Winnetka, IL, was the unlikely setting for the semi-serialized 60-minute drama series Sisters, which made its NBC debut on May 11, 1991. The stories revolved around the endless trials and tribulations of the Reed sisters, four highly individualized women who were brought back together in adulthood by the death of their father. Swoosie Kurtz played Alex Reed, the oldest sister, who in the earliest episodes was the wife of philandering plastic surgeon Dr. Wade Halsey (David Dukes). In the course of the series, Alex would divorce Halsey, survive breast cancer, become a popular local TV talk show host, and wed a second time to her show's main sponsor, store owner (and future mayor of Winnetka!) Big Al Barker (Robert Klein). Alex's troubled daughter, Reed Halsey, was played by three different actresses: Kathy Wagner in season one, Ashley Judd in seasons two, three, and four, and Noelle Parker in the sixth and final season. Patricia Kalember was seen as Georgie Reed, a part-time real-estate agent wed to chronically unemployed nightclub singer John Whitsig (Garrett M. Brown); the couple had two sons, Trevor (Ryan Francis) and Evan (Dustin Berkovitz), the latter a leukemia survivor. Sela Ward co-starred as Teddy Reid, initially the most irresponsible of the sisters and a chronic alcoholic, who pulled herself together long enough to establish a successful career as a fashion designer. Her husbands included Mitch Margolis (Ed Marinaro), the father of Teddy's daughter, Cat (Heather McAdam); police detective James Falconer (George Clooney), who was killed only a few hours after the wedding; and Dr. Gabriel Sorenson (Stephen Collins), who had saved Teddy's life after she was beaten by a carjacker. Julianne Phillips was cast as Frankie Reed, the youngest sister, who began the series as a market analyst and eventually became the owner of the sisters' favorite hangout, the Sweet Sixteen Maltshop.
Early in the series, Frankie married Teddy's ex-husband, Mitch, and when the couple was unable to conceive, Georgie offered to be surrogate mother -- thereby setting up one of several outrageously improbable plot twists that would become a Sisters trademark. After breaking up with Mitch, Frankie had a brief fling with a young boxer named Lucky (John Wesley Shipp), then left Illinois to pursue new career vistas in Japan at the end of season five. Also in the cast was Elizabeth Hoffman as the sisters' widowed mother, Beatrice, who like Teddy suffered occasional bouts with the bottle. Beatrice's second husband was Judge Truman Ventnor (Philip Sterling), who after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's opted to commit suicide -- with the assistance of his stepdaughter, Alex. Later in the series, it was established that the Reed girls had a hitherto unknown half-sister, the product of a lengthy affair between their late father and his loyal nurse. In season five, Jo Anderson joined the cast as the girls' "mystery" sibling Dr. Charlotte "Charley" Bennett, a role taken over in season six by Sheila Kelley. Every so often, the series' main characters would indulge in a "thinkback" sequence, in which they would interact with their younger selves. This was but one of the many quirky dramatic touches that set Sisters apart from the standard "sibling angst" series of the period; other examples included the series' occasional forays into such hot-potato topical issues as racism, homosexuality, the AIDs crisis, and repressed-memory syndrome. After six seasons, Sisters ended with a heavily plotted, surprise-studded final episode on May 4, 1996.