By David Hiltbrand
May 13, 1991 12:00 PM

NBC (Saturdays, 10 P.M. ET)


Except for thirtysomething, yuppie/bourgeois buddy shows haven’t caught on with viewers. This ensemble melodrama, which stars Swoosie Kurtz, Patricia Kalember and Julianne Phillips (the former Mrs. Springsteen) as siblings, is a piquant if often contrived stab at the genre.

Sisters features two thirtysomething alumnae: Kalember (Gary’s wife) and Elizabeth Hoffman (Nancy’s mom), who here plays the matriarch. Also in the cast are Sela Ward (a real scene-stealer as the family’s wild seed), Ed Marinaro and Kathy Wagner.

The characters are sharply drawn and eccentric. Kalember’s unemployed husband, Garrett M. Brown, has turned their living room into his own cabaret devoted to karaoke—the Japanese-invented pastime of amateurs singing along, very badly, with pre-recorded background music. The acting is quite good, particularly by Kalember, a series vagabond who has yet to find a part worthy of her subtle talents, and Kurtz.

The writing, however, moves dissonantly between obsessions with the salacious (multiple orgasms, telephone sex) and the sentimental (characters’ childhood alter egos keep popping up). Such modern problems as shopaholism, alcoholism and workaholism are raised and disposed of in a tidy manner reminiscent of The Hammersmiths, the similar CBS series that foundered earlier this year.