Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Fill the hours with new vices

So blogging was becoming oppressive. So I stopped. Or I was becoming obsessive. Either way, I stopped.

And while I was gone, the entertainment world moved on, but I expected it to, unlike Mike in Growing Pains who thought Gilligan's Island just wasn't broadcast while he was at school. I knew better. And, indeed, big doings ensued: the Oscars happened, the mid-season shows about which I blogged earlier started premiering, the people on Lost did their level best to stay lost and succeeded, Veronica Mars ended for the season, February sweeps came and went relatively uneventfully, and I watched the entire season of Brothers and Sisters while I was organizing our office/library during spring break whilst avoiding grading papers. And it is about that (ie Brothers and Sisters, not to be caught in the ambiguous pronoun issues that plagued said papers) that I wish to write today, though it is, of course, the least topical topic I could choose. But, as I said, oppressive and obsessive, so this is what we get in response.

I had literally no desire to see this show when it raised its collectively dysfunctional family head last fall. Calista Flockhart has never been one of my faves, even less so after Harrison Ford divorced his wife and got an earring to be with her (not her fault, of course, but guilt by association is a bitch, as someone besides me says). Sally Field is good, of course, but not all that compelling to me, for whatever reason. And the rest of the motley crew just confused me. And, last but not least, did I really need to see a show about a family of 5 kids who talk to/gossip with/hide secrets from/divulge confidences to each other? Umm, no, that was my childhood and is my adulthood, the fact that all my many siblings don't even live in the same country notwithstanding. So, you know, the whole concept bored me.

However, it was taking me a really long time to clean the office and sort through a year's worth of bills and statements for taxes and there was my computer, sitting there, surely the answer to the tedium. And I could have watched shows I have already seen, relived Heroes, for instance, or cracked up at 30 Rock once again, but I needed something absorbing and long. A gazillion episodes of Brothers and Sisters fit the bill, and how.

So, in brief, I have decided to proclaim the show quite good. Not stellar, certainly not ground-breaking, at times trite and overly sentimental, but there are moments, and quite a few of them, of very genuine exchanges, which I quite like. My favorite storyline involves oldest daughter Sarah and her marital struggles with her husband, Joe. Their interactions are poignantly ineffectual and greatly affecting.

And this is currently the show where out-of-work actors come to reassert and/or reinvent themselves, so that's fun. So far we have mined the casts of The West Wing (yes, Rob Lowe, a network ensemble drama does sound like a good idea. Why didn't you think of that before?), ER (Sally's more recent and also award-winning TV performance), Everwood (both the father and the son's love interest have appeared in recent episodes), Thirtysomething/Prison Break (Patricia Wettig so infatuated producer Ken Olin he brought her back as the other woman and kept her presence on PB to a minimum, a real shame), Six Feet Under (Rachel Griffiths, aka Brenda Chenowith, now plays elder sister Sarah), and Alias (which makes it really hard for me to see well-intentioned Uncle Saul as anything but an evil criminal mastermind).

However, all these stars and the generally good acting aside, I came away from watching the entire season thus far feeling, ultimately, profoundly sad. I suppose I should have expected as much from a show whose opening premise is the discovery of a seemingly perfect father's infidelity after his sudden cardiac arrest and quick death. But from tragedy has often sprung heartening television, but not in this case. Everyone's lives are just so very very sad! Even the Sarah/Joe story I like is really utterly despondent. They don't talk, he is unhappy as a stay-at-home dad, and she is overwhelmed as the new family company president. The gay brother, Kevin (and I feel totally comfortable referring to him as such since everyone in the show does, every two seconds, in case we were about to forget), is unhappy with both the closeted beau and the exuberantly out alternative love interest (though he gets more nookie on camera than the married couple...actually, come to think of it, everyone does). The infertile brother, Tommy, just wants out of the family business since he wasn't made president of the company. The "star" of the show, conservative Kitty, can't reject her conservatism fast enough when pressed. The show even says that opinion polls find her "aloof" and cold, a pretty accurate assessment of the emotional tenor of the show as a whole. And youngest son, drug-addicted veteran of Afghanistan Justin, is simply tired of being coddled by everyone. Oh, and Rob Lowe plays a conservative senator embroiled in a nasty divorce who wants to become president, and he's the jolliest of the bunch.

So if you want to venture into Brothers and Sisters territory, I suggest you do it in very, very, very very very small doses...and take frequent breaks...and read some Dave Barry in between...and eat vanilla or mint chocolate chip Tofutti Cuties throughout the whole ordeal. Or, better yet, wait until I watch the rest of the season and tell you if you should even bother. I'm hooked now, but there's no reason all of us need to suffer!


Anonymous said...

I love Brothers & Sisters. But something bothered me about your comment referring to Calista Flockhart as a bitch. If you don't like her- fine. But as an educated college professor, I would have thought you'd know better than to disparage someone based on untrue facts. Harrison Ford did not leave his wife for Calista Flockhart. (He didn't even meet her until months after his legal separation.) And while you may also blame her for something so silly as an earring, you may be interested to know he got it years before meeting Flockhart (at the urging of his wife).

Lilita said...

In point of fact, I didn't call her a bitch; I was riffing (perhaps clunkily) on the cliche payback is a bitch or life's a bitch or what have you. And, in fact, I was actually disparaging Ford.

But in response to your larger, valid point, "educated college professor" Paul Fussel (Pomona, Harvard) has written that while we can use facts and statistics to make our assumptions (and, of course, we should and often do), most often we rely on what he terms "a more trustworthy" method of analysis, perception. All I'm saying is that from my perception, given a series of perhaps non-chronological but nonetheless congruent events, both Flockhart and Ford are not my cup of tea. But, of course, to each his or her own! That's the beauty of blogging, no?