Brothers And Sisters: The Beginning of the End?
Is it just me – or is Brothers and Sisters somewhat of the boil this season?
ABC’s Sunday night melodrama is drawing to the end of it’s fourth season and the franchise is already feeling as drained as a show with many more years under its belt. Compared to its lead in, Desperate Housewives, which still bristles with energy after 6 years on the air, Brothers is like a puffing and wheezing family member on their last legs. And it’s clear viewers are feeling the same way – with the show down almost two million viewers from its season one peak (the show now regularly hits 7 or 8 million, but used to attract well over 10 million)
Which is a real shame as at its peak the series is terrific TV. Sure Brothers and Sisters can be cheesy, corny and dripping in sentimentality – but for me the show has always been the TV equivalent of comfort food. No matter what’s going on in the world, the Walker family always stood together, living their comfortable upper middle class lives, with Sally Field’s Nora constantly on hand to cook up a family dinner or spare a bed in her spotless, impeccably designed home.
But this year Brothers has just felt really hard work to watch, mired in dull storylines, unsatisfying denouements and a victim of its own conventions. The show is in urgent need of a shake up if it’s to survive for more than one year… so here’s five things I’d instantly change…
1) Stop Taking The Easy Route: Kitty’s cancer story was one of the few plotlines to really work this year – bringing out the best motherly instincts in Nora and giving the show some much needed jeopardy. But after several episodes of dire prognosis and high stakes drama, suddenly Kitty’s cancer was cured in the space of a single episode. Sorry guys – that’s cheating!
In the same way Kevin’s recent teenage tragedy (he unknowingly paralyzed a friend) and Sarah and Luc’s visa storylines – were both quickly resolved before they’d really had a chance to dramatically play out (Luc’s Green Card arriving the day his visa expired just felt so contrived). Sure Brothers and Sisters is cotton candy TV – but I’d love to see a bit more sour along with the sweet.
2) Surrogate Storylines Are A Snooze. Poor Kevin and Scotty. They’re TV’s most well developed, sexual and realistic gay couple – but this year they’ve been saddled with the dullest storyline in homosexual history. Really – who gives a damn about their surrogate Michelle’s egg count and blood work, week after week – this is one storyline that’s been dragged on to death and in the process it’s made the couple the snooziest characters in the show. And when did gay parenting become such a cliché (following years of outing, gay bashing and HIV). Brothers and Sisters, Desperate Housewives, Modern Family – it seems every gay on TV just wants to aspire to a nursery, feedings and cuddly toys. You know guys – it’s not envelope pushing when everyone else is doing the same thing.
3) Cut The Conventions. I’m not the first one to say it – and I’m sure I won’t be the last – but the Brothers and Sisters writers sure don’t seem to be listening! Really – why does the show have to be so formulaic? Each week two or three of the family get into an argument during the third act (normally at a Walker family dinner), only to tearfully make up in Act 5, to the soapiest and most syrupy music the producers can find. How about not wrapping everything us so easily each week – and letting the feuds linger – as they do with real families?
4) Stop Recycling Stories. Okay we get it – Nora and her mother don’t get along. Justin used to be in the army and it’s left him traumatized. Holly was William Walker’s mistress for years. But come on – how many times do we have to go back to the same plotlines time and again. When Justin gazed longingly at his army uniform last week (obviously thinking of re-enlisting) I really did have to fight the urge to grab a big old bottle of Ojai wine. Come on guys – surely there are more interesting stories to explore…
5) Brother, Can You Spare A Plot. Sure I understand that Sally Field, Calista Flockhart and Rachel Griffiths are the three main stars of Brothers and Sisters (four if you count the soon to depart Rob Lowe) – but really, do they have to grab the lion’s share of the screen time, all the time? I’d love to see Holly, Rebecca, Scotty and Saul be given something meaty to sink their teeth into, rather than simply providing background dressing for the latest Walker family drama.
To be fair Holly’s had a few good moments this season but her recent credit crisis could have been developed in a far more interesting manner than just a few stressed out scenes of her typing frantically into the Ojai computers. Rebecca has just become a simpering accessory to whatever drama over-indulged Justin is going through. Scotty has born the brunt of the dreaded egg count storyline. And as for poor Saul – well frankly there was really no reason for him to come out of the closet last season as the storyline has fizzled into a few pitiful punch lines over family dinners. And who knows where black sheep Ryan went to – or why Tommy keeps dropping in and promptly disappearing! These are all good actors, who properly developed could be interesting characters in their own right – but at the moment they’re all being sidestepped for yet more Sarah single mom drama or Kitty political plays.
So that’s my take on Brothers and Sisters – but what do you think? Can the show be saved – and how would you turn it around? Start weighing in…
|Print article||This entry was posted by Richard Drew on April 30, 2010 at 11:12 pm, and is filed under DRAMA, OPINION. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback from your own site.|
about 3 years ago - 3 comments
Sadly, sometimes you just have to let a show go!
And so it is that I’ve decided to pull the plus on ABC’s Brothers and Sisters, the Sunday night drama that’s been a regular soapy addition to my viewing habits for the last 4 years.
As you may recall I had BIG misgivings regarding the show last season, which I wrote about in my O Brother posting – hoping the show might improve. But now, 2 episodes into the series 5th year it’s become obvious that Brothers and Sisters is a dead show walking. I just don’t care about the characters, the storylines or the show itself anymore. It’s over…
When it first started Brothers and Sisters was a much better, and rather different, show. Sure the series was always kind of cheesy – and very heavy on the schmaltz factor, but there was something comforting about Nora Walker’s Californian home and the interlocking lives of her extended family. You really liked these characters and were intrigued by the paths their lives were taking (check out the season 1 trailer below with the original Nora Walker!)
about 4 years ago - No comments
Well we got a great response to our first Original Casting piece last week – as we showcased the original actress to play Tara on True Blood. Thanks to The Atlantic for picking up our posting and giving us some great press!
So now here’s another alternative pilot for those of you who wonder ‘what could have been!’
4 years ago Brothers and Sisters launched on ABC. The show quickly became a success, partly through its prime post Desperate Housewives scheduling, and partly from the chemistry of its cast, anchored by the show’s MVP, Sally Field. But behind the scenes the family drama had famously bad buzz and reportedly a few production dramas. Many didn’t think the show would last one season – and yet four years on it’s still here (though as I posted in my O Brother piece – this last season was not a great one for the show!)
But things could have been very different. Sally Field was NOT the original Nora Walker – check out this promo from 2006 to see the part with its original actress, theater veteran Betty Buckley!