Category: Brothers & Sisters

Live at 10 a.m.: 'Brothers & Sisters' creator Jon Robin Baitz


"Brothers & Sisters" creator Jon Robin Baitz joins The Times for a live chat Thursday morning
Few writers in the television world have endured as topsy-turvy a career as Jon Robin Baitz. An acclaimed playwright, Baitz entered the 2006 television season with one of the most anticipated shows of the year in ABC's "Brothers & Sisters," a family drama tinged with politics and social issues.

Although the show drew mostly rave reviews, things spiraled downhill quickly, as Baitz and executives couldn't see eye to eye on the series' direction. (Among other things, Baitz wanted a far darker and more dramatic tone than the brass at the network did.) At the end of the season, Baitz was removed from day-to-day duties, prompting a vocal protest on his part, not to mention on the part of many fans. (The show continued for an additional four seasons.)

In advance of the opening of his Broadway play "Other Desert Cities" -- which, like "Brothers & Sisters," is also a politically tinged family drama and also stars Rachel Griffiths -- Baitz opened up to the Los Angeles Times about his rocky tenure on the show. Among the things he told us: The confrontation drove him to write the play, while also driving him into a deep depression about the state of network television.

On Thursday morning at 10, you'll get a chance to hear Baitz's take on the perils of working for the small screen (and whether he'd ever come back to it) when we host a live chat with him on our sister Culture Monster blog. (You can join the chat here.) Baitz is never one for holding his tongue -- he's already told us that he feels the Emmys robbed the cast of the show in its five seasons on the air -- which means the chat is sure to be a lively one. Please join us then.


Live chat with Jon Robin Baitz

Jon Robin Baitz gets the last word

-- Steven Zeitchik

Photo: The cast of "Brothers & Sisters." Credit: ABC

The 9 lives of Rob Lowe: a video tribute

Lowe2 Watching Rob Lowe this season in his new role on “Parks & Recreation,”  it’s obvious that he’s a great comic actor. But is Lowe himself a man with a sense of humor?

The producer and writers of "Parks & Rec" decided to test that concept recently when they asked Lowe to appear in a video in which he would play himself being a creepy diva. Lowe’s response? “We’re totally doing this. It’s hilarious.”

 "What can be limiting or get in the way of actors — and especially with handsome actors or beautiful actresses — is they just don’t want to look stupid,” “Parks and Recreation" colleague Amy Poehler told us for this LA Times profile of Lowe. “They let their vanity get in the way. From Day 1 Rob was down to go for it.”

Lowe is on a TV high these days, starring on “Parks and Rec” and guesting on “Californication” and coming off a four-year stint on “Sisters and Brothers.” But Lowe’s career has been anything but smooth — he has zigzagged through Hollywood for more than 25 years, racking up scandals (including an infamous sex tape and legal battles with former household employees) and comebacks with great regularity.

Here are nine of his many lives, in video form:

Rob Lowe cast as Sodapop Curtis in Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Outsiders”

  Rob Lowe romances his sister (and a bear) in “Hotel New Hampshire”

Rob Lowe walks the '80s edge in "St. Elmo’s Fire"

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ABC orders full seasons of 'No Ordinary Family' and 'Better With You'

If you're enjoying the time you're spending with two ABC families — the Powells and the Putneys — this is a good day for you.

ABC President of Entertainment Paul Lee gave two freshmen series full-season orders Monday: the drama "No Ordinary Family," about the supernatural Powell family, and the sitcom "Better With You," starring Joanna Garcia and Jennifer Finnigan.

The network also is letting you spend more time with two other families — the Detroit police and the Walkers. Lee ordered five more episodes of the new Michael Imperioli-led drama "Detroit 1-8-7" and four more of "Brothers & Sisters."

— Maria Elena Fernandez

Photo: Cast of "No Ordinary Family." Credit: ABC.


Upfronts: Why ABC benched Shonda Rhimes' and Matthew Perry's new shows

When ABC announced its fall lineup Tuesday morning, there were a couple of glaring omissions: Shonda Rhimes' new medical drama, "Off the Map," and Matthew Perry's single-camera comedy, "Mr. Sunshine."

Both of those shows packed some buzz behind them during pilot season and were picked up, but ABC didn't schedule them for the fall. Why?

Created by Jenna Bans ("Grey's Anatomy") and produced by Shonda Rhimes and Betsy Beers ("Grey's Anatomy," "Private Practice"), "Off the Map" is about five young doctors who run from their personal demons to a tiny town in the South American jungle that has one understaffed medical clinic. Hoping to score gold again with a post-"Desperate Housewives" mid-season launch, as it did with "Grey's," ABC has opted to premiere the series next year on Sundays after "Housewives." To make room for the new show, the network plans to move "Brothers & Sisters" to a new night.

"Mr. Sunshine"
stars Matthew Perry, who has co-written the pilot, as the self-involved manager of a second-rate San Diego sports arena who begins to reevaluate his life after his 40th birthday. The single-camera comedy, along with the comedy "Happy Endings," has been held because there was no time slot available. By choosing to premiere "No Ordinary Family," on Tuesdays at 8 p.m., the network lost its only hour available to pair the two comedies. Both of them are expected to premiere in late fall, after ABC can evaluate the performance of the seven new series it has scheduled.

-- Maria Elena Fernandez

Top photo: John Galindez and Jason George in "Off the Map." Credit: Craig Sjodin / ABC. Bottom photo: The cast of "Mr. Sunshine," from left to right: Portia Doubleday, Nate Torrence, Allison Janney, Matthew Perry, James Lesure and Andrea Anders. Credit: Bob D'Amico / ABC


ABC announces 2010-11 prime-time schedule

ABC scoops up six new dramas as it seeks to shore up its 10 p.m. slot

Complete Upfronts coverage

'Brothers & Sisters': Ken Olin looks back at Season 4 and talks flash forwards

B&S_kenolin With the fourth season of "Brothers & Sisters" a wrap, I couldn't help but look back the Walkers' highly eventful year. From Kitty's cancer and Justin's and Rebecca's quickie wedding to Kevin's and Scotty's attempts at parenthood and, of course, Rob Lowe's departure from the show, this season was decidedly more dramatic than the previous three.

After Sunday night's finale, the Walkers face an even more daunting future, one filled with loss and grief as well as a renewed sense of purpose. I got a chance to chat with the show's executive producer, director and occasional actor Ken Olin, who shared his thoughts about Season 4 and what we can expect from the Walkers next season.

This season was pretty heavy. Was it a conscious decision early on that this season was going to be a more dramatic, eventful one?

Because it was the fourth season, we wanted it to be a little more dramatic and a little weightier in terms of the stories. I think one of the things that's an important part of the calculation of a show that you're lucky enough to last is figuring out the rhythms for the seasons. One of the things we felt going into this year was that we needed to put their world in more jeopardy. We're always aware of having a sense of humor and not be ultra-serious because whatever journey they're on is never going to be painfully dark.

We dealt with cancer and the things that I think we had stayed away from the previous seasons. More than anything, I think that's part of the discussion. I don't know how much of it is based on really being able to calculate what can be effective or how much of it is a result of the world that we're in.

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'Brothers & Sisters' season finale: Highway to destiny

B&S_Robertfinale The question we have all been pondering for the last five months -- exactly how Rob Lowe's character Robert McCallister was going to exit the show -- was finally answered on last night's "Brothers & Sisters" season finale. The beloved senator met his demise on a stretch of highway with Kitty by his side after a big rig lost control and collided into their SUV. My and many viewers' assumption that he would die by heart attack proved too obvious. The show acknowledged the theory by giving him an arrhythmia scare the night before the accident, but it was a sharp metal beam that crashed into his driver's side window that finally did him in.

Even though we knew Robert's moment was coming, it didn't keep those last dramatic five minutes from being any less shocking. It was the first time we'd really seen any of the Walkers in grave physical danger and the initial sight of Kevin, Scotty, Saul and Holly bleeding and hurt was pretty startling. From the moment Justin and Rebecca pulled up to the wreckage, the camera seemed to stretch their (and our) feeling of dread as they encountered each mangled car and began to heard screams from familiar voices. They came upon Saul's overturned car first. Scotty sat up dazed while Kevin pulled shattered glass from his hand. Saul stood a few feet with a gash across his forehead, a reminder of his new reality (more about that later). Sarah and Nora emerged shaken but unhurt as they rushed to get more help for Holly, who sat unconscious in her car. Then came Robert's and Kitty's SUV, nestled against the belly of a big rig.

Robert's last minutes were brief and so, so sad. The jutting beam and a giant bloody head wound kept him still as he recalled his fears on the day that Evan was born. Kitty's strength quelled his fears back then and as he sat dying, and while she pleaded for him to hold on and keep talking, the light went out from his blue eyes. If there was one thing Robert consistently stood by during his time on the show, it was his dedication to his family, so it was fitting that the comforting memory took him through his last breaths.

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'Brothers & Sisters': The end of Ojai Foods

When one door closes, another one opens, and on Sunday night's "Brothers & Sisters," the door to Ojai Foods permanently closed. What subsequent doors will open remain to be seen, but the end of the Walkers' family business certainly provided the show with one of its most bittersweet episodes to date.

A year of financial turmoil, which could be blamed by both the economy and mistakes made by various Walkers, finally took its toll on Ojai Foods, and I was sad to see it go. It played an unspoken character, this symbolic representation of William after he had passed. It gave their relationships further context and meaning. Not only did they have to keep it together as a family, they also had to keep it together as a business. Even that turned personal, especially with the addition of Holly and Rebecca, and Ojai became somewhat of an emotional outlet. As a way to deal with their issues of validation and self-worth, Tommy, Saul and Sarah were willing to break laws in order to save it. Holly invested so much energy into carving her own place within its walls in order to fill the void William left while Nora and Kevin used their involvement in Ojai to express their own capacities to forgive. We never learned much about Ojai Foods' origins (though Sarah's intro in the episode revealed some brief background on the company), but like William Walker, there was no doubt of the huge role it played in these characters' lives.

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'Brothers & Sisters': Match point

A charity tennis tournament was the centerpiece for a few revelations on Sunday night's episode of "Brothers & Sisters." Sarah discovers the root of her son Cooper's bad behavior, Robert meets the man he's investigating through his top-secret new job, and Nora calls Justin out on his thoughts on re-enlisting in the military. There was definitely plenty of conflict to go around, but my favorite reveal was Kevin and Sarah as the very funny tag team, Kevrah.

The tennis tournament begins as a rouse for Robert to meet Bill Stanton, a notorious businessman who also owns the tennis club. We learn that Stanton has his eyes on a contract to train the Somali army and approval from Robert's senate committee is crucial. However, Robert's new gig involves some covert security operation to catch Stanton cheating, which could be a dangerous situation for both him and Kitty's campaign. I'm very intrigued as to where this will lead. I have no doubt that Rob Lowe will leave the show with a bang, but with one more episode left until the season finale, the Stanton storyline will have to move pretty quickly.   

Meanwhile, when Sarah wasn't hilariously reliving her and Kevin's glory days on the court (that stretching scene was classic), she was dealing with her son's adjustment to Luc moving in. Cooper had been acting out in school and at home, which would be natural for an 8-year-old boy who's had to acclimate to a new family member. Sarah, in the midst of her denial that Luc is the reason for Cooper's angst, decides to take her own stress out on the Frenchman, who looked frustrated yet remained steadfast and patient through it all. Through the ordeal with Cooper, we learn that Luc is a proponent of healthy communication and consequences for bad behavior, two things that Sarah sometimes struggles with as a single mom. If that's not a match made for Sarah, I don't know what is. A good mother and son heart-to-heart solved the problem, but unfortunately, we weren't treated to a full Kevrah comeback -- Cooper's meltdown forced the twosome to forfeit the game.

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'Brothers & Sisters': Inside the crystal ball

Two pieces of good news came out of last night's episode of "Brothers & Sisters": Kevin's and Scotty's surrogate got pregnant and Luc won the "green card" lottery. That means two new Walkers could be added to the family mix!

It's been an anxious few weeks for Kevin and Scotty, who, in the midst of their worries about Michelle's HCG levels, decided to consult a psychic to find out their fate. Miss Nadine predicted three things: that an evil force will appear and leave smoke behind, that someone will embark on a journey and that there will be new life in the horizon. Of course, all three managed to come true.

Let's start with the more ominous predictions. The "evil force" turned out to be Nora's and Saul's mom Ida, who arrived unexpectedly and with signs of dementia. Despite their rocky relationship, Nora offered to take her mother in, which resulted in a small kitchen fire -- the smoke -- after Ida was left alone. Nora was willing to take the blame, which only angered the already irritable Ida. Her knack for provoking Nora's insecurities was still intact, but unlike her previous visits, her biting words felt more like her way of asserting control than personal attacks on her daughter. Marion Ross has always done a wonderful job of playing the contentious Ida, but last night, she really shined. Her speech about deciding how to spend the rest of her life was powerful, and the delusional spell in which she praised Nora as a mother showed Ida wasn't an evil force at all.

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'Brothers & Sisters': Have a little faith

"It's all going to be OK" was the mantra of Sunday night's episode of "Brothers & Sisters." The Walkers -- Kevin,  particularly -- were still reeling from last week's events, and the only thing anyone could do amid the tumult was to have faith that everything would work out. And boy, do they have a lot of things to work out.

The bulk of the episode was dedicated to Kevin's big grudge against Nora. He was still unwilling to talk to her after the Aaron incident left him feeling guilty and deceived, but Nora, as always, stood her ground and waited for him to come around. Even as he reluctantly marked his 39th birthday, she seemed to be the only one in a celebratory mood. "If you bake [a cake], he will come," Nora insisted.

Her efforts at throwing Kevin a birthday party weren't rooted in naivete or delusion as Kitty and Sarah had thought but, rather, on the belief that she knew her son well enough to know he would eventually make peace with her and the situation. And he did. Kevin couldn't possibly spend his birthday angry (who could with stuffed squab and cake on the menu?), and a sweet mother-and-son talk quelled some of his insecurities. I loved Kevin's honesty that it would take time for him to fully deal with the consequences of Nora's actions, but his willingness to open up and talk about it felt like a genuine moment.

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'Brothers & Sisters': Flashbacks and family secrets

No one was on the brink of dying this time, but that didn't mean this season's two-hour "Brothers & Sisters" saga held back on the drama. Nora's big secret was revealed, the Narrow Lake mystery began to unravel, and Justin and Rebecca eloped -- so much transpired in those two hours that this post, too, needs to be broken down into two parts.

The First Half

The first hour was dedicated to the secret Nora has been hiding for the last few episodes. Her desperation hit an all-time high -- Sally Field should win an Emmy for most outstanding freak out -- as she frantically tried to convince the kids to sell their shares of Ojai Foods. It seemed as though Dennis had some major blackmail in his hands, but as soon as the words "It wasn't illegal" escaped Nora's lips, I wondered whether we all had been taken for a ride. Later I was thankful the secret wasn't too melodramatic (no more illegitimate children, phew!), but it provided a good enough reason for a few flashbacks.

As the Walker kids pondered over their future in Ojai Foods, we were treated to a glimpse into the Walker household during one fateful night in 1986. Some things remained the same: young Tommy got himself into a car wreck, young Sarah rebelliously threw a party at the Ojai office, young Kitty spouted off her Republican ideals. Young Kevin was still in the closet, but he was already showing signs of his trademark self-righteousness and neuroses. Justin was too young to play much of a role and we barely got a peek at younger Nora, William and Dennis. That was a disappointment -- if they were going to show us exactly what happened that night, why shroud the adults in shadows?

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'Brothers & Sisters': The Walkers go viral

Few political campaigns launch without scandal, and last night it was Kitty's turn to be put through the ringer. The reason for the uproar? Luc, who had three weeks left on his visa but had somehow gotten it extended in the time it took to seduce Sarah and fix her washing machine. It wasn't an illegitimate child or an extramarital affair, but it was enough to leave the Interwebs buzzing with interest in Kitty's campaign. Talk about a slow news day.

After blogs began to post more rumors about Luc's past, paparazzi swarmed Sarah's front lawn to get their scoop and a shot of the "Pasadena cougar." Sarah, caught off guard by all the attention, naturally gave them a piece of her mind and one good video post.  Of all the rumors -- Luc was a porn star! Luc is ambidextrous! -- one turned out to be true: Our beloved Frenchie worked at a brothel. Before we could even feign shock, we learned that he was just an errand boy for his uncle, the proprietor of la maison de joie. Yawn. Thankfully for Kitty, the Luc scandal didn't have enough legs to warrant a blip on, and she eventually harnessed the power of the Web to clear her name and keep Luc in the country longer. However, in the end, we never find out how he got his visa extended so quickly. Hmm.

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