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Hope and Michael are a married couple in their thirties, living in Philadelphia, and struggling with everyday adult angst. Michael runs an ad agency with his friend Elliot, whose marriage to Nancy is beginning to show the cracks of age, as is the friendship between Hope and her best friend Ellyn. Michael's best friend, Gary, on the other hand, is trying to get on with his womanising life, and get over the mutually-destructive affair he had with Michael's cousin, Melissa. It all sounds like just another soap, but is given a unique atmosphere by the production team (the Bedford Falls company, also responsible for 'My So Called Life') whose intelligent scripts, believable characters and frequent dips into the slightly surreal world of the character's minds places the series as one of the highlights of the late 1980s. Written by
Spiral Lobster <firstname.lastname@example.org>
"The show that's just like life, only with better writers."
The line above was how Lifetime plugged this show about yuppies when they repeated the four series; Fascinating Aida chose to describe the likes of Michael, Eliot et al as "Yawningly Uninteresting People Paid Irritatingly Excessive Salaries." Many non-fans of "thirtysomething" tended to agree, but despite not turning thirtysomething myself until well after I'd seen Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz's compelling series, I begged and beg to differ.
Focusing on Michael and Hope Seligman and their daughter Janey, Eliot and Nancy Weston and their children (Ethan and the other one), and their single friends - professor and Bjorn Borg-lookalike Gary, husky-voiced businesswoman Ellyn and photographer Melissa - they exhibited an Alfie-like tendency to wonder "What's it all about?" but it was done with sensitivity and more humour than you would expect considering the misery they went through, from Michael and Eliot's advertising company closing down to Nancy's battle with cancer. They were prone to indulging in fantasies throughout (the episode "Whose Forest Is This?" was virtually all fantasy, revolving as it did around the children's book Nancy and Ethan wrote together), but unlike a certain Boston lawyer, no dancing babies were involved and the only singing was on the soundtrack (Carly Simon notwithstanding).
"thirtysomething" was essentially the soap for people who hated soaps, but better than that; the creative team proved that it wasn't a fluke when most of them came up with the marvellous "My So-Called Life." But I still think they shouldn't have killed off Gary.
Footnote: Miles Drentell, the slimy rival advertising man who Michael was compelled to work for, returned (again played by David Clennon) in Zwick and Herskovitz's later series "Once and Again," in one of those crossovers you almost never see in the hermetically sealed world of British television, which is one reason I always liked this show and was not happy when Sky One dropped it. (Another reason was Sela Ward, but that's another story...)
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