by Meredith O'Brien
“Just getting through counts for something, doesn’t it?” -- Hope Steadman
The second season of the late 1980s/early 1990s drama thirtysomething has just come out on DVD and, as with its first season, the tales of married suburbanite parents Hope and Michael Steadman, separated parents Nancy and Elliot Weston and their constellation of tightly-knit single friends still strongly resonate with Gen X parents, particularly when it comes to issue of parents and work.
One of the biggest storylines of thirtysomething’s sophomore season – Michael and Elliot’s small ad agency lost its biggest account as a result of a merger and, when Michael and Elliot couldn’t get a small business loan to cover their operating expenses, their company went belly-up -- could’ve been ripped from today’s headlines, if you can put aside the analog world of typewriters, phones with curly wires looping out of the telephone receivers, as well as the newfangled notion of fax machines. For several episodes, Michael and Elliot lived off their families’ savings accounts and their wives’ part-time incomes while sustaining repeated blows to their professional egos as they attempted to find work.
While Michael and Elliot eventually found well paying jobs as a creative team at a downtown Philadelphia ad agency – where they were required to keep long hours, which became another sore spot -- their wives started to blossom amid the ruins.
Take Hope, who started the season with a toddler, and was finally feeling confident that she’d figured out how to be a part-time environmental journalist and spend the kind of time she wanted to with her daughter, whom she’d placed in daycare part of the week. (The previous season, Hope was reluctant to even leave her baby with a sitter.) At the beginning of season two, however, the biggest conflict she had with her husband was over his desire to have another child and her vehement desire not to mess up the delicate balance she’d so recently struck in her life. “Do you know how good it feels to be back at work?” she asked her husband, saying that now people could stop criticizing her for “wasting her potential.” “. . . I feel like I’m finally taking charge of my destiny.”