Before there was How I Met Your Mother, before there was Friends, there was
Thirtysomething. The hour-long show ran on ABC from 1987 until
1991. It centered around Hope and Michael Steadman (Mel Harris and Ken
Olin, respectively) and their circle of friends.
If you’re a TV buff,
you really need to know about the quality of this show is that its
creators, Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz, went on to
executive-produce My So-Called Life
(let’s bow a moment as we give reverence to that awesome show...). The
two creators gave the same real-world touch to Thirtysomething
that they so skillfully brought to My So-Called Life.
That is to say, even though the main couple was movie-star gorgeous and
some of the trials they faced got a bit sudsy if not downright soapy at
times, it was an admirably realistic show. The stars must have known
they were on to something, as well, since all seven main characters
appeared in every episode right through the end of the series’ run. And
how often does that happen?
Michael are the centerpiece to this series. They are a middle-class
married couple with an assortment of kids-mortgage-career troubles. In
this case, Michael runs an ad agency with his friend Elliot (Timothy
Busfield), while Hope has given up her career to be a stay-at-home mom.
Meanwhile, Elliot and his wife, Nancy (Patricia Wettig) are experiencing
Single friends Gary (Peter Horton),
Ellyn (Polly Draper), and Melissa (Melanie Myron) are involved in their
own dramas as well, ranging from a womanizing past to a driven career to
the angst of an aging hippie-type, respectively.
All seven adults spend a lot of time
talking and a fair amount of time arguing. What’s so great about the
show is that the dialog is terrific. Hope and Michael have completely
believable marital disagreements that aren’t over-the-top or
marriage-threatening—they’re just everyday issues. And just see if your
heart doesn’t ache at times when you hear the heated and disappointed
exchanges between Elliot and Nancy. Their marriage is floundering, and
they know it.
It’s amazing how accurate
Thirtysomething is, even when viewed today. Just as the term “thirtysomething,”
along with all the other decade-somethings, is part of our lexicon
today, the show itself is still an apt description of middle-class
(almost) middle-age. It’s funny at times, sad at times, and a little
silly at times (remember all the dream sequences?). But there’s still
something about this group that makes me want to be a part of it.
The formula has been repeated so many
times that it’s easy to lose sight of the importance of this original.
If you haven’t seen it in ages, or if you’ve never seen it, you might be
surprised to see just how relevant Thirtysomething continues to