Ken Olin is truly a great talent that I’ve followed back when he played the snotty detective Garibaldi on Hill Street Blues. Since then he’s done some wonderful work behind the camera, and Brothers & Sisters certainly shows his influence; however, this is not some of his best work. The show often leans on clichés and gets awfully lazy in moving forward at times. I do see the great family of characters they created here, but fail to find them interesting beyond the life breathed into them by their performers. This is a case of ego getting in the way of great potential. The writers and producers are trying way too hard to do something special. True greatness often requires the least effort. My advice to Olin and company is, play to the strengths of this great cast, and then get out of their way as often as possible.
Sally Field plays Nora Walker. Her husband has just died and left her with a lot of unanswered questions in her life. She soon discovers a twenty year affair and some even more serious hanky panky with the books of the company the family owns. Her emotional ups and downs can be about as compelling as television can get. Callista Flockhart plays the best opposite Fields as the errant, and of course, conservative, black sheep of the family. The moments they share have given me a greater respect for Flockhart than her previous roles have. It is a little much watching her call someone else skinny. Ron Rifkin steals every scene he’s in as the old fashioned Uncle Saul, proving that Alias was no fluke for this accomplished actor. Rachel Griffiths again hides her English accent to show that if nothing else, she does a good job of crying. The remaining cast of Dave Annable, Balthazar Getty, and Matthew Rys are often just as nice as the three brother siblings on the show.
While most of the crew for this series worked together on Alias, the series looks a lot more like Six Feet Under. The musical cues are so nearly identical, I at first believed they were done by the same composer. They were not. The idea of the recently widowed matron, the dysfunctional family, the gay brother, and a lot of the symbolism remind me often of the former HBO series.
So what’s up with the Walkers in the third season? Highlights of the season include the discovery of a secret book that Kitty wrote that doesn’t make her very popular with the family. Everyone’s complaining about how they were portrayed, while Holly is using it as leverage against the Walker clan. Of course, the big story is the merger of the Walker business with Holly’s winery. There’s a new mystery that was started in last year’s season finale. William had a son, and now there’s a search on to find out who he is. Not everyone is so eager to uncover that truth. Robert now has his eyes on a Governor’s seat. The tensions of the new merger could land Tommy in jail and lead to even greater hatred for Holly. If it all sounds like a soap opera, you’re right. Don’t try to keep up if you haven’t seen the first two seasons. This is not a show you can just dive right into anywhere along the line. Start at the beginning before heading into this release.
Each episode of Brothers & Sisters is presented in an above average television 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The show is often a little too dark for my tastes, but the image doesn’t suffer in quality from the choice. Black levels are fortunately pretty solid. A taste of grain sometimes works its way to the forefront, but never enough for me to downgrade the quality. You’ll see a little compression artifact from time to time, again made more noticeable by the dark tone of the show. Colors are solid, and sharpness creates a fine element of detail most of the time. Again, I just wish this show were a little brighter.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is a nice mix for a television series. There’s plenty of subtle surrounds, more than enough to generate a nice immersion into the story for the viewer. The songs are presented in a solid presentation in so far as quality is concerned, but all of them appear to be from the same female vocalist regardless of the original artist. I know rights costs make this sort of thing necessary these days, but could you at least mix it up a little bit? Dialog is clear and well placed in the center.
The show spans 6 single-sided discs containing 24 episodes. Some things are found throughout the set.
Audio Commentaries: There are a couple of audio commentaries featuring: show creator Jon Robin Baitz, Ken Olin and many other members of the cast and crew. For the most part they are interesting, but not incredibly informative
Deleted Scenes: There are 7 mostly character scenes that you can access individually or with the convenient play all option.
The Ojai Experience: (12:44) Some of the cast and crew took a field trip to Ojai and a real family owned winery where they got the VIP tour. There’s plenty of footage and banter between the participants.
In – Between Scenes: (6:35) The feature offers a look at how some of the cast spend their time on location when they’re not in front of the camera. There’s a quick look at the Walker home set and the props from an episode’s garage sale. The feature ends with a visit with David Foley who guest stared this season on the show.
The Mothers Of Brothers & Sisters: (10:18) Cast and crew talk about the two mother characters, Nora and Holly, and talk about how they compare with their own mothers.
Blooper and Outtakes: (5:03) The usual missteps and mayhem.
I will admit that this show grew on me a little more in its third season. The politics and endless Republican bashing does get rather tedious, but there is a strong cast here. I continue to believe that it is the writers who are letting this show down on a regular basis. I’d love to see these actors/characters with the aid of better penmen putting that dialog in their mouths. It’s time for a writer’s room complete clean out. Get some fresh blood in there and see some true potential come to fruition. As it is this show goes down easier with a nice chilled red wine. So, “grab a glass and park yourself”.