Ethen, Brittany, Janie and Leo are all now thirtysomething
January 13, 2020 9:47 PM   Subscribe

Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskowitz are reuniting Michael and Hope, and Elliot and Nancy in a reboot/continuation of their award-winning 1987-91 series thirtysomething, returning to ABC now under the network program directorship of a true thirtysomething fan, Karey Burke.

thirtysomething [opening credits] was a show about life. It wasn't a melodramatic soap opera, it wasn't a procedural of any sort. [Talk Of The Nation, 2009, 30 minute listen, transcript] It was about relationships and how life carries its own stories, dramatic and comedic. [Hollywood Reporter, 1989] It was unique for its time, and remains influential. [Hollywood Reporter, 2017]
posted by hippybear (38 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
As the kind of weirdly precocious kid who watched the original with my (then-thirtysomething) parents, I’ve thought a lot about this show since my own thirties rolled around.

I expect the reboot to feature fewer houses and kids, bottomless student debt, and the grown Weston offspring trying to pry know-it-all Old Man Elliot off Facebook before he embarrasses himself any further.
posted by armeowda at 10:07 PM on January 13 [8 favorites]

I remember watching this...

Damn, I'm getting old. I related to this at one point...
posted by Windopaene at 10:18 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]

I expect the reboot to feature fewer houses and kids, bottomless student debt, and the grown Weston offspring trying to pry know-it-all Old Man Elliot off Facebook before he embarrasses himself any further.

and Gary's ghost lingering around the outside, trying to influence events.
posted by hippybear at 10:21 PM on January 13 [3 favorites]

And somewhere in L.A. Lance Kerwin's agent is frantically working the phone lines pitching studio execs on picking up an option on the sure to be hit James at 58. Exciting times in the TV world.
posted by gusottertrout at 11:19 PM on January 13 [13 favorites]

...oh good grief. I, too, spent many hours watching this, wondering if this was how life should be lived. Then Gary died in that bike accident and, sigh, and I just couldn't go back. He was the only one I kind of identified with. At the same time, the whole "Gary's dead!" business became a joke among the few friends I knew who watched: there was something too nakedly emotional and yet fake about it to transcend the show. It was the shark jump - but a traffic accident on a ten speed, instead.

I imagine watching the show again would be like reading old back issues of Time, or National Geographic. Familiar, but strange.
posted by From Bklyn at 12:47 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]

OK Boomer: The Show.
posted by Pendragon at 1:41 AM on January 14 [24 favorites]

Now Generation X can seethe at Boomers and Millennials simultaneously in one convenient package!
posted by at by at 4:04 AM on January 14 [24 favorites]

Now Generation X can seethe at Boomers and Millennials simultaneously

posted by pracowity at 4:32 AM on January 14 [10 favorites]

I remember occasionally watching this, but mostly not being interested because all the people and stories were so old.

Very strange feeling, still having that impression of the show and then realizing how long ago I was in my 30's. Ouch.
posted by Mchelly at 5:02 AM on January 14 [9 favorites]

The median boomer was age 32 in '87 and 36 in '91.

People can think 'boomer' is just an arbitrary designation, but in reality the postwar baby boom was an immense demographic wave of ~80M souls to hit the US.

Core working-age population was growing 2 to 2.5% per year in the 1970s and 80s -- that was something of an economic tailwind, yet also I suspect contributing to the inflation spikes of the times, too.
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 5:46 AM on January 14 [3 favorites]

Obligatory SNL link.

I’m still angry, decades later, at the way they killed off Gary. I’d never felt so manipulated by a TV show like that before.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 5:51 AM on January 14 [3 favorites]

I watched it as a teen and all I remember was the melodrama. The Affair, the almost-affairs, Hope's misery at being a SAHM, Nancy's cancer, the realistically miserable children, and poor Gary! It taught me never to bring banana bread to someone who's ill.

I'm a little bit of a nostalgia junkie so I'd probably watch the remake just like I slogged through the first 2 years of the Will & Grace reboot.
posted by kimberussell at 6:29 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]

Wow, how perfectly untimely.
posted by holborne at 6:44 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]

I'm grateful to that show for bringing the music of W.G. Snuffy Walden to prominence.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 6:47 AM on January 14 [7 favorites]

I have but the foggiest memories of this thing from hatewatching it in my 20s with my boyfriend. I hated: Hope and Michael. Nancy's husband whatsisname. Hope and Michael. The name "Ethan." Hope and Michael, Hope and Michael, Hope and Michael. I probably hated Gary--I don't remember him, but chances seem good because I have zero feelings now good or bad about the show whacking him, whereas when E.R. gave that one doctor the brain cancer, I was in a rage for days. Wasn't there a darkhaired lesbian? I think I liked her. I have vaguely positive feelings about Nancy and think I may have liked her, too, except for when the script made her say "Ethan," which was often. And I liked the signoff: "aaaand they danced by the light of the moon." This concludes my memories of 30something.
posted by Don Pepino at 6:51 AM on January 14 [10 favorites]

OK Boomer: The Show.

to which I shall politely yet firmly suggest that I think I (and my general crowd) may well have been the original tired-of-yrrr-boomer-shit crowd. Because though we were technically boomers (born before 1964) we were late comers, still in our twenties when Thirty Something was all the rage ... and at best bemused by all the noise.

I recall hearing good things about it, making a point of tuning it in and catching a part when the red-haired guy had a bad day at work, went home and cranked the music, went apeshit to ... James Brown? What can I say? I didn't buy it.

Of course, I had a similar disconnect with Wonder Years. Somebody else's zeitgeist.
posted by philip-random at 7:58 AM on January 14 [5 favorites]

went apeshit to ... James Brown? What can I say? I didn't buy it.

nothing against James Brown, by the way. I just didn't buy that any middle ground white bread thirty something yuppie would be that into him, not unless he was trying to impress on others how woke* he was.

* or whatever the word was at the time.
posted by philip-random at 8:01 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]

What, no Melanie Mayron and Polly Draper as Melissa and Ellyn? As a kid growing up in a fairly conservative milieu where most of the expectations for girls alluded to “when you get married and have kids” before anything else, I had always found their roles as ambitious career women to be so interesting and inspiring. I vaguely recall how they privileged their creative and career choices on the same level as their personal ones; that you could have a career and still have a life was a revelation to me as a kid.

It would have been great to see how that played out for Melissa and Ellyn in the now. Would Melissa had been left behind by the dot-com bubble or would she have somehow gotten into digital media? Is Ellyn a career consultant now or the head of a policy think tank? Those are the characters I want to catch up with.
posted by sobell at 8:10 AM on January 14 [6 favorites]

"I Feel Good" was on every single gradschool and postgradschool houseparty playlist for my entire late 20s and 30s at parties in Florida, Pennsylvania, and Iowa. Assuming that playing James Brown has been passed down from slightly older to slightly younger people for decades like Miss Mary Mack gets passed down to playground kids, Nancy's irritating husband blasting James Brown is probably exactly accurate.
posted by Don Pepino at 8:16 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]

I will be sure to watch, notwithstanding the lack of Peter Horton and his glorious hair.
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:26 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]

Yeah, The Big Chill had already done this with Motown (white people grooving awkwardly while saying "this is our music!"), so at the time this James Brown thing was not weird at all.
posted by queensissy at 8:48 AM on January 14 [3 favorites]

Yesterday I watched "Sneakers" from 1992, which has Timothy Busfield -- then age 35. He looked like a damn child.

When thirtysomething started, he was 31 years old. He is now 62. His father in the original series was played by Eddie Albert, then age 79. Busfield is closer now to Albert's age then, than he is to his character's age in the original series.

This is making me feel terrrrribly old.
posted by wenestvedt at 8:55 AM on January 14 [4 favorites]

MetaFilter: Somebody else's zeitgeist.
posted by wenestvedt at 8:58 AM on January 14 [8 favorites]

We have the show's name in the language, but, other than that, I learned pretty much everything I know about the show from this post (and subsequently checking wikipedia). It probably looked too yuppie-soapy for me at the time. But I will not rest until I see Gary's ghost, because I'm sure I saw that mentioned somewhere, and I love it when the writers of a show decide a ghost (or some other wacky thing) is just what this show needs.
posted by pracowity at 9:24 AM on January 14

He should have worn a helmet

In the car?
posted by Iris Gambol at 12:52 PM on January 14

'Thirtysomething' killed off Gary 25 years ago. Now TV characters drop dead all the time. (Washington Post, Feb. 11, 2016) Those of us in our early 20s could not come up with a satisfactory answer to why we'd been so sucked in to a show that was all about the domestic problems of well-off baby boomers who were 15 years older than us.
posted by Iris Gambol at 1:10 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]

Those of us in our early 20s could not come up with a satisfactory answer to why we'd been so sucked in to a show that was all about the domestic problems of well-off baby boomers who were 15 years older than us.

Ha, I was like 14 when the show started, I watched the crap out of it, and I also cannot come up with a satisfactory answer. I think for me, the reasons I watched were 1) it came on after Moonlighting, and I really liked Moonlighting, 2) the theme song was catchy AF, and 3) I think I had a crush on Melanie Mayron. Almost everything else about the show I found aggravating, and yet I consistently tuned in.

Did the original thirtysomething have sixtysomething parent characters in it? I can't remember really, but I'm thinking the focus was on the thirtysomethings, yes? I think that bringing back the four main characters makes sense, but it also might change the flavor of the show to have like 4 sixtysomethings in a show about being in your thirties.
posted by 23skidoo at 2:31 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]

I. Loved. This. Show.

Yes, all the thirtysomething characters‘ parents made appearances for a few isolated episodes, but were never regular characters. Eddie Arnold was the best parent cast, in my opinion. Totally believable as Elliot’s father!

I, too, was gutted when Gary died. I remember going to work the next day really wanting (needing!) to talk about it with someone, but nobody else watched the show! And of course this was pre-internet days, so no fan forums, etc.

I also remember feeling so surprised when I found out that the actors playing Michael and Nancy were married in real life (and still are!).

I’m not sure how I feel about this reboot. Sometimes things should just be left alone...
posted by bookmammal at 3:30 PM on January 14 [4 favorites]

Did the original thirtysomething have sixtysomething parent characters in it?
I remember they killed off Michael’s dad in a hurry. Watching as a kid, I couldn’t understand why he and his brother just got rip-roaring drunk and then Michael jumped right back into the rat race with a brutal hangover the next day.

Losing my mom in my early thirties, I appreciated it in retrospect, in so many ways. TV shows now don’t always give the workaholic-premature-half-orphan club our due.
posted by armeowda at 7:52 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]

I unabashedly love this series. 1987 was sort of the height of VCR craze in my household and I ended up videotaping every episode first run, six to a tape, and I probably still have those tapes someplace. I'd watched them several times. I have the series on DVD now. It's still very effective in a lot of ways.

When they killed off Michael's father suddenly they placed a fake show synopsis in TV Guide so the audience would be taken by surprise. They did the same, too, with Gary's death. Manipulative, but again, effective.

Based on what I've read, I'm pretty certain this show is going to center on the Steadman and Weston children and their being in their thirties and living lives very different from their parents lived 30 years prior. Perhaps still living at home, certainly struggling in life, not living yuppy careers with giant houses. Their parents' involvement in supporting their lives (or not?) will be a part of the series, I'm sure, because we all love those characters. I'm also more than certain that Draper and Mayron (and maybe ghost-Horton, or maybe he will direct some because he's been doing that a lot) will be back at least for guest spots, but signing on for a TV series, even one which may run for a more modern 8 or 10 episode season, involves clearing your calendar for a huge block of time, something difficult for these busy, successful people. That they got Olin at all is a bit of a miracle -- he executive produces This Is Us and does a LOT of directing of television episodes for various series.

As a counterpart to thirtysomething, I'd offer up its younger sister of a series, My So-Called Life. Not as successful, but just as focussed on the emotional landscape of its characters and as inventive and in some ways even more treasured.
posted by hippybear at 8:36 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]

Also, my path to learning about this was peculiar. I've been watching the Dolly Parton series on Netflix and there's an episode where Tim Busfield and Patty Wettig play a couple, and I tweeted that watching them was filling me with nostalgia for thirtysomething. A day later, Mel Harris favorited my tweet. Which surprised me. What surprised me even more is that she had, like, 1100 followers. I looked at her account and she was tweeting about how the series was being rebooted. I did a bit of a headshake-blink moment and then googled around.

I had a very brief back and forth with Mel and followed her so I can keep in the loop. She seems very excited about it. Here's a short video from her talking about the show (on twitter).
posted by hippybear at 8:41 PM on January 14 [4 favorites]

without miles drentell, i have no reason to watch.
posted by bruceo at 11:49 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]

I loved thirtysomething; the death of Gary, so unexpected and just after the news that Nancy was in full remission, made me cry and cry. I was utterly devastated by it! I've got all of the episodes on dvd and re-watch every few years when I get an itch, so I'm kind of looking forward to this despite the fact that this kind of sequelly thing is usually terrible shit. Plus Ken Olin is still ridiculously gorgeous so more of him in front of my eyes suits me fine.

It was only after I bought the dvds and watched the series again for the first time in 20 years or so that I realised how much Melissa had influenced my fashion sense all throughout the 90's. I still think she looks like a fucking rockstar and I loved her story arc so much. Melanie Mayron's acting, particularly in the scenes with Miles, was sublime.

A lot of people have always given the original series shit but I don't care, I thought it was great then and most of it (not all, by any means) still stands up so I'll definitely be giving this new series a shot.
posted by h00py at 4:41 AM on January 15 [4 favorites]

Yes, I also used to tape the episodes on my VCR, and then later bought every season on DVD.

hoopy, you captured my feelings about Gary’s death perfectly. We were all so UP about Nancy’s news about her cancer surgery—and then to immediately find out about Gary’s totally unexpected death was just devastating. I know that many people felt manipulated by that, but I thought it was masterful writing and acting. And then poor Melissa—she and Gary never made peace after that horrible fight they had... that scene of her ugly sobbing at the piano...

I miss those people!
posted by bookmammal at 6:43 AM on January 15 [4 favorites]

"...particularly in the scenes with Miles..."

posted by Capt. Renault at 7:04 AM on January 15 [2 favorites]

I was age 17-21 during this show's run, and I think I learned a lot of lessons about adulthood from it, both about the difficulties of simply working and running a household but also emotional lessons. And some amount of validation that 15 years from now a lot of what I'm feeling about life are things I'll still be feeling and struggling with, perhaps with a bit more mastery. And some amount of mastery was modeled for me through this show.

I mean, it's like, this show is oddly formative for me. It hit me at exactly the right time in my life, I was going through a lot of my own stuff while this was going on, and somehow this show (and having taped it and watching it more than once) somehow helped me process and also be a better adult person in some ways.

I knew the show was losing popularity and knew it was probably ending soon, but I always have felt it was too soon. Like they had stories they had started that they never ended. But that's also sort of like, when you move out of town and your contact with regular friends comes to an end. Many of their stories, you never really find out about.
posted by hippybear at 8:58 PM on January 15

I was 30something when I watched. One of the few things my now -ex and I really shared. A friend called me in tears when Gary died. It was a very different show, not your basic sitcom, good writing. Flawed, but worthy. Very white.
posted by theora55 at 5:38 PM on January 19

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