December 29, 2007
Familial reflection. The cast of the compulsively watchable and thoroughly affecting Brothers & Sisters, the US series seen on local TV that holds up a mirror on the highs and lows of life with brothers, sisters, parents and children.
Something Like Life
Dec. 28, 2007
OVER the Christmas holidays, in between the massive gorging on roast turkey and stuffing, spaghetti, lengua con setas, fruit salad and the subsequent leftovers (love it!), I found myself seriously hooked on watching the first season of Brothers & Sisters. It got so bad that I almost went on leave for this Friday’s column just so that I could finish watching the DVD.
But as I watched more and more of it, and laughed at all the antics of the amusing, yet gritty, characters in this lovely TV series, and also got my heartstrings tugged while seeing each of them go through the pain and agony of discovering upsetting realities in their relationships with one another and those outside their family, I ended up thinking the show was actually a good topic to write about as we go into the New Year.
For those who still haven’t started watching this series (it airs weekly on Studio 23 and on Star World on SkyCable), Brothers & Sisters is a story of the rambunctious Walker family, headed by Nora (brilliantly played by veteran actress Sally Field), who has just lost her husband William (Tom Skeritt) to a heart attack. In this family are her five very mixed-up adult children who include a working mom having marriage problems with her husband (Rachel Griffiths); a bleeding-heart Republican (Calista Flockhart) sleeping with her just-divorced senator-boss (Rob Lowe); a son shooting blanks (Balthazar Getty) who’s asked his brothers to donate their sperm; a commitment-phobic gay lawyer (Matthew Rhys) dating a soap-opera actor who doesn’t want to come out of the closet; and a recovering drug addict (Dave Annable) who’s a veteran of the war in Afghanistan. Sounds like great TV, right?
Well, it gets better. Nora finally meets Holly (Patricia Wettig), William’s mistress of two decades whom she has actually known about for years and outs her at a family party, much to the shock of her children, who thought she knew nothing of the affair. To make matters worst, William actually fathered a child, Rebecca (Emily VanCamp), with Holly, and three of Nora’s children including her brother Saul (Ron Rifkin), are conspiring to keep her from knowing this truth as well. Oh, and did I mention that Saul is dating Holly? Such supersweet sordid stuff!
There is no question that this family is out of whack, like most families we know I suppose. We are formed by our relationships and experiences within our own dysfunctional families, which eventually impacts the way we react to situations or relate to the people around us.
While the initial episodes seemed convoluted because of its multiple plots, the TV series has evolved into a witty and intelligent piece of writing. It’s pure soap opera, only a tad more intelligent. It has touches of Dynasty only with more heart, and sans the flashy clothes. (Nora and Holly’s kitchen fight scene, it should be said, doesn’t hold up a candle to Krystle and Alexis slugging it out in the water fountain.) With its characters now well-defined by their own inner strengths and vulnerabilities, one cannot help but be taken by this show. The stories are familiar yet annoying, because it mirrors a lot of our own experiences.
Who can’t relate to the emotional turmoil one feels when he or she finds out that their father actually is no saint? Or the confusion over falling in love with the wrong people constantly? Or even having a mother who says the wrong things at the wrong time. (At the hospital just this week, as she was getting her blood pressure checked at the ER, my mother chatted up a diabetic who was eventually admitted. In true un-PC fashion, my mother tried to wish her well by blurting, “I hope nothing happens to you!” Good Lord! Let the ground swallow me up now!)
Despite the myriad of characters in the series, each one is allowed to develop and shine in one episode after the other. All the roles are superbly filled by some of Hollywood’s often underrated actors. Well, except for Flockhart. She still acts and sounds like the ludicrous Ally McBeal in this new series, minus the imaginary dancing baby. Nope, no Emmys or Golden Globes for her, that’s for sure.
The series also tries to tackle current issues, such as the rise of juvenile diabetes (working mom Sarah and husband Joe discover their young daughter Paige has the condition after she falls into a coma) and teaches how the life-long affliction can be ably managed. The writing has become tighter despite the many roles that have to be acted out and the various topics tackled.
As I kept watching each episode, I often snickered at how I found myself in some of the characters’ often outrageous behavior, especially when it comes to relating to one’s significant other. It was also entertaining to watch how the Walker siblings relate to one another in the same oddball way as I relate to my own, although my siblings and I aren’t the type to actually share secrets with one another like the Walkers often do.
In a similar fashion as the Walkers, while we may have a family to lean on especially during moments of weakness and vulnerability, individually we each have to come to terms with our own emotional baggage in order to preserve—or, at worst, let go of—our bonds with our siblings, parents, friends and lovers.
As 2008 approaches and I start counting my blessings, what I am most thankful for is having a family that’s tough and fired up with an indomitable spirit. We are bound not only by our common grief over loved ones lost, but also because we’ve actually dealt with our own insanities and self-preservation issues to be able to handle one another on a less hysterical level.
I suppose they call it emotional maturity… when we accept that we can no longer change our parents or siblings just to become some postcard-perfect family living in a house with a white picket fence.
We come to accept certain truths about one another and let go of the situations that we have no power to change. We realize that it’s all the foibles and imperfections that make us and life with one another more interesting. Like, who wants a mom who says the proper thing each and every time, huh? Boring!
Happy New Year to all!
(My column, Something Like Life, is published every Friday in the Life section of the BusinessMirror. Photos from BusinessMirror)