Credit: Michael Desmond

10-11 PM · ABC · Returns Sept. 30

Things are getting a little testy in the Walker household. Youngest son Justin (Dave Annable) is now home from a tour in Iraq and suffering from a severe knee injury that’s left him wheelchair-bound, while mom Nora (Sally Field) is firing on all overprotective cylinders. When grandson Cooper hops on Justin’s lap and lands on his bad leg, it’s simply too much for her to watch. ”You have to admit you’re hurt and let me take care of you,” she pleads. ”You wanna take care of me?” Justin yells back. ”Then back off, Mom! All right?”

When it comes to Brothers & Sisters, at least the juiciest drama is now taking place in front of the cameras. ABC’s star-studded dysfunctional family drama was expected to be the train wreck of 2006 because of a major cast upheaval, the abrupt exit of an executive producer, and a complete reshooting of the show’s pilot. But once the revised lineup was in place — notably two-time Oscar winner Field, who replaced stage veteran Betty Buckley as Nora, the newly widowed family figurehead — Brothers & Sisters began to hit its stride. It brought in an ace exec producer (Greg Berlanti of Everwood) and lured a big-name guest star (Rob Lowe as Senator McCallister, a love interest for costar Calista Flockhart’s Kitty, will become a full-fledged cast member this month). And viewers responded — an average of 11 million were drawn in by the show’s addictive mix of sibling drama, social relevance, and guilty-pleasure twists.

”We all looked at the pilot and said, ‘Oh, we didn’t get it right,”’ admits ABC Entertainment president Steve McPherson. ”But to the credit of everyone involved, we rolled up our sleeves, spent a lot of money and effort, got Sally into it, and the rest is history.” And as of July, Emmy history, as Field and Rachel Griffiths, the Aussie Six Feet Under alum who plays no-nonsense older sister Sarah, both received acting nominations (awards will be handed out Sept. 16).

In season 2, both actresses have promising plotlines: Nora develops a flirtation with Lowe’s new campaign manager (Danny Glover), while Berlanti hints that the recently separated Sarah will ”deal with issues of custody” with her estranged husband. —Dave Karger

This is an online-only excerpt of a feature from the EW Fall TV Preview issue.

Episode Recaps

Brothers and Sisters
Calista Flockhart and Sally Field star in the teary family ensemble drama
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