With US TV enthralled by procedurals and talent shows, a story about the lives of a large family doesn’t fit genre trends, but that’s precisely what helped Brothers & Sisters find a grateful, faithful audience. When the show began in 2006 it resembled a lighter Six Feet Under (featuring Rachel Griffiths, a family with secrets and the patriarch’s death in the first episode). If you persisted, however, those wine-guzzling Walkers soon sucked you into their messy, compelling lives.
While it stars some big-name TV and movie actors Brothers & Sisters never attracted much media attention. Here in the UK it’s been shunted around the schedules and around three channels, yet it’s still managed to maintain a loyal fanbase. This Thursday (More4, 10pm), after an admittedly poor fifth season, however, it’s all over. The finale was shot before the cancellation announcement, but that doesn’t mean you should expect unresolved cliffhangers; the producers sensed that the end was nigh and managed to wrap things up satisfactorily. So, what will we miss most about the Walkers?
First, let’s discuss what we WON’T miss. No show is perfect, and Brothers & Sisters has had several dodgy developments including...
The Random Plot Generator
Justin, everybody: Rebecca is your secret sister! Oh wait, actually she’s not. The producers felt the actors had chemistry so their characters Rebecca and Justin were given the green card to get it on and get married. Ew.
After that there was Ryan, aka The Real Secret Walker Sibling. You know, the one we’ll all forget about once we realise the actor and character are duds. And don’t forget Kevin’s secret accidental paralysis of a fellow gay teen, which Nora then covered up for twenty years.
Last but not least: Sarah, oops you’re not really William Walker’s daughter after all. Consolation Prize: your real daddy is played by Beau Bridges.
Lack of Continuity
Apart from William’s ever-multiplying secrets from beyond the grave, there was Saul contracting HIV and then barely mentioning it again the following season. Then, of course there was Nora setting up a cancer charity, then forgetting all about it the following season. Thank God she landed that radio gig, eh?
OK, now we’ve got the shonky writing off our chests we can get down to the good stuff! Despite its flaws Brothers & Sisters is a unique, grown-up show that deals with (and only with) what it means to be a family; it confronts important, emotional issues in a sympathetic and admittedly sappy way. The Walkers are flawed people who really care about each other and that makes us viewers care too.
The undeniable strength of the show is the fantastic cast who play these characters--an ensemble without a weak link. Despite many of the actors being well-known for other roles, their parts in Brothers & Sisters make us forget their past impressions. From the more visible characters, like Sally Field’s Nora, to the less-regular ones, like Ron Rifkin’s Uncle Saul, you feel a part of this complex family unit. Praise for this must be given to Nora’s fabulous kitchen, which has united the clan for numerous (most of them disastrous) bond-making dinners over the years--an invite to a Walker family dinner really should come with an Emotional Bomb Disposal Kit attached. Similarly, the business Ojai Foods has impacted and heightened those tricky dynamics to great effect.
The most dramatic scenes are when the family is united, and of course this Thursday’s finale will be no exception; there are plenty of last-minute dramas to tie up when the Walkers come together for a wedding. While the characters will be raising a glass to the marriage of Sarah and Luc we’ll be toasting the actors who’ve helped make the Walkers a fictional family we're proud to have met.
What will you miss most about Brothers & Sisters?