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

"Brothers and Sisters" The Complete Second Season DVD Review

Buy Brothers & Sisters: The Complete First Season on DVD from Amazon.com Brothers & Sisters: Season Two (2007-08)
Show & DVD Details

Regular Writers: Jon Robin Baitz (creator), David Marshall Grant, Molly Newman, Monica Owusu-Breen / Regular Directors: Michael Morris, Gloria Muzio, Ken Olin, Michael Schultz, David Paymer, Matt Shakman

Starring Cast: Calista Flockhart (Kitty Walker), Rachel Griffiths (Sarah Whedon), Rob Lowe (Robert McCallister), Sally Field (Nora Walker), Matthew Rhys (Kevin Walker), Dave Annable (Justin Walker), Balthazar Getty (Tommy Walker), Ron Rifkin (Saul Holden), Patricia Wettig (Holly Harper), Emily VanCamp (Rebecca Harper), Sarah Jane Morris (Julia Walker)

Recurring Characters: John Pyper-Ferguson (Joe Whedon), Kerris Lilla Dorsey (Paige Whedon), Luke McFarlane (Scotty Wandell), Ken Olin (David Caplan), Eric Winter (Jason McCallister), Danny Glover (Isaac Marshall), Emily Rose (Lena), Steven Weber (Graham Finch), Denis O'Hare (Travis March), Justine Dorsey (Sophie McCallister), Tom Skerritt (William Walker), Parvesh Cheena (Jordan)

Notable Guest Stars: Lyle Lovett (Himself), Chevy Chase (Stan Harris), Garry Marshall (Major Jack Weiner), Al Coronel (Brad), Jim Jansen (Governor Clay Adamson), Alan Toy (Trent), Kevin Daniels (Sam), Tony Devon (Nick Bronson), Andy Mackenzie (Flatline Jack), Dana Lee (Simon Lao), Enrico Colantoni (Evan), Evie Peck (Gail), Jayne Brook (Bertha Wandell), Michael Adler (Doug Manning), Michael O'Keefe (Mr. Wandell), Tom Virtue (Dr. Bob Feldman), Ken Howard (Boyd Taylor)

Running Time: 671 Minutes (16 episodes) / Rating: TV-PG
1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen / Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French; Closed Captioned
DVD Release Date: September 23, 2008
Season 2 Airdates: September 23, 2007 – May 11, 2008
Six single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9s); Suggested Retail Price: $59.99
Eight-sided fold-out Digipak with Cardboard Slipcover

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By Kelvin Cedeno

Dysfunctional families are a staple of television programming.
It's a tried and true hook that works in both the dramatic and comedic genres. Perhaps it's because it's a broad enough frame to hang various threads on, and having opposing parties be related increases the drama. Audiences can relate as their respective families are similarly imperfect, and such a series contains enough diversity among the cast for there to be someone to connect with. One such show is ABC's "Brothers & Sisters".

Neither a straight drama nor comedy although leaning more heavily towards the former, the show juggles the various dynamics of the well-to-do Walker family. The matriarch Nora (Sally Field) spends much of her time worrying over her five fully-grown children: Sarah (Rachel Griffiths), Kevin (Matthew Rhys), Tommy (Balthazar Getty), Kitty (Calista Flockhart), and Justin (David Annable). Sarah has taken over the family business once controlled by her late father. Kevin is a lawyer struggling with his open homosexuality. Tommy is the head of his own winery and has marital difficulties with his wife Julia (Sarah Jane Morris). Kitty is a communications director whose engagement to presidential candidate Robert McCallister (Rob Lowe) leaves the family with little privacy. Justin, the youngest, is in the army carrying around a history of alcohol and drug abuse. The family interactions grow increasingly complicated, especially when it turns out the deceased patriarch may have had a daughter, Rebecca (Emily VanCamp), with his mistress Holly (Patricia Wettig).

Suffice it to say, life as a Walker is anything but simple. Each member has his or her own plot thread, and each is linked to one or more siblings by yet another thread, causing quite the tangled web. It's a testament to the writers that the show unfolds in a way that's easier to digest than basic descriptions suggest. The convoluted storylines progress naturally and realistically thanks to the fact that they're driven by characters and not vice versa. All of the characters have many layers, and while some obviously get more screentime than others (notably Kitty and Justin), everyone is given a chance to shine. This is where the exceptional performances help. Each actor brings real weight to his or her character and is sure to get noticed within the vast ensemble. The standout is Sally Field, given the difficult task of being a concerned mother without coming across as insufferable. She manages this outstandingly well, making Nora both amusing and sympathetic.

As his "36 Hours" of detox treatment wind down, Kitty (Calista Flockhart) mulls over her wedding concerns to a now-sleeping Justin (Dave Annable). In "Home Front", Nora (Sally Field) and Holly (Patricia Wettig) reminisce over William Walker at his grave.

A problem the show does suffer from, however, is in how extreme the concept of family dysfunction is taken. While aspects will be all too familiar to some, especially those with a family as large as this, the amount of contention among the siblings is borderline exasperating. Virtually every single scene with three or more Walkers either begins filled with arguments and confrontations or ends that way. These people can't seem to go anywhere without completely embarrassing themselves. Of course, conflict is needed to create drama, otherwise one ends up with dull sappiness.
That said, a little moderation to the family discourses would go a long way, especially if tension can be found in problems other than siblings regularly lying to each other.

With that in mind, "Brothers and Sisters" is still a strong show. It treats most of its scenarios with realism and heart, a credit to well-conceived scripts and remarkable performances. While the stories tend to rely a bit much on secrets and lies to propel some of the more overwrought drama, the actors and characters manage to sell it well. It's not necessarily a stellar series, but it does enough right to make itself heard in the vast sea of ensemble dramedies.

Released late last month, The Complete Second Season set presents all 16 episodes of the shorter-than-usual, Writer's-strike-affected season. Episode summaries follow, but please note that due to the serialized nature of the program, mild spoilers may be found.

The Walkers show what "An American Family" they are as Nora (Sally Field) demands to see Justin in the hospital while Kevin (Matthew Rhys) and Kitty (Calista Flockhart) try not to interfere. In spite of better judgment, Sarah (Rachel Griffiths) and Kitty (Calista Flockhart) ask for Nora's advice in "States of the Union."

Disc 1

1. Home Front (43:08) (Originally aired September 30, 2007)
When Nora is too distraught after not hearing from Justin,
Rebecca decides to plan Kitty's birthday party. Much to Kevin's dismay, potential love interest Jason (Eric Winter) is sent on a missions trip to Malaysia.

2. An American Family (42:49) (Originally aired October 7 2007)
Robert is sufficiently embarrassed when Kitty fires off at an antagonizing radio host. Justin finally returns home, but he has difficulty adjusting to Nora's constant fretting.

3. History Repeating (41:45) (October 14, 2007)
Before Robert's ex-wife can slander him on a talk show, Kitty confronts her. Justin is too afraid of revisiting his past to take the prescribed medications for his injured leg. Tommy tries his best to reconnect with Julia as they've grown distant as of late.

4. States of the Union (43:09) (Originally 21, 2007)
Kitty and Sarah go to a spa to escape their troubles, only to be reminded of them when Nora tags along. When Scotty (Luke McFarlane) spots Walker uncle Saul (Ron Rifkin) at an all-gay party, he informs Kevin about it. Tommy's performance at work suffers as a result of his relationship.

"Two Places" has Justin (Dave Annable) and Rebecca (Emily VanCamp) sharing a much-needed laugh in the midst of Kitty’s wedding chaos. Kitty (Calista Flockhart) and Robert (Rob Lowe) experience "Something New" as Lyle Lovett performs a song for only them.

Disc 2

5. Domestic Issues (43:07) (Originally aired October 28, 2007)
Sarah and Joe commence a messy custody battle over their children. Kitty's plans hit a bump in the road when she discovers she's pregnant. Meanwhile, Tommy has an affair with his office manager Lena (Emily Rose).

6. Two Places (43:06) (Originally aired November 4, 2007)
In order to cover up the pregnancy taboo, Kitty and Robert drastically push up their wedding date. Justin falls back into his drug addiction, and Sarah's daughter Paige (Kerris Lilla Dorsey) becomes aloof due to the custody battle.

7. 36 Hours (43:07) (Originally aired November 11, 2007)
The Walkers join together to help Justin overcome his addiction. Saul rebukes Tommy for his affair with Lena, and Kevin in turn pesters Saul in order to find out his true sexuality.

8. Something New (43:06) (Originally aired November 25, 2007)
Julia's return home causes some awkwardness between Tommy and Lena. In an effort to shake things up in her life, Nora contacts her high school sweetheart. Kitty and Robert take dance lessons for their wedding.

Robert (Rob Lowe) and Kitty (Calista Flockhart) finally take some time off the campaign trail to engage in "Holy Matrimony." At "The Feast of Epiphany", Nora (Sally Field) starts a toast as Isaac (Danny Glover) and the others look on.

Disc 3

9. Holy Matrimony (43:03) (Originally aired December 2, 2007)
Kitty and Robert's big day arrives, but it's dampened when Robert's military past becomes public. At the reception, Tommy and Rebecca do little to hide their unease when Justin and Lena show up together.

10. The Feast of Epiphany (43:06) (Originally aired January 13, 2008)
Nora invites Isaac (Danny Glover) over for dinner,
but not without the usual Walker squabble interfering. This is mostly fueled by the revelation of Tommy's affair. Concurrently, an old friend of Holly's shows up to her chagrin.

11. The Missionary Imposition (42:33) (Originally aired February 10, 2008)
Kevin and Scotty's relationship is shaken when Jason returns from Malaysia. Nora and Isaac finally have their first date alone together. Both Tommy and Julia's revealed secrets put a strain on their marriage.

12. Compromises (42:22) (Originally aired February 17, 2008)
Jason discovers an unpleasant connection between him and Isaac that affects his opinion of Robert. Meanwhile, Kevin tries to prove to Scotty that he's not uptight, and Rebecca takes up photography with Holly's old friend David.

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Continue to Page 2 >>

Page 1: Show Discussion, Discs 1-3
Page 2: Disc 4, Video/Audio, Bonus Features, Menus & Packaging, and Closing Thoughts

Related Reviews:
Brothers & Sisters: The Complete Third Season • Brothers & Sisters: The Complete First Season
Desperate Housewives: The Complete Second Season • Grey's Anatomy: The Second Season

2007-08 ABC Programming:
Dirty Sexy Money: The Complete First Season • Eli Stone: The Complete First Season • Ugly Betty: The Complete Second Season
Samantha Who?: The Complete First Season • Pushing Daisies: The Complete First Season

New to DVD: Run Fatboy Run • Sex and the City • NewsRadio: The Complete Series • Journey to the Center of the Earth

The Cast of Brothers & Sisters:
Sally Field: Mrs. Doubtfire • The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning | Rachel Griffiths: Step Up • The Rookie | Balthazar Getty: Ladder 49
Steven Weber: Holiday Treats: T.V. Sets (Wings) | Danny Glover: Angels in the Outfield | Tom Skerritt: The Parent Trap II • Those Calloways

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Reviewed October 23, 2008.