STUDIO: Buena Vista Home Entertainment / Touchstone
MSRP: $39.99
RATED: Not rated
RUNNING TIME: 988 minutes

  • Bonus Episode: A Different View of the Walkers
  • Walker Family Tree: The Story Behind The Making of the Compelling New Series
  • Behind the Scenes With the Brothers: Exclusive Set Tour with Stars Balthazar, Dave and Matthew
  • The Family Business: Meet the olins, A Real Family Behind the Success of This All New, Popular TV Family
  • Bloopers
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Audio Commentaries

The Pitch

Hey, another soapy, dysfunctional, rich family that includes Ally McBeal, Norma Rae and Arvin Sloane.

The Humans

Calista Flockhart, Sally Field, Rachel Griffiths, Ron Rifkin, Balthazar Getty, Jon-Pyper Ferguson, Patricia Wettig, Rob Lowe, Matthew Rhys.

Field: "…and playing such a great character like Nora Walker has made me realize how much I’d loved working in TV. It’s very rewarding."
Interviewer: "Great, Miss Field. That about wraps things up. Anything you’d like to say in closing?"
Field: "Yes…uh…do you think Burt will be watching this?"
Interviewer: "That ship has sailed – and sunk – Miss Field, I suggest you move on with your life."
Field: "Right…then no, I have nothing further…"

The Nutshell

Brothers & Sisters is a soap about the Walker clan, a large, well-to-do Los Angeles family that runs Ojai Foods, a successful produce company, when they’re not dealing with their sibling rivalries and familial idiosyncrasies. The family consists of siblings Kitty (Flockhart), a conservative talk show host and later a communications director for presidential candidate Senator Robert McAllister (Lowe); Sarah (Griffiths), head of the food company; Tommy (Getty); Kevin (Rhys), an openly gay lawyer; and Justin (Annable), an Afghanistan vet and recovering drug addict; as well as matriarch Nora (Field). Nora’s brother, Saul (Rifkin) also works for the family business. The Walker family dynamic, which was tenuous at best, goes through a complete upheaval when the family loses patriarch William (Tom Skerritt) in the pilot episode. Later, they discover that not only had William been embezzling money from the company, which threatens its current survival, but he had also carried on a 20-year affair with his mistress, Holly Harper (Wettig), which produced the Walkers’ illegitimate half sister, Rebecca (Emily VanCamp). Other than that, everything’s run-of-the-mill sibling/parental/marital relationship headaches as the Walkers try to deal with their father’s/husband’s failings and their own as well.

"I’d say one of the best things about our show is the craft service. Why just yesterday I gorged myself with a cucumber slice, a triscuit and a Flintstones chewable…"

The Lowdown

Generally, I wouldn’t have even bothered watching Brothers & Sisters if the wife hadn’t kept pushing me toward it with her insistence that I give it a look-see. Still, at first I didn’t bother, but then she threatened me with bodily violence, so what could I do? I’m going to come right out and say that the show is okay, but there’s nothing overly special about it, except that it’s become the career resurrection place in network primetime TV over the past year. It’s got more past TV and film notables hanging around it than the LA County Jail, which is saying a lot lately. Calista Flockhart returns to TV for the first time since Ally McBeal set the Nielsens on fire and then died a quick, flaming death five years ago. Sally Field, who’s never really gone anywhere, is back doing her first regular TV role in 30 years. Rob Lowe, who’s been doing pioneering work in the field of failed TV shows in his post-West Wing career, is back; and thirtysomething vet Patricia Wettig is back as the other woman. In addition, Ron Rifkin and Balthazar Getty were unemployed for about five minutes after the end of Alias last year before they jumped on board together, along with Six Feet Under’s Rachel Griffiths. Throw in grizzled veteran TV character actor John-Pyper Ferguson and about a half dozen other regulars and you’ve got your primetime fantasy draft complete.

Lowe: "Well for me, the best thing about working with Aaron Sorkin is the integrity of -"
Interviewer: "Uh, Mr. Lowe, this isn’t West Wing. You left that show in a salary dispute, remember?"
Lowe: "Right…as I was saying, what I like about portraying a character like Jack Turner is-"
Interviewer: "Mr. Lowe, this isn’t The Lyons Den either, that show was cancelled after 13 episodes."
Lowe: "Right…*ahem*…I love working in Sin City-"
Interviewer: "Not Dr. Vegas either."
Lowe: "Austin Powers?"
"Keep trying #2…"

With the sheer amount of cast regulars it has, B & S is constantly juggling storylines, and you need a program to keep them all straight sometimes. And like most soaps, the show is highly serialized, which makes it difficult to get into all of the plates that are spinning in the air if you weren’t there for the opening act. Tonally, the show runs along the same lines of the aforementioned thirtysomething, which is no surprise since Ken Olin is one of the 149 executive producers on the show.

In terms of storylines: the rough breakdown for the season goes something like this: matriarch Nora is shattered by William’s death and also to learn about Holly, and later her bastard offspring, Rebecca. She tries to hold together her grief and anger throughout most of the season and seeks distraction by getting involved with the family biz for the first time, and later taking a writing class, where she ends up boning her instructor (Peter Coyote). Kitty is a transplant from LA to NY where she’s engaged. She takes a talk show host gig back home, has some chemistry with her co-host, which leads to the end of her engagement. Later she leaves the show to work for McAllister’s campaign and of course ends up boning him and getting re-engaged. She is the last sibling to accept Rebecca. Plus she’s not always on the same page as Nora.

Interviewer: "So what’s it like working with the love of your life on this show?"
Wettig: "Oh my God! Let me tell you, Balthazar is a complete stud! That boy can go all night long! And the sick shit we do with his prop Lord of The Flies boar head in the bedroom?! Well, I’d probably get arrested just for mentioning it!"
Interviewer: "Uh, I meant your husband, Ken Olin?"
Wettig: "Oh, yeah…um, can we rewind that last part?"

Sarah is the head of Ojai Foods and is beset with trying to clean up her father’s embezzlement fiasco. Her husband, Joe, is a failed musician who ends up kissing her half sister, Rebecca, which pretty much ends their marriage, which wasn’t on great terms to begin with. She hates Holly. Tommy is probably the least messed up, although his wife is having trouble carrying their twins and things don’t end all that well come delivery time. Meanwhile he opens up a winery with Holly, who turns out to be a shrewd businesswoman. Gay lawyer Kevin is busy trying to deal with figuring out which is harder: being gay or being a lawyer. He has casual relationships and hooks up with an actor who is still in the closet. He hates McAllister for his anti-gay marriage stance and of course ends up sucking face with McAllister’s gay brother, who’s also a preacher.

Youngest sib Justin is a recovering drug addict and Afghanistan vet who is suddenly recalled for another tour, this time in Iraq. He’s the first sibling to reach out to Rebecca, as they’re similar in age. Meanwhile, Holly is the other woman who insinuates herself into the Walker family business via being left a crapload of shares from William. She’s kept the fact that her daughter Rebecca is related to the Walker siblings, for which Rebecca isn’t too happy to discover. Rebecca turns out to be a scheming little whore by playing on Joe’s inequities and marital problems by luring him into “the kiss”. McAllister is a young senator running for president and who is a former Operation Desert Storm hero…or is he? He hires Kitty and they immediately start falling for each other. Finally, Saul is the dutiful brother and uncle who’s trying to help hold things together family-wise and business-wise. He was involved briefly with Holly.

"Yeah, you know, I finally got tired with all that wholesome, primetime, beefcake, caring ’80s man bullshit from thirtysomething, so I just let myself go, let the stubble come out to play, bought a Hummer and now I like to hit deer and other small animals with it on the weekends…"

Admittedly, if you can keep up with everything, the stories tend to pull you in, as any decent soap would. It’s hard to ignore that with this much star wattage on the show, there’s going to be some good performances and chemistry going on. The writing is suitably solid, without heading south (yet) into overly-ridiculous storylines. It’s altogether not a bad show at all actually.

The Package

The episodes look good in 1:78 widescreen and the sound is suitably good in Dolby 5.1 Surround. This set is also loaded with plenty of special features, probably the biggest being the unaired bonus episode: A Different View of the Walkers. Then there’s also Creating the Walker Family Tree: The Story Behind The Making of the Compelling New Series, which is a pretty good making-of featurette that runs around 28 minutes. Behind the Scenes With the Brothers: Exclusive Set Tour with Stars Balthazar, Dave and Matthew is a behind-the-scenes with the three main male stars and runs about six minutes. The Family Business: Meet the Olins is a spotlight on husband and wife Ken Olin and Patricia Wettig, and their son and daughter who are a writer and actress on the show respectively. This clocks in around four minutes. Bloopers, deleted scenes and a couple of audio commentaries to round things out.

Interviewer (re: Six Feet Under): "So were you happy with how the show ended?"
Griffiths: "Actually no, I felt that the show got away from Rambaldi, which is what made it really click and it meandered for much of the later seasons before finally coming to a disappointing end. To say nothing of how that bullshit about ‘Arvin Clone’ ultimately went nowhere. And what was up with that giant spinning red ball full of water over Russia anyway?"
Interviewer: "Uh, yes, thank you Miss Griffiths.
(to himself)
Friggin’ actors…"

7.6 out of 10