Icon as a Dirty Word
Every season there's a troubled show. The show that is announced for a network's prime-time schedule but never actually debuts; or it debuts but gets yanked immediately. Critics know to look for the red flags.
This season they've zeroed in on ABC's new "Brothers and Sisters," starring a large ensemble cast that includes Calista Flockhart, Ron Rifkin, Rachel Griffiths, Sally Field, Patricia Wettig, and Balthazar Getty, among others.
ABC describes it as a drama about the California-based Walker family, made up of "intertwined and somewhat damaged adult siblings who embrace one another unconditionally while striving to reflect the perceived perfection of their role model parents" who will in the days ahead "navigate waves of temptation, deception and grief."
It's the only new series on which critics have yet to see a pilot episode.
"Every season there's a troubled show," one critic said as he kicked off the show's Q&A at Summer TV Press Tour 2006, setting the right tone for the session.
"I never got the sense, not having made television before, that we were ever troubled at all," the show's creator Jon Robin Baitz assured critics. Baitz is best known for his plays, though he's written episodes of "The West Wing" and "Alias.".
"It was more a matter of, in recasting [Red Flag], opening it up [Red Flag] and finding the most alive version of the story [Red Flag].
"But I never had a sense of anybody's panic about what we were doing. In fact, exactly the opposite: They seemed -- the network and the studio -- seemed so enthusiastic that they invited us to try it again [Red Flag]," he said.
"If anything I would say that there was a great response to the pilot [Red Flag]," chimed in exec producer Marti Noxon. "But people felt...that we needed to do some...creatively we went in some different directions [Red Flag] with characters. And then although we felt like we wanted the temperature to be a little bit different [Red Flag], to have an opportunity for the family to be shown having a little bit more fun [Red Flag]. It's the exact same story, just told from a slightly different point of view [Red Flag]. "
"When did you start shooting?" one critic wanted to know.
"Last week [Red Flag]," Baitz said.
"It felt like the pilot was sort of the Trojan Horse [Red Flag] for the actual show, or the workshop model [Red Flag] for it, and then we got a chance to come back and actually make the real one [Red Flag]," he added.
The Q&A started very late because cast and producers got stuck out on the 134, due to a pileup. Then, Flockhart, who'd been rushed through hair and makeup, sat on stage looking limp and vacant, in a greige sort of dress -- like a young-ish Whistler's Mother. Thank goodness for Rachel Griffiths, who livened things up when she started sharpening her claws on Flockhart.
"Calista was a big draw for me," she said when asked what brought her back to series television after doing HBO's "Six Feet Under."
"Apart from being a gorgeous actress, she's an icon."
A little gasp escaped from the critics' region.
Griffiths had called Flockhart an "icon."
"Icon" is Hollywood-speak for "older than me."
(Griffiths is in fact about 3-and-a-half years younger than Flockhart.)
"I watched ['Ally McBeal'] and it carried me through my lonely twenties," Griffiths said.
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