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thirtysomething is an Americanmarker television drama about a group of baby boomers in their thirties. It was created by Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick for United Artists Television and Bedford Falls Productions, and distributed for ABC by MGM/UA Television Group. 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.

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 which is in marked contrast to their current lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvaniamarker.

Although seen as an ensemble drama, the series tended to revolve around Michael (Ken Olin) and Hope Steadman (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. Due to her feminist views, 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 which was referenced throughout the series. 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 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.


  • 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 Shepherd: 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. Following Gary's death, Susannah moves away with Emma.


  • Miles Drentell (David Clennon): Michael and Elliot's boss at DAA. Miles' lack of ethics propels Michael into periods of self-reflection and depression, particularly 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. It reflected the angst felt by baby boomers and yuppies in the United Statesmarker during the 1980s, such as the changing expectations related to masculinity and femininity introduced during the era of second-wave feminism. It also introduced "a new kind of hour-long drama, a series which 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." 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." 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)."

Some were particularly critical of the show. Susan Faludi in her 1991 bestseller, Backlash, argues that the show exhibited a disdainful attitude towards single, working, and feminist women (Melissa, Ellyn, and Susannah) while at the same time "exalting homemakers" (Hope and Nancy).

Oxford English Dictionary

Almost immediately after the introduction of the show, the term "thirtysomething" became a catch phrase 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 catch-phrase 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).


Thirtysomething was also responsible for the coinage of the word "twentysomething," to describe Generation X. This was reflected in Douglas Coupland's 1991 text, Generation X: Tales For An Accelerated Culture. 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



DVD Releases

On August 25, 2009, Shout! Factory and MGM Home Entertainment released the first season of Thirtysomething on DVD in Region 1. [73887] The audio in a number of scenes was re-dubbed for this release, at times making the dialogue out of synch with lip movements. The complete second season will be releaed on January 19, 2010.

DVD Name Ep# Release Date
The Complete First Season 21 August 25, 2009
The Complete Second Season 21 January 19, 2010


Emmy Awards

Thirtysomething won numerous Emmy Award 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. TV ACRES: Ethnic Groups > Jewish - "S-Z"
  2. 'Thirtysomething' Why We're Still Watching And Arguing About 'Thirtysomething'
  3. R. Hanke, "Hegemonic masculinity in thirtysomething" and Margaret Heide, Television Culture and Women's Lives: "Thirtysomething" and the Contradictions of Gender
  4. ONE STEP BACK
  5. OED:Thirtysomething
  6. Book review


Further reading



External links




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