Join 3,557 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


thirtysomething
June 9, 2009 8:57 AM   Subscribe

Winner of an Emmy for best dramatic series in 1988, thirtysomething (ABC, 1987-1991) represented 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. The series 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. And 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. - Museum of Broacast Communications

Finally coming to DVD in August.
posted by Joe Beese (75 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh, Joe. Thank you SO much for this excellent news. I've been doing regular web searches hoping for news of exactly this ever since it became vogue to release television series on DVD.

I already own My So-Called Life, which might be even more perfect than thirtysomething, but this just may make my admittedly limited DVD collection nearly complete.

Until I update to Safari 4, a real link for MSCL will have to wait... I lack the ambition to hand-code href links this morning.
posted by hippybear at 9:05 AM on June 9, 2009


I'm interested to see how this holds up on re-viewing. It annoyed the crap out of me when I was an early twenty-something, except for the stuff about the advertising agency.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:05 AM on June 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think there should be a nerd-centric spinoff called QWERTYsomething.
posted by brundlefly at 9:09 AM on June 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


And yet the other Thirty Something has yet to get the full DVD treatment. For many that series was more true to life.
posted by Gungho at 9:11 AM on June 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thirtysomething was on when I was a teenager, and to a teenager, people in their thirties are another, lesser species. So I never bothered to watch it. Maybe I'll like it now.

But, um, Joe... news of a TV series coming to DVD is really not FPP-worthy. Maybe you could try taking some of these lesser posts of yours to MetaChat.
posted by orange swan at 9:13 AM on June 9, 2009


Joe, thanks... in it's day this was a great show.. I'm also curious as to how it holds up... I keep getting disappointed by the releases of my old favorites....
posted by HuronBob at 9:17 AM on June 9, 2009


I don't recall how much music is in it, but I strongly suspect that this is one of those shows where any changes to the associated music will be about as subtle as replacing one of the actors with Jar-Jar Binks.

Now, My So-Called Life, that's a show I have to break down and get. It'd be worth it just for the episode with Juliana Hatfield.
posted by adipocere at 9:17 AM on June 9, 2009


orange swan: "news of a TV series coming to DVD is really not FPP-worthy"

The show is FPP-worthy. So here's a reasonably thorough [if no longer updated] fan site and a critical appreciation piece. News of the DVD release thrown in for those, like hippybear, for whom it will be welcome news.
posted by Joe Beese at 9:17 AM on June 9, 2009


But, um, Joe... news of a TV series coming to DVD is really not FPP-worthy. Maybe you could try taking some of these lesser posts of yours to MetaChat.

really..

Now excuse me, I have to go make a Hubbel telescope replica out of my used toilet paper rolls.
posted by Zambrano at 9:18 AM on June 9, 2009


adipocere: "I don't recall how much music is in it, but I strongly suspect that this is one of those shows where any changes to the associated music will be about as subtle as replacing one of the actors with Jar-Jar Binks."

Apparently, they got all the necessary permissions.
posted by Joe Beese at 9:19 AM on June 9, 2009


I would have sworn on a stack of bibles it was earlier than that. My friends and I used to gather around the tv imagining that our futures would be as full of prosperity and ambivalence. I really, really wanted to slap Hope. That show laid out a blueprint for how to be grumpy entitled suburban yuppy scum.
posted by tula at 9:21 AM on June 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


I'm not sure why news of a TV show coming to DVD release is any less FPP-worthy than many of the other items that pass through FPP-hood without comment. But this is why I usually avoid posting FPPs.
posted by blucevalo at 9:26 AM on June 9, 2009


It was a pretty good show, you can check out the first episode on YouTube. Not enough black people in it though.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:26 AM on June 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


But, um, Joe... news of a TV series coming to DVD is really not FPP-worthy. Maybe you could try taking some of these lesser posts of yours to MetaChat.

The State
Love American Style
Twin Peaks

WORST POSTS EVER, amirite?
posted by jabberjaw at 9:27 AM on June 9, 2009


That show laid out a blueprint for how to be grumpy entitled suburban yuppy scum.

Oh, that show did so much more... It revolutionized narrative form in hour-long dramas. It changed the definition of "television-worthy" scenarios and plots. It can be argued that, without thirtysomething, Twin Peaks could never have happened, and TP was SUCH a crucial domino to fall in the evolution of the kind of shows so many hold dear today...

Yeah, there was the whole "but what about MY needs???" whining thing... but the show really really changed things. It even launched its own line of clothing.

(For the record, I still have nearly all of the show's 4-year run on VHS taped FIRST RUN off of ABC. I was an obsessive young twenty-something. I've watched the shows on and off over the years, and it does hold up pretty well. I've not seen it in about 5 years, but I'm not going to drag out the retro-tech... I can wait a few months.)
posted by hippybear at 9:29 AM on June 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


I remember whole seasons of this show more clearly than I remember my actual life. The Michael and Elliot Company's ad campaigns; Melissa's on again, off again thing with housepainter Lee; Elliot and Nancy's problems; Nancy's children's book; Michael vs. Miles Drentell, clashing like samurai in the rain; Shepherd talking to Emily Dickinson. To this day, I do a fair Michael and Elliot impression:

"C'mon, Mikey! You know you want to, Mike! It'll be like old times, Mike! Just you and me, Mike!"

"I can't, Elliot. I've got responsibilities--I have to think about my family, here. My mortgage. You never consider the consequences of your actions, Elliot!"

"Aw, c'mon, Mike! It'll be great!"
posted by steef at 9:30 AM on June 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


Once and Again was another good series from the thirtysomething and My So Called Life creators. The technique of having the characters "interviewed' while the plot unfolded was a good touch.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:31 AM on June 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'd forgotten all about that show! My friends and I all watched it religiously so we could loathe all the thirtysomethings with extreme prejudice, being as how we were SO much smarter and cooler and artsier and ten years younger than they were and, of course, by the time we were in our thirties, the revolution would have shown up and shallow, money grubbing yuppies would have been eradicated from the earth. Our hatred was pure and free of envy; why, it had absolutely nothing to do with how they all had (mostly) stable relationships and beautiful homes and interesting jobs and money. I wonder if I will still hate them as much now that I'm ten years older then they were and I still haven't managed to save the world for pure punk anarchy? Probably.
posted by mygothlaundry at 9:31 AM on June 9, 2009


I'm interested to see how this holds up on re-viewing. It annoyed the crap out of me when I was an early twenty-something, except for the stuff about the advertising agency.

I was in my twenties when Thirty-Something was all the rage, and yes, it annoyed me. Way better on a "quality" level than your average TV drama, no question. But who really fucking cared about the trials and tribulations of fucking yuppies!?!?! Because that's what they were. Even the cute long-haired guy.

I suspect it will be great fun to see it now. Probably about as relevant as St Elmo's Fire.

Also worth noting, I was in my thirties when Generation X (all about twenty-somethings) was all the rage ... and I didn't hate it.
posted by philip-random at 9:34 AM on June 9, 2009


Twin Peaks deserves about 30 more FPPs, actually. Imagine if MeFi was around when new episodes of that mindfuck were showing up every week.

Well, every week or three. Or four.
posted by rokusan at 9:35 AM on June 9, 2009


thirtysomething trivia fact: Two years before his breakthrough in Thelma & Louise, Brad Pitt appeared as Hope's babysitter's boyfriend.
posted by Joe Beese at 9:37 AM on June 9, 2009


Not a huge fan of "thirtysomething" myself, but nonetheless I agree with hippybear about its impact on television.
posted by blucevalo at 9:38 AM on June 9, 2009


And yet the other Thirty Something [Get a Life] has yet to get the full DVD treatment.

It's, ummm, available online if you look hard enough.
posted by inigo2 at 9:41 AM on June 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


I was in my twenties when Thirty-Something was all the rage,

I was in my thirties when Generation X (all about twenty-somethings) was all the rage


These two statements cannot both be true. Either you're 10 years too young to be a boomer and therefore are Gen X, or else...
posted by hippybear at 9:42 AM on June 9, 2009


Also worth noting, I was in my thirties when Generation X (all about twenty-somethings) was all the rage ... and I didn't hate it.

This doesn't add up at all, as hippybear says. Generation X starts in 1964 or 1965.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:44 AM on June 9, 2009


But who really fucking cared about the trials and tribulations of fucking yuppies!?!?!

Other fucking yuppies.
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 9:44 AM on June 9, 2009


I was nine when it came out. I watched a lot of ABC then, because as the last-place network it had a lot of quirky shows that appealed to a geeky nine-year-old... not to mention the fact that they aired a lot of movies due to the TV writer's strike.

The theme music haunts me to this day. I don't remember a single thing about that show except for the god-damned pan flute.
posted by infinitewindow at 9:47 AM on June 9, 2009


Funny you should post this, Joe, as I was just thinking this morning about the tiresome trope of attaching "something" to a number that is evenly divisible by ten, in order to corral an entire 10-year age cohort into a nice little pen of preconceived expectations. Got me thinking about the show, and how it was really actually quite and a bit ahead of its time.
posted by Mister_A at 9:50 AM on June 9, 2009


Quite good, I meant to say. Fart.
posted by Mister_A at 9:51 AM on June 9, 2009


Peter Horton was hot.
posted by rainbaby at 9:52 AM on June 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


My weakness was then, and continues to be, furry bearded redheads.
posted by hippybear at 9:53 AM on June 9, 2009


Maybe you could try taking some of these lesser posts of yours to MetaChat.
Maybe you could take your lesser snark to MetaChat instead.

posted by blue_beetle at 9:54 AM on June 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


Also worth noting, I was in my thirties when Generation X (all about twenty-somethings) was all the rage ... and I didn't hate it.

This doesn't add up at all, as hippybear says. Generation X starts in 1964 or 1965.


For the record, Gen-X was written by a guy who was born in 1961. I knew him. We were in the same high school.

As for my math making sense. I was born in 1959. This means I turned 30 in 1989 ... at which point, if 30-Something was around, it was well on its way out, because everyone in it was turning 40.

As for Gen-X, I seem to remember it being publishing around 1990-91 ... by which point I was comfortably 30-something.
posted by philip-random at 9:54 AM on June 9, 2009


This means I turned 30 in 1989 ... at which point, if 30-Something was around, it was well on its way out

I believe the show ran from 1987 to 1991.
posted by hippybear at 10:03 AM on June 9, 2009


Miles Drentell was the evillest SOB this side of Shakespeare or comic books.

And I had a crush on Mel Harris.
posted by kimota at 10:04 AM on June 9, 2009


Probably about as relevant as St Elmo's Fire.

Oh, snap!
posted by dammitjim at 10:07 AM on June 9, 2009


I was just thinking, kimota, that Ben from Lost actually reminds me of Miles Drentell. Master manipulators.
posted by steef at 10:10 AM on June 9, 2009


kimota: "Miles Drentell was the evillest SOB this side of Shakespeare or comic books."

Great little piece...

The highlight of their relationship—and the series as well—was the two part episode in which Michael and Elliott dared to make an attempt to take the company away from Drentell by working behind his back. .... Of course, it doesn’t work and Michael is prepared to be fired, but Drentell doesn’t fire him. He keeps him on and even gives him more power. Why?

Strangely, it fails to quote Miles's own explanation - which is an absolute gem:

Revenge is a middle class pursuit.
posted by Joe Beese at 10:11 AM on June 9, 2009


If you were of a certain age, you followed a direct line from The Breakfast Club to St. Elmo's Fire to About Last Night... to Thirtysomething.
posted by stargell at 10:16 AM on June 9, 2009


Melanie Mayron, who played photographer Melissa Steadman, currently runs Mayron's Good Baby.
posted by pxe2000 at 10:17 AM on June 9, 2009


I've wanted to see this since I read about it in "Backlash"
posted by kathrineg at 10:18 AM on June 9, 2009


Miles Drentell was the evillest SOB this side of Shakespeare or comic books.

I think Roger Sterling has a little Miles Drentell in him, but without so much evil.
posted by stargell at 10:20 AM on June 9, 2009


I believe the show ran from 1987 to 1991.

Indeed, as stated in the first sentence of the FPP.

I was twentysomething when it aired, and am fortysomething, now that it is returning on DVD. Gen X cannot catch a break.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:37 AM on June 9, 2009


My parents loved this show, but I was too young to be concerned with it. It'll be interesting to watch.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 10:39 AM on June 9, 2009


I'm interested to see how this holds up on re-viewing

Me too. I'm interested to see that the show seems to excite as much resentment today as it did when it was new.

Myself, I loved this show. I started watching it the first season, when I was 19. It did seem to be a window into my own future, a depiction of what adult life was like that resonated far more, in its private and complex stories, than did the career-based shows that surrounded it in that time period (things like LA Law and police and hospital shows). The scale and topics were personal and intimate. The characters were interesting. Tula captured it in this comment:

My friends and I used to gather around the tv imagining that our futures would be as full of prosperity and ambivalence.

Looking back, that is kind of funny. The gentrifying characters on the show, with their Ivy degrees and high-paying, not-very-demanding careers, seemed reasonable enough to me - I saw people like that around, knew a few, wanted to be like them, assumed I would, and didn't really perceive how at the top of the heap they were.

Even so, this was one of the few shows in my life that's been "appointment TV" for me. I would station myself in front of the TV, darken the living room, watch attentively. I was living at home and going to school at the time, feeling like a too-big kid outgrowing the family home, and this show was like a momentary escape into adult freedoms.

Discussing the groundbreaking nature of it, though - in many storytelling ways, it was groundbreaking, and it was a timepiece in its depiction of Boomer angst and transitions. But much of the tone and topical material did have a really good precedent, a show that also holds up well in re-viewing but is too old to really have traction among my generation: the late-70s series Family. Same great handling of intimate settings and realistic characters who weren't happy and competent all the time.

Brandon Blatcher is also spot on about the lack of black people as more than ancillary characters (you know, playing pickup ball on weekends with Michael and Elliott). After living in Philadelphia as a young adult, I can see that it's ridiculous to imagine any people of this kind in this setting with this type of life surrounded by such a white-bread cast of characters. They aimed at some diversity issues with Michael's Jewishness, but interfaith marriages were so common in these neighborhoods by even the 70s that they made almost too much of it. And as for the race part...had the producers and writers ever been to Philadelphia?
posted by Miko at 10:40 AM on June 9, 2009


Freaks and Geeks..a kind of 'sixteen something'
posted by xjudson at 10:40 AM on June 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


YAY! YAY! YAY! OMG. I can totally relive my Ken Olin crush all over again...
posted by PuppyCat at 10:43 AM on June 9, 2009


I watched this show with my mom a lot, but I don't really remember a lot of the details.

But I do remember a scene when Patricia Wettig's character found out her cancer had (maybe?) come back, and she went out to her car and cried in the rain. It blew me away and I still remember it as one of the first time's I thought "Oh, so that's what they mean by 'good acting.'"
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:53 AM on June 9, 2009


I do remember this being re-run on Lifetime or somesuch channel a few years back and thinking it did not hold up very well. Maybe it's the nature of re-runs of shows with ongoing storylines. You can't just drop in on a random episode, like you would with Columbo or even ER; you have to be fully immersed in the characters' pathos and self-indulgence for the show to resonate. A dedicated DVD viewing might work better, in that regard.

I too had a crush on Mel Harris.
posted by stargell at 11:06 AM on June 9, 2009


What was that show, with the actor from Thirtysomething, where the demons escaped hell and the main character made a deal with the devil to round them up one by one?
posted by P.o.B. at 11:17 AM on June 9, 2009


I do remember this being re-run on Lifetime or somesuch channel a few years back and thinking it did not hold up very well.

Sadly, the Lifetime airings were missing around 5 to 10 minutes per episode, edited mostly for time (to make room for more commercials). The editing was subtle, but was enough to ruin the pacing of some of the scenes, and once or twice actually removed an entire scene from a show.
posted by hippybear at 11:21 AM on June 9, 2009


What was that show?

Peter Horton, in Brimstone!
posted by steef at 11:22 AM on June 9, 2009


Most people misunderstand how wide of a span Generation X covers:

commonly abbreviated to Gen X, is a term used to refer to a generational cohort of children born after the baby boom ended[1][2] and usually prior to the 1980s (see Generation Y or The Millennial generation).

posted by P.o.B. at 11:24 AM on June 9, 2009


For the record, Gen-X was written by a guy who was born in 1961. I knew him. We were in the same high school.

As for my math making sense. I was born in 1959.


philip-random, you and I should compare notes. I was born in (very late) '58 and went to Sentinel as well. I have a feeling we knew some of the same people, or at least know of some of the same people.

And yes, according to Douglas Coupland himself, Generation X originally referred to people of my vintage-- born just too late for the baby boom, at the butt end of the 50s and very early 60s.
posted by jokeefe at 11:27 AM on June 9, 2009


The one scene I really remember from thirtysomething was when Patricia was in surgery for her cancer, and her husband initally tried to pray in the hospital chapel, but retreated instead to a toilet stall, where he wept freely. That kind of killed me at the time.
posted by jokeefe at 11:29 AM on June 9, 2009


Coupland may have popularized the term, but the significance of Gen X (or the 13th Gen) was best laid out in Strauss & Howe's most excellent book Generations.
posted by hippybear at 11:32 AM on June 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


The Baby Boom is a pretty unequivocal historical phenomenon, occurring between 1946 and 1964. Strauss and Howe, who are responsible for a lot of generational theory, place the start of Generation X at about 1960/61, though. Hence the confusion about when "X" starts.

In terms of numbers, the post-WWII birthrate numbers remained high for about the length of time that women of childbearing age just after World War II remained fertile. Hence the 1965 endpoint which is widely agreed upon, though as we see here, it doesn't always match the generation that people feel they are.
posted by Miko at 11:34 AM on June 9, 2009


it doesn't always match the generation that people feel they are.

Strauss & Howe get deeply into why this is so... it has much more to do with the cohorts surrounding you and affecting your worldview than any actual birthdate. If you had primarily older brothers and sisters and tended to look at the world "through their lens" more often than not, then chances are as a cusp child you would identify more with the Boomers than the 13th Gen. Another child in an identical circumstance who was more attuned to her peers at school would identify with the later generation.

This really only applies to people born in the years between, say, 1959 and 1963... or similar age groups ~20 years later.
posted by hippybear at 11:43 AM on June 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


*adds Strauss & Howe to Amazon list*
posted by P.o.B. at 12:04 PM on June 9, 2009


It annoyed the crap out of me when I was an early twenty-something, except for the stuff about the advertising agency.

My reaction exactly. Except for the ad agency stuff, that annoyed me just as much.

And yes, according to Douglas Coupland himself, Generation X originally referred to people of my vintage-- born just too late for the baby boom, at the butt end of the 50s and very early 60s.

And thank you--that needed to be said.
posted by gimonca at 12:05 PM on June 9, 2009


According to Boom Bust & Echo, Generation Xers are the tail-end Boomers born in the sixties (don't remember the exact dates). They were part of a large cohort but disadvantaged compared to their older peers because they arrived in the job and housing markets after the main wave and found that the good jobs were mostly filled and the price of housing inflated.

But yeah, I wish the exact parameters for Gen X could be nailed down. I found out about the wide variants when I was proofreading a co-workers' newsletter which referenced the Gen X phenomenon and some Googling for dates left me quite at sea.
posted by orange swan at 12:31 PM on June 9, 2009


Poor Gary.
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 12:33 PM on June 9, 2009


Hmmm, the popup YouTube player ignores the position anchor. That's annoying.
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 12:35 PM on June 9, 2009


(as does the actual link. did you code it correctly?)
posted by hippybear at 12:43 PM on June 9, 2009


((oh, and if that's a link to what I think it is, you really should put a spoiler tag on that))
posted by hippybear at 12:44 PM on June 9, 2009


I hate to say "it works for me", but, uhhh, "it works for me," in Safari and FireFox. But yeah, it's a 20-year-old spoiler.
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 12:51 PM on June 9, 2009


Orange Swan, the Strauss and Howe link I gave above does a clear job of dividing the generations. But looking for some definitive source on this will ultimately be futile. As I mentioned, the Baby Boom is a specific historical occurrence, a period of time in US during which the birth rate jumped dramatically and stayed at much higher than historical levels for nearly 20 years. The birth rate dropped somewhat and then levelled off until the "echo boom" in the late 80s/early 90s. Those are demographic terms, mainly.

Meanwhile, it's social theorists who name and discuss the characteristics of other generations. The cutoffs and characteristics vary according to whom you read. So there is really no single definitive source that will tell you whether someone is "really" "Generation X" or "Boom Generation" or "Milennial." These are evolving concepts and to some degree, proprietary to the specific authors. There's no genetic test that reveals the true generation someone is in." Generations" in this parlance are social constructs describing cultural phenomena and superimposed upon birthrate data.
posted by Miko at 12:52 PM on June 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Poor Gary.

Man, people were angry after that episode.
posted by stargell at 1:23 PM on June 9, 2009


Speaking of angry: I remember watching an interview with Timothy Busfield toward the end of the show. He talked about how when his plotline had Eliot cheating on Nancy while she had cancer, he was pretty much unable to go out in public, even to a convenience store or somewhere like that, because people would start to holler at him "You jerk! HOW could you do that to her!"
posted by Miko at 1:27 PM on June 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Com.Ed.Light -- very peculiar. it doesn't work in either of those for me... I'm on Mac, Safari 4, most recent Firefox... The clip just begins at 0:00, with no leap to 9:20 at all.
posted by hippybear at 1:27 PM on June 9, 2009


I remember in the episode when Michael's father died, they put a fake episode summary into TV Guide so the death would be as much of a shock to the viewship as it was to the characters.
posted by hippybear at 1:42 PM on June 9, 2009


I was in high school when this show was first aired, and my girlfriend at the time loved this show. So I watched a lot of thirtysomething. Yes, my initial reaction was, "Christ, isn't it bad enough that everyone in my parents' generation are perpetually high on their significance? Do we really need a TV show about a bunch of them washing the dishes and arguing and stuff?" Over time, though, it grew on me. I liked the way the dialogue was natural, the pacing felt more like a movie than a TV show, and even the really annoying characters (like the ad agency director and his ridiculous samurai sword on display) were characters I could enjoy hating. I'm still not sure if I'd say it made Twin Peaks possible, but yes, it probably did let TV writers feel more comfortable about scripting more natural-sounding dialogue and pacing out a story line over weeks instead of days.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:27 PM on June 9, 2009


This was on when I was a young teen, and I only watched perhaps 3 or 4 episodes total, but my vague memories of it is of a really heavy, depressing, almost melodramatic show. Now that I'm a thirtysomething, I'd probably feel a lot different.
posted by zardoz at 4:46 PM on June 9, 2009


I watched this show (as a very late gen xer) as a youngish kid, and I remember liking it, and several other shows that were a lot like it in terms of "different" plots and, well, better stories than most of what else (L.A. Law) was out there. Shows like this, like Northern Exposure and, my personal favorite, Key West (very, very short lived).
posted by Ghidorah at 4:59 PM on June 9, 2009


zardoz: "Now that I'm a thirtysomething, I'd probably feel a lot different."

There came a dark day when I realized I was older than Michael Steadman.
posted by Joe Beese at 6:23 PM on June 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


« Older A bad day in the news gallery? Talkback recording...  |  Pencil Rebel... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments