With Desperate Housewives‘ renewal assured after the series’ stars have have been re-signed, Brothers and Sisters remains the only veteran ABC series not picked up for next season. Being on the bubble is a familiar territory for the family soap, which was also there last season until getting an eleventh-hour reprieve with a 18-episode order. I hear that this year, ABC and sister studio ABC Studios, which produces Brothers and Sisters, have been proactive in exploring ways to bring the show back for an abbreviated sixth and final season that may feature less of Calista Flockhart’s Kitty Walker aka Kitty McCallister.
Because of its soft ratings and expensive large cast, the issues for renewal are economical, and I hear several months ago ABC created budget targets that would allow for the series to come back for a final foray. Brothers and Sisters‘ budget was reduced going into the current fifth season, and it will have to go down again for Season 6. The per-episode price increases by reducing the number of episodes because of less cost amortization, so I hear that ABC is exploring scenarios for a final season that could range from 6 to 18 episodes. Last year, the holdup in getting the renewal was getting the actors to agree to do fewer episodes, which they eventually did, and ABC gave the series a 18-episode pickup at the last minute. (That order was subsequently raised to a full-season 22 after the series started the season with solid ratings that have slid in the past few months.) This year, I hear the studio is in talks with top-billed Calista Flockhart to do six episodes next season as the prominence of her character Kitty on the show has decreased. (Rob Lowe, who shared a major storyline with her, left at the end of last season, while Flockhart remained regular this season but reduced her workload. Sunday’s episode will be her 15th this season.) No talks with other Brothers and Sisters actors are currently going on, but I hear that the cast has a minimum guarantee of 13 episodes and, if ABC’s Season 6 order is for fewer episodes, the studio will have to negotiate separately with each cast member. That is not expected to be a problem. Star Sally Field will be busy filming Steven Spielberg’s Abraham Lincoln movie, so she probably won’t be able able to do all the episodes anyway. Co-star Gilles Marini recently talked about how much he would love for the show to be renewed, while Rachel Griffiths joked in her native Australia that she is facing losing her job and may need unemployment benefits, so she should be on board too.