Thirtysomething (TV Series 1987–1991) Poster

(1987–1991)

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22 ReviewsOrdered By: Helpfulness
One of the best televison series of the 80s
mrcaw14 May 2004
I just read a comment by a guy who said he couldn't feel sorry for characters who had great cars and houses etc as if these characters were rich. I'm not sure what show he watched but 30something was one of the few shows on television where its characters lived in homes that actually reflected their middle class incomes. Hope & Michael lived in an old (albeit big) fixer-upper and Nancy & Elliot's house was a typical suburban tract ranch house while the single characters, Melissa, Gary & Ellen all had apartments that reflected their varying income levels. Michael drove an old faded car that maybe 15 years earlier had been a higher priced foreign sports job. This same person's comments go on to say that no real guy ever watched the show except for one wimp that he knew. I think we can all read between the lines of what this reviewer is all about and we don't need my adding any personal reaction to those comments. On to more, grown-up, shall we say, observations about 30something.....

30something deserves its repuation as one of the best written dramatic shows that aired in the 80s. Storylines were original whether addressing traditional issues of career and homelife or veering off into sidelines as when the character Hope finds an old trunk in her attic and the show revolves around letters she finds in the attic. The show blended humor and drama and allowed it's characters flaws and strengths and showed relationships struggling, falling apart and enduring.

There were many favorite shows and storylines for me. The entire sequence of shows where Michael & Elliot plot to takeover their advertising firm from the evil boss, Miles. The aforementioned WWII memory show. Who could forget the couple of shows that dealt with Gary's unexpected death in a car crash? And what about the shows detailing Gary's finally finding a woman to marry, Susannah and how everyone disliked her! Seeing Melissa find happiness in the arms of a younger man, Lee. And one of my favorite episodes, the marriage show between forever neurotic Ellen and her cartoonist boyfriend Billy?

The show was great and my wife & I still talk about the characters. I always jokingly said that "Hope was perfect" because of all the characters she was probably the most disciplined and level headed of the group. Even the character of Nancy, who in less competenant actor's hands could have come off as whiny was brought to the screen as a woman who had her hands full with an emotionally immature husband but was just trying to improve her marriage and her lot.

Another thing that is important to note about this show is that the drama had lots of humor running through it. Not over the top, comedy show humor, but humor nonetheless. For me, it will always be the perfect hour long dramatic show, because it was a show where I REALLY felt I could know these people. It wasn't some turgid, life threatening hospital show or some backstabbing cold blooded lawyer show or some cops and robbers show that my life will never be about. It was about, people like me, who had some creative impulses and who were married with kids, or before they were married struggling to establish a real adult life and get over the fact that college was long gone, etc. Time to grow up and deal maturely with your own self and those around you. Time to do it with discipline and humor and caring for others.

This was a great show with perfect casting. Now when will some cable channel start broadcasting these shows again so I can watch em all over again?
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Much Missed
aqqs1024 July 2004
Finest ensemble drama series I have ever seen. It's 13 years since it finished yet it's still keenly missed by it's many devotees. Ths is made worse because it's not available on video or DVD, unlike other series' made by it's creators.

It suffered from the label of being 'yuppie' & 'whiney', probably because the first series took a little time to settle into a rhythm. Yet it was anything but, being both serious and funny about the issues which affect everyone. Yet it never descended into a soap opera and the acting, writing and staging was of a consistently high standard. It's a pity that it ended so suddenly, without a real resolution.
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Given episodes often too painful for multiple viewings
tostinati30 November 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers may be here, if you haven't seen the series all the way through.

I recall the criticisms of this show at the time of its original broadcast: It was called a wine and brie look at self-absorbed, privileged babyboomers that every self-respecting lumpenprol should be insulted to be expected by the network to care about. (This was the time that saw the launch of Rosanne and Married With Children, after all, as well as the escalation of trash TV/talk TV into a national phenomenon.) I never watched thirtysomething until it reran for years on a popular cable network. Then I stumbled on a single episode one day while scanning, and I was immediately hooked. It hit me hard: How could I have missed this gem the first time? Had I been turned off to it by the universal invocation of yuppie imagery used to condemn it in its time? Probably so.

I taped the entire series in its eventual reincarnation in a matter of weeks. I never missed an episode, and watched each development voraciously, as one imagines an earlier generation may have a serialized novel by Dickens. But ya know what? Aside from certain episodes I have shown to friends, to turn them on to the show, I have seldom re-watched any of these shows. The tapes wait in the hangar for a time when a desperate nostalgia drives me to check this series out again. I do mean that one line summary, the title of this note, in the best possible way. But there is something here, in this decade+ old series, that is totally lacking in most TV and film today. That something would be a sense of what I will call emotional verisimilitude. Whether it was nudging your funnybone or tugging your heartstrings or mordantly evoking the battle of the sexes, thirtysomething rang true for anybody who has ever been there. --And for anybody with a brain and empathy and imagination who hasn't been there.

I believe it is the truth, as in The Truth, that makes it painful to look at a lot of times. Far from coddling a bunch of self-absorbed adults who refused to grow up, it put a mirror up to a good part of the generational demographic, forcing us to relive scenes from our life that we'd rather forget, or reminding us that there are hard days ahead. The quintessential episode goes like this: Michael's father comes to visit the family at holiday wearing an obvious and somewhat ill-fitting hairpiece. After general whispering within the family (they think he's getting vain in his old age, too) and a bit of hard ribbing by Melissa, he makes a nearly inaudible statement. "It's the chemo." That's how the episode in which Michael loses his father begins. And it ends with Michael Steadman crouched on the floor of a dark room, crying. Strong stuff. Throughout the run of the show marriages failed; more people got cancer; a major character gets killed on the bike ride to and from work; people are mistreated with impunity at work and then fired; some of the characters' ambitions, their hope that they might be somehow talented or special, are trashed. Just like real life. If TV wasn't a low common denominator vehicle for commercials, I think we might be tempted to call thirtysomething high drama, or art, or something that really mattered. Despite the vehicle, I think it was all those things, anyway.

Ten Big Stars.
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Ken Olin
msindependent-773-4579422 November 2013
WOW Ken Olin was so handsome back during 30 something- tonight in 2013 seeing him heavy with a gray beard in an Episode of Criminal Minds its so incredible to believe how much he has changed-Patty pretty much looks the same.

I was wondering what happened to the rest of the cast the person that played Melissa I never saw after the show, I saw Hope in one LMN movie years ago as well as Timothy but the rest where have they gone?

The TV shows were much better back during the 30 something days now its all about one reality show after another- whether its singing, dancing, eating bugs surviving or bachelors and bachelorettes or cooking - no more really good family shows, Brothers and Sisters, Once and Again , Knots Landing- now those were the days my friends!
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"The show that's just like life, only with better writers."
Victor Field9 April 2003
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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10/10
ThirtySomething was a great show
jjohn91018 February 2007
I miss watching this show. It was entertaining and thoughtful in some cases such as when Nancy had cancer. The cast handled divorce, the perils of daily life, issues with kids, love with each other, etc. I think the men seemed to be kind of immature compared to Hope and Nancy, but I loved all the characters regardless of how they acted. I looked forward to my weekly time with them. I was only in my early to late 20's when it was on, but I can say that some of the angst that they went through, I also went through, so in some of the episodes I could relate. I wish it were still on although at this point we would be calling it FiftySomething. LOL!!
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1/10
Don't thank me, just pass it forward
aciolino19 September 2009
Warning: Spoilers
What you're thanking me for is saving you from the humiliation, revulsion and possible projectile vomiting that will ensue upon watching this offensive, dreadful series.

"Be afraid... be very afraid..." A famous movie line which serves as apt advice for anyone foolish enough to consider viewing "ThirtySomething." Why such harsh words, you may ask? Answer: The "show" (for want of a better word) is a collection of glimpses into lives of people you will either hate or (hopefully) not care the least bit about; it is self-absorbed, pretentious in the extreme; it is childishly melodramatic. It is lacking in even an iota of cleverness, intelligence, or artfulness; it is offensive, really, in what it pretends to be, but never delivers. Worse than being an accurate portrayal of life among useless yuppies, it is a BORING portrayal of life among useless, narcissistic yuppies.

So, if you like your TV humorless, your drama vapid, and your characters hateful but bland, then by all means, run out and purchase the DVD (but don't pay more than eleven cents for it) right away. Otherwise, heed my warning: there's nothing to fear but this awful series.

Peace, love, and flowers.
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"thirty something years" was the best television series
queen_erinn10 February 2002
This serie was my favorite and I hope to see once again in German or Brazil TV. All actors of this film are great and this episode was the perfect example of real life. It was the perfect mix of poignant and realistic.Congratulations!!! My wish is to see a continuation of this serie. A sequency their`s life!
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Quite simply...
jdstone-122 September 2006
The most annoying show about the most annoying people on the face of the earth and that's saying a lot. I was thirtysomething when thirtysomething began it's run and I absolutely loathed it, the characters and the whiny dialogue and the stories about loathsome, whiny, self-absorbed brats who'd had everything handed to them on a silver platter but were still whining because everything wasn't perfect. Whew, how was that for a run-on sentence? But it was hard to care about these characters. It seemed to me that the writers secretly agreed with me, because the dilemmas these yuppies and their larvae faced brought into sharp relief the shallowness of their lives and their lack of empathy for others.
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3/10
The Emotional Ex Lax of the 80s
flozell200019 February 2008
This show was weak out of the gate and never got better. True, there was good acting but the show was a whine fest from beginning to end.

Jay Leno joked "The women are always complaining 'what about my needs?' and the men are complaining 'what about my needs?' and I'm watching it thinking 'Hey, what about my needs, can't you blow up a car or something?'"

That summed up the show. Men without balls. Everyone was emotionally awkward. Ken Olin was having an emotional crisis every show because they were out of peanut butter and Tim Bushfield was a child with a wife he kept forcing to act like his mother. And of course, the women were always right. No wonder the yuppies died out! Absolute trash! Don't even bother with it.
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The Apology Show
petelush31 May 2003
For a few seasons I compulsively watched this show the way one might keep checking a closet to see if the bad smell is still there. Who can explain what drives us to watch what annoys us? After a few months I figured out that the spine of the story was based on apologizing. Subtract apologies between these characters the day after they find miniature ways to offend each other, and you've hardly got a plot.

My favorite bit was when Timothy B-something, I think his name was (the red-headed actor) got his big chance to direct a commercial, and showed a black guy how he wanted a 'hood walk performed.

Worst moment was when a most annoying woman character went ballistic because on a date the guy (the boss at the ad agency) tried to kiss her! Imagine trying to steal a kiss from your thirty-something date! Take back the night, and keep this show.
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8/10
Why no DVD?
rjbolwell-18 July 2006
I look back with a degree of nostalgia to the 1980's when my own kids were born and the work/life balance was a constant juggling act. Yes it was a 'yuppie' show as some have said but it was true to life for many, hitting a nerve for those of us struggling with young children and a slightly off-beat boss.

The acting and script writing was first rate and each of the characters utterly believable. I guess an airing now many reveal a show that is a little dated but it was true to its era. For all of us who really were in their thirties when the show was on prime time TV, please will someone out there consider releasing it on DVD!
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4/10
Stereotypes Galore!
Sjoerd (Filmfan-NL)24 July 2006
Warning: Spoilers
The series is being rerun on one of the Dutch commercial channels, in a time slot usually occupied by home shopping broadcasts. It's probably cheap. And that's no surprise to me. I vaguely recall having seen some episodes on a previous run. Today, after having seen only half of one episode bad memories popped up. The show stinks. Incredibly flat, stereotype, characters, a dull storyline, all the predictable issues being tackled in even more predictable fashion, styled along the American way, which especially in Europe makes people's hair stand on end. Outdated, boring, poorly acted. Identification with any of the characters is highly unlikely, in particular to people with at least half a brain.

Without having said a single thing that actually happens in the show, without having quoted one single line of text, I probably have said all there is to say about this show. In that sense, above comments may be considered a spoiler ! Can you spell waste of time ?
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If I may beg to differ.
A lot of snooty critics raved about this show when it was first on. I could never figure out what people found so appealing about this show. Lots of women seemed to like it. I'm a guy and I hated this show. In fact most guys I knew hated it. I only knew one guy who liked it and he was a wimp. Once this show came on and my brother wanted to watch it because he wanted to see if it was really as obnoxious as I said it was. Half way into the show he asked me to pass him the "clicker" and changed the station and said "This show isn't as bad as you said it was...Its worse!"

What really irked me about this show was here were a bunch of young, good looking, well to do people with attractive spouses, living in nice homes, went to fancy schools, had good jobs, drove cars that cost more than many families earn in year, and all they do is whine! People tell me I'm supposed feel sorry for these vain, vapid and vacuous people. Why? What was the message of this show? Smug, whining yuppies have it tough?

Sorry, burn me for heresy but I just can't feel their pain.

Thank you and have a nice day! Your pal jim.
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My fave show
jbran19 June 2000
Ellyn's wedding episode was the best ever. This show was my favorite and this episode was the perfect example of why. It was the perfect mix of poignant and realistic. This episode has some of the funniest scenes from the series that morph into the most bittersweet. I think this show's effects are still being felt in programming today.
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4/10
Campy Yuppie soap opera.
sonya9002813 December 2009
Thirtysomething isn't a show, that anyone can really take seriously. It revolves around a group of 80s Yuppies in their thirties, who spend too much time obsessing about their own angst. The show tried too hard to be 'deep and meaningful', and wound-up becoming a parody of itself.

Virtually all of the male characters on this show, suffer from arrested emotional development. They never seemed to come to terms, with the fact that they couldn't have everything their own way, all of the time. The thing is, they got their way ALMOST all of the time, which is more than most people do. Still, that wasn't good enough for these guys. They just didn't appreciate the fact, that they were better off than 90% of the general population.

Like the male characters, the women on Thirtysomething also seemed to concentrate too much on navel-gazing, so to speak. Most of these women are intelligent, capable, and pursued interesting careers. Yet they were still consumed with insecurity about themselves, and their lives in general. Worst of all, they were too willing to be excessively accommodating, towards the often immature men in their lives.

The fact that the females on this show were frequently demeaned, was a reflection of the 80s backlash against feminism. In her book entitled "Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women", Susan Faludi eloquently pointed-out that Thirtysomething was guilty, of negative portrayals of the females characters. Especially compared to the male characters, who were much less evolved, than the female characters. So for those hoping to see a show that gave women adequate respect, Thirtysomething definitely disappoints in that regard.

Thirtysomething's only real entertainment value, is it's campy quality. After all, a show that tried so diligently, to convince viewers that over-privileged Yuppies are so riveting, has GOT to be camp of the highest order. I'd like to see a quality TV drama created about the poor, and/or minorities, who have truly harsh realities to deal with in life. A show like that would be much more compelling, than Thirtysomething ever was.
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I loved Thirtysomething
RickSF114 June 2002
Yeah, so they were yuppies, and yes they whined. so what. I loved this program when it first ran. And I watched every episode when it was shown this year on Bravo. Thank you, Bravo! I was disappointed to find out that it was the producers (Hershkovitz and his partner) who had pulled the plug on it back it 1991. They thought that 4 years was enough. It just dropped out of the Fall lineup, so there was never ever any closure to the plot line. Very Disappointing!
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9/10
Brilliantly written and acted, ahead of its time
tloewald5 June 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This is one of those shows I miss and could have watched forever. I'd also love to see the characters revisited in fortysomething or fiftysomething, but the creators are having considerable success making movies (most notably Glory) so I'm not holding my breath.

This show was ground-breaking in the depth and honesty of its portrayal of many aspects of modern life that had either never been dealt with on the big or small screen, or which had been treated superficially, including: * becoming a parent (e.g. there's an entire episode about the first time you leave your baby alone all night) * infidelity (one of the two central couples goes through a painful divorce, involving children, shared friends, etc.) * cancer (one of central characters has a long battle with cancer) * infertility * AIDS * unemployment * loneliness (at one point two of the characters get into a video-dating service together) * academic politics And probably a bunch of other things I haven't thought of.

Despite being about "ordinary lives" in a way that only sitcoms such as Seinfeld even approach, it managed to be compelling, funny, and memorable. I was actually hooked sometime in the second season when I was channel surfing and listened to a snippet of conversation where one character referred to someone's behavior as being controlled by their "reptile brain" and realizing it was actually a show pitched at an intelligent audience.

Almost uniquely among American television shows, there were no doctors, lawyers, or policemen. The two central characters (Michael and Elliot) run a small ad agency which goes under. The central idea of the show, according to the two creators in an interview with Playboy (1989, I think) was that it would be about two friends who go into business together and the business fails. This is, perhaps, one of the central experiences of middle class life in the United States, and I don't think it's ever been dealt with in a TV series before or since.

And finally, Miles Drentel (David Clennon) is plays one of the most magnetically evil (insofar as anyone in this show was evil) characters in TV history.

Correction to the data on display: Gary (played by Peter Horton) died towards the end of the final season. He may have appeared in some flashbacks but he was not in every episode. (For that matter, I think not every character appears in every episode... but this is a total quibble.)
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9/10
ThirtySomething the "reality" before Reality TV
italianredneckgirl8 October 2016
Warning: Spoilers
While watching Children Of The Corn with my youngest daughter (I'm that kind of mom) I couldn't help but reflect on Peter Horton. He starts in this film. But, that's not where I first saw him. I was a huge fan of the drama, ThirtySomething. I was in my twenties when it aired and I watched faithfully. I was fully invested in Michael & Hope, Eliot & Nancy, and Melissa & Gary. I didn't really care foie Polly Draper's character Ellen. But I was in love Gary;just like everyone else tuning in. The handsome, unattached college professor of English lit was a well developed character that obviously was the inspiration for Mark Sloan on Grey' Anatomy several years later. Horton produced GA in 2005- 207. ThirtySomething was the predecessor to all the dramas we're all watching now. For the first time, a drama was based around nothing more than the ordinary lives of normal people. Opening the door for shows today. The reality was honest and spun truthfully;portraying the 80s lifestyle perfectly. Each character has their moment but none as significant as Gary's. All in all, a good series to watch and binge worthy for a rainy weekend.
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The best television series of my thirty something years!
Rosemea D.S. MacPherson9 September 1999
The much awarded television series was about Hope Murdoch Steadman played by Mel Harris (Something So Right) and her husband, Michael Steadman, played by Ken Olin (L.A. Doctors), and their relationships: as a couple, family, friends, at work, and at their place of worship. A series about the relationships of people in their home, school, and society as a whole. The best television series of my adulthood! Television can be a wonderful media if people with brains like this group can get hold of it and do great work.. My husband and I watched it, his boss and his wife watched. It was a great show even for book worms like us! We who were thirty something and could identify with the characters. The show had very good role models. If you take the time to read about it, you can see that they had directors such as Timothy Busfield, Mel Harris, Marshall Herskovitz, Peter Horton, Melanie Mayron, Ken Olin, and brilliant Oscar winner actor Gary Sinise (Forest Gump). What an ingenious group of people. Then the series was just taken off the air by someone obviously not brilliant, which made us all really mad!

There had not been a drama series so well written since then. Thanks to Paul Reiser (The Story of Us) and Helen Hunt (As Good as it Gets) we had the privilege of watching some similar relationships on TV in their comedy Mad About You. Good series like those are hard to come by. I would love to tell more about the rest of the cast, but there are no time and space here. Perhaps one day it will run in syndication in reasonable hours and please do yourself a favor: Watch It! I would record the entire series and watch it over and over! Favorite Episodes: Thanksgiving Dinner; Melissa getting her work in a art show. Less liked episodes: Gary Shepherd played by Peter Horton, dying in a car accident. The series' most shocking scenes! I can still remember when Michael goes to the morgue to identify him. I remember it so vividly after all those years. Those last episodes of the show when Elliot Weston, Timothy Busfield (Quiz Show ) was finally beginning to be a responsible husband because his wife, Nancy Weston, Patricia Wettig (L.A. Doctor) had cancer. Favorite Scenes: Elliot and Michael playing basketball at their creative room in their advertising agency.
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Best series ever
bollacs28 May 2001
This was one of the first series I watched on TV. It has never been on air in Hungary but I could watch it on German TV. I was maybe 15 then but I can still remember it well. I think I will never forget when Gary died... Now I was just searching imdb looking for Peter Horton who I adore since then, and all the memories came alive.
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best series in tv history
UtahCJD13 September 1999
This is a series that started out good, and only got better! wow! The cast working together so well the way they did made it even better. Everyone fit together so nicely, and it went so well. I have this on tape and I wish I could buy it on permanent tape. So many fav episodes! wonderful series! Love it!
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