I love Brothers and Sisters. Religiously watching every week, I truly care about the Walkers and all their rich people problems and dramas (which are occasionally similar to poor people's problems and dramas. It all started to go wrong when they killed off Rob Lowe, or more accurately when they let him lay in a vegetative state for an imaginary year, and then pulled the plug on him in the very first episode of the series, so proving there was no discernible reason for not killing him in the ultra dramatic car crash at the end of Season 4. This is far from the only thing wrong with the programme this series, though, and here's some things I think they've done very very wrong:
1. Taking away Holly and Rebecca
Holly and Rebecca Harper provided nice antidotes to all the Walker madness in previous seasons, giving the audience some perspective on their mad way of communicating, and actually challenging them in a way they never do themselves in the giant family group. Holly was also a formidable match for Nora, and I knew as soon as they gave her amnesia that things were not going to be good. As for Rebecca, I've never liked her that much because she always seemed much too boring for Justin (who I adore), but all has been forgiven now that his new girlfriend is equally, if not more, tedious to watch than Rebecca ever was. Come back guys!
2. Someone is always missing
And not just Robert, or Holly, or Rebecca. It seems like the writers have just given up trying to include everyone in every episode, and just keep shipping characters off to goodness knows where. This week it was Kitty, off in Washington for a later storyline that will hopefully stick instead of just fading into nothingness like so many already have in season 5, and the other week Sarah was somewhere unexplained. And is it just me, or was Justin missing for about 3 episodes?! I realise that not every sibling has been in every episode ever, but this seems to be happening a lot more recently and it's very off-putting- there's not even the obligatory 'I'm not going to be in this episode very much, but I'm still calling' phone call that there used to be. Has everyone signed contracts to say they want to work less, or are the writers just literally forgetting half of their cast?
3. The Dinners
Dinner parties have always been the very backbone of Brothers and Sisters, the place to air grievances and to glower at each other over the table, and generally create a massive amount of entertainment to the viewing public. Now, I could be wrong about this, but I'm pretty sure the whole family haven't had a dinner this whole series, partly because of the aforementioned absences, but even when they have had opportunities to all be together, someone is always busy, which is to the detriment of the programme itself. This week, for example, Kevin missed out on Tommy's homecoming dinner because his potential adopted daughter was round his- could they not have done that on another night, perhaps? Just a thought...
4. The loss of Ojai
Ojai Foods has been the centre of many many good storylines in Brothers and Sisters history, and its failure and closure was actually one of the best of these. It's not the loss of Ojai, then, that has been such a problem, but more the fact that there has been nothing to replace it- there is less to hold them together than there ever was before. They are possibly trying to make Sarah's 'new media empire' fill this void, especially since it looks like Tommy is coming back now to help run it, but it hasn't really been working so far. The biggest problem I have with the whole thing is that Sarah only seems to visit and work from the radio station that Nora also works at (very sporadically), and how likely is that?! It's possible that Tommy will make this all better, we'll have to wait and see, but I'm struggling to think of any situation Balthazar Getty has ever made better.
5. The rotating door for lovers
I guess I've been so used to stable, series long relationships from this programme (Scotty and Kevin, Justin and Rebecca, Kitty and Robert, even Sarah and Joe lasted for a whole season) that I'm disappointed by the fact that the 'mourning' Kitty has already had and disposed of two boyfriends this season, while Nora and Justin have lost one each. I think my main qualm with this though, rather than wanting them to be in super-serious relationships, is that in each instance I could tell from the very beginning that they weren't going to develop into anything further, which made them really fruitless and frustrating to watch, especially compared to the richness and depth that their previous relationships provided. Bring back Robert!
6. Nothing is really happening
Sarah's business is a dud, Nora never seems to go to work anymore, Justin wasn't doing anything and then suddenly he was a paramedic, Kitty was working at a college but we barely saw her work, and Saul just works for an AIDS charity now. Or possibly he doesn't. And all of these things have changed since the beginning of the series, when they were all in new places and situations anyway... Let's just say, it all feels a little bit rushed. I think this is also partially to do with the lack of proper relationships, which have tended to be the things that progress most over the season; but nothing is allowed the time to progress anymore, and so nothing ever really seems to move forward, or really happen. The only story that has really gone anywhere, it seems, is the Scotty-Kevin adoption one, which happens to be my favourite one of the moment, and why is that, I hear you cry? Because it's been built up really well, for a sustained amount of time, and hasn't been a spur of the moment decision. If only the rest of the programme was like this, I wouldn't be having all these problems!
7. Dave Annable is being criminally underused
Justin is probably my favourite Walker, not just because he's so so cute (which, let's face it, he is), but because he has grown most as a character, in a believable way, from a completely messed up drug addict to a really mature doctor-in-training, with a wife and a massive amount of courage (he wanted to go back to war because he just cared so damn much!) So, this season, the best thing to do with him is to obviously forget his entire existence until you have some screen time to fill and then make him a sudden paramedic, but still don't let him have any communication with the other Walkers for, I swear, about 5 episodes, making him seem much more boring than he really is in the process. They did actually start doing this towards the end of season 4, and it really annoyed me then- there was a point where Rebecca suggested that he might be dyslexic, and that's why he was having trouble at med school, and then it was never mentioned again, and nor were his school troubles, and he then wasn't in it for about 2 episodes (this feels like a pattern...) This worries me, since Rob Lowe apparently left the show because he wasn't being used properly (just like ooh, everyone this season) and I worry that Dave might do the same. Which would not be cool AT ALL.
Here's the thing. I don't want this just to seem like a massive moan (which, I realise, it is), because I understand that I can just not watch Brothers and Sisters anymore, and then I won't have to think about it. But the thing is, there have been moments this series where it has felt like the good old days where things like this could still happen, but those moments have been few and far between all the messy storylines, and character forgetting, and all the stuff that keeps annoying me! But, I still think it can be saved, and therefore, I care enough to point out all the things that are wrong with it, and there are things that are right with it- the Kevin and Scotty saga, Sarah and Luc's engagement, Luke's mother was amazing, and the new scandal that seems to be emerging does intrigue me. So, I have reasons to stick with it and to have faith in Brothers and Sisters improving, at the very least to stop me complaining about it on the internet!