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Brothers & Sisters on DVD: Season 1 Season 2 Season 3

"Brothers and Sisters" The Complete First Season DVD Review

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Show & DVD Details

Regular Writers: Jon Robin Baitz (creator), David Marshall Grant, Molly Newman, Craig Wright / Regular Directors: Ken Olin, Michael Lange, Matt Shakman

Starring Cast: Calista Flockhart (Kitty Walker), Rachel Griffiths (Sarah Whedon), Sally Field (Nora Walker), Matthew Rhys (Kevin Walker), Dave Annable (Justin Walker), Balthazar Getty (Tommy Walker), Ron Rifkin (Saul Holden), Patricia Wettig (Holly Harper), John Pyper-Ferguson (Joe Whedon), Emily VanCamp (Rebecca Harper), Sarah Jane Morris (Julia Walker), Kerris Lilla Dorsey (Paige Whedon)

Recurring Characters: Rob Lowe (Robert McCallister), Josh Hopkins (Warren Salter), Jason Lewis (Chad Barry), Luke McFarlane (Scotty Wandell), Tom Skerritt (William Walker), Marika Dominczyk (Tyler Altamirano), Treat Williams (David Morton), Matthew Settle (Jonathan Sellers), Peter Coyote (Mark August), Keri Lynn Pratt (Amber Trachtenberg), Jay Huguley (Whit Peyton), Maxwell Perry Cotton (Cooper Whedon), Tyler Posey (Gabriel Whedon), David Burke (Jack Bishop), Margot Kidder (Emily Craft), Eric Winter (Jason McCallister), Laura Jordan (Fawn), Roxy Olin (Michelle), Michael Beach (Noah Guare), Ryan Michelle Bathe (Noreen)

Notable Guest Stars: Robert Foxworth (Harry Packard), Meredith Baxter (Margaret Packard), Ron Canada (Brigadier General Hendrix), Marion Ross (Ida Holden), D.W. Moffett (Michael Pellington), Joel Grey (Dr. Jude Bar-Shalom), David Paymer (Donald Dudley), Susan Sullivan (Miranda Jones), Jenna Elfman (Lizzie Jones-Baker), Gary Marshall (Major Jack Weiner), Michael Nouri (Milo Peterman)

Running Time: 986 Minutes (23 episodes) / Rating: TV-14
1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen / Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French; Closed Captioned
DVD Release Date: September 18, 2007
Season 1 Airdates: September 24, 2006 May 20, 2007
Six single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9s); Suggested Retail Price: $23.99 (Was $59.99)
Eight-sided fold-out Digipak with Cardboard Slipcover

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Ida (Marion Ross) is on hand and learning surprising new things about her grandchildren at Nora's unusual 60th birthday party. Joe and Sarah try marriage counseling in "Love is Difficult."

Disc 4

13. Something Ida This Way Comes (43:09) (Originally aired January 21, 2007)
The Walkers throw Nora an interesting surprise 60th birthday party, which includes a medieval theme, no alcohol, a video greeting that goes predictably bad, and an appearance by her fussy mother ("Happy Days" mom Marion Ross).

14. Valentine's Day Massacre (42:59) (Originally aired February 11, 2007)
After finding various Walkers in unexpected situations,
this episode looks back at the eventful Valentine's Day each experienced. A final tally: two relationships consummated, one profession of love, and one marijuana-sparked arrest.

15. Love is Difficult (42:10) (Originally aired February 18, 2007)
Sarah and Joe try marriage counseling, Holly gives Tommy reason to reconsider her proposed vineyard acquisition, Kitty takes offense at a poll conducted on her and Robert's relationship, and we get our first glimpse of the much-discussed Rebecca.

16. The Other Walker (42:14) (Originally aired March 4, 2007)
The Walkers get a chance to see Rebecca, who's back from Chicago indefinitely, and strange new feelings arise in them over their half-relative. Kevin tries to protect Chad when gay rumors turn up on a gossip website.

All eyes are on Rebecca (Emily VanCamp) as she dines with the Walker family for the first time. The Walkers disagree over Romeo and Juliet's last names in the critical trivia question of "Game Night"

Disc 5

17. All in the Family (43:05) (Originally aired April 1, 2007)
Rebecca is invited over to the Walkers for dinner, which quickly turns sour. Kitty meets Robert's kids, one of whom is reluctant to let her get close. Newly enrolled for a college writing class, Nora feels challenged by her classmates' reactions to her family stories. Chad invites Kevin to attend a movie premiere with him.

18. Three Parties (42:37) (Originally aired April 8, 2007)
Sarah accompanies Kitty on a visit to the Senator's small hometown, Nora's friend Emily (Margot Kidder) "helps" her prepare for a date with her writing professor (Peter Coyote), Justin accompanies Rebecca at a wild party, and drama runs high as Kevin helps Chad grapple with coming out.

19. Game Night (43:04) (Originally aired April 15, 2007)
The Walkers challenge rival family the Joneses to one of the two clans' traditional Game Nights, where the match again comes down to a single trivia question. Also, Kitty arranges a date between Kevin and Robert's own gay brother, while Rebecca and Joe bond over their shared outsider status with ugly consequences.

20. Bad News (43:05) (Originally aired April 29, 2007)
A stroke of luck saves the lives of Kitty and Robert when a campaign helicopter crashes. Joe hopes that a weekend of beach camping with Sarah will patch up their marriage, though last episode's end looms large. Nora sees her professor in a new light after their first real date.

Nora has some loud, sharp words (and cake) for Holly in "Grapes of Wrath." Robert and Kitty try to make sense of their respective chaotic families in the season finale "Matriarchy."

Disc 6

21. Grapes of Wrath (42:35) (Originally aired May 6, 2007)
Magazines.com, Inc.
Tension follows the Walkers as they attend a celebratory opening at Tommy and Holly's vineyard. There, Kitty gets drunk, Holly gets close to Nora's professor/date, and Nora and Holly settle their differences with cake and other food.

22. Favorite Son (43:29) (Originally aired May 13, 2007)
A Gulf War veteran contacts Kitty prepared to reveal the real story behind Senator McCallister's helicopter heroism. Tommy and Julia get sobering news about their twins and must decide how best to deal with one preemie's organ woes.

23. Matriarchy (42:28) (Originally aired May 20, 2007)
Against Kitty's wishes, the Walkers throw her an engagement party, which introduces all to McCallisters' large, rowdy family. Kevin reconnects with the Senator's brother, Saul encounters an old friend (Flashdance's Michael Nouri), and Justin tries to say goodbye with his Iraq report date looming sooner than expected.

Tommy (Balthazar Getty) may get the least amount of screentime of the five Walker kids, but he gets to become a father, sort of. Julia (Sarah Jane Morris) clutches the couple's newborn baby in "Favorite Son." Closeted soap opera star Chad Barry (Jason Lewis, right) is one of three gay men that Kevin (Matthew Rhys) the lawyerly gay Walker gets close to in Season 1.

VIDEO and AUDIO

"Brothers & Sisters" comes to DVD in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio of its high-definition broadcasts. Needless to say, it's enhanced for widescreen televisions. There are very few flaws to be found in the visuals. On a standard TV, the show looks about as polished as a theatrically-released film and the DVD presents no shortcomings whatsoever in what was probably a simple, long-anticipated transfer. On a large screen display or DVD-ROM-equipped computer, one is able to notice some mild but rampant grain and distinguish the lower resolution from a big budget film. Even then, picture quality is satisfying.

In the sound department, the series is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. For such a talkative series, you might expect a front-dominated presentation. While that is true, we actually get quite a bit of music and effects activity in the rear speakers. The music is appropriately engulfing, though sometimes the atmosphere -- like the excessive clanging of silverware and glasses during public dining scenes -- borders on silly. Still, the complex mix is appreciated, as are the subtitles offered in English, Spanish, and French.

Creator/executive producer Jon Robin Baitz is among the many key crew members opening up in "Creating the Walker Family Tree." Matthew Rhys, Balthazar Getty, and Dave Annable take viewers "Behind the Scenes with the Brothers." As illustrated in the on-screen text, Patricia Wettig has some trouble with a word in the brief Outtakes reel.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Bonus features begin with four episode audio commentaries that are scattered throughout the set. Speaking on Disc 1's "Affairs of State" are creator-executive producer Jon Robin Baitz, writer/co-executive producer Craig Wright, and actors Patricia Wettig and Matthew Rhys. Disc 2 teams Baitz with writer David Marshall Grant and writer-producer Molly Newman for a discussion of "Northern Exposure." On Disc 4's "The Other Walker" we hear from writers Alison Schapker and Monica Breen plus cast members Dave Annable and Emily VanCamp. These first three tracks are easy to listen to and quite informative too.
The remarks provide a mix of actors' and behind-the-camera perspectives to production, development, and the episode at hand that should satisfy the diehard fan without excluding those with less fervent feelings towards the series.

Finally, the season finale is commented upon by actor Balthazar Getty and executive producers Ken Olin and Sarah Caplan. Their track is a little sillier than the others, with Olin and Getty treating it as a chance to pal around.

The remaining extras are found on Disc 6. The 29-minute "Creating the Walker Family Tree" serves as an all-purpose featurette on the series, presenting interview sound bites from practically all influential cast and crew members. There's lots of praise going around and among the topics discussed are the origins, the series' design, the nature of production, and the Walkers' appreciation for alcohol. There's no question that this merits a viewing by those who have seen all the Season 1 episodes and it's a fine reward for them.

"Behind the Scenes with the Brothers" (6:12) spends time with Dave Annable, Matthew Rhys, and Balthazar Getty as they hang out around the set and talk about their jovial camaraderie.

A tightly-edited and mildly amusing collection of bloopers and outtakes (2:28) finds most of the lead cast members fumbling lines.

In the deleted episode "State of the Parties", Kitty is uncertain of the makeover and make-up she's given for her TV debut. Writer/son Cliff, actress/mother Patricia Wettig, executive producer/father Ken Olin, and actress/daughter Roxy are all involved with "Brothers & Sisters" to some degree and collectively are the subject of "The Family Business." Each disc's Main Menu moves to a mostly unique part of an adequate reproduction of the Walkers' framed photo-filled stairwell.

For many people, the most exciting bonus inclusion may be "State of the Parties", a complete "deleted episode."
Intended to air right after the pilot, this episode observes the Walkers immediately after William's death, as Kitty prepares for her TV debut, Justin confronts Holly, and Rebecca and Tommy try to clear up the business woes with Saul. A fair amount of the content made its way into other broadcast episodes, but much of it didn't, increasing the value of this supplement, especially in the absence of other deleted scenes. Presented in 16x9 and Dolby Surround, "State" runs 42 minutes and 50 seconds including its introduction by creator/executive producer Jon Robin Baitz.

The brief piece "The Family Business" (4:33) focuses on the Olin family, whose four members are involved with the show as actors (mother Patricia Wettig, daughter Roxy), writer (son Cliff), and producer (father Ken).

A robust serving of the obligatory company promos run upon the insertion of Disc 6, previewing The Game Plan, "Grey's Anatomy": The Complete Third Season, "Ugly Betty": The Complete First Season, "Lost": The Complete Third Season, "What About Brian": The Complete Series, "Desperate Housewives": The Complete Third Season, Ratatouille, the new season of "Brothers & Sisters" on ABC, and Soap Net.

MENUS and PACKAGING

The menus cleverly take us to the Walker stairwell, with publicity photos of lead characters standing in for the framed family portraits that actually hang there and each disc taking us to a slightly different patch of wall space. While only the introduction to each disc's main menu is animated, music plays on all submenus, the listings of which are all strangely artifact-heavy. As only two separate cues are infinitely looped, anyone keeping a menu running may go mad while those watching one episode at a time also get treated to the score excerpts probably more often than desired.

There's an actual 8-page booklet of episode synopses in the pocket of the Digipak where one ought to go. There's also a 4-page booklet of ABC/Disney ads and, most excitingly for heavy DVD buyers, a code towards getting $10-$30 back on multiple box sets from this fall's ABC/Disney hour-long season/series sets.

This big old happily family photo that depicts 6 Walkers, 5 Whedons, and a Saul Holden in a pink shirt! Of all the relationships in "Brothers & Sisters", none seems as volatile and important as Kitty and Nora's mother-daughter.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The highly watchable "Brothers & Sisters" makes producing a successful hour-long drama look effortless. Though few are likely to relate directly to the series' central concept (being part of a large, tight-knit family with lots of money and secrets), practically all viewers are able to find something appealing or at least of interest among the designed-to-hook storylines, diverse cast of characters, pleasing production values, and efficient execution. To be sure, its sentimentality, abundant use of political topics, and casual attitudes towards sexual relationships will rub some viewers the wrong way. I was able to overlook these traits, appreciating the slightly bold depiction of a grown 21st century American family and, to some degree, the series' human drama. Still, I never got past just liking the series; to me, it always feels more a sleek commercial product than a genuine venue for heartfelt storytelling.

Buena Vista's Complete First Season set of the show is just fine. Most, especially those unaccustomed to high-definition broadcasts, will be delighted by the picture and sound here. Design and packaging are up to par. And bonus features, while a bit lacking (deleted/alternate/ extended scenes no doubt exist and ought to have turned up here), do add value, especially the mostly-unseen "deleted episode", benign commentaries, and half-hour featurette.

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Reviewed September 28, 2007.