w e l c o m e
... After all this time, we've come to feel like hosts at a party that refuses to end. As it's worn on, secrets have been spilled, and confidences shared, and we all have to be at work in the morning. But there's still some wine left, and a little cold pizza, and you can sleep on the couch if you want to ...
MARSHALL HERSKOVITZ and EDWARD ZWICK
. . .
It has been several years now since production wrapped on the final episode of "thirtysomething", much to the chagrin and vehement protest of its legions of devoted viewers. Comprised of more than eighty episodes spanning four seasons (from 1987/88 to 1990/91), the show's demise marked not only the end of a decade but also of a cultural era in American society -- the infamous Eighties. And "thirtysomething" is unquestionably a contextual artifact of that time, giving us not only a new demographic term to apply to upwardly-mobile members of the 'baby-boom' generation who were now at the threshold of social responsibility, but also a convenient point of reference for another somewhat synonymous term (albeit perhaps misapplied) which became an iconographic phenomenon of the time -- that much-maligned anti-hero of the Eighties -- the "yuppie". Is "thirtysomething" 'dated'? In some respects, yes -- but nevertheless, the legacy of this remarkable drama will undoubtedly continue to live on well into the new millennium.
There are precious few examples of American television which exhibit the level of depth and sincerity that were the unwavering trademarks of "thirtysomething". It was a first effort in episodic TV for the creative team of Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick (who have since brought us "My So Called Life", among other things) and it featured a superlative ensemble cast (including Ken Olin, Tim Busfield, Mel Harris, Patricia Wettig, Peter Horton, Polly Draper, and Melanie Mayron, several of whom occasionally doubled as directors during the show's run). When describing the show to friends who are not familiar with it, I often summarize it as a 'thinking-person's soap-opera'. And while this analogy may not quite do it the justice it deserves, it does allude to the profoundly addictive nature of its character-driven drama. When you begin to watch "thirtysomething", you literally become involved in the lives of the people it is about. You start to care about them like friends. Granted, the subject-matter of the show speaks primarily to a limited ethnic and socio-economic sector of the viewing public, but even so, the potential for identification with some measure of its themes and issues is virtually universal. Thus, while our heroes are not typically wrestling with poverty or racism, they are nonetheless often facing events which most of us have faced (or will have to face) at one time or another, and inevitably persevering. This life-affirming quality is at the core of the "thirtysomething" appeal, and -- like a favorite film -- it is what draws ardent fans to watch the same classic episodes again and again, delighting each time as though it were the first.
Virtually every element that went into the making of "thirtysomething" was magnificently crafted and sustained throughout the production. In complementary addition to the thought-provoking writing and award-winning performances, the show also excelled on it's technical merits as well. From Brandy Alexander's wonderfully detailed and evocative production design to Kenneth Zunder's brilliantly warm and naturalistic photography -- right down to the affirmingly upbeat and catchy main title theme by W.G. Snuffy Walden and Stewart Levin -- the creators seem to have hit all their marks in putting together an American television drama of as-yet unsurpassed substance and harmony. "thirtysomething" is simply one of those rare and unmistakable gestalts that makes you feel as though they just plain got it right.
1 December, 1996
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