Buena Vista // 2008 // 671 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Ian Visser (Retired) // October 30th, 2008
Their differences make them human. Their bond makes them family.
One of the best-written and acted shows currently on television, Brothers and Sisters provides an inside look at one family and the challenges they face.
The Walker family sure had a tough first television season. Patriarch William Walker (Tom Skerritt, Alien) died suddenly, leaving his business, Ojai Foods, to his family. It also came out that the late William had a mistress (whoops!) and in turn, an illegitimate daughter (double whoops!). Widower Nora Walker (Sally Field, Smoky and the Bandit) and her children Sarah (Rachel Griffiths, Step Up), Kitty (Calista Flockhart, The Last Shot), Tommy (Balthazar Getty, Deuces Wild), Justin (Dave Annable, Little Black Book), and Kevin (Matthew Rhys, Deathwatch) each must deal with the fallout from William's death in their own way, while living their own lives as best they can.
Season Two opens with few of these issues resolved. The Walker's have accepted their new half-sister Rebecca (Emily VanCamp, The Ring Two) as one of their own and the family food business is now being run by Sarah and Nora's brother, Saul (Ron Rifkin, L.A. Confidential), but Justin's deployment to Iraq is causing an intense strain on Nora. Relations William's mistress are understandably icy, but have been somewhat tempered by her investment in Tommy's winery. Will family bonds be enough to see them through the new challenges that surface in this second season?
Buena Vista has released Season Two in a five disc, 16 episode package, including one disc dedicated to special features. The episodes include:
Homefront -- Kitty takes a break from Robert's presidential campaign, Kevin's minister boyfriend accepts a mission to Malaysia, and the family gets some unsettling news about Justin's unit in Iraq.
An American Family -- Justin is wounded in Iraq, Tommy and Julia's marriage suffers after losing a child in season one, and Sarah and Joe go from separation to divorce.
History Repeating -- Robert gets some bad press courtesy of his ex-wife, Justin's recovery is hampered by his refusal to accept pain medication, and Tommy smarts under criticisms from his father-in-law.
States of the Union -- The Walker girls have a spa getaway after Kitty discovers a pre-nup drawn up by Robert, Kevin re-establishes his friendship with an ex, and Nora learns that Julia has taken Tommy's baby to Arizona with her.
Domestic Issues -- Kitty discovers she's pregnant, Joe demands primary custody of the children from Sarah, Tommy begins an affair with his new office manager, and Justin begins abusing his pain medication.
Two Places -- Hatchet-man Isaac (Danny Glover, Lethal Weapon) joins Robert's campaign as damage control, Kitty suffers a miscarriage, and Rebecca leaves the Walker home to live with her mother.
36 Hours -- Justin's addiction leads to an intervention, Tommy's affair gets out to the family, and Saul half-heartedly comes out to Nora.
Something New -- Robert and Kitty start their wedding plans, Julia returns to Tommy, Nora reconnects with an old boyfriend (Chevy Chase, Fletch), and Kevin leaves his boyfriend for his ex.
Holy Matrimony -- Isaac must confront rumors surrounding Robert's war record, Kitty's wedding gets complicated when Justin brings Tommy's mistress as a date, and Holly gets a surprise visitor from her past.
The Feast of Epiphany -- Isaac and Nora start a tentative relationship, the Walker brothers attempt to hide Tommy's affair from their mother, and Kitty learns Robert isn't ready for more children.
The Missionary Imposition -- Sarah and Saul clash over a business expansion, Tommy and Julia try to reconnect in their marriage, and Jason and Kevin air their feelings over their breakup.
Compromises -- Sarah signs her divorce papers and promptly sleeps with her new business consultant, Kevin tries to convince his boyfriend he's not uptight, and Robert loses a critical endorsement in his campaign.
Separation Anxiety -- Robert loses his bid for the Republican nomination, Nora decides she cannot move to D.C. with Isaac, and Holly admits that William Walker may not be Rebecca's father after all.
Double Negative -- Rebecca learns her mother's ex-boyfriend is her father but hides the truth from the Walkers, Sarah orders Saul to dump a plan for business expansion, and Robert refuses to accept the vice-president spot offered by his rival.
Moral Hazard -- Ojai Foods is threatened after Saul ignores Sarah's orders to halt a risky deal, Robert and Kitty face challenges in their pregnancy attempt, and Rebecca admits she is not a Walker.
Prior Commitments -- Kevin and Scotty get married, Tommy's winery bails out Ojai Foods, and the family learns there may be another undiscovered Walker child resulting from their father's affairs.
Most recent network dramas have revolved around a particular profession such as cops, doctors, or lawyers. 2007 marked something of a resurgence of the family drama genre with the appearance of Brothers and Sisters as well as the similar October Road. This shortage of family-based shows is somewhat understandable; audiences want thrills and excitement, and the machinations of a single family and their life events tend to pale in comparison with gunshots, blazing infernos, or runaway viruses.
So credit Brothers and Sisters with delivering a realistic portrayal (generally) of a family that it well-written, well-acted, and worth spending time with. Granted, there are aspects of melodrama that border on unbelievable, but at the core of the show is a drama that takes a deep and sympathetic look at how a family challenges and rewards those who live within it.
The cornerstone of both the Walker family and Brothers and Sisters is Sally Field. Here is an actor with a challenge, playing a character equal parts nurturer and nag and spending much of the show interfering (however well-intended) in the lives of her children while still appearing sympathetic to viewers. It's a credit to Field that she is able to do so, in particular capturing the struggle that Nora engages in as she tries to find the balance between helping her children and leaving them well-enough alone.
The rest of the cast is as solid as Field. In most series there is usually at least one turkey among the cast, but Brothers and Sisters distinguishes itself by assembling a cast that is as close to flawless as you can find. Veterans Rob Lowe (Tommy Boy) and Calista Flockhart convincingly play a couple struggling with family and personal issues, and Ron Rifkin fills his character of Uncle Saul with a deep sense of regret for a life led in secret and the sacrifices it demanded. The only cast shortcoming I can find with this season is Danny Glover (Lethal Weapon) as a political hatchet-man for Robert's presidential campaign. Glover plays the role laid-back and reserved, where I think the role calls for someone with more intensity than Glover is able to deliver. Being a nice guy makes him appealing to Nora as a potential paramour but it doesn't make him believable as a character.
Part of what makes Season Two so successful is that the various storylines are each dedicated an equal measure of time and focus. There are no minor characters in this series; each cast member gets a share of attention and the writers and actors alike make good use of the opportunity. The result is a deep, well-balanced collection of stories that flesh out the relationships between the members and lend a real sense of history to the family.
Buena Vista has done a great job on the technical aspects of this release. The anamorphic widescreen image is crystal clear and nearly flawless; this might be the best-looking television transfer I've seen yet. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track is equally impressive, and the surround sound is a pleasant gift in a genre that usually limits itself to 2-channel audio. French, English, and Spanish subtitles are included.
Brothers and Sisters: The Complete Second Season provides a solid collection of extras contained on their own individual disc. These include:
Deleted Scenes: Seven deleted scenes from the season, totaling seven minutes.
Guest Book: A review of guest appearances made during the season and their impact on the show.
TV Dinners: A chronicle of the food featured in season two, including interviews with show's food stylist and chefs.
Open House: Designing the Brothers and Sisters Set: An inside look at what went into creating the look of the show. This segment includes interviews with the production and set designers and a review of the show's sets.
Bloopers and Outtakes: Four minutes of flubs.
Recipe Cards: One of the neater extras I've encountered, this collection of recipes is printed on cards and personalized with little messages ("Justin's Favorite!"). These are real recipes used for the food featured in the show and can actually be prepared if you are unsure about what to do with that roast of lamb or those leftover apples.
Brothers and Sisters is a melodrama, so it often leaves one wondering how much "drama" one family can possibly contain. Everything you can imagine is thrown at this group, from homosexuality and divorce to drug addiction and illegitimate children. If my family was this dysfunctional, yet totally unswerving in their love and devotion, I'd find it hard to believe too.
Brothers and Sisters: The Complete Second Season is a class act packed with clever writing, sincere characters, and enough tear-jerking to please fans of the family drama genre. Packaged with solid extras and a top-notch transfer, this season is a sure buy for fans of the show.
Review content copyright © 2008 Ian Visser; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Buena Vista
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 671 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted scenes
* Guest Book
* TV Dinners: Food from Season Two
* Open House: Designing the Brothers and Sisters Set
* Bloopers and Outtakes
* Recipe Cards
* Official Site