A while ago I bemoaned in this very space how very much I missed thirtysomething, the mid-1980s drama that is tragically unavailable on DVD and hasn’t aired on TV in many years. The TV series started as I commenced my college days and I’d never had a chance to watch it through a mother’s eyes. Main character Hope Steadman’s issues, I thought, would be all that much more meaningful to me now, as a mother of three kids who faces work-life struggles on a daily basis. However all I could do to relive the thirtysomething moments I vaguely remembered from when I was 18 was to read the compilation of a handful of scripts in the book thirtysomething stories, with introductions from the writers, and read fan sites on the web.
A few weeks ago, I was noodling around on YouTube and, on a whim, decided to search for thirtysomething videos and, like manna from heaven, found what I’d been looking for: Many episodes from the first season of thirtysomething had been uploaded in small chunks. In past YouTube searches, all I’d found were short clips, tantalizing little bits of the show devoid of context. Earlier this year and quite by accident, I was able to briefly satiate my desire to watch the third season of Once and Again -- a show created by the thirtysomething guys, Edward Zwick and Marshall Herkovitz, whose final season is likewise unavailable on DVD -- on YouTube, but some malcontent from the production company or the studio or wherever forced YouTube to take the episodes down. (If they’d just release the third season DVD, they wouldn’t have to worry about episodes being posted online. Fans would gladly PAY to get the DVDs, but I digress . . .)
Thanks to the kindness of someone who taped thirtysomething when repeats were airing on Lifetime and then uploaded the episodes, I have finally been able to see the first season of thirtysomething from my maternal perspective, 20 years after I first saw the show. (The kind, blessed soul who put the show on YouTube wrote, "Uploading [the episodes] to YouTube is my way of rewarding fans of the show who have missed it.")
And, as I expected, the experience of watching the show was completely different. Take, for example, the eighth episode entitled, "Weaning," which was about more than the Steadman’s 9-month-old weaning herself from breastfeeding. It chiefly had to do with Hope, a formerly career-focused researcher at an environmental magazine turned at-home mom, feeling the pull to return to the workforce. And, despite the shoulder pads and oversized blazers women wore in the 80s, Hope’s storyline couldn’t have been more contemporary. Not much is different now when a woman makes her employment choices (provided that it’s not a financial necessity for her family) than it was when this episode originally aired.