Monday, February 19, 2007

"The prodigal daughter returns": Brothers & Sisters

Brothers and Sisters seems to be getting more and more press attention for the way it has quietly stepped up its quality (and its ratings) after being hyped as pilot season's first possible casualty way back in September last year. While the previous two episodes showcased the program's winning qualities (nice balance of comedy and drama, the easy chemistry of the ensemble, Sally Field) better, this week was still good stuff.

I won't lie: the best thing about it all was our admittedly brief glimpse of Holly's (the so-far underused Patricia Wettig) daughter Rebecca, played by Everwood alum Emily VanCamp. It's the second bit of stunt casting the show has employed, after snaring Rob Lowe to play Senator Robert McCallister. Even though we only saw VanCamp for a minute or two, chances seem good that she'll be a good addition to the Walker family. For one, it'll give Wettig (and quite possibly Ron Rifkin, her quasi-love interest) more to do past sniping at Sarah (Rachel Griffiths) at board meetings. Also, the show has clearly been searching for a nice slice of sudsy drama ever since most of deceased patriarch William's (Tom Skerritt, who returned tonight in flashback) other indiscretions have been cleaned up.

For example, this week, the dramatic weight was shifted onto Sarah trying to navigate her rocky marriage and Tommy (Balthazar Getty) trying to break the family mould. Of the core family members, Tommy has easily had the least to do, but Getty is a talented performer and he acquitted himself well despite the relative dullness of his character. Particularly well played was the revelation that his partner (wife? girlfriend? I forget her status) would be having twins, as well as his inadvertent meeting with Rebecca. Less interesting was his flashback confrontations with William, but it's still nice to see the writers trying to cater to every character and also include Skerritt from time to time.

I'll say less about the other three major plots--Sarah's marriage, Kevin's (Matthew Rhys) relationship woes with closeted soap star Chad (Jason Lewis) and Kitty's (Calista Flockhart) indignance that the Senator's staff polled the public's opinion of her. Not because they weren't good: Rachel Griffiths would have to try pretty hard to give a bad performance, and Rob Lowe is easily the best on-screen Republican ever (I'm exaggerating, but he's great). Still, the material was a little thinner than usual, much of it making the episode a little too heavy, although it's also guilty of extremely broad farce when it goes into the other direction. Nonetheless, Brothers & Sisters has definitely evolved into a fun little escapade, and I sure hope it doesn't go anywhere next year.

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