Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Edwardsing of 'Brothers & Sisters'

*Warning, spoilers ahead from the recent episode of Brothers & Sisters.*

Are the writers of Brothers & Sisters trying to inject a bit of the real life John and Elizabeth Edwards drama into the ABC show's storyline?

Main character Kitty Walker McCallister (Calista Flockhart) -- who just adopted a baby boy with her husband Sen. Robert McCallister (Rob Lowe), who’s running for California governor -- was diagnosed with lymphoma several weeks ago. The McCallister marriage had been on the rocks following the senator’s heart attack (yeah, this is a healthy family) which occurred on the same day their son was born. As Sen. McCallister forged ahead with a gubernatorial bid without first consulting his wife, he also emotionally withdrew from her, the woman who once served as his communications director. So Kitty turned to a fellow at-home parent and had an "emotional" affair with him, but broke it off and decided to work on the marriage. Robert and Kitty just were starting to repair the breach when Kitty was diagnosed.

Here’s where the similarities to the Edwards family come into play: In the latest episode, it seemed as though Robert wanted to simply let his gubernatorial campaign wither away. He refused to field questions or respond to attacks which criticized him for continuing to run for governor while his wife was sick and they had a baby at home. Meanwhile, Kitty actively urged him to continue the campaign and decided to stage an impromptu TV interview to express her full support of his bid for governor, hoping to blunt the criticism.

All I kept thinking about during that most recent episode was John and Elizabeth Edwards – minus John’s cheating and his love child – and how much flak they received when it was revealed early on in John Edwards’ 2008 presidential campaign that Elizabeth’s cancer had returned and had metasticized. There were all manner of loud voices attacking the couple for continuing the campaign in the wake of her dire diagnoses, and for bringing their young children along for the ride. Elizabeth herself was called a “terrible mother” for campaigning while sick and one blogger wrote: “Elizabeth, I don’t like the choices you’ve made. Take your kids home. Get off the freaking campaign trail.”

How will the campaign and the cancer treatment play out on Brothers & Sisters? Will there be continued political backlash against the candidate who keeps forging ahead with his campaign while his wife is sick at home with cancer and trying to care for their infant son?

Image credit: Randy Holmes/ABC.

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