewhat bookends itself with the pilot episode, “Patriarchy,” and the season finale, “Matriarchy.” It’s a great theme which resonates throughout these two episodes and actually shows how the characters have evolved (or not) throughout the series. A smart touch by the creators.
The bonus features are pretty solid. Buena Vista has always managed to pack on good extras for all their DVD releases, and this is no different. In this collection we get a deleted episode called “State of the Parties”, with an introduction by Jon Robin Baitz, explaining why the episode did not air. The disc also includes a nice helping of commentaries, a solid featurette, a documentary on the making of the show, bloopers and a featurette about the actors that play the three brothers. A nice, tidy collection for one of the surprise hits of last season.
Overall, Brothers & Sisters: The Complete First Season comes Recommended. With the second season underway, right now is the ideal time to get caught up on the first season, whether you’re a new viewer or not. With most movie rental outlets offering disc rentals on single discs within, it should be easy to test the waters before diving right in. For those new to the show, this is a great way to get caught up on how the first season played. It’s a good show, an infectious one, and one that deserves a chance in the already crowded TV landscape. The chemistry among the cast is solid, the acting is great, the writing is top-notch and it makes for some compelling viewing. Plus, the DVD itself offers excellent audio/video quality and a nice helping of supplements. Taking everything into consideration, it’s a fine addition to anyone’s collection.
Brothers & Sisters: The Complete First Season is now available on DVD.