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James Hibberd

Not So Tactful Critics and 'Brothers & Sisters'

July 19, 2006 9:26 PM

Critics at the press tour aren't exactly the most tactful bunch.

Take this afternoon. One critic asked series regular Rachel Griffiths at the session for ABC's family drama "Brothers & Sisters," now that she has gotten "through this baby business" was she ready to get back to working in television?

Griffiths gave the critic quite a face over the term "baby business," which apparently referred to the birth of her child.

"After I sold my baby," Griffiths said to big laughs. "Oh, did I do well. A TV deal is nothing. My babies go for millions."

Griffiths was planning on staying away from a series before talking to the show's producers.

"I agreed to a meeting, and really hoped they would be assholes," she said, "and was utterly charmed."

Initially creator Jon Robin Baitz envisioned star Griffith's co-star Calista Flockhart playing a baker in a cupcake factory, "but it seemed under-dramatic to everyone but me."

Instead Flockhart's character was changed to be a politically conservative radio host.

"She's not Ann Coutler," director Ken Olin said to one concerned critic. "She's not insane."

"Brothers & Sisters" is something of a mystery to critics, since ABC has not released a copy of the pilot. The show has traded out from the original pilot Betty Buckley, who played the mother in the sprawling family drama, for Sally Field. That wasn't the only change; Matthew Rhys took over the role initially played by Jonathan LaPaglia.

The network "invited us to try again," Baitz said of the extensive re-shoots that are required thanks to the casting changes.

But back to the tactful critic department. Another of my colleagues asked Field about her last ABC series venture, "The Court," which died a very early death in 2002.

"Thank you for mentioning that," Field said sweetly. "Can you please spell out your name for me? "

Field admitted she knew before "Court" hit the air it was going to tank, but she was philosophical about it.

"You always face failure in life," she said. "It's better to fail with a big, huge, loud splat."

She noted ABC was a very different place, and had high hopes for the new series.

"If we splat, I hope it's really bold and colorful," she said.

One critic asked about the apparent "Alias" connection to "Brothers," considering "Alias" alums Patricia Wetting, Ron Rifkin and Balthazar Getty are co-starring and Olin is directing.

Executive producer Marti Noxon said the joke on the set was the new series was really just a place for the "Alias" characters to hide undercover.

"Jennifer Garner will appear in fifth or sixth episode and say 'psych,'" Noxon said.


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