Monday, May 21, 2007

Swinging Sally Field

Last night Brothers & Sisters, ABC's series about a liberal California family who are always up in each other's business, wrapped up its inaugural season. I tried to resist it all year. It's always trying too hard: pushing its jokes, pushing its drama. Everything falls just that side of the line I draw between a grand yarn well told and manipulative storytelling. But more and more I can't push back against its agressive "love me!" behavior. I just do what it tells me to do. I could still do without Balthazar Getty (playing the dullest sibling). I could definitely do without Rob Lowe's Republican Senator character, who has somehow defanged the once sharp counterpoint drama involving the conservative black sheep of the family: Kitty (Calista Flockhart). But minor annoyances aside, the rest of the show is like a drug. It's a perfect Sunday night hit.


I give a huge portion of the credit to Sally Field. She plays Nora, the matriach and widow of the huge Walker clan. She holds all the show's disparate tones together with fluid emotional glue. Remember the climactic funeral scene in Steel Magnolias when this two time Academy Award winner broadly marched through so many notes in quick succession: staccato sobbing, hysterical confusion, slapstick anger, cry-for-help earnestness? Well, Nora gets a little of that action, too. OK a lot. Brothers & Sisters is hyperactively emotional and it swings, often without a net, from laughs to tears. Brothers & Sisters is a real circus and Sally Field is one incredible trapeze artist.

21 comments:

Ben said...

I absolutely love the show! And it was so bad for a couple episodes early in the season. I thought the jump the shark moment came when Calista Flockhart gave a truly awful monologue about Republican values while staring stoically over a field of wheat while leaning on a fence in front of a barn. Oh the horror.

But then something surprising happened: the show finally evened out and found its tone and once Rob Lowe came on the scene, I think the show finally became a cohesive entity. Not only is Sally Field excellent, but the cast as a whole is great, from the well-known players to the previously unknowns.

So yeah, the show's great. And kudos for not over-playing the season finale at all. I thought the writers showed real restraint with their storylines. Yes, there were cliffhangers, but they weren't on par with season 2 Grey's Anatomy drama.

Plus, I mean, the cast is pretty to look at, which helps.

Ásta said...

Awesome cast - with just a minor or two glitches. And probably the best example of a successful recasting ever. Imagine Betty Buckley instead of Sally...

Unknown said...

Hm, why have I never heard of this show? I was under the impression that you disliked Sally Field, given the frequent comparisons to Beezlebub (two oscars 5 years apart and never nominated again, didn't really deserve the second one, etc.)... but maybe I'm wrong.

Oh also, I meant to tell you I put up a childhood summer movie post. It's actually been up for a while, and is now buried under some other posts. Hope it's not too late for some play.

Anonymous said...

Meh - I think Field is the reason I don't care for this show. I had high expectations - Baitz is a great playwright who manages to combine the personal with the political in effective and insightful ways, but this was just so dull. The characterization of Norah borders onto drinking game (take a drink when Norah overeacts. Take a sip when she cries. Chug when she does something stupid). That, and I compared it with Once and Again, the great family drama of this decade, and it doesn't even come close.

Anonymous said...

Meh - I think Field is the reason I don't care for this show. I had high expectations - Baitz is a great playwright who manages to combine the personal with the political in effective and insightful ways, but this was just so dull. The characterization of Norah borders onto drinking game (take a drink when Norah overeacts. Take a sip when she cries. Chug when she does something stupid). That, and I compared it with Once and Again, the great family drama of this decade, and it doesn't even come close.

Anonymous said...

Sally Field is incredible on this show! Get that Emmy Sally!

("Steel Magnolias" 4-EVA!)

NATHANIEL R said...

well if you compare anything to Once & Again it doesn't come close. That and Buffy. It just ain't fair to compare shows to those two.

it's like expecting every movie to be Casablanca

Damselfly said...

"I'm so mad I just want to hit something...I want to hit it hard."

"Here, hit Weeza!"

One of the best movie moments ever...that movie has many of them...the truest film about women.

I don't really care for Brothers & Sisters...not a big Calista fan...but Sally is Sally...like her or not.

Glenn Dunks said...

Oh, man I love Brothers and Sisters. I just like that there is a show about adults with quite great dialogue and some amazing acting (all three women are awards worthy I reckon, Field, Rachel Griffiths and Calista Flockart). And as much as I dislike what Flockart's character stands for, it's really fascinating watching her character walk through the minefield of her family.

Sure, it gets a bit Hollywood-silly, but it's a high gloss drama about rich people. It was sort of silly when we were expected to feel for these guys when it turned out they weren't as rich as they thought, but that's aminor quibble. It's such an easy watch, but I don't feel like I'm losing braincells watching it. I feel I'm getting an interesting dialogue-driven drama about adults and I love it for that.

That and Heroes are clearly the two best new shows of last year (although we're only halfway through the season here so thankfully there weren't any spoilers).

I was surprised to find Field wasn't nominated for Steel Magnolias, just fyi.

Anonymous said...

Plus, the junkie brother is frikkin hot

WickedScorp said...

This show makes me smile. It's like comfort food; not especially extraordinary but it makes me feel warm inside. Sally Field is the heart of it all, she delivers much of the show's best comedic and dramatic moments. My favorite episode of the season was early on when they all unexpectedly end up at the ranch house in Ojai. Good stuff.

Deborah said...

I watched the first episode, and I didn't even make it all the way to the end. I found it unbearably heavy handed. 'Look! We're about politics! That's edgy!' Bite me with your edgy.

The best thing about it was Tom Skeerit and he was killed off instantly, so I said to hell with it.

c.p. iñor said...

The show I fell for this season was HEROES... It doesn´t comepares to BUFFY but still it´s really fun to watch and kinda addicting.

Unknown said...

"bite me with your edgy"

Haha.

Shawn said...

I love this show, too. It is so heavy-handed and over-the-top at times, but damn it if it's impossible for me to not drop everything and watch it every week. Sally Field is a huge reason for its success, but the whole cast is pretty awesome, actually. I totally agree about Getty being the weakest link. Ugh. I'm not crazy about Rifkin either, but it looks like he will have some awesome material next season. Otherwise, Calista Flockhart, Dave Annable, Matthew Rhys, Rachel Griffiths, Patricia Wettig, Emily VanCamp (I love the touches of "Everwood" all over this show) and Rob Lowe are equally impressive. Lowe has particularly been impressing me. How about those scenes between VanCamp and Field, huh?

I hope the show does well at the Emmys, but I doubt it will happen. I really want Flockhart to at least get nominated, and Field would be a wonderful winner. Sorry for the rant, but I like that you mentioned this show. It's a good one.

Anonymous said...

Heroes, The Office, and 30 Rock are the only three shows I can stand to watch.

Maybe I should give Brothers and Sisters another shot...I gave it 10 minutes on its pilot and gave up. Maybe I'm finnicky like that...I gave up on Grey's and Desperate Housewives and American Idol...

NBC is where it's at!

Glenn Dunks said...

Well of course if you give up after 10 minutes.

Rural, I actually have a big ol' crush on Mathew Rhys' Kevin. It's not that the character is hair though. I think it's his curly hair and that he's always in a suit. Mmmm....

NATHANIEL R said...

Deborah --the show has calmed down since its pilot. It's not exactly relaxed as I said. It still is trying way harder than it needs too with such a good cast and strong characters... but a lot of shows have uneven first seasons. I think season 2 will be wonderful. My suspicion at least.

Anonymous said...

Glen, I understand. I usually am attracted to train wrecks so a junkie would be right up my ally.

Anonymous said...

I just heard Matthew Rhys give an interview, and damn his Welsh accent is thick! That's crazy that he hides it so awesomely in "Brothers & Sisters". I had no idea he wasn't American until I checked out his profile on imdb. I already thought that he's excellent on the show as Kevin, but now I have even more respect for him. Love the show by the way. Ditto on the Sally Field praise.

Deborah said...

I've had bad luck with TV this year. I picked up 3 shows that I adored and two were cancelled (the three being Heroes, Studio 60, and Drive--love me some Nathan Fillion).