Tuesday, April 03, 2007

"She's hot. I feel nothing.": Brothers and Sisters

David's out for two weeks (the bastard), so a variety of the rest of us are going to try and cover his shows. I actually don't know if his brother is on vacation with him, so maybe I'll be doing Prison Break and others too (for starters: who else enjoyed gladiator prison?!). But, mostly, we'll try to cover David's bigger shows.

Which starts with this one. Honestly, this was the first time since the pilot that I've paid really close attention to this show. It's usually running in the background while I do something else and Libby watches it while folding laundry or something. Now, I was curious about the show just because it added Emily VanCamp as a regular (and we could all do with a regular dose of VanCamp), but I hadn't planned to make it a regular addition to the old plate. I'm not the world's biggest fan of shows where yuppies stare wistfully at the camera and complain about their earth-shattering problems. But this show has a heck of a cast and a fine, fine showrunner in Greg Berlanti, so I thought I'd take it on this week (Libby swears she'll do it next week).

Anyway, I was surprised by how much I liked the episode in question. It'll never be one of my top ten favorite shows on television, and I don't think it quite approaches Berlanti's previous show, the late, lamented Everwood (and if Rina Mimoun, the other mastermind behind that show, gets her pilot on ABC, I will love the network forever), but it's comfort food television, like sitting back on the couch in your sweats and eating fried chicken. (I should note that the show was created by Jon Robert Baitz, and I'd compare it to his prior work if I had seen any of his plays. But I haven't.)

The style of Brothers and Sisters seems to have shifted over the course of the season, going from a show where a bunch of random plotlines were only connected incidentally because of the fact that the characters were all in a family together. The show seems to have shifted to doing a few short scenes that set up the characters' dramas, then shifting to a few acts set at a central event where all of the family members come together and their stories intersect. Then, they break apart again to deal with the aftermath of the event and see how their situation has been affected by the event. It could feel strained, but it doesn't so far, and it's an interesting way to do a soap with a big, sprawling cast.

The event in question was a dinner with newly discovered half-sister Rebecca (the lurvely VanCamp), which was the first occasion for many of the characters to meet her. Only Kitty did not attend, as she was having her own awkward family situation, meeting the children of her senator boyfriend for the first time. The scenes at the Rebecca dinner were pretty great, all messy emotions and inside jokes and weird attempts to make Rebecca feel welcome. The scenes with Kitty and the senator weren't, really, as the kids rejecting the father's new girlfriend subplot isn't a new one and wasn't deployed in an original fashion here either. Still, Rob Lowe and Calista Flockhart have pretty good chemistry (though it's nothing compared to the chemistry she had with Robert Downey Jr. back on Ally McBeal), so that made the subplot not a complete waste.

I wasn't as sold on the scenes between the individual siblings. I dug how Nora's writing wasn't very good at first and still wasn't very good at the end, but I wasn't as invested in Infertile Brother's quest to find out which brother is the father of his child. And I admire the honesty with which they portray the relationship of Gay Brother, but his boyfriend is a pretty awful actor (am I alone on this?). Youngest Soldier Brother's weird attempts to ingratiate himself with Rebecca were also pretty good, though Rebecca's bitterness at her mother over never being able to know her siblings before was kind of. . .odd, all things considered.

Still, my biggest impression of the hour was that the show, which started out as a deeply drab and self-serious hour, had somehow morphed into an almost farcical comedy with some truly funny lines. Like I said, it's not the best show on television, but it's surprisingly entertaining, both for its genre and its premise.

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