It wasn’t official, not until Friday. There were whispers it might live a little longer, but despite the faintest of hopes, everyone knew its time had come.
At the end of the day, everything has a life-span. It took a whole year to take care of business, at the business end, but as Abba once said, “love was one prolonged goodbye“. Were there unexpected hiccups during this last year of life? Yes. But there were no major traumas or emotional quakes. No one really had the time. It died peacefully, almost happily. Resigned and accepting of its fate; content in itself. Boxes were sealed, and bows were tied; resolution was finally found. In the last analysis, is there really ever any better way to go? Does one rage and fight against the dying of the flame? Or do you bask in its after-glow, mark its passing, and be grateful and thankful that you were there, and lucky enough to witness its brilliance?
Yes, my friends. ABC’s ‘Brothers and Sisters‘ has come to an end.
Now, don’t worry. I’m not about to launch into a five season retrospective which would mean absolutely nothing, except to those who have seen it. It would be like trying to convey the taste of an apple; you can use all the adjectives you like, but in the end, you just gotta taste it! Besides, apart from myself, there is only one other person I know personally who has also watched it – and I live with him. So, it would be futile for me to try to describe every twist and turn of the last half-decade. ‘Brothers and Sisters‘ began with a death, and ended with a marriage. The first dance became the last dance. What happened inbetween can best be summed up as a family’s trauma in dealing with that initial death, it’s consequences for all the major players, and how each of them ultimately finds their way, together and individually, out of the fog of life-long lies and patriarchal influence. It was, in essence, a 21st century ‘Dallas‘, replete with a large family, wealth, big business and political intrigue. There were long-lost sons and daughters, births, marriages, death and divorce. All this, and various visits to the hospital for the occasional organ transplant, IVF treatment, course of chemotherapy, sperm donation, heart by-pass surgery and miscarriage. You had your infidelity, your drug addiction, corporate embezzlement, presidential primaries, and various comedies of error and happy holiday capers. Not to mention those infamous family dinners. Yep, all you need do, in recognition of the times we live in and the fact that our collective vision has shifted, is replace oilfields for vineyards. It wasn’t the discovery of a new major source of black gold that saved the family’s fortune come the end of Season 4 – it was water. That said, some things never change; news of Narrow Lake‘s untapped water reserve and bank balance busting potential to quench the thirst of the entire population of Pasadena, was quickly followed by an almighty pile-up on the way home. ‘Brothers and Sisters‘ may have made TV history by depicting the very first on-screen gay marriage at the end of Season 2, but you can’t beat a good ole’ fashioned car crash to bring on a fast, effective adrenaline rush.
In many ways, the convulsions and seismic upheavals felt by the Walker family were a mirror for a nation spasming with shock. The show was very post 9/11 in its thinking; from the outset, one of the major characters is revealed to have been only a few blocks away from Ground Zero. But it was another of the principal characters who best represented this synergy between family and nation, spending four of the show’s five years dealing with his own post-traumatic stress disorder following a tour of duty in Afghanistan. The point at which he finally “came home”, finding resolution and peace at the beginning of the fifth and final season, was a hugely important moment for the series. It wasn’t just the moment the youngest sibling led his family out of its grief and period of year-long mourning following the death of his brother-in-law. It was also the moment when all the conflict, internal dispute and war from within the family and without, finally began to dissipate. It was the beginning of the end of “Brothers and Sisters“. It was tremendously palpable, and (on the part of the writers and actors) supremely executed.
All of us who have ever been faithful to a TV show will know that bittersweet feeling that comes upon us when the final credits roll. I don’t care what show it might have been, or whatever your tastes. It was an investment, both of your time and your emotions. It mattered to you. It was a tried and tested friendship. And like any great friendship, it leaves its mark upon you. There would have been many moments along the way when it left you shaken and affected, left you frustrated and annoyed. At times it would have lived up to your expectations, at times disappointed them and exceeded them. It would have brought a smile to your face, a tear to your eye, a hand over your mouth, and an involuntary nervous heartbeat. If you were very lucky, it would have also challenged your thinking, adjusting your moral compass in the process. ‘Brothers and Sisters‘ did all these things to me, and for me. It was intelligent, passionate and stirring. That’s what great television is all about. I mourn its passing, but I do not grieve. I was there for the ride and enjoyed every second. Now, it will begin another journey, moving from my present to my past, becoming ever more refined and delicious with age. Like the very best of Walker Landing wine, it will date, but I will store it and every now and again, revisit it. I will allow it to nap retrospectively as it becomes part of the framework of my memory.
Farewell ‘Brothers and Sisters‘. You may have milked the DNA cow one too many times and given us Ryan Lafferty, but you also gave us Nora Walker vs. Holly Harper, Kitty and Robert, Kevin and Scotty, Justin and Rebecca, Sarah and Luc. Oh, and Tommy. I look forward to when I dust you all down with the warm, cuddly cloth of nostalgia, and periodically place you back on the mantle. Like the framed pictures of my nearest and dearest;
It’s where you belong.