Sally Field, Rachel Griffiths, ...

This week, ABC’s Brothers & Sisters tempts a? certain Democrat from the Walker clan into the Republican offices of Sen. Robert McCallister (Rob Lowe) — and the brainy, fractious drama officially becomes the ideal companion piece to this year’s election season. The politically minded B&S gives both sides of the aisle (almost) equal time, and equally persuasive mouthpieces. Matriarch Nora (Sally Field) and gay son Kevin (Matthew Rhys) are liberal Democrats; daughter Kitty Walker McCallister (Calista Flockhart) is a vociferous Republican. The other Walkers may not be overtly affiliated, but they still resonate with the electorate: Eldest son Tommy (Balthazar Getty) is a traditional exec who feels a bit threatened in the family business by sister Sarah (Rachel Griffiths), an overworked single mother. Youngest sibling Justin (Dave Annable) is an Iraq-war veteran living with Mom. The demographics flail when it ? comes to minorities, though: Danny Glover? appeared last year as a Republican strategist wooing Nora, but otherwise B&S is as ? white as…this year’s Republican convention.

Beyond demographics, some of the Walkers resemble specific politicians. Nora is a Hillary-esque grande dame coming into her own after suffering years of underestimation, not to mention the public embarrassment of her husband’s infidelity. And here’s a whiff of McCain: Tommy yearns for the chief-executive spot at Ojai Foods but finds himself undermined by a financial crisis — and suddenly overshadowed by a charismatic female outsider (in this case, Patricia Wettig’s Holly). In the Lieberman role, we have Rebecca (Emily VanCamp), the girl the Walkers believed was one of them… but she wasn’t. There’s even an attractive, ever-pleasant spouse: Kevin’s husband, Scotty (Luke Macfarlane), whose robotic cheer would serve him well on the campaign trail.

Like any Republican/Democrat mix, the Walkers clash regularly, and, because B&S is a family drama, they quarrel as much about hurt feelings as they do about the state of the union. The Walkers sulk, spin, take sides, go negative, and usually end up reaching across the aisle. Their arguments can be high-minded or insanely petty. But they’re as smartly ?written and momentarily convincing as any great stump speech. Should Kevin have told his client he was gay? Should Sarah have left the company? Should Justin have stopped the kids from breaking that glass whale? Depends on which Walker is making the case. The beauty of Brothers & Sisters is you can side with whatever articulate, inspiring, occasionally irksome Walker best represents your worldview. Just be part of the process. B+

Episode Recaps

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