Brothers & Sisters: The Complete First Season – DVD Review
by John Cavanagh on October 30, 2007

Created by:
Jon Robin Baitz

Starring:
Sally Field … Nora Walker
Calista Flockhart … Kitty Walker
Dave Annable … Justin Walker
Matthew Rhys … Kevin Walker
Balthazar Getty … Tommy Walker
Rachel Griffiths … Sarah Whedon
Ron Rifkin … Saul Holden
Rob Lowe … Robert McCallister
Sarah Jane Morris … Julia Walker
John Pyper-Ferguson … Joe Whedon
Patricia Wettig … Holly Harper
Emily VanCamp … Rebecca Harper
Tom Skerritt … William Walker

Studio: Buena Vista Home Entertainment.
Release Date: September 18, 2007.
Number of Discs: 6.
Number of Episodes: 23.
Running Time: 998.
MSRP: $59.99.
Available at Amazon.com

The Show


It’s almost impossible to start a review for one of the latest series by ABC without talking about their recent track record with original shows over the past few years. Where Desperate Housewives and Lost not only saved them from constantly winding up in fourth place, but made them a legitimate contender. And with Grey Anatomy shortly after, they quickly claimed their place as the top network. So when it comes to one of their newer outings, they constantly have those three prime time giants hovering over them in terms of the quality audiences expect.

Brothers & Sisters is all about a family dealing with what life gives them. After the passing of William Walker, Patriarch of the Walker household and founder of Ojai Foods, one of the regions most successful produce distributors, his family is forced to come together and try their best to move on. With William gone, his five grown kids all do their best to make sure their mother, Nora, copes with the loss. What they don’t realize is just how much they too need the support.

Making up the Walker clan we have Kevin, the family lawyer who’s constantly being barraged to help with legal trouble and basically the central hub for all of the family gossip; Kitty, a Right Wing pundit on national television who’s the only Republican in the family and deals with that on a daily basis; We also have Justin who, while repeatedly being treated like the baby of the family, is a returning Iraq War vet with a growing substance abuse problem. Tommy and Sarah, the two older siblings, helped their father with the business and are now left in change after he’s gone. But when Sarah is promoted to President per William’s wishes, Tommy, who was their longer, is left simmering at the decision. Saul, Nora’s brother, helps with the business also. But that’s not the only thing he helped William with, he also kept a twenty year secret regarding William’s mistress. And when the family finds out, it opens up a can of worms that seems to have no end in sight.

Secrets only last anywhere from a few seconds to a couple episodes, but nothing ever stays buried. It only takes the phrase “can you keep a secret” before the cat is out of the bag and a family meeting is called to order. The series manages to blend humor and drama quite well in that regard.

The series features a strong and multi dimensional gay character in Kevin. And to see the series take a very respectable approach dealing with that is something this reviewer finds to be a refreshing change of pace for the standard network approach towards such topics. It has gay men in the real world, a slightly more understanding world, but a real world nonetheless. He isn’t treated in the stereotypical way that has been emulated ever since Will & Grace, while also not being treated as an overly perfect person. He has both personal and relationship issues, while also having ample screen time as a main character of the series. Showing the same highs and lows as the straight roles.

Writing and acting are what make the show. Which is to be expected considering that the writers mainly use the Walker family as a way to write about an average family dealing with real world issues that grace the front page of newspapers every day. It’s only natural that occasionally they’ll try and push the envelope a bit too far, opting to aim towards melodrama as to get a reaction from viewers. Which makes it the actors job to make the words feel truthful and authentic rather than comical or farcical. The cast that was collected here makes that daunting and difficult task look like a walk in the park.

They manage to weave the multiple characters and intersecting story lines very astutely, finding a perfect balance of continuously moving all of the plots forward without ever making any feel rushed or short changed. But the show does tend to rely heavily on melodramatic, almost soap opera style techniques. Things like the characters seeming to be consistently on the verge of tears, while also using other over the top editing choices like slow-mo hugging with over the top sappy music are pillars to just about every episode. To be honest, Brothers & Sisters is probably best described as a guilty pleasure type of show.

There are some problems with the show that made me a bit uncomfortable. The main one being William’s mistress, who is like an itch you can’t reach. Where every time she appears on screen the show comes to a screeching halt. And her endless attempt at trying to be accepted by the family mainly comes across as creepy. Another issue I have is an unbelievable period between William’s death and Nora’s return to the dating world, which happens far too suddenly. But these two things are mainly required to heighten the drama of the show and are handled adequately.

With the sole exception of the season finale, which feels completely tacked on, this was an otherwise stellar first season. Hopefully that episodes won’t be the defining moment where this show jumped the shark. As the network that has rapidly become known as the best place to find original programming, ABC doesn’t disappoint with Brothers & Sisters.

The DVD


Quality:
While having a marginally noticeable amount of grain, the episodes look much better than their broadcast quality. The show is presented in 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen. The included English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround audio track is also a nice and welcomed improvement.

Extras:

Audio Commentaries – Four track have been included with cast and crew members sporadically placed across the six discs. While never getting into deep discussion on the show, they all reveal what a blast it must be to work on the show. Giving a great sense that the work environment for everyone is something they look forward to each day. Included on the tracks are, Jon Robin Baitz, Craig Wright, Patricia Wettig, Matthew Rhys, David Marshall Grant, Molly Newman, Alison Schapker, Monica Breen, Marc Guggenheim, David Annable, Emily VanCamp, Ken Olin, Sarah Caplan, and Balthazar Getty.

Creating the Walker Family Tree (29:01) – Runing just under a half hour, this behind the scenes featurette is broken up in to five sections (Conception, Writing, Crew, Cast, and Final Thoughts) where the cast and crew talk about what it was like getting the show started at ABC, moving forward with filming the pilot, what it was like casting the roles, and what it’s like on the set while filming. It’s a nicely paced feature and the closing bit about the amount of alcohol consumed during the show was especially funny.

Behind the Scenes with the Brothers (6:14) – As the title implies, here we see Dave Annable (Justin Walker), Matthew Rhys (Kevin Walker) and Balthazar Getty (Tommy Walker) giving a behind the scenes look at the Brothers & Sisters offices. Their back and forth with playful banter makes an otherwise predictable extra and turn it in to something very funny.

Bloopers and Outtakes (2:29) – Shows, well, bloopers and outtakes.

The Family Business (4:35) – In a very interesting featurette, here we get to find out Roxy Olin, Cliff Olin, Patricia Wettig, and Ken Olin. All of whom play an important part on the show, be it producer, writer, or actor.

The Deleted Episode: “State of the Parties” with introduction (42:50) In what may be one of the most interesting extras I’ve seen on a TV set in a long time, here we find out about an episode that was meant to be the second of the series but wound up being cut shortly after its completion. Creator and Executive Producer Jon Robin Baitz explains why it was cut before the episode in a brief introduction.

The Inside Pulse

With the sole exception of the season finale, which feels completely tacked on, this was an otherwise stellar first season. Hopefully that episodes won’t be the defining moment where this show jumped the shark. As the network that has rapidly become known as the best place to find original programming, ABC doesn’t disappoint with Brothers & Sisters.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for
Brothers & Sisters: The Complete First Season
CATEGORY
RATING
(OUT OF 10)
THE SHOW
8
THE VIDEO
8
THE AUDIO
6.5
THE EXTRAS
7
REPLAY VALUE
7
OVERALL
7
(NOT AN AVERAGE)



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