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Featured TV on DVD Review: Brothers and Sisters: Complete Fourth Season

August 30th, 2010

Brothers and Sisters: Complete Fourth Season - Buy from Amazon

Brothers and Sisters is a family drama with an impressive cast that began its run in 2006. I've reviewed the previous three seasons and can sum them up thusly... Season One: Too many characters meant it took a while for the show to get going, but once it did, it was compelling. Season Two: The writers' strike meant it was shortened significantly and like many similar shows, this causes problems and the quality slipped. Season Three: We went from family drama to dangerously close to soap opera territory. So how does Season Four compare?

The Show

The season starts with an engagement party for Rebecca and Justin, which is kind of weird, as most of the time they knew each other, they thought they were closely related. No, not weird. Creepy. It's kind of creepy. Additionally, Justin is struggling at school and is put on academic probation. Kevin Walker and his husband, Scotty, are looking into having a child through surrogacy, which is both a wonderful occasion for the two, and causing a great deal of stress in their relationship. Last season, Tommy Walker screwed up massively and this season he's mostly just trying to recover, but his marriage is over. Kitty is trying to get back into writing, while her marriage to Robert is on the rocks, but it is her health that is the biggest concern for much of the season. Sarah spent the summer trying to get back into the dating scene, which turns out to be a disaster, so she heads to France, where she meets Luc. She seems happy at first, but there are problems in the relationship, including Luc's interactions with her kids. Meanwhile, Nora, the matriarch, has to try and keep the family and family business together.

This brings us to Holly, the mother of Rebecca and the long time mistress of the now deceased William Walker. Her relationship with the Walkers has never been completely amicable, with a strong rivalry between her and Nora. She has since proven herself to be a strong businesswoman, and has therefore earned their trust. (Although there was that bit with Ryan where it looked like she was slipping back into the villain role.) The company is first hit by financial fraud, which nearly brings them down. Then they receive the unwelcome attention of a man from William Walker's past, Dennis York, who tries to use blackmail to buy the company. And finally, Ryan sabotages their wine production, thus ending the company's chance of recovering.

However, he gets his comeuppance and is banished to the same realm Chuck Cunningham went to.

So how is season four compared to the previous seasons? It shares the same strengths and weaknesses. The cast, while talented, is too large and the number of storylines is even larger. This means no one character or storyline gets the attention it deserves. (This could explain why more than a couple characters from season four will not be returning in season five.) Also, some of the conflicts seem rather petty, the kind that I don't pay attention to in real life, so I'm less than interested in paying attention to them in fiction.

That said, overall the series is still very solid and the acting makes up for a lot of the weaknesses. I'm a little worried going forward that the changes in season five could prove fatal.

The Extras

There are extras spread throughout the six-disc set, but the first five discs only have deleted scenes. There are a lot of deleted scenes, almost two dozen with a total running time of approximately 24 minutes. There are many that are quite substantial, a couple minutes long, while the shortest is a mere 8 seconds. The rest of the extras found on the sixth disc include an 8-minute look at the cast and crew on the read carpet for the season four premiere party. Off the Clock shows the cast and crew "Off the Clock", I.E., on their own time. Not the typical featurette, which makes it all the more interesting. Finally, there are 2 minutes of outtakes.

That's a total of 45 minutes of extras, which is not a lot for a concurrent show. It's enough so the DVD doesn't feel bare, but not enough to be a real selling point, especially compared to past sets, which all included a few audio commentary tracks.

The Verdict

Brothers and Sisters continues to be a solid family drama with plenty of compelling characters and stories, perhaps too many for just one show. It also dances dangerously close to Soap Opera territory occasionally, but avoids too many pitfalls. The six-disc set for The Complete Fourth Season isn't loaded with extras, but if you bought the previous releases, there's no reason to stop now.

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