Brothers and Sisters: The Complete First Season - DVD review
One of the things that resonated with me as I watched the DVD extras, watched the early shows again, just for some perspective after a year of watching, is that this is a really good show.
This show is almost as good as West Wing when Aaron Sorkin was writing it. I say that as highest praise. And it is as good as thirtysomething, which is something I never thought I'd say, having loved that show more than anything else on television before or after it.
I said a lot last year, when I started reviewing the show here on TV Squad, that I thought it needed some time to find its legs, for the actors to gel as a family. I was honestly surprised, when watching the DVD, that I really didn't find that to be true anymore. I expected to revisit those first episodes and to grimace at the characters' awkwardness at playing a family. But they weren't awkward. In retrospect, I can find that only to mean that it took me awhile to find the show's legs, for me to find the characters.
It's hard for me to be impartial about whether or not I would recommend buying this season on DVD, because I would absolutely have bought it anyway, whether I were reviewing it or not. But I like being able to watch the episodes over and over again, and I also like having the leisure to watch them with and without commentary, etc. etc. I prefer watching them on my television to my computer, because my computer is jumpy and unreliable.
There is a lot to like about the DVD, but I will describe it as impartially as I can so you can decide for yourselves. There aren't a whole lot of episodes with commentary. The most stand-out is "Matriarchy," which has, most notably, Jon Robin Baitz and Matthew Rhys on the commentary, and I admit that just listening to Matthew Rhys speak in his Welsh accent is a pleasure. And also, Kevin might be my favorite character.
There is a schmaltzy special behind-the-scenes interview with everyone from producer Ken Olin (of thirtysomething acclaim, and most recently from Alias) and Jon Robin Baitz, down to the crew (mostly from Alias), the writers (including Olin's son Cliff) and, of course, the actors. Maybe they all really do love each other that much. It's hard not to feel a little bit excluded from their love fest, though: I love them too, but I don't get to go behind the scenes with them all, and there is still the nagging question: Is all of this declarative love really necessary? I mean, if I'm watching it, I already bought the DVD and I probably like the show, so do we need the oversell? The most interesting part of it was how bowed over the actors all are about playing opposite Sally Field.
I enjoyed "The Family Business" segment about the Olin family, because they are or have all been involved in the show in one form or another, and there is, of course, that whole incestuous, nepotistic aspect of Hollywood that the voyeur in me just loves. I am a celebrity whore, and it is fascinating to see a family that has been in show business this long and who all seem to thrive while working together. Olin and Wettig both appeared on thirtysomething (are you detecting a theme yet?), and also both worked on Alias (which also featured Ron Rifkin (Saul) and Balthazar Getty (Tommy). So, seeing their involvement in the show really does add an air of authenticity to the concept that they all co-exist as one, big, happy family.
There is a silly documentary of the three "brothers" hanging out on the set and bothering people-- we didn't really need that, probably. The gag reel was also a bit of a disappointment because honestly, these people are such professionals that even when they flub, they don't really break form or fall out of character.
But then, I watched the last special feature. And this is a reason to buy the series on DVD. It's an extra episode that they filmed and then chose not to air, because they thought it would slow the series down. And it is beautiful. It's actually the second episode: the episode right after William Walker dies. It's the funeral episode. It's the end of Kitty's relationship with Jonathan, the first episode of Kitty's television show; the beginning realizations by Tommy, Sarah, and Kevin that William stole thousands of dollars from Ojai; Justin's initial confrontation with Holly after discovering that his father has been having an affair. After seeing the episode, I wondered how the series could have gotten along so well without it.
If you are a fan of the show, or if you are interested in becoming one and want to see, in depth, what this wonderful show is all about, the DVD is a good, solid buy for you. If you are lukewarm and don't care if you miss the occasional episode, it might be a little much.