Saturday, December 09, 2006

Brothers & Sisters - Dec. 9, 2006

Sundays; ABC, Global


All in the family

It doesn’t have the draw of Desperate Housewives. Yet, as it turns out, there’s a lot more to pull you into the drama of Brothers & Sisters.

By Eric Kohanik

My job is to watch TV. I’m not supposed to have favourites, really. But there are shows I do tend to check out regularly – almost as a sort of guilty pleasure.

Brothers & Sisters is one of those shows.

The drama series weaves its stories around the Walkers, a wealthy and tight-knit – yet dysfunctional and damaged – Kennedy-esque family in California that made its millions in the fruit business.

The head of the clan, William (Tom Skerritt), ended up dying in the opening episode. Ever since then, wife Nora (Sally Field) has been striving to keep the family united, while eldest daughter Sarah (Rachel Griffiths) has been put in charge of the family business.

It’s been a tough chore for both because the normally admirable William had mysteriously pilfered millions from the company pension fund before his death. He also had a mistress named Holly (Patricia Wettig) and, as it turns out, an illegitimate daughter.

There’s a trio of brothers in the Walker family. Tommy (Balthazar Getty) is the moody company/family guy who, as it turns out, happens to be sterile. Kevin (Matthew Rhys) is the family lawyer who is gay and, as it turns out, the one who seems to be getting the most “action” on the show. And Justin (Dave Annable) is a young military veteran who is the most fragile of the bunch and, as it turns out, is being recalled by the army.

Rounding out the Walker brood is daughter Kitty (Calista Flockhart). She tends to stick out because she is a TV personality and, as it turns out, a staunch Republican in a familybrimming with Democrats.

Oh, there’s also Nora’s brother, Saul Holden (Ron Rifkin), who, as it turns out, now seems to have a thing going with Holly.

The holidays are approaching as Brothers &Sisters serves up its first yuletide episode this week. Naturally, Nora goes overboard in trying to lessen the pain of loss for her family. And, although Sarah is on the verge of replacing the pension money and saving the family business, her quest, as it turns out, is about to run into major curves.

Soapy storylines? Sure. Absorbing? Yes.

Brothers & Sisters hasn’t been a ratings powerhouse, though. Season-to-date Nielsen numbers through Nov. 19 put the show in 25th place among all primetime shows on American networks. That’s a far cry from the No.1 ranking that its lead-in, Desperate Housewives, has chalked up this season.

And yet, in many ways, these characters and stories seem far more interesting.

I’ve liked Brothers & Sisters right from the time I previewed the original pilot episode. That pilot never aired because executive producers Ken Olin and Jon Robin Baitz wanted to retool the show to “improve” it.

In most cases of such extensive tinkering, the producers usually fail.

In this case, as it turns out, they succeeded.

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