Jon Robin Baitz

Play of the Week

There are moments in this week's episode where everything I think Brothers & Sisters [Sundays at 10 pm/ET, on ABC] should come together perfectly; comedy and tragedy coexist — just like they do in real life, turning, dancing with each other in perpetuity. The episode has it all — male passions run amok, female passions threaten to cause thermonuclear war, farce, drunkenness, sorrow and laughter. In my humble opinion, a great episode. There are moments of acting in "Grapes of Wrath" that took my breath away when I saw it. One in particular stands out. I don't want to say too much, but it takes place in a kitchen during a showdown between Nora and Holly. Both actresses, Sally Field and Patty Wettig are real and funny and frightening in a way that brings to mind some of the great turns that John Cassavetes managed to capture on film — I'm thinking of Gena Rowlands in A Woman Under the Influence in particular. The camera comes close in so as to deprive them of any pri... read more

A Note from the Author

So, before I talk about this week's episode, I thought I might catch you all up on the goings on at Stages 6 & 7 at Disney. It's been a while since I wrote an episode. Sunday night's "Love is Difficult" (co-written with humor and grace by Ms. Molly Newman) represents my first writing on Brothers & Sisters since "Mistakes Were Made, Pt 1." Also, today I finished co-writing episode 18 with Marc Guggenheim, and Greg Berlanti and I are going to pen the season finale together, which I am looking forward to. His hand is on all the scripts, and I freely acknowledge that we would not be here had it been left to me alone — Greg understands the delicate and sophisticated balance of dark and light, escapism and truth-telling that works here. I honestly believe that my episodes would have been a miasma of angst without his gentle touch, and we'd be off the air. Not that I don't have a sense of humor — I mean, I know my way around a joke — but somehow, I tend to gravitate ... read more

Love Sick

Sunday's Brothers & Sisters is a glorious confection, sort of like something that Marcel of the addictive Top Chef might have made this season — perfectly constructed, a bit exotic and just slightly unhinged. Its subject: The horrors of romance as Valentine's Day approaches. Its authors: Our youngest writers, two troublemaking boys named Cliff Olin and Peter Calloway, who are hip beyond their years. (Both writer-boys are hovering at the frightening precipice of their mid-bloody twenties. I would get rid of them, but there's a law against clubbing baby seals.)Now, some backstory. Valentine's Day began many centuries ago to commemorate two Christian martyrs named Valentine, but has devolved, like most holy things, into a horrid and syrupy commercial holiday based mostly on the marketing of greeting cards, chocolates with wretched liquor centers, and overly red roses bred to capture the imaginations of gullible last-minute shoppers.And yet...Whose heart hasn't skipped a beat u... read more

Where Are We? Where Do We Go?

So. Hi. Happy 2007. Been a while since I've posted on the inner workings of Brothers & Sisters [Sundays at 10 pm/ET, on ABC], the oddly popular serio-comic series of which I am the titular creator. We're closing in on the home stretch of our first season here, with six more episodes to write and nine more to shoot. (ABC ordered an extra three episodes, to make up for having never aired the original pilot and scrapping an episode early on, so that instead of a back nine, we have a back 12.)And where are we headed for the remainder of the season?Kitty Walker's relationship with Senator McAllister will deepen and prove more challenging, more public, more difficult. Now that we signed the absurdly talented Rob Lowe as a special guest star, McAllister will be given a much bigger outline in the life of the Walkers — and indeed the political life of the country. His ambitions to higher office will thrust the family into an uncomfortably public light, and Kitty will be forced to de... read more

The Politics of Bad TV

Okay, so I’m going to take a different tack today with the blog. I’m going to try and share what I think about when I dream of Brothers & Sisters -- how it can reflect the country we live in now and serve as a dramatic discussion of American values. We all heard the news that ex-athlete and killer – see civil court conviction – O.J. Simpson has sold a book called If I Did It. And that Rupert Murdoch’s Regan Books is publishing the thing, which seems to be a kind of stunt-like game of literary and legal peek-a-boo. Not only that, Murdoch’s Fox Network is making it into a TV show. It’s all contemptible, of course. Assumes the worst of audiences and readers. Assumes that the populace is so numb that it requires the frisson of cheap titillation the way heroin addicts need their fix.So, what does this have to do with Brothers & Sisters? A lot, actually, in that it begs an examination of our choices and the kind of moral universe we live in. It p... read more

Mad in My Exile

Dateline: Venice, California. Some ruthless bug has totally sidelined me. Symptoms include fever and coughing, paranoia and lassitude. Not wishing to become the Typhoid Mary of Brothers & Sisters, I have banished myself to home, and I am going quietly mad in my exile. What is the evil genius, Dr. [Greg] Berlanti cooking up in my absence? Is Balthazar Getty running naked through the hallways? Is Ron Rifkin trying to seize control of the whole show? Will Touchstone fire me and have my house burned down? Has ABC kidnapped my dog Trip and put him on Dancing with the Stars? All these fears and I've only been out of the office for two days. The idle time has given me room, however, to daydream about where the show is headed, some of the issues we are exploring, and how we're doing it:1: Growing Up In America Now. What is it like? To go from the idyllic and safe American childhoods so many of us had to a vastly more dangerous world. Take Justin [Dave Annable], drug-addled, suffering fr... read more

Mr. Lowe's Second Act

He has lines on his face, mostly around the eyes, but he's still almost comically handsome. More so, given the absence of post-teen heart-throb vapidity. The lines help. They humanize. They seem earned. The mark of a grownup. The battle scars of life. The smile is vivid, and slightly knowing. It is the smile of someone with a lot of experience being in the public eye, someone who knows all the punchlines but still loves the jokes. I am talking about Rob Lowe, who is joining the cast of Brothers &Sisters [Sundays at 10 pm/ET, on ABC] this week, following an arduous and elaborate courting ritual which required forbearance and good intentions from all parties. Everyone — Rob, agents, producers, studio and network execs — wanted to happen. So it did. He's sitting in my office. It's me, [show runner Greg] Berlanti and [executive producer Ken] Olin, telling him about the part. The part, as written by Mr. Berlanti and Mr. Guggenheim, is tailored for Rob like a very good Paul ... read more

The Numbers and Why They Lie

My point of view about working in television will always be that of a playwright — a person who still lives and works in New York, in the theatre, an outsider entering a strange world.I am learning something about fear here in television land. There is no more powerful force at work in how networks decide what shows live and die. In television, fear translates to numbers, either in terms of viewership or bucks. The network execs claim that the marketplace — in other words, the Nielsen ratings — tell the whole story of a show. They may not truly even believe that, but the economics force them to act as though they do. The morning after the show airs, we get our report card, as does every other new show on television. I still don't know what the damn ratings mean — the Monday-morning numbers feel like tea leaves to me, read by psychics and seers and then examined as holy writ and reported dutifully in the press. I'm a playwright, not a psychic.Nevertheless, I am ra... read more

On the Set

It is the first day shooting episode 8 – first shot, 11 am – and I am writing from the set.A great mood here at "Brothers & Sisters" in the wake of being picked up for a back nine, or ten or eleven, depending on whom you ask. When the executives told us, I felt like we had a full term in office. Our show, the little candidate, like Clinton after New Hampshire, was elected. Driving home on Monday night, after we heard, I felt like I could finally rest a little, and relax. For a moment. But the news dovetails nicely with the ambition of the episode we're shooting – a more emotional, deeper palate for us – a little advance by "Brothers & Sisters" into deeper waters. Now that we know we are here for a while, we are getting bolder. The network and studio seem thrilled.Rachel Griffiths is shooting a scene with Tyler Posey, who plays Sarah's stepson, Gabriel. A tough scene in which the 14-year-old's sense of being on the outside of the family looking in comes ou... read more

My TV Family: A Snapshot of Where We Stand

Greg Berlanti, our showrunner at Brothers & Sisters [Sundays at 10 pm/ET, on ABC], was supposed to write today's blog. But Greg is terribly busy breaking the ninth episode, which is the second part of a two-parter — the first part, our eighth episode, having just been written by Craig Wright and myself. Both are bold episodes in which the politics and personal lives of the family entwine, as we envisioned they would when we conceived the show. There are flashbacks. That's all I can say right now, except that the flashbacks reveal some of the back-story – and break open the family mythology.There is a sense at Brothers & Sisters of now being able to reachfurther in our ambitions for the show — this unique mixture of comedy and drama playing off each other from beat to beat in the blink of an eye — and a sense of being able to change temperature quickly and suddenly. To tell truths and allow our characters to bare the secrets they usually keep hidden just t... read more

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