Thirtysomething (TV series)


Thirtysomething (TV series)
Thirtysomething
Thirtysomethingcast.jpg
Main cast
Format Drama
Romance
Created by Marshall Herskovitz
Edward Zwick
Starring Ken Olin
Mel Harris
Melanie Mayron
Timothy Busfield
Patricia Wettig
Peter Horton
Patricia Kalember
Polly Draper
David Clennon
Composer(s) W.G. Snuffy Walden
Country of origin United States
Language(s) English
No. of seasons 4
No. of episodes 85 (List of episodes)
Production
Running time 60 minutes
Production company(s) The Bedford Falls Company
Distributor United Artists Television
Broadcast
Original channel ABC
Original run September 29, 1987 – May 28, 1991
Chronology
Related shows Once and Again

Thirtysomething is an American television drama about a group of baby boomers in their late thirties. It was created by Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick for MGM/UA Television Group (through United Artists Television) and The Bedford Falls Company, and aired on ABC. It premiered in the U.S. on September 29, 1987. It lasted four seasons, with the last of its 85 episodes airing on May 28, 1991.

The title of the show was designed as thirtysomething (with a lowercase "t") by Kathie Broyles, who combined the words of the original title, Thirty Something.

In 1997, "The Go Between" and "Samurai Ad Man" were ranked #22 on TV Guide's 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time.[1]

In 2002, Thirtysomething was ranked #19 on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time.[2]

Contents

General plot and characters

Thirtysomething depicts the lives of a group of baby boomer yuppies during the late 1980s. They are bonded by their involvement with the peace movement and counterculture of the 1960s during their youth, a past that is in marked contrast to their current, middle-class lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Although seen as an ensemble drama, the series tended to revolve around husband and wife Michael Steadman (Ken Olin) and Hope Murdoch (Mel Harris), who provided the focal point for the group. Michael's cousin is photographer Melissa Steadman (Melanie Mayron), and his business partner is Elliot Weston (Timothy Busfield), who has a troubled marriage with his wife Nancy (Patricia Wettig). Michael's best friend is Gary Shepherd (Peter Horton), who eventually married Susannah (Patricia Kalember). Hope's best friend is Ellyn Warren (Polly Draper).

Character descriptions

  • Michael Steadman and Hope Murdoch Steadman: Michael works in the advertising business with Elliot (initially in their own business, but later for DAA). Hope is a writer and stay-at-home mother who struggles between her desire to be at home with her daughter Janey (and later son Leo) and her need to work. She sometimes feels like a sellout for having become a homemaker. Michael (who is Jewish) and Hope (who is Christian) are also an interfaith couple, a fact that was referenced throughout the series.[3] During the third season of the series, Hope is attracted to environmentalist John Dunaway (J. D. Souther) and contemplates having an affair with him, but decides against it.
  • Melissa Steadman: Michael's cousin and Gary's former girlfriend. Melissa is a photographer whose career includes the cover of an album by Carly Simon and photos in the magazine Vanity Fair. Melissa becomes involved with a younger man, Lee Owens (Corey Parker), a house painter, but the relationship is fraught with problems based largely on the age difference and on Melissa's insecurities. Melissa's friendship with Russell Weller (David Marshall Grant) an artist who was gay, developed in season two and continued off and on the last two seasons.
  • Elliot Weston and Nancy Krieger Weston: Elliot works in the advertising business with Michael (initially in their own business, but later for DAA). Nancy is an artist and stay-at-home mother to Ethan and Brittany. Like Hope, she often feels bored and unhappy in her role as a homemaker. In addition to coping with Elliot's infidelities, Nancy struggles with and overcomes ovarian cancer during the last two seasons. She also becomes a successful children's author and illustrator.
  • Ellyn Warren: Hope's childhood friend. Ellyn works at City Hall and is initially involved with Steve Woodman (Terry Kinney), who works at City Hall as well. Later, she has an affair with a married man, Jeffrey Milgrom (Richard Gilliland). During the final season, Ellyn becomes involved with (and marries) Billy Sidel (Erich Anderson), a graphic designer.
  • Gary Shepherd and Susannah Hart: Gary, Michael's college roommate at the University of Pennsylvania, is a free-spirited professor of English literature at Haverford College. When denied tenure at Haverford College, he thinks about becoming a social worker. It is at this point that Gary meets Susannah, a social worker. Despite the fact that no one else likes her, Gary marries Susannah when they have a baby, Emma. Gary dies during the final season in a chain-reaction car accident (ironic since he is a bicyclist and hates cars), just as Nancy recovers from cancer. Prior to Gary's death, Susannah accepts a job-offer and moves away to New York; the two marrying on the day of her departure.
  • Miles Drentell (David Clennon): Michael and Elliot's boss at DAA. Miles' lack of ethics propels Michael into periods of self-reflection and depression, in particular when he is forced to fire Elliot. David Clennon reprised this role in the series Once and Again (1999–2002).

Influences and cultural impact

Thirtysomething was influenced by the 1983 film The Big Chill.[4] The show reflected the angst felt by baby boomers and yuppies in the United States during the 1980s,[5] such as the changing expectations related to masculinity and femininity introduced during the era of second-wave feminism.[6] It also introduced "a new kind of hour-long drama, a series that focused on the domestic and professional lives of a group of young urban professionals, a socio-economic category of increasing interest to the television industry [...] its stylistic and story-line innovations led critics to respect it for being 'as close to the level of an art form as weekly television ever gets,' as the New York Times put it."[4] During its four-year run, Thirtysomething "attracted a cult audience of viewers who strongly identified with one or more of its eight central characters, a circle of friends living in Philadelphia."[4] Even after its cancellation in 1991, it continued to influence television programming, "in everything from the look and sound of certain TV advertisements, to other series with feminine sensibilities and preoccupations with the transition from childhood to maturity (Sisters), to situation comedies about groups of friends who talk all the time (Seinfeld)."[4] The show also influenced the British television series Cold Feet, which featured similar storylines and character types. The creator of Cold Feet wanted his show to be in the mould of successful American TV series like Thirtysomething and Frasier.[7]

Some were particularly critical of the show. Susan Faludi, in her 1991 bestseller Backlash, argues that the show exhibited a disdainful attitude toward single, working, and feminist women (Melissa, Ellyn, and Susannah) while at the same time "exalting homemakers" (Hope and Nancy).[8] The season three episode Strangers, which showed a male couple in bed in one scene, prompted five regular sponsors to pull out of the episode.

Oxford English Dictionary

Almost immediately after the introduction of the show, the term "Thirtysomething" became a catchphrase used to designate baby boomers in their thirties. This cultural shift was reinforced by the Oxford English Dictionary, which added Thirtysomething in 1993 (under the word thirty) and defined the term as follows:

[popularized as a catchphrase by the U.S. television program Thirtysomething, first broadcast in 1987], an undetermined age between thirty and forty; specifically applied to members of the ‘baby boom’ generation entering their thirties in the mid-1980s; also attributed as an adjective phrase (hence, characteristic of the tastes and lifestyle of this group).[9]

Thirtysomething was also responsible for the coinage of the word "twentysomething," to describe Generation X. This was reflected in Douglas Coupland's 1991 novel Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture.[10] The Fortysomething Team was used to describe the Clinton-Gore ticket in the US 1992 presidential election, as both members of the ticket were Baby Boomers.

Episodes

Thirtysomething aired Tuesdays at 10:00 on ABC.

Nielsen Ratings

  • 1987-88: #44 (13.74 rating)
  • 1988-89: #40 (13.91 rating)
  • 1989-90: #47 (12.58 rating)
  • 1990-91: #54 (11.22 rating)

Note: Ratings data from TVTango.com

DVD releases

Shout! Factory (under license from MGM) has released all four seasons of Thirtysomething on DVD in Region 1.

DVD Name Ep# Release Date
The Complete First Season 21 August 25, 2009
The Complete Second Season 17 January 19, 2010
The Complete Third Season 24 May 11, 2010
The Complete Fourth Season 23 November 9, 2010

On January 18, 2011, Mill Creek Entertainment released half of season one of Thirtysomething on DVD. It contained 10 episodes and was released as part of their "TV Flashbacks" collection. Other TV shows were released under the TV Flashbacks banner including Punky Brewster, My Two Dads, Blossom, and Simon and Simon.

Emmy Awards

Thirtysomething won numerous Emmy Awards and nominations for:

1988 Winners:

  1. Drama Series
  2. Supporting Actress in a Drama Series — Patricia Wettig
  3. Writing in a Drama Series — Paul Haggis and Marshall Herskovitz (episode: "Business as Usual")
  4. Guest Performer in a Drama Series — Shirley Knight

It also received the following nominations in 1988:

  1. Supporting Actor in a Drama Series — Timothy Busfield
  2. Supporting Actress in a Drama Series — Polly Draper
  3. Editing for a Series — Single Camera Production
  4. Achievement in Main Title Theme Music
  5. Achievement in Costuming for a Series

1989 Winners:

  1. Supporting Actress in a Drama Series — Melanie Mayron
  2. Writing in a Drama Series — Joseph Dougherty (episode: "First Day/Last Day")
  3. Editing for a Series — Single Camera Production
  4. Achievement in Costuming for a Series

It also received the following nominations in 1989:

  1. Drama Series
  2. Supporting Actor in a Drama Series — Timothy Busfield
  3. Guest Actor in a Drama Series
  4. Directing in a Drama Series
  5. Writing in a Drama Series
  6. Art Direction for a Series
  7. Sound Mixing for a Drama Series
  8. Achievement in Special Visual Effects (episode: "Michael Writes a Story")
  9. Outstanding Achievement in Hairstyling for a Series

1990 Winners:

  1. Lead Actress in a Drama Series — Patricia Wettig
  2. Directing in a Drama Series (tied with Equal Justice).

It also received the following nominations in 1990:

  1. Drama Series
  2. Supporting Actor in a Drama Series — Timothy Busfield
  3. Supporting Actress in a Drama Series — Melanie Mayron
  4. Guest Actor in a Drama Series
  5. Guest Actress in a Drama Series
  6. Writing in a Drama Series
  7. Art Direction for a Series
  8. Achievement in Hairstyling for a Series
  9. Achievement in Costuming for a Series

1991 Winners:

  1. Lead Actress in a Drama Series — Patricia Wettig
  2. Supporting Actor in a Drama Series — Timothy Busfield
  3. Achievement in Costuming for a Series

It also received the following nominations in 1991:

  1. Drama Series
  2. Supporting Actress in a Drama Series — Melanie Mayron
  3. Supporting Actor in a Drama Series — David Clennon
  4. Writing in a Drama Series
  5. Guest Actress in a Drama Series

References

  1. ^ "Special Collector's Issue: 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time". TV Guide (June 28-July 4). 1997. 
  2. ^ TV Guide Names Top 50 Shows
  3. ^ TV ACRES: Ethnic Groups > Jewish – "S-Z"
  4. ^ a b c d "thirtysomething". Museum of Broadcast Communications. http://www.museum.tv/archives/etv/T/htmlT/thirtysomethi/thirtysomethi.htm. Retrieved 2008-05-07. 
  5. ^ 'Thirtysomething' Why We're Still Watching And Arguing About 'Thirtysomething'
  6. ^ R. Hanke, "Hegemonic masculinity in Tthirtysomething" and Margaret Heide, Television Culture and Women's Lives: "Thirtysomething" and the Contradictions of Gender
  7. ^ Smith, Rupert (2003). Cold Feet: The Complete Companion. London: Granada Media. p. 6. ISBN 023300999X.
  8. ^ One Step Back
  9. ^ OED:thirtysomething
  10. ^ Book review

Further reading

External links


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