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TV Series Review

I'd love to get a Christmas letter from the Walker family, the clan at the center of ABC's star-studded drama Brothers & Sisters.

"Well, it's been another interesting year for the Walkers," the letter would begin. "Nora has fully recovered from the death of her embezzling, two-timing husband, William, and now keeps herself busy by hosting a call-in radio program, dating occasionally, and caring for her five adult children and their ever-rotating bevy of spouses or squeezes or what-have-yous. She even has time to bake the occasional turkey!

"Sarah, after selling the family business, is now engaged to her French paramour Luc, and we all wish them the best—though we're not expecting it. Kitty is out of danger (she had cancer, you might remember), politics and her marriage (Robert's history). Now she's teaching at the local college—and dating the dean's 27-year-old son! They seem very happy.

"We hardly ever see Tommy anymore, so we'll move on to Kevin, who, you'll recall, 'married' his homosexual lover, Scotty, a few years ago. They both want children, but they've been having trouble in that department, and after having a bad experience with a surrogate mother, they now hope to adopt. Meanwhile, Justin, our little war hero and recovering drug addict, has found a stable job as a hospital paramedic. I'm sure he'd love to see you, but you don't want to see him! Not when he's got blood all over him in the ambulance, anyway. :-)

"Much love from the Walkers. Hope we're all still around next Christmas!"

As you can see, the Walkers really don't know the definition of peacefully dull—which helps explain why the television drama has survived for so many seasons. While Season 4 culminated in a game-changing auto accident, every episode is sort of like watching a car crash—and viewers can't seem to look away.

In the midst of all the rubbernecking, fans of this soapy series are exposed to a few niceties. The folks in Brothers & Sisters, like brothers and sisters everywhere, squabble … but at the end of the day they still make up a family—a loving, struggling family. Nora once tells Kevin how much she wants her new boyfriend to get to know—and enjoy—her children. He's never had a real family before, she says.

"So you're starting him off with ours?" Kevin asks.

"It's the only one I've got," she answers—a great summation of the inherent beauty of family … and the foibles of this particular one.

As Katharine Hepburn says in The Lion in Winter, every family has its ups and downs: Each one has its differences, its foibles, its trigger points and tragedies. Brothers & Sisters shows us that you can love your family even when they're driving you crazy.

But we, unlike Nora's new beau, can pick and choose the types of families we spend our time with. Given the Walkers' collective—unrepentant—penchant for premarital sex, infidelity, homosexuality, divorce and scandal, I think my time might be better spent with my own.

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BrothersSisters: 122011



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Sally Field as Nora Walker; Dave Annable as Justin Walker; Calista Flockhart as Kitty Walker; Rachel Griffiths as Sarah Walker; Ron Rifkin as Saul Holden; Patricia Wettig as Holly Harper; Matthew Rhys as Kevin Walker; Luke Macfarlane as Scotty Wandell






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Paul Asay

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