thirtysomething: Third Time Definitely a Charm.

by Meredith O’Brien


After I wrote up my suggestions as to what new TV fare could entertain you this summer, I spent some quality time watching the newly released thirtysomething season three DVD set and thoroughly enjoyed myself. If you’re looking to delve into some meaty, moving meditations on what careers, parenthood, sexual malaise and cancer can do to a marriage, I heartily recommend you spend some time with Hope, Michael, Elliot and Nancy.


This was the 1989/90 season of thirtysomething where Michael got a big promotion at the ad agency, Hope got pregnant with baby number two (after having had a miscarriage in the second season) and flirted with a man with whom she was working, where Gary and Susannah had a baby and where Nancy Weston learned she had ovarian cancer soon after she let Elliot move back into the house. And, I’ve got to tell you, while watching this emotionally raw season, I personally gleaned loads of insight from these episodes with their stands-the-test-of-time observations about life in the ‘burbs.


Take, for example, what happened with the show’s central couple, Hope and Michael Steadman. They had two rather difficult episodes which suggested that all wasn’t necessarily well on the home front. The first was called “Love and Sex” in which Hope and Michael struggled with their unnerving realizations that they weren’t as sexually attracted to one another as they used to be and missed that spark, that intense emotional connection they used to have. Everyday life -- attending to the demands of a toddler, trying to get pregnant with a second child and having two careers – sapped their desire for one another and made them fret that the other had “checked out” of the marriage.


In another episode, they traveled to Arizona to attend Hope’s parents 40th anniversary party and were gripped with fear that they were slipping away from one another, that Michael was being swallowed up by his work – which Hope was convinced had permanently changed him as he was becoming more “corporate” – and that Hope, pregnant with their second baby, was becoming emotionally connected to a man with whom she was working on an environmental project who’d kissed her. The two clashed over how much of a toll his executive-level job was taking on their family and marriage, while Hope, feeling the need to assert herself and her needs, openly toyed with taking a job in another city because she didn’t want Michael’s job to dictate their entire lives. They confided in one another that they worried they wouldn’t make it to their own 40th wedding anniversary.