Wednesday, May 23, 2007

TV takes on special-needs parenting ... maybe

I've been watching and blogging about the ABC show Brothers & Sisters for most of the season, and it's made a nice transition from being an intrigue-filled look at a family and a family business in the wake of the patriarch/founder's death to a gentler, sillier examination of the ties that bind families together, whether you really feel like being bound to that person or not. The repartee and rapport between the siblings is golden, well-written and well-acted by the likes of Sally Field, Calista Flockhart, Rachel Griffith and Ron Rifkin. I started the season watching it because I need something to space out to at the end of the weekend (it's on Sundays at 10 p.m.), and ended the season with it as my most anticipated show of the week.

One couple who has gotten less plot than usual in the family saga is Tommy, one of the brothers of the title, and his wife, Julia. There was a little plot flurry early on over Tommy's infertility (his brothers donated sperm), and a little flurry about Julia being pregnant with twins, and then a big episode in which the twins were born premature and one of them died. The other was still hospitalized as of Sunday's season finale, and her parents were dealing with that in different ways -- mom depressed and taking sedatives, dad spending time away from home and acting like nothing was wrong.

The writers of this show have a lot of pots on the stove, so to speak, and I don't know whether Tommy and Julia and their baby, Elizabeth, will ever get put on the front burner. But I'm hoping for it, because there's real potential for dealing with issues of special-needs parenting. While Elizabeth survived her birth in better health than her brother, she could well have significant problems related to her prematurity. Watching parents and extended family deal with that could be therapeutic to those of us who've experienced that in real life. The different dynamics of moms and dads in special-needs families could also make for good TV -- I recommend Married With Special-Needs Children to the producers as a textbook.

The show's already dipped its toe into the subject with one sister's daughter having diabetes; let's hope that next season, they dive on in. If you haven't seen the show and are interested in it, you can view all the past episodes online at, and read recaps on my B&S blog.

No comments: