Sisters Broken Angel

NBC's drama show returns to its ensemble roots with a dark but effective Christmas show. Strong writing by Daniel Lipman, good direction by Bethany Rooney and just enough light moments make this episode a nice present for "Sisters" viewers.

NBC’s drama show returns to its ensemble roots with a dark but effective Christmas show. Strong writing by Daniel Lipman, good direction by Bethany Rooney and just enough light moments make this episode a nice present for “Sisters” viewers.

Teddy (Sela Ward) tries to help new beau Falconer (George Clooney) make it through the holidays while grieving for his son; Frankie (Julianne Phillips) and Mitch (Ed Marinaro) (in a “Gift of the Magi”-like plot) each seek custody of son Thomas for the other as a holiday gift; Alex (Swoosie Kurtz, showing a more relaxed comic flair than she has in a while) gets a new talkshow sponsor — and maybe a new romantic interest — in off-price shopping prince “Big Al” (Robert Klein).

Most compelling story, though, is that of Georgie (Patricia Kalember) and John (Garret Brown), who finally agree to send their recalcitrant, difficult son Trevor (Ryan Francis) to reform school after he becomes violent toward his mother.

Though Kalember’s portrayal is a little stilted, she effectively conveys a mother’s pain over losing her son, and her guilt for having failed him.

This season, show has tended to focus too much on one sister at a time (usually Teddy), and rely too heavily on flashbacks from childhood and fantasy scenes.

Happily, none of these tendencies is exhibited too strongly here.

This is one of the best episodes so far this season, and it’s no coincidence that it relies so little on gimmicks. This is a good story, well acted and directed.

Kudos to production designer Brandy Alexander for the Christmasy look; as in other areas of the show, some restraint is being shown, to good effect.

Sisters Broken Angel

(Sat. (11), 10-11 p.m. NBC)

Production: Filmed in Burbank by Cowlip Prods. in association with Time Warner Entertainment Co. Exec producers, Ron Cowen, Daniel Lipman; producer, Lisa Melamed; director, Bethany Rooney; writer, Lipman.

Crew: Camera, Dennis T. Masuda; editor, Karl Jacobsen; production designer, Brandy Alexander; sound, Eileen Horta; music, W.G. Snuffy Walden.

Cast: With: Swoosie Kurtz, Patricia Kalember, Julianne Phillips, Sela Ward, Elizabeth Hoffman, Garret M. Brown, Ed Marinaro, Ryan Francis, Dustin Berkovitz, Robert Klein, Nora Dunn, George Clooney, Jill Novick, Sharon Martin, Richard Gilbert-Hill, Riff Regan, Tasia Schutt, Carol Androsky, Stephen Taylor Knott, Johnny Rogers.

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