Just like the rest of the 2007 fall line-up, Brothers & Sisters was affected by the 100 days long writers strike. Thankfully the show was well on its way before the strike started looming and managed to only have its season cut short by about seven episodes.
Season one saw the Walker family dealing with the loss of William, Patriarch of the Walker household and founder of the family business, Ojai Foods. With William gone, his five grown kids all do their best to make sure their mother, Nora, copes with the loss. The season was filled with mystery, drama, comedy, and many of the issues that could be found in such a large family. In the end we were left seeing Kitty leave her job as a TV pundit to become Director of Communications for Sen. Robert McCallister — her new boyfriend. Iraq War veteran Justin signed up for a second tour of duty after fighting his struggle with substance abuse. Sarah, who was left with the burden of running the family business, was trying to keep her rocky marriage together. Tommy became a father and co-owner of a new winery, the only hiccup being that he’s partners with his fathers former mistress. Kevin dealt with his commitment issues after a constant on-again-off-again relationship with Scotty. All this while Nora was entering the dating arena. Oh, and they all discovered William’s dirty little secret that managed to remain hidden for decades — that he had a child, named Rebecca.
Wedding bells are in the air and the political season is heating up during the second season of Brothers & Sisters. Leading off from season one, we have the Walker’s getting used to having Rebecca as she becomes a new component within the Walker family. Justin returns home from the war after sustaining some serious injuries while struggling with his history of substance abuse. Kitty is busy trying to keep Robert’s Presidential campaign running on all cylinders — while planning her wedding. Tommy and Sarah both find themselves going through some serious marriage woes. Kevin, finally in a committed relationship, is tested as his boyfriend Jason is called on by his church to go on a mission to Malaysia. All of this with Nora trying to find things to fill time in the day by butting in… I mean helping her kids deal with their problems.
It can at times be a bit complicated following the lives of roughly twelve characters. To solve this, the show’s writers have figured out a way to best balance the many, many stories that take place over the sixteen episodes. For starters, season two reduces a lot of the redundant information relay between characters that weighed down some of the original episodes. It gives the audience a bit more credit, allowing them to fill in the blanks, and allowing the more pertinent stories a little bit more screen time. On the other hand, this does cut down on the constantly entertaining banter that derives from call waiting.
Last season’s melodramatic stories were very much a guilty pleasure for me, but something about this new batch of episodes felt different. I’ve mentioned many times to people I talk with about this show that it has finally managed to find the perfect mixture of quality and good old fashion entertainment that allow it to escape guilty pleasure territory. The light, yet sophisticated tone and style of the series finally found a groove that allows for a fun, relatable exploration on certain topics considered taboo by most competing channels. Providing an admittedly melodramatic look at the 21st century family and how they deal with day to day life.
Almost all of the previous issues I found in season one have been greatly improved. The biggest one being Holly’s storyline which started to become grating is resolved by making her more of a person and less of a harpy. She’s finally treated like a woman who made what she felt were the right decisions for her daughter. Not some relative stranger trying to force her way into another family’s life by claiming a stake in their business. And the way they work her past into the show also makes her come across as far more rounded.
It’s sad to see an otherwise blemish-free second season be left to struggle with the unavoidable writers strike. And it does cause the final four episodes of the season to contain a far more condensed version of what clearly looked like a plot point which would have played out better if given time to gradually evolve at a slower pace. Major storylines that were taking place prior to those four are all wrapped up with some satisfaction, but it’s hard to ignore the out of left field conclusion for one character and the abrupt introduction of the season’s cliffhanger.
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.
The season includes audio commentaries on three important episodes: the premiere, “Home Front,” with director Ken Olin, Patricia Wettig, and Matthew Rhys; “36 Hours” with actors Dave Annable, Sarah Jane Morris, and Emily VanCamp; and the finale, “Prior Commitments,” which has Exec. Producer Monica Owusu-Breen, Matthew Rhys, and Luke Macfarlane sitting down to discuss the show. All of them discuss very interesting topics, like how the cast got back into the rhythm and tempo of the show at the start of the season. For the most part, they’re very lively and yet still find room to joke around and have some fun.
Deleted Scenes (7:36, total) Seven scenes have been included, but are presented in non-anamorphic widescreen and have very poor video quality. There are a few involving Justin, where you get a picture of what he was dealing with overseas and why he struggles with pills, which should have stayed in the final cut. A rare cases where the deleted scenes are worth watching.
Guest Book (14:08) Takes a look at all of the new characters introduced this season and the actors who joined the show. The featurette has the show regulars and crew discuss what it was like to work with the new cast members and guest stars like Danny Glover, Chevy Chase, Steven Weber, Denis O’Hare and even Ken Olin.
TV Dinners: Food From Season 2 (6:19) Food Stylist Jessie Sieben walks us through her day to day routine for the show, which has a very heavy emphasis on food. Most of the piece has the cast and crew talking about why certain dishes were chosen, their opinion on the meals, and how being able to eat food all day during a shoot can be both a blessing and a curse.
Open House: Designing the Brothers & Sisters Set (10:11) Production Designer Denny Degally and Set Decorator Bryan John Venegas take us on a walk through the sets of the Walker family house, Ojai Foods, and talk about what it’s like prepping upwards of 12-30 sets in a given episode. The third half of the featurette covers the many, many restaurant sets featured on the show.
Last up is a Bloopers and Outtakes (4:22) reel.
Also in the set is a collection of ten recipes.
Perhaps its low-key nature is why the series can touch on the types of topics most shows try to avoid. What other shows on television right now would include plots that revolve around drug addiction and post traumatic stress disorder in a returning Iraq War soldier? Season two is another solid outing for Brothers & Sisters, and continues to make it one of ABC’s best shows.
Buena Vista Home Entertainment presents Brothers & Sisters: The Complete Second Season. Created by Jon Robin Baitz. Starring Calista Flockhart, Sally Field, Rachel Griffiths, Rob Lowe, Patricia Wettig, Matthew Rhys, Balthazar Getty, Dave Annable, Emily VanCamp. Running time: 671 minutes. Rated: TV-PG. Released on DVD: September 23, 2008. Available at Amazon.