Some of the best series on television have revolved around familial angst, and ABC’s freshman drama capitalized on that genre to become one of the sleeper hits of the 2006-07 season.

Set in California and centered on the Walker clan, the show tracks the lives, loves, losses and learned lessons of matriarch Nora (Sally Field, who just won a Best Actress Emmy for her work) and her five adult children: businesswoman Sarah (Rachel Griffiths), communications expert Kitty (Calista Flockhart), new dad Tommy (Balthazar Getty), drug-addicted war vet Justin (Dave Annable) and gay attorney Kevin (Matthew Rhys). Orbiting around them is Nora’s brother Saul Holden (Ron Rifkin), who steps in to fill a void for the family and their business.

The series kicks off with the unexpected death of patriarch William Walker (guest star Tom Skerritt), which leaves the Walkers reeling personally and professionally for a number of reasons…not the least of which is the state of Walker-run Ojai Foods, a company on shaky ground thanks to William’s questionable business tactics – namely, withdrawing a large sum of money from the Ojai coffers for mysterious purposes. “What the hell did dad do with that money and how can we get it back?!” is an ongoing storyline throughout the first season. Complicating matters further is the arrival of William’s longtime mistress, Holly Harper (Patricia Wettig), who not only shakes up the family foundation but brings along a daughter (Emily VanCamp) no one knew William had…and later decides to go into the winery business with one of the younger Walkers.

While much of the series’ inaugural season maintains a fairly even keel, quality-wise, the addition of Rob Lowe about halfway through provides a welcome injection of…well, Rob Lowe. As Robert McCallister, the Republican senator and presidential candidate for whom Kitty works (and for whom she falls), Lowe brings some fresh blood just at the right moment. Other notable guest stars include Peter Coyote (as a professor wooing Nora), Margot Kidder (as a pal who gets Nora stoned on Valentine’s Day) and former Sex and the City boy toy Jason Lewis as a love interest for Kevin.

Is it the best show on television? No. Brothers & Sisters has its flaws and weaker moments, but it’s certainly solid viewing and an excellent primer before the second season kicks off on September 30th.

DVD Notes

In addition to the entire first season, the DVD features an un-aired episode, along with the mini-docs Walker Family Tree (a making-of look at the show) and Family Business (profiling executive producer Ken Olin and his brood, many of whom act in the series), along with a tour of the set, led by Getty, Annable and Rhys. Like any other TV series on DVD, the set also comes with a blooper reel, deleted scenes and audio commentary on selected episodes.

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