by Meredith O'Brien
It began and ended with a mother’s angst about being apart from her child for a whole weekend. The first time she tried to accomplish this feat, her daughter was 7 months old and still breast-feeding. The plans were that she’d go camping with her husband Michael, his best friend Gary and Michael’s cousin Melissa. But, at the last minute, she got cold feet and Michael, usually pretty sensitive and in touch with his feminine side, was steamed, worried that their sex life was circling the drain, sacrificed at the altar of parenthood. It just wasn’t the right time for her to do this, Hope said. She wasn’t ready.
However by the 21st episode of the Emmy winning, freshman 1987-88 season of thirtysomething, Hope Steadman was able to (reluctantly) leave her daughter -- by now, a toddler -- with a close friend and go on a weekend escape with Michael at a romantic seaside hotel, their first such trip since becoming parents. Hope finally loosened up and dealt with her guilt about enjoying solo time with her husband. She even resisted the urge to race home after her friend Ellyn, who was watching Janey Steadman, panicked when Janey got a rash and raced the tot to the Emergency Room.
After a long, long wait, fans of the TV show thirtysomething can finally revisit the Steadmans’ Philadelphia home with its peeling wallpaper, beat-up woodwork and exposed bathroom plumbing, and watch Hope and Michael come to terms with the impact that having their first child had on their lives, as the first season DVD has finally been released. I spent hours watching the 21 episodes on the DVD set and was fascinated by not only how much the episodes have held up in a world that’s gone beyond typewriters, rotary phones and vinyl albums, but by the DVD extras, which include audio commentaries for nine episodes and six documentary-style interviews with the co-creators, actors and staffers which offer up interesting bits of trivia, like the fact that ABC originally wanted the show called Grown-Ups because executives hated the title thirtysomething, and that execs had also complained that the first few episodes were too tonally dark.
When Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick created the show, they were thirtysomething years old themselves and preoccupied with what they saw as the contradictions of their Baby Boomer lives: “You want to be free, but you want money. You want to be single, but you want to be in a relationship. You want to please the client, but you want to have integrity.” They said they tapped both their own veins and those of their friends for intimate, real material about their lives in order to present authentic, insightful, honest and sometimes unflattering portraits of lives of urban, professional thirtysomethings in the mid-1980s. As a result, thirtysomething was one of the first “television series to explore what’s actually inside the heads of people in all of those suburban houses that we see all over the place,” said Syracuse University pop culture professor Robert J. Thompson in one of the DVD special features.