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Sisters is an NBC series that ran from 1991-96. The plot revolves around four very different sisters from Illinois, named Alex, Teddy, Georgie and Frankie, along with their aging mother Beatrice, and the issues they faced day to day. It was notable for being the first primetime network drama to focus specifically on women and issues relating to them. The show was also notable for its multitude of flashbacks where the characters interact with or observe their younger selves, and for being a soap opera-styled drama that was also offbeat and quirky, a la Northern Exposure.


Tropes seen:

  • Abuse Mistake: Thanks to the suggestion planted by her therapist, Georgie recalls her father examining her as him molesting her.
  • Adult Fear: Evan's leukemia, Trevor's downward spiral, Cat's rape, Reed's joining a cult, Truman developing Alzheimer's and later being a victim of nursing home abuse, etc.
  • The Alcoholic: Mother Beatrice, daughter Teddy, and the latter's love interest Falconer. The latter two, after initially not liking each other, even run into each other at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, at which point they start to bond, ultimately resulting in their marriage.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Probably not intentional at the time, but Teddy's high-risk, self-destructive behavior and contrasting low self esteem sure look a lot like bipolar disorder or PMDD, but it's framed more as a given of the life of a free-spirited artist.
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  • Ascended Extra: Charlie spent a season and a half as a recurring character (and her actress as a guest star) before being added to the main cast once Julianne Phillips (who portrayed Frankie) left the show.
  • Ashes to Crashes: After her husband Falconer dies, a grief-stricken and psychologically falling apart Teddy accidentally knocks over and breaks the urn containing his ashes.
  • Babies Ever After: Among many other happy events, the finale ends with Teddy pregnant.
  • Back for the Dead: Teddy finally finds true love with Detective Falconer, only for him to break her heart when he left her to reconcile with his ex-wife. He returns several episodes later to beg for her forgiveness. They marry, allowing Teddy about five minutes of happiness before her heart was broken again when he was killed by a Car Bomb by a drug lord he was preparing to testify against. (the backstory on this is that the cop's portrayer, George Clooney, had left to film the pilot and first few episodes of ER and returned to wrap up the storyline)
  • Big Sister Instinct: All of them to each other, even those who are younger—it's third sister Georgie who is frequently seen in the "caretaker" role and while initially rattled to not be the "baby" anymore, fourth sister Frankie positively relishes playing this role in bringing Charlie into the family.
  • Billy Needs an Organ: Alex's second husband Big Al experienced heart failure, receiving a donation the day of Teddy's wedding.
  • Birth/Death Juxtaposition:
    • A teenage boy is killed in a car accident, providing Big Al with the heart he needs. At the hospital while they wait, a woman gives birth. To cap it off, this all takes place on what was supposed to be Teddy and Gabe's wedding day.
    • Teddy conceives shortly before Beatrice dies of a stroke.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The series finale. Beatrice dies, but Teddy is pregnant and Happily Married, as is Charlie, Georgie and John are reconciling, and Frankie has returned home.
  • Black Sheep: Teddy (literally, as the only black-haired sibling). The pilot episode finds her returning to town after five years living a bohemian life in Los Angeles with her teenage daughter after her divorce. She has a long history of alcoholism, impulsive behavior, and inability to hold a job.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Alex is a fiery redhead, Teddy has black hair and Georgie and Frankie are neither, but are dark blondes.
  • Bookends:
    • For the first few seasons, episodes opened with the women sitting in a sauna and chatting about their lives. This was eventually dropped for a more typical introduction, but the first episode of the final season featured the women back in the sauna.
    • The pilot episode concluded with Beatrice decorating her house for Christmas once last time before selling it. The series finale concluded with Alex, the new family matriarch, doing the exact same thing before selling the now deceased Beatrice's second home.
    • The series began with the death of the girls' father, and ended with the death of their mother.
  • Cartwright Curse: Poor Beatrice buries two husbands.
  • Celebrity Paradox: Naomi Judd appears on Alex's talk show, mentions her daughter Ashley, then delivers Reed's baby without even mentioning their uncanny resemblance.
  • Chekhov's Gun: A cheeky literal example. The rifle Alex keeps under her bed comes into play during Frankie and Mitch's wedding.
  • Clip Show: An final-season episode that had Beatrice and the sisters stranded together during a snowstorm had them keeping themselves awake by sharing memories that consisted of flashbacks over the previous seasons.
  • Convenient Miscarriage: Teddy seduces her ex Mitch the night before he's to marry Frankie, getting pregnant as a result, then miscarrying after the resulting hoopla dies down.
  • Converting for Love: Frankie converting to Judaism with her husband Mitch. Interestingly, she was not converting to join his religion—they were both Christian and decided to convert after Mitch attended some services that gave him an insight into Jewish life.
  • Cousin Oliver: A rare adult version with youngest sister Charlie, introduced halfway through the 4th season, and a straighter (but still older than usual) version with Jesse, the inner-city teenager she becomes a foster mom to in Season 6.
  • Daddy's Girl: All of them, to some extent. Even Charlie, who never knew him, having become a doctor like he was.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Teddy. Her chaotic behavior is played for laughs sometimes, but her alcoholism, impulsiveness, and self-destructive tendencies have certainly gotten her into trouble over the years, particularly her post-divorce years in Los Angeles directly prior to start of the series.
  • Dead Guy Junior: Frankie names her son "Thomas" after her father.
  • Dead Man Writing: While going through her father's medical bag, Charlie finds a letter that he wrote when she was a baby, after she'd been given up for adoption, expressing his hopes that she would someday know how much he loved her.
  • Dead Person Conversation:
    • Falconer's ghost comes to warn Teddy that his killer is now after her.
    • In the series finale, after family matriarch Beatrice dies, she comes to speak with everyone of the girls.
  • December–December Romance: Beatrice and Truman.
  • Disappeared Dad: As the show begins it has been a year since the family's patriarch passed away.
    • He has also been this to Charlie.
  • Divorce Is Temporary: Subverted with Alex and her ex-husband, Mitch and Teddy, and Falconer and his ex-wife, all of whom try to reconcile before realizing that it won't work. Played straight with Georgie and John—despite having been divorced for over a year, they take steps to reconciling during the series finale.
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: After Charlie tracks down the other four sisters in search of a bone marrow donor (she has aplastic anemia), she makes it clear that she doesn't want a relationship with them. When the sisters try to connect with her anyway, saying, "I know you've had a rough life" (she was abandoned by her mother and bounced from one foster home to another), she angrily snaps, "I don't want your pity." Fed up with her abrasive attitude, Alex snaps right back, "I wasn't offering it."
  • Drowning My Sorrows/Off the Wagon: Teddy, in the first season after Mitch chooses Frankie over her, and then again in the fifth season after her husband's death.
    • Beatrice in the pilot.
  • Driven to Suicide: Georgie, after a myriad of problems leaves her unable to cope. Luckily, her sisters stop by to visit, realize what she's planning, and talk her out of it.
    • Teddy is taken hostage by Joe, a disgruntled ex-employee. After she and Simon Bolt manage to convince him to let her go, he's escorting her out when they hear a gunshot and realize what Joe's done.
    • Part of the reason Joe lets them go is because Teddy told him about a time when she considered suicide, after being coerced into sex by a former boss during her drinking years in Los Angeles.
  • Drunk Driver: Teddy falls Off the Wagon yet again while grieving the loss of her husband. Initially sympathetic because of the reason, the other sisters and her mother realize she needs serious help when she runs over her nephew while driving drunk (miraculously, he suffers only minor injuries).
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Almost everyone in the Grand Finale.
  • Easy Amnesia: Teddy doesn't remember anything about her life after being shot in the head, but is back to normal by the episode's end. Paired with Hollywood Healing, as she never again shows any ill effects from this.
  • Estranged Soap Family: Frankie moves to Japan for business reasons, and doesn't return until Beatrice takes ill and dies, missing several key events in the meantime—Teddy's shooting, Teddy's wedding, Charlie's wedding, etc.
    • Cat misses Teddy's wedding also, with the explanation that she's off on a training exercise (the actress was on maternity leave).
  • Everyone's Baby Sister: Frankie, literally, seeing as she's the youngest. When they learn of their fifth sister's existence and that she's a year younger, she's most rattled by the fact that she was never this in the first place and that this title actually belongs to her.
    Frankie: And I thought I was Daddy's baby.
  • Extra-Long Episode: The series finale was two hours long.
  • False Memories: Georgie's therapist queries whether she had been molested by anyone, citing that it is frequently a cause of the depression and anxiety that she's been battling. That very night, Georgie apparently has a flashback of her father touching her inappropriately. Within weeks, she's not only convinced that her father repeatedly molested her, she accuses her mother of turning a blind eye to it and her sisters of being in denial as well (when they repeatedly deny being similarly abused), claiming that it would explain the myriad of problems that they themselves have had, accusing her husband of being unsupportive, ultimately cutting them all out of her life, all with her therapist's encouragement. Only months later when watching Charlie, a doctor, examine her ill son, does she realize that what she remembered was not her father abusing her, but examining her (he was a doctor as well). She's horrified to realize that the whole thing was a ploy by her therapist to isolate her from her loved ones and ultimately seduce her.
  • Family Eye Resemblance: The women and their mother notice that Charlie has their father's eyes.
  • Family Theme Naming:
    • The four sisters all have first names that are actually male (or at least, are gender-ambiguous): Alex, Georgie, Teddy, Frankie. Even the fifth sister that had a different mother was called Charlie. This is In Universe explained to be deliberate because their father actually would have rather have had sons. (Ironically, all are derivatives of their decidedly feminine full names—Alexandra, Theodora, Georgia, Francesca, Charlotte)
    • Alex gives her own daughter her (Alex's) own maiden last name as first name: Reed. Once Reed herself has a daughter, she repeats this, naming this daughter Halsey (Alex's married last name and Reed's maiden name).
  • Fantasy Sequence: Often. Alex following her husband as a noir PI movie, Frankie's son as a movie star, Bea imagining her daughters as sons, etc. Not to mention the Running Gag of the main characters talking to their younger selves in present time.
  • Flashback: Also very often. Interestingly, these were mixed into the present-day sequences, with younger versions of the characters interacting with the older ones, or their actions paralleling.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Though they all display so many characteristics of all four, it's hard to pinpoint any one of them as one in particular. The best guess is though:
    • Sanguine: Alex, the leader (as the oldest of the sisters), and the most emotionally secure and socially savvy.
    • Choleric: Teddy, who was also outgoing but attracted a lot of drama.
    • Phlegmatic: Georgie, the stable one everyone else always turned to for emotional or practical help note 
    • Melancholic: Charlie once she got into the series; the most introverted and bookish of all.
    • Frankie is the hardest one to pin down.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion:
    • Teddy decides against having an abortion even after discovering that the baby might be disabled, feeling that she and her husband will love the child no matter what.
    • Played straight but in reverse, also with Teddy. She did have an abortion at 17, but isn't exactly considered a "good girl" at the time.
  • Gratuitous Rape: During Cat's rape trial, Georgie reveals that she was a victim of Date Rape in college. This was never mentioned before, wasn't hinted at in any of the previous episodes regarding Cat's assault, Georgie is never seen offering Cat advice (aside from commending her for pressing charges when she herself was too afraid to do so), and it's never mentioned again—when her therapist asks if she's ever been molested, she even tells him "No".
  • High-Class Call Girl: Reed runs an escort service that consists of this, leading to her own mother being Mistaken for Prostitute after a potential client sees them hanging out.
  • Hospital Paradiso: Charlie takes a job at a fancy private practice. True to form, the other doctors are only concerned with their golf game and ski/beach vacations. By the episodes end, she's so fed up that she quits to return to the free inner-city clinic where she got started.
  • I Have This Friend...: Charlie first approaches the family on behalf of a patient who is their half-sister and in need of a bone marrow transplant. She refuses to identify her, citing patient confidentiality, but when they continue pressing her, finally admits that she is the woman in question.
  • Imperiled in Pregnancy: Nine months pregnant Georgie gets into a car accident and goes into labor while trapped in the wreck. It's not clear if the trauma of the accident triggered the labor or it would have happened regardless.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility:
    • Subverted. Frankie thinks she's finally gotten pregnant just after Georgie becomes her surrogate, but it turns out she's wrong.
    • Inverted (so to speak) when Alex notes that her period is three weeks late. She assumes she's pregnant, but it turns out she's starting menopause.
    • Also, Teddy and Gabe try increasingly wacky methods to conceive with no success. Finally, they settle for just good-old-fashioned sex and. . .voila!
  • Lifetime Movie of the Week: In-universe, a TV movie is made about Georgie becoming the surrogate for Frankie's baby.
    • The series was also syndicated on Lifetime for several years.
  • Long Last Look: The women do this at the end of the series finale, walking out of their now deceased mother's home.
  • Long-Lost Relative: About halfway through it's run, a fifth sister named Charlie is added to the show.
  • Losing a Shoe in the Struggle: How Teddy realizes Cat has met with foul play. When she arrives at the track where they are to meet and practice for an upcoming race, she's initially confused to not find her and wonders if she's forgotten. But when she finds her discarded sneaker (it came off as she was struggling with her attacker), she's terrified.
  • Luxury Prison Suite: Parodied when Alex's new husband Al is sent to jail for tax evasion. When she visits him, we see that the place is like a country club—-tennis courts, golf ranges, pools, etc.
  • Maligned Mixed Marriage: An article about the clinic Charlie and Wes run reveals their relationship. They soon become the victims of harassment, culminating in a cross being burnt on her front lawn.
    • While his mother is okay with it, his father isn't pleased about the relationship either.
  • Maternity Crisis: Nine months pregnant Georgie gets into a car accident and goes into labor while trapped in the wreck. It's not clear if the trauma of the accident triggered the labor or it would have happened regardless.
  • Missing Mom: Reed abandons her daughter and husband when her marriage falls apart. It comes back to haunt her as even when she does get her act together, she's barely able to get visitation rights.
  • Mistaken for Cheating: Alex and her husband, initially. When she confronts him, this is how she finds out he's a crossdresser. Later, she discovers that he is having an affair.
  • Mercy Kill: Alex to Truman, at his request, should his Alzheimer's become too advanced. But when Charlie thinks that his nurse overdosed him, either accidentally or intentionally and is about to report her, as she's obligated to do, Alex confesses, not wanting an innocent person to take the blame.
  • Modesty Towel: The first two seasons featured the four main female leads sitting in a steam sauna, towels wrapped around their chests and chatting about whatever.
  • No Theme Tune: For the first few seasons before John Debney added a piano solo for its theme.
  • One-Word Title: Sisters.
  • Off the Wagon: Teddy struggled with her sobriety at key points during the show—Mitch and Frankie's wedding, her miscarriage, Cat's rape. But the straw that broke the camel's back was when Falconer was killed only months after their wedding. Not until she almost kills Evan (Georgie's son) while driving drunk does she get her act together and she never drinks again in the series run.
  • Parental Abandonment: Alex's daughter Reed ditches her daughter Halsey when her marriage falls apart.
    • Charlie's backstory reveals this too.
    • Teddy tried to run out on her family as her alcoholism worsened, leaving her daughter to live with Mitch. She changed her mind and stayed in town, but it devastated Cat so much she refused to even see her mother for a while.
  • Parents Walk In at the Worst Time: Georgie and her husband John walk in on their older son Trevor and his girlfriend in their bed. Already stunned, they are even moreso at his completely matter-of-fact reaction as if this is perfectly normal. He caps it off by rebuffing their attempts at talking to him about it, not even being concerned about the possibility of pregnancy or catching an STD.
  • Post-Robbery Trauma: Alex, after being mugged.
  • Primal Scene:
    • Two of the girls walk in on Beatrice and Truman basking in the afterglow.
    • In another episode, Cat admits to having overheard Teddy and Mitch (they grew closer while taking care of Cat after her rape and debated reconciling).
  • Put on a Bus: Frankie is absent for almost all of the final season.
  • Psycho Psychologist: "Pervert", rather. After Georgie's therapist convinced her she had been molested by her father, he then convinced her to turn her back on her disbelieving family. Ironically, had he been correct, this would have been an appropriate reaction, but his sole reason for doing all this was to seduce her. Her attempts at filing a complaint prove futile and he tauntingly suggests that she seek professional help. When she finally catches him in the act (after sending in Charlie as a Honey Trap), she pulls an Ironic Echo and says the same thing to him. Given the high likelihood that she's not the only woman he's done this to, she's probably right.
  • Rape as Backstory: When Teddy is held hostage by an ex-employee she admits to being coerced into sex by a former boss five years earlier. She had been drinking heavily and regularly at the time and was caught stealing from the cash register at her job of the week. Her boss fired her and threatened to call the police if she wouldn't sleep with him, so she did. In spite of being played straight, this trope is somewhat averted as Teddy isn't quite considered an assault victim by the standards of the early 90's when it aired, more as a someone revealing details of a Dark and Troubled Past, but would certainly be received differently today.
    • Georgie was a victim of Date Rape in college.
  • Rape as Drama: Cat (Teddy's daughter) is brutally assaulted by a date she's rejected (along with raping her, he beats her within a inch of her life). During the trial, it comes out that (a) Georgie was a victim of Date Rape while in college, and (b) Cat isn't his first victim. When he's acquitted, the girl in question enacts a Vigilante Execution and shoots him.
    • While in the hospital, Teddy asks Alex why they've never discussed this, as aside from being the parents of daughters, they themselves are women.
  • Reality Ensues: Thanks to abandoning her daughter, Reed barely gets visitation, even after getting her act together.
  • Recovered Addict: Beatrice, Teddy, and Falconer through most of the series, though all slip at some point.
  • Replacement Goldfish: When she is contacted by the man who received her late-husband's heart, Teddy begins projecting her memories onto him. It ends when he declares that he deserves better than being used as a substitute and she sadly realizes that she either isn't over her husband's death or that it's too painful to be close to a part of him.
  • Running Gag: The family's history of disastrous weddings. Teddy recounts them to Falconer as they're planning their own —and theirs is just as bizarre—in a crashing plane, performed by a rabbi. Even the one that came closest to normal—Teddy and Gabe's—was disrupted by Big Al's beeper going off, informing him that a donor heart was available. Charlie and Wes' is the only one to avert this.
  • Second Love: Several of the girls get this:
    • Beatrice and Truman after her husband's death.
    • Alex and Big Al after her divorce.
    • Teddy and Falconer after her divorce, then her and Gabe after Falconer's death.
    • Georgie and her younger boyfriend after her divorce, though she ends it to reconcile with her ex.
  • Secret Other Family: The women learn that their father had this when they learn that he had a child with his long-time mistress. When they tell their mother, she isn't surprised, given that his affair was almost as long as their marriage.
  • Sibling Triangle: Mitch flips between Frankie and Teddy throughout his time in the show, but it ultimately doesn't work out with either of them.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Subverted. Charlie isn't like Frankie, but she's clearly replacing her as the fourth and youngest sister once Frankie leaves town.
  • Tangled Family Tree: Teddy's ex-husband marries her younger sister Frankie, making Frankie simultaneously an aunt and stepmother to Teddy and Mitch's daughter Cat. When Frankie and Mitch have a child of their own, the child is both Cat's cousin and her half-brother. Adding yet another twist, because Frankie had fertility problems, Georgie had to serve as her surrogate, meaning she gave birth to her own nephew. And because of this, Georgie had considerable problems acknowledging that the child was Frankie's, not hers.
  • Team Hand-Stack: The introduction ended like this—first their younger counterparts hands, then their present-day ones.
  • Time-Shifted Actor: The current and younger versions of the characters.
  • Tomboyish Name: Nickname, rather. All of the sisters. This is attributed to their father wanting a boy. Also extends to Alex's daughter Reed, though hers is more of a unisex name. It's considered a "Welcome To The Family" moment when they dub Charlotte "Charlie".
  • Unbalanced by Rival's Kid: Beatrice claims to have accepted that her husband had a child with his long-time mistress. Until she meets Charlie and pretty much flips out. She gets over it and later becomes a surrogate mother to her.
  • Very Special Episode: Practically every few episodes (if not every episode period) is this, and it tackled just about every "very special" topic that was in existence at that time.
  • Wham Line: When Charlie first approaches the women on behalf of a patient in need of a bone marrow donation, the women ask why they would be a match for her.
    Charlie: "Because my patient is your sister."
    • When they insist on meeting the woman:
    Charlie: "It's me. I'm the patient."
  • Where da White Women At?: Subverted. Charlie's friend and colleague Wes is actually very reluctant to act on their mutual attraction because he doesn't want to be viewed as a sellout. He gets over this eventually and they embark on a relationship, marrying shortly before the Grand Finale.
  • White Man's Burden: In the fifth season Christmas Episode, Teddy decides to buy presents for a poor family that she meets at Charlie's clinic. The mother blasts her for trying to play this out.
    • Charlie herself gets accused of this by her African-American colleague when she decides to become a foster mother to an African-American youth, truthfully pointing out that as a white woman, there are things she'll never understand about his experiences. She also comes up against this when she plans to officially adopt him, especially when there's a more qualified African-American couple looking to do the same.
  • Whole Plot Reference: To Ghost, when Teddy's late husband came back to protect her from his killer.
    • To All About Eve when Alex slowly but surely realizes that her supposedly adoring and eager assistant Evelyn is after her job.
    • Also frequently done in the fantasy sequences.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: Alex's first husband. She can't deal with it and the strain contributes to breaking up their marriage.
    • Also, an AIDS patient whom Reed befriends.
  • Why Waste a Wedding?: Bea and Truman abruptly decide that they don't want the lovely garden ceremony that has been planned for them and decide to go off to the courthouse. Alex reluctantly decides to accept her daughter's recent elopement and give the couple her blessing by allowing them to use the arrangements.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Poor Teddy finally finding happiness, only for her husband to be killed via a Car Bomb.


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