Five seasons of sappiness was apparently all that the world wanted from Brothers & Sisters. The accountants just didn’t like the balance between the large, expensive cast and the falling ratings, so the plug was pulled. I can’t help but think that it’s no coincidence the show was cancelled the same year its parent network cancelled All My Children and One Life to Live, two of the biggest soap operas in US history. I can’t be bothered to go find the in depth reasons behind the cancellations, but is it possible that people (well Nielson homes in the US, who control the only ratings anyone cares about) just aren’t interested in soaps any more?
This year, even Brothers & Sisters was even more soap opera-ish than ever, complete with staple soap plots like car crashes, amnesia, long-lost loves, paternity issues and stolen babies. There was a death, a wedding, a divorce, an affair, an adoption, an unplanned pregnancy… it was like they were playing bingo and desperately trying to get everything ticked off. It just about all hung together, but it really was getting pretty ridiculous!
Although I think they pushed the melodramatic plots a bit too far, I still found it incredibly watchable. It’s the kind of thing that you throw in when you just can’t quite take the stress of Grey’s Anatomy. It’s something I watch while sick or miserable and just enjoy the relationships, humour and mild angst without having to pop a Prozac afterwards. It’s not that I’m not invested in the characters, it’s just not quite the same level as something like Grey’s Anatomy or Friday Night Lights. Brothers & Sisters is more escapist, the characters and situations aren’t quite real, it’s all got a shiny California, Hollywood feel to it.
I will miss the Walkers and all their extended family, the way that individually they’re so utterly dysfunctional, yet as a group they’re fearsome. I always adored the fact that although at first sight the title refers to the five siblings, when you look closer, and as the family grows and changes, it becomes clear that it’s about Nora and Saul’s relationship too, and all the brothers and sisters-in-law, and half siblings.
The show’s success and its downfall were its large cast – it enabled the show to feel more realistic about the number of relationships that real people juggle, depicting them in all their wonderful and difficult varieties. But at the end of the day, that just became too expensive to maintain. I for one am actually glad that the show was cancelled rather than trying to run it with a reduced cast. This last season with Tommy, Rebecca and Holly gone almost completely and Kitty in a reduced number of episodes already felt reduced, too small. I’d rather leave the Walkers drinking and dancing at a wedding and say goodbye properly than watch the mighty Walkers waste away.
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