Despite the star-studded cast, and superlative writing, ABC’s Brothers & Sisters never did very well in the ratings department. The third season (2008-2009) was the show’s highest rated, as the 33rd most popular of the year. For the fifth and final season (2010-2011), the program wound up at 52. It is unclear as to why the show never really took off. For one thing, ABC did not mess with it by trying it out in various timeslots. For all five seasons, Brothers & Sisters was shown at 10:00 pm Sunday nights, with a strong lead-in provided by Desperate Housewives.
The writing was always top-notch, and there were some very well known names in the cast. Series regulars included Sally Field, Calista Flockhart, Patricia Wettig, and Ron Rifkin to name a few. The show could be a bit hard to follow sometimes though, as there were always a great deal of storylines being played out. The series concerned the lives of the widowed Nora Walker (Sally Field), and her five adult children. Nora had two sons, and three daughters. They are Sarah Laurent (Rachel Griffiths), Kitty Walker (Calista Flockhart), Kevin Walker (Matthew Rhys), Tommy Walker (Balthazar Getty), and Justin Walker (Dave Annable).
As season five opens, it has been a year since a traumatic auto accident, which involved Justin, his mother in law Holly Harper (Patrica Wettig), and his sister Kitty’s husband Robert. We find out that Justin was able to get Holly to the hospital, but that she is suffering from some tremendous memory loss. Robert is in a coma, and it looks permanent. Eventually they will terminate his life support. Justin’s way of coping with the situation was to reenlist, and he has just returned from his third tour of duty in Iraq.
On a more positive note, Sarah and her fiancee Luc Laurent (Gilles Marini) are busy planning their wedding. After losing their surrogate child in a miscarriage, Kevin and his husband Scott Wandell (Luke Macfarlane) are planning on adopting a young girl. Tommy had always been the “black sheep” of the Walker family, but he too returns. Tommy’s girlfriend has a deep and abiding interest in genealogy, and goes on a mission to trace the Walker family tree. What she discovers will have repercussions for everyone. When Justin left for Iraq, his wife Rebecca (Emily VanCamp) felt abandoned. She filed for divorce while he was away.
And those are just the broad strokes of what is going on during the 22 hour-long episodes that make up Brothers & Sisters: The Complete Fifth Season. Add various grandchildren, work acquaintances, a grammar school production of Romeo & Juliet, and a scene-stealing Sonia Braga as Luc’s estranged mother to the mix, and you will have some idea of what this program is all about.
I must confess that I had only seen a few episodes of Brothers & Sisters before the fifth season. But the show is so well-written and acted, it really did not matter. The back-stories are explained well enough that even a novice will be able to easily follow the action. I for one am sorry to see the show go. It really is superb television, in every way. As for extras, there are a few deleted scenes, and we get to spend a “day” with heartthrob Gilles Marini. That one is for the ladies to be sure.
Brothers & Sisters is definitely a cut above the average family drama, thanks to the talented people involved, and the obvious care they put into it. This is a show I will miss.