1980s US drama about a group of baby boomers in their thirties.
85 episodes of 60 minute duration. ABC 1987 - 1991.
"This is a show about life on earth as we know it. At least a small slice of it. It's about a group of people, all of a certain age, who know enough about life to be totally confused by it. It's about growing up -- no matter how old you are..." - MARSHALL HERSKOVITZ and EDWARD ZWICK
Premiering on 29th September 1987, on ABC, Thirtysomething was a drama series aimed squarely at the "Baby-Boomer" generation which had given rise to the elusive, supposedly heavy consuming, audience segment which was perceived by the networks as the then desired holy grail of advertising revenue, the "Yuppies".
Created by the team of Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick, for 85 episodes (including the pilot) over four seasons, the series followed the complexly interwoven personal and professional lives of a group of upwardly mobile friends, two couples and three singles, living and working in the city of Philadelphia. Michael Steadman (Ken Olin) is initially a creatively successful advertising executive working closely with his best friend, Elliot Weston (Timothy Busfield) in a high profile agency, before they eventually break away from the company to form their own business partnership. Michael's wife, Hope Murdoch Steadman (Mel Harris), an ambitious graduate of Princeton, had set aside her career in publishing in order to raise their newly born baby daughter, Janey, while Nancy Weston (Olin's real life wife, Patricia Wettig), a former 60's "Flower Child", had lost sight of her driving ambition to be a successful artist in the practical day-to-day problems of raising the couple's two children, Ethan and Brittany. Alongside their own daily affairs, the close knit couple's also found themselves involved in the often demanding and intimate problems of their three single friends, Gary Shepherd, (Peter Horton - former husband of Michelle Pfeiffer), a free wheeling college professor, and Michael's oldest friend, Melissa Steadman, (Melanie Mayron), Michael's love starved, selfish single cousin and Ellyn (Polly Draper), Hope's girlhood friend, now a lonely and confused career woman.
Although the series was capable of delivering a finely written and performed undercurrent of pleasing comedy, its real forte lay in the lengthy debates about everything from the characters self absorbed, near constant emotional angst, and their almost driven need to fulfil their individual dreams irrespective of the cost to those around them. (One scene with two men in bed together cost the network $1.5 million in cancelled advertising). In this respect, the characters displayed all the faults and flaws endemic to a decade where success and money took precedence over the more traditional perceived values of the generation that had preceded them.
Apart from a consistent excellence in production and writing, the main ensemble cast delivered uniformly expertly judged performances, which succeeded in creating multi-layered characters, which the audience could like and in many cases sympathise with, in spite of the often-unattractive traits they sometimes exhibited. This is especially true of the consistently excellent Patricia Wettig, whose sensitive, insightful portrayal of Nancy was recognised by three Emmy awards, one for best supporting actress in a dramatic series in 1987-1988, and two for best actress, in 1989-1990 and again in 1990-1991. Giving the series a grand total of ten Emmy wins and an impressive sixteen further nominations.
In turns amusing and emotional, well written, sharply acted, and expertly produced, Thirtysomething was a high quality drama series, which accurately reflected the particular preoccupations of a glossily self- obsessed decade.
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