Calista Flockhart: Ally McBeal Star Teams with New Group of Brothers and Sisters on ABC

Calista Flockhart stars in ABC’s new drama Brothers and Sisters (Sundays at 10 p.m.). The network hopes Flockhart and her onscreen siblings will repeat the success of Grey’s Anatomy in the post-Desperate Housewives time slot.

Flockhart is most famous for her role on Ally McBeal, a legal comedy that aired on Fox from 1996-2002. Flockhart, like Matthew Perry on NBC’s new Studio 60, is very closely identified with her old character, so viewers may need a little time to see her as someone other than Ally McBeal.

Since Ally was on the air, Calista Flockhart has been relatively quiet on the acting front. She has appeared in two small movies – The Last Shot and Fragiles – since Ally McBeal went off the air. She has earned more publicity for dating Harrison Ford than she has for those films. At least Nicole Richie has replaced her as a “skinny person” punchline for comedians.

On Brothers and Sisters, Flockhart will play right-wing radio host Kitty Walker. Her siblings are war veteran Justin (Dave Annable), corporate executive Sarah (Six Feet Under’s Rachel Griffiths), gay lawyer Ken (Matthew Rhys) and ladies’ man Tommy (Balthazar Getty).

Tom Skerritt (Picket Fences) plays the father, businessman William Walker; and Sally Field portrays his outspoken wife, Nora Holden. The plot goes in many directions, but an underlying theme is the evolution of the parent-child relationship after the kids grow up.

Calista Flockhart is featured most prominently on the show’s web page, but Skerritt, Field and Griffiths are also heavy hitters who could draw viewers with a little publicity from ABC. The network will have a good opportunity to promote Brothers and Sisters throughout Desperate Housewives, so most fans of Housewives will probably give the new show a chance.

The first couple of shows need to hook the audience, because with such a large cast and interweaving plotlines, Brothers and Sisters may not pick up a lot of new viewers throughout the seasons. Fans may only watch this show if they learn who all the characters are from the beginning.

The ratings should be good, since NBC is no longer airing Crossing Jordan in the Sunday-at-10 timeslot. Sunday Night Football will be in that spot instead, so many of Jordan’s viewers, especially women, are likely to give Brothers and Sisters a try.

With such a strong cast, Brothers and Sisters has a good chance to be another hit drama for ABC.

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