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Sisters (TV series)

Sisters cast members Julianne Phillips, Patricia Kalember, Sela Ward and Swoosie Kurtz.
Created by Ron Cowen
Daniel Lipman
Starring Swoosie Kurtz
Sela Ward
Patricia Kalember
Julianne Phillips
Sheila Kelley
Elizabeth Hoffman
Composer(s) Jay Gruska
Country of origin USA
No. of seasons 6
No. of episodes 127
Running time 60 minutes
Production company(s) Cowlip Productions
Lorimar Television (1991-1993)
Warner Bros. Television (1993-1996)
Original channel NBC
Original release May 11, 1991 – May 4, 1996

Sisters is a television drama which aired on NBC for six seasons, from 1991 to 1996. The series was created by Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman, who were also the executive producers and showrunners. The show debuted on May 11, 1991 for a seven-episode test run and was subsequently renewed for the 1991 fall schedule. Sisters was the first primetime network television drama series to focus specifically on the lives of women, and the issues relating to them. It was also one of the first 'demographic' hits because of its strong female viewership. Other drama series about women would eventually follow, but at the time it was regarded as being groundbreaking.


  • Synopsis 1
    • Season One 1.1
    • Season Two 1.2
    • Season Three 1.3
    • Season Four 1.4
    • Season Five 1.5
    • Season Six 1.6
  • Cast 2
    • Regular cast 2.1
    • Supporting cast 2.2
    • Recurring cast 2.3
  • Ratings 3
  • DVD releases 4
  • Reception 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Sisters focused on four very different sisters living in Winnetka, Illinois. Their recently deceased father, Thomas Reed, a doctor, had been absent and a workaholic, while their long-suffering mother, Beatrice, turned to alcoholism to cope with his neglect and affairs. Having always wanted sons, their father had called the girls by male versions of their full names: Alexandra was called Alex; Theodora, Teddy; Georgiana, Georgie; and Francesca, Frankie.

For the first two seasons, each episode began with the sisters' weekly ritual of chatting in a steam bath together.[1][2] During both the spring 1991 run and the full 1991–92 season, the opening credits ran in front of a steamed window as the camera slowly began to reveal the interior of the sauna. During the credits, the women were heard in the background chatting.

Sisters used a more traditional opening sequence beginning with the 1992–93 season: glossy, black-and-white filmed scenes of the sisters engaging in various activities during both their childhood and adult years. Only the girls' hands and arms were seen as they played jacks, signed a check, played the piano, typed on the computer, or in the case of another adulthood scene, had their spouse unzip their dress in a moment of intimacy. In the final shot the sisters' hands pile on top of each other's as Sela Ward's Teddy can be heard saying "I love you guys". Initially, the only soundtrack used for the opening was the sounds of the characters, but in the fall of 1993 a piano solo composed by John Debney was added as theme music. The sounds of the girls were still audible to an extent. This version ran for the final three years of Sisters.

Most episodes of the show featured a number of flashbacks, in which the characters would interact with or simply observe their younger selves (played by younger actresses).[2] Although the show was a drama with soap opera-style storylines,[2] the show was also quirky and offbeat in the style of other shows at the time like CBS's Northern Exposure.

Season One

One year after her husband's death, Beatrice has reluctantly sold the family home to move into a seniors' condominium building. Depressed, Beatrice relapses on alcohol and is arrested for driving under the influence. Teddy comes back into town from California to discover her ex-husband Mitch is dating her younger sister Frankie. Alex believes her husband Wade is cheating on her, but instead discovers he is a crossdresser. Bea goes to court for her DUI charge; the judge on her case, Truman Ventner, is an acquaintance of hers who also happens to live in her building. Teddy pursues Mitch and although he resists her, they eventually spend a night together; shortly afterward Mitch and Frankie (who is unaware of the encounter) announce their engagement and plan a quick wedding. Teddy breaks up their wedding drunk with a shotgun; Frankie decides not to reschedule the wedding and she and Mitch stop seeing each other. Ashamed of how her behavior is affecting the family and especially her daughter Cat, Teddy leaves Cat with Mitch and announces she will return to California alone. Georgie's son Evan is diagnosed with leukemia, and Teddy decides to stay in Winnetka.

Season Two

Georgie attempts to balance her needs with Evan's during his treatment. Alex discovers Wade has been cheating on her for six months with a former patient, and she and Wade divorce. Reed (Ashley Judd) reacts by rebelling and dropping out of school. Frankie makes a financial investment in Mitch's fish market; while filing paperwork at City Hall, they decide to elope. Teddy discovers she is pregnant with Mitch's baby following their earlier brief encounter; she tells the family that she became pregnant after a one-night stand. Mitch eventually finds out the truth, but Frankie never does. Truman and Beatrice begin a relationship. Teddy begins a job doing window dressing at a fashion boutique, then suffers a miscarriage. Alex begins dating her plumber, Victor, while Wade tries to win her back. Teddy begins her clothing design career when the boutique owner notices a blouse she painted by hand. Georgie runs for the school board. Frankie discovers she cannot carry a child; following a failed adoption, she asks Georgie to be a surrogate mother for her baby.

Season Three

Alex plans an elaborate ceremony and reception at her house for Truman and Beatrice's wedding, but they decide to elope; Reed and Kirby (Mark Frankel) invests in Teddy's fashion design company but later sells it to a Texan investor without consulting Teddy. Teddy walks away from her company when the new owner does not respect her artistic vision. A Hollywood producer makes a TV movie of the family's surrogacy story. Alex is diagnosed with breast cancer; her standup comedy about her cancer experience leads her to a new job as a talk show host. Frankie and Mitch divorce and spar over custody of Thomas George.

Season Four

Cat is attacked and raped by a college acquaintance; James Falconer (Robert Klein) when he agrees to sponsor her talk show; she initially dislikes him but they soon begin dating. A fifth sister, Charlotte Bennett (Jo Anderson), is introduced. Charlotte is a cancer patient who needs a bone marrow donation from a relative. Although none of the sisters are a match, she receives the bone marrow from an unrelated donor. Keeping the customary manner in which her half-sisters go by male versions of their full names, Charley is brought into the family and welcomed, primarily through Frankie's effort and determination. Alex and Big Al marry; on their wedding night he is arrested for tax evasion. Georgie and John reunite after realizing they cannot control what happens to Trevor. Reed returns for a visit and gives birth to Halsey. Trevor finally returns from the streets when Winnetka is hit by a tornado, and Falconer and Teddy marry on a plane that is caught in the storm.

Season Five

Falconer is killed. His murder was ordered by a criminal he was about to testify against in court. Georgie begins seeing a new therapist, Dr. Caspian (Gregory Harrison), the man who had Falconer killed, in an attempt to gather evidence that will send him to jail. With Lucky's help, she succeeds and Albright is arrested. Alex and Norma run a pledge drive for the local PBS station and are asked to create a new version of Alex's talk show. Bea is depressed following Truman's death; Charley offers her a job working as a receptionist in her free clinic. Teddy meets Jack Chambers (Philip Casnoff), the man who received Falconer's transplanted heart, and strikes up a brief relationship with him.

Season Six

Now divorced from John, Georgie goes to graduate school in psychology. She begins a relationship with Brian (

External links

  1. ^ Horowitz, Joy (May 6, 1991). "The Taming of a TV Series Teaser, Or Less Talk About the Bedroom". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-01-27. 
  2. ^ a b c O'Connor, John J. (May 4, 1996). "Critic's Notebook; After 5 Years of Family Fractiousness, 'Sisters' Exits Elegantly". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-01-27. 
  3. ^ Shout! Factory Does It Again! Announces 'Seasons 1 and 2' of This Long-Awaited Show!
  4. ^ 'Season 3' Box Art and Details are Released by Shout! Factory
  5. ^ Search result. "Advanced Primetime Awards Search". Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. 2008. Retrieved 2008-01-26. 


The series received eight Emmy Award nominations over the course of its run, winning once in 1994 for Sela Ward as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. Swoosie Kurtz was also nominated twice in the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series category in 1993 and 1994.[5]


DVD Name Ep # Release date
Seasons One and Two 29 September 15, 2015
Season Three 24 January 19, 2016

On June 2, 2015, it was announced that Shout! Factory had acquired the rights to the series in Region 1; they subsequently released seasons 1&2 on DVD on September 15, 2015.[3] Season 3 will be released on January 19, 2016.[4]

DVD releases

Season U.S. ratings Network Rank
1 1991 N/A NBC N/A
2 1991-92 10.45 million NBC #55
3 1992-93 10.11 million NBC #56
4 1993-94 10.11 million NBC #52
5 1994-95 9.0 million NBC #75
6 1995-96 6.8 million NBC #103


  • Billy Griffin (Eric Close) (Season 6): Billy was Cat's police partner and eventual love interest. He had a difficult relationship with his father, an ex-con who claimed to have mended his ways but ultimately stole money from Bea.
  • Brian Kohler-Voss (Michael Whaley) (Seasons 5-6): Wes served as director of the free health clinic where he and Charley both worked. He and Charley were attracted to each other, but Wes was uncomfortable having a relationship with a white woman. He eventually began a relationship with Charley after she convinced him to turn down an offer to open another free clinic in Detroit. At the end of season six, he and Charley married.
  • Dr. Gabriel Sorenson (Stephen Collins) (Season 6): Dr. Sorenson was Teddy's neurosurgeon, then love interest and eventual husband during the show's final season. He had been married three times before marrying Teddy and had a daughter, Melissa, who was attending medical school in Boston. Sorenson was a brilliant doctor and received a presidential nomination for health czar, but turned down the appointment after government officials asked Teddy to stay away from Washington due to her checkered past.
  • Alvin "Big Al" Barker Barkowitz (Robert Klein) (Seasons 4-6): Big Al was the owner of Pricetown, a home goods and appliance store that sponsored Alex's talk show. Alex disliked him at first, as did much of her family, but eventually she fell in love with him and he became her second husband. Big Al served time in prison for tax evasion, which he blamed on his accountant; he was released from prison early for saving the governor's wife from drowning in the prison pool. He subsequently ran for mayor of Winnetka and won. In the sixth season Big Al decided to embrace his Jewish heritage and reverted to his family surname, Barkowitz.
  • Detective James Falconer (Nora Dunn) (Seasons 4-6): Former Saturday Night Live cast member Nora Dunn portrayed Alex's TV producer Norma Lear (a clear play on the name of famous real-life TV producer Norman Lear). She and Alex initially did not get along, but eventually became great friends. Norma was a lesbian (though her partner Chris never appeared onscreen), and in season five Alex's husband Big Al donated sperm to her so that she and her partner could have a baby.
  • Simon Bolt (Mark Frankel) (Seasons 3-4): Simon was a wealthy British investor who transformed Teddy's fashion design business from a small home operation to a large design company. Simon and Teddy dated during the third season, but broke up when he sold her company to a Texan investor without consulting Teddy. Later, Simon returned, claiming to have seen the error of his ways, and proposed to Teddy; she accepted, only to turn him down shortly thereafter when he again made plans for their married life without consulting her. During the fourth season, Simon faked his own death in a sailing accident; he had actually embezzled a sizable amount of money from a European company, which he claimed was necessary to protect the workers' pensions. He turned up on Teddy's doorstep, only to find her with Falconer; Falconer in turn discovered Simon was a wanted man and notified Scotland Yard. However, instead of handing him over to Scotland Yard, Falconer ultimately let Simon escape.
  • Kirby Philby (Paul Rudd) (Seasons 3-4, 6): Alex's daughter Reed eloped with Kirby, an aspiring filmmaker, and together they had a daughter, Halsey. Kirby eventually realized he could not support his family as a filmmaker and decided to settle down in Bemidji, Minnesota and manage a video store. Reed could not accept this change in their circumstances and divorced Kirby; he received full custody of their daughter. Reed initially told Alex that Kirby had left her and kidnapped their daughter, but Alex tracked him down and learned the truth.
  • Victor Runkel (David Gianopoulos) (Season 2): Victor was Alex's plumber who she dated after divorcing her husband. Victor was actually an heir of the wealthy van Runkel family, but had grown up an orphan and decided to make his own way in life by becoming a plumber. His access to family money, however, allowed him to pay off Alex's mortgage without her knowledge, though Alex was eventually able to discover he was her benefactor. Victor left Winnetka to tend to his ailing uncle and manage the family fortune.
  • Truman Ventner (Philip Sterling) (Seasons 1-5): Beatrice's second husband Truman was a judge, and an acquaintance of Beatrice's because her first husband occasionally testified in medical trials. They became reacquainted when Beatrice was arrested for driving under the influence and Truman was assigned to her case. Beatrice and Truman eloped in the third season premiere. Truman was later diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease; once the disease had progressed, he asked Alex to assist him in taking his own life.
  • Reed Halsey Philby (Kathy Wagner (Season 1)/Ashley Judd (Seasons 2-4)/Noelle Parker (Season 6)): Alex and Wade's daughter Reed appeared on and off throughout the show's run and was played by three different actresses. Kathy Wagner originated the role of Reed in season one; Ashley Judd took over the role in fall 1991, playing Reed in seasons 2-4. Judd left the show in 1994 to focus on her film career after winning critical acclaim for the film Ruby in Paradise. Reed was absent for season 5, and the character returned in Season 6 portrayed by Noelle Parker. Reed rebelled against her parents by dropping out of school, and later eloped with aspiring filmmaker Kirby Philby (Paul Rudd). They had a daughter, Halsey, at the end of season 4. By the final season Reed had divorced Kirby, lost custody of her daughter, and moved back to Winnetka where she eventually came to run a high-priced call girl ring. After being arrested and sentenced to community service, Reed finally seemed to abandon her rebellious ways.
  • Dr. Wade Halsey (David Dukes) (Seasons 1-3): Dr. Wade Halsey was Alex's first husband and the father of their daughter Reed. Wade was a successful plastic surgeon who resented that Alex needed everything in her life to be perfect, including him. During the first season, Alex suspected Wade was cheating on her when she discovered lingerie receipts and hotel room charges on their credit card, but when she confronted him, she discovered he was actually a crossdresser. In the second season it was revealed that Wade actually had been cheating on Alex with a former patient, and they divorced. Wade decided he wanted Alex back and they reconciled toward the end of the second season, but during the third season when Alex expected him to propose remarriage, Wade announced he was marrying a different woman. Wade's character did not appear after the third season.

Recurring cast

  • Catherine "Cat" Margolis (Heather McAdam) (Recurring Seasons 1-5, Regular Season 6): The daughter of Teddy and Mitch, Cat was the most prominently featured of all the sisters' children, appearing frequently throughout all the seasons. Cat was featured in a controversial storyline where she was raped. Eventually, as a result of this experience, she decided to become a cop. While training, she met her partner Billy, who she eventually fell in love with. During the final season McAdam received starring status, something none of the other children of the sisters had during the show's run.
  • Mitch Margolis (Ed Marinaro) (Seasons 1-4): Mitch was Teddy's high school sweetheart and first husband. Together they had a daughter, Cat, but eventually Teddy and Mitch divorced. Later he started seeing her younger sister Frankie, which caused tension between the sisters. Mitch and Frankie eventually married and had a son, though they too ultimately divorced. Marinaro received starring status for the first four seasons, but did not make any appearances in seasons 5 and 6, though his character was mentioned on several occasions.
  • John Whitsig (Garrett M. Brown) (Seasons 1-5, special guest star Season 6): Georgie's husband John was the most prominently featured of all the sisters' husbands. At the beginning of the series John had been laid off and spent much of his time at home in his bathrobe singing old vocal standards. He recorded an album, "The Sound of Whitsig," but when his son Evan was diagnosed with leukemia, John returned to work as an accountant. Brown received starring status for the first five seasons. During season 5, Georgie and John separated in the wake of her affair with Dr. Caspian, and he did not return as a regular for the final season, though while offscreen John wrote a hit song, "Thank You, Babe, For Leavin' Me," which caused Georgie much consternation. John did return in the series finale, and it appeared that he and Georgie might reconcile.

Supporting cast

  • Beatrice Reed Ventner (Elizabeth Hoffman): Beatrice, the sisters' mother and the family matriarch, was a recovering alcoholic who at the start of the series had been recently widowed. Her husband's long-term affair with his nurse had caused her to seek solace in alcohol; she regretted that Teddy had apparently inherited her alcoholism. In the third season she married retired local judge Truman Ventner, who later suffered from Alzheimer's. Beatrice died in the series finale.
  • Dr. Charlotte "Charley" Bennett Hayes (Jo Anderson recurring, seasons 4 and 5/Sheila Kelley regular cast, season 6): During the fourth season, the sisters discovered a fifth sister, the love child of an affair their father had had with another woman. This fifth sister, Charley Bennett, was played initially by Jo Anderson on a recurring basis and then by Sheila Kelley, who received starring status in the final season. Charley was integrated into the story lines as Frankie was phased out, as Julianne Phillips had decided to leave the show. Charley had spent her childhood in foster homes and was initially somewhat cold towards her newfound sisters, but eventually came to accept them into her life. Charley was a doctor who worked in a free health care clinic with her colleague and eventual husband Dr. Wes Hayes. During the final season, Charley took in an orphaned teenager named Jesse and intended to adopt him, but ultimately did not complete the adoption because she realized Jesse should go with his brother who had been adopted by another family.
  • Francesca "Frankie" Reed Margolis (series finale.
  • Georgiana "Georgie" Reed Whitsig (Daniel Gerroll). He manipulated Georgie into an affair, which eventually resulted in her divorce from John. During the last season Georgie attended graduate school in psychology, where she met Brian, a younger man who she dated through the season. In the series finale, it was implied that Georgie and John might reconcile.
  • Theodora "Teddy" Reed Margolis Falconer Sorenson (Stephen Collins) and became pregnant with a daughter.
  • Alexandra "Alex" Reed Halsey Barker (Swoosie Kurtz): Eldest sister Alex was wealthy and somewhat superficial, but remained protective and close to her sisters. Her first marriage to wealthy, cross-dressing plastic surgeon Wade Halsey (David Dukes) ended following his infidelity. Alex's experience with breast cancer eventually led to a career as a talk show host, where she met and married "Big Al" Barker (Robert Klein), an outlandish but likeable home appliance retailer who sponsored her talk show as "The Prince of Pricetown". She often clashed with her rebellious daughter Reed. Alex is the only character to appear in every episode of the series.

Regular cast

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