"Brothers and Sisters" Ditched Storylines
ABC's powerful family drama "Brothers and Sisters" has managed to establish itself in the difficult post-"Desperate Housewives" 10pm timeslot on ABC Sundays, but things did not seem too promising from the get-go.
Back in May, when ABC's president Steve McPherson reviewed the original pilot episode, he asked the executive producers Ken Olin (thirtysomething) and Jon Robin Baitz to go back to the drawing board and take the drama into a different direction.
According to the original script, Tom Skeritt's character, the family patriarch William Walker died in the beginning of the episode and that simply overpowered the rest of the pilot.
The writers perhaps tried to too hard to come up with compelling drama and they filled the episode with storylines that ended up on the cutting floor, such as Sarah having a son with Aperger's syndrome and the gay character Kevin having an ex-wife.
The producers decided to delay the father's death until the closing moments of the episode, coming up with an hour of television much lighter in its tone and taking a more careful approach to introduction of key characters.
Then came the cast changes. Betty Buckley (Eight Is Enough) did not do very well with focus groups and was dropped as the family matriarch. Sally Field came on board and everyone agreed it was an excellent decision.
Then there were Jonathan LaPaglia as Kevin (originally called Bryan and replaced by Matthew Rhys) and Dan Futterman (The Birdcage) as Kitty's boyfriend Jonathan (replaced by Matthew Settle).
There is some indication Futterman may have actually been busy with other projects (a Pakistan-based movie production with Angelina Jolie) and may return to the series at a later point (a thus-far unconfirmed speculation on the part of our regular reader KC).
Young actor Tyler Posey (Smallville) who plays the stepson of Rachel Griffiths' (Six Feet Under) character was kept on board, but his first appearance was delayed until a later episode and the name of that family was changed from Traylor to Whedon.
Their children became smaller. Jimmy Jax Pinchak (aged 10) was replaced by the 6-year old Maxwell Perry Cotton. His sister originally played by the 13-year old Gage Golightly was replaced with the little Kerris Dorsey.
Ron Rifkin's character Saul Ashman became Saul Holden and several other supporting actors were dropped.
Finally, in mid-August, fellow executive producer Marti Noxon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) left the show citing 'creative differences'. Everwood producer Greg Berlanti who signed a contract with Touchstone Studio agreed to be serve as a consultant until a new showrunner was found (recently Berlanti disclosed he would be staying with the show on a permanent basis).
With all these backstage changes and massive retooling of the original pilot, some observers believed ABC had a turkey on its hands from the very beginning. That turkey turned into one of the most pleasant surprises of the new television season as it continues to build on its loyal fan base and add more compelling story developments.
Make sure you don't miss the next, holiday-themed episode of "Brothers and Sisters" entitled "Light the Lights" (airs Sunday, December 10, on ABC), one of the rare treats under the ABC's Christmas tree.