Tuned In

The Six Feet Under Cast, Exhumed

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My problem with Brothers and Sisters (ABC, Sundays, 10 p.m.) is not that it is not a good show. It’s not a good show, true. This is the family soap that marks the return of Calista Flockhart to TV, as a right-wing radio host who moves back to California to be closer to her liberal family, which is going through a crisis. Suffice it to say, it’s the sort of talky tedious drama that is far less intelligent than it clearly thinks it is. It’s meant to combine political dialogue with a family-dynamics study, but the show’s political references are banal and the family members are cliched to a person. The show’s one triumph was recasting Betty Buckley with Sally Field, who looks much more plausibly like Flockhart’s mother.

So it’s a bad show. There are too many good shows on TV! I’m two episodes behind on Nip/Tuck as it is. Thank you, Brothers and Sisters: now, Sundays at 10, I can catch up on my TiVo Now Playing list.

No, what I resent Brothers and Sisters for is ruining the memory of Brenda Chenowith. Rachel Griffiths plays one of the sisters on Brothers, but previously she was Brenda on Six Feet Under–which, of course, was a good relationship drama about a family in which a prodigal child (Peter Krause) returns home after a family crisis. I can’t watch Brothers without feeling that Brenda–who died in SFU’s epilogue–has gone to a special kind of TV hell in which she must play an inferior version of herself in an inferior show.

TV actors could learn something from Griffiths. When you’ve nailed a role in a great show, quit while you’re ahead and move on to something different. That’s what Griffiths’ SFU co-stars are doing this season. Jeremy Sisto (Brenda’s crazy brother Billy in SFU) is tracking down an abductee in Kidnapped; Michael C. Hall (SFU’s repressed David) is a serial killer who solves crimes on Showtime’s Dexter; Peter Krause (Brenda’s on-again-off-again-finally-dead lover/husband) is a detective in Sci Fi’s upcoming The Lost Room. Are any of their shows as good as SFU? No, no, and I haven’t seen it but I doubt it. What does it matter? They have the chance to go ahead and extend their careers without competing with Alan Ball’s brilliant creations.

My advice to Griffiths: if your other SFU peers are any indication, any day now Frances Conroy will sign up to play a dotty old mystery novelist who solves murders. Ask if she needs a co-star.