Saturday, October 20, 2007

WC: My New Addiction

I'm feeling a little under the weather, so I have been devoting much of my past couple of days to watching the first season of Brothers and Sisters on DVD. Created by playwright Jon Robin Baitz, Brothers and Sisters is about an LA family of five grown kids--one gay, one a stoned vet, one a republican pundit, one VP and one pres of the family visit--and their mom (Sally Fields) and their dad (Tom Skerrit).

The first episode is a master class is scene-setting and exposition. Within brief scenes, Baitz gives us a sense of the characters that both establishes their broad-stroke characteristics (gay, stoned, etc) and gives us hints of the depth and individuality we will learn about over the season. His exposition is about 95% believable dialogue, which is a very high success rate. When people say self-defining things, there's a reason, and it seems like regular conversation. Very impressive work.

(SPOILER ALERT, SPOILER ALERT--BUT ONLY ABOUT THE FIRST EPISODE) And then, in the final scene of the first episode, the dad dies of a heart attack, jump-starting many plot lines, suprises, and conflicts. (This doesn't actually come as a surprise to anyone who noticed in the opening credits that Skerrit is a guest star rather than a series regular.)

The story lines are well intertwined and engaging, the sense of character is impressive, the plot turns are often predictable but not in a way that hurts the show, and the cast is amazing.

For the moment, I'd like to single out Rachel Griffiths, who is so completely different than her character in Six Feet Under that she is almost unrecognizable as the same actress, despite no change in her looks. She does an American accent astoundingly well, and she is one of those actress who is so transparent that you can see/feel her thoughts and feelings.

I recently saw Bette Davis in the Little Foxes, and while I liked her performance a lot, I was very struck by how theatrical and stylized it was. It would be fascinating to see Rachel Griffiths play Regina, who would come across as way more human and perhaps all the more chilling because of it.

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