Brothers and Sisters: The Complete Fourth Season, FlashForward: The Complete Series, and Lost: The Complete Sixth Season (September 5/10)
There's little doubt that ABC remains one of the few networks that manages to blend commerce with art on a regular basis, as they've demonstrated a penchant for cranking out shows that run the gamut from comfort programming to almost experimental science fiction. Brothers and Sisters is essentially the night-time equivalent of a garden-variety soap opera, while both FlashForward and Lost mark an obvious attempt at mirroring the dense and frequently confounding realm of a cinematic (or novelistic) epic.
Brothers and Sisters has undoubtedly become notorious for its less-than-subtle approach, as the series' producers subject the myriad of central characters to one gleefully absurd plot twist after another - with season four certainly no exception to this. The season follows the Walker clan as they're forced to confront a variety of problems and obstacles, including Kitty's (Calista Flockhart) battle with cancer, the emergence of a saboteur within Ojai's ranks, and Tommy's (Balthazar Getty) ongoing problems with both the law and his family. The mix of conflict and joy that dominates each and every one of season four's 24 episodes has come to define Brothers and Sisters, and there's little doubt that fans of the program will find little here to complain about (although one can't help but wonder how the show will deal with the apparent death of its most compelling character, Rob Lowe's Robert McAllister, in the season's final episode).
Based on the novel by Robert J. Sawyer, FlashForward essentially follows several characters as they're forced to cope in the aftermath of the title event - a global catastrophe in which almost every single person on the planet falls unconscious for 137 seconds and is shown a preview of their future - with the show's primary thrust revolving around the FBI's dogged investigation into the blackout. Though the series admittedly does get off to an awfully slow start - ie the emphasis seems to be placed on unusually mundane happenings and characters - FlashForward picks up with a vengeance once it hits the season's mid-point (which, perhaps not coincidentally, came after a break of several months). The stories become far more intriguing and the twists are fast and furious, to such an extent that the show morphs from semi-watchable to seriously engrossing within the span of just a few episodes. Of course, this also ensures that the season finale - which became the series finale - is nothing short of frustrating, as it leaves a number of plot threads dangling and the fate of at least one key character up in the air.
As one of the most talked about and watched serialized television shows of all time, Lost certainly had its work cut out for it terms of ending its almost flawless run. (Those six episodes at the start of season three still stand out like a sore thumb.) Any concerns that producers Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof were making everything up as the show progressed were firmly quashed in the final episode, which brilliantly wrapped up the season's "flash-sideways" universe in as surprising and emotional a manner as one might've expected from the series. It's worth noting, too, that the remainder of the season, devoted primarily to the Man in Black's ongoing efforts at escaping, managed to leave the viewer on the edge of their seat on a remarkably consistent basis, with the presence of a few stand-alone episodes - ie a peek into the Man in Black's origins - providing a welcome break from the relentlessly tense atmosphere. The end of Lost leaves a gaping hole on network television, and it'll certainly be interesting to see if any programs attempt to replicate its unabashedly dense modus operandi.