Saturday, 5 February 2011

Retro TV: thirtysomething

I remember when thirtysomething set the screens alight in the late 80s and it was all everyone was talking about. I was in my (cough) late teens at the time and their lives did seem a distance from mine and quite suburban. Due to my part time job at good ole Marks & Spencer I was unable to catch the show and only began watching bits of the last series. However my best mate at the time was a real fan and kept me updated on what was going on. thirtysomething was the sort of groundbrealong show that made it's mark and stood out amongst other shows in its era. Think of  I Love Lucy in the 50s, The Avengers in the 60s, The Odd Couple in the 70s, LA Law in the 80s, ER in the 90s and Mad Men in the noughties. Well thirtysomething was right up there in the mix.
The show was set in Philadelphia and was about a group of baby boomers (advertising phrase for people born in the 50s and 60s) who were in their late 30s and settling down to marriage, babies, careers and mortgages. Like the name the show really encompassed the fears that the characters faced while leaving the carefree years of their 20s behind and moving into a new era of responsibility and commitment. The characters comprised of Micheal and Hope Steedman played by Ken Olin and Mel Smith who had just welcomed the birth of their daughter. Michael owned his own advertising business and Hope was a writer who was now a stay at home mum. Elliot and Nancy Weston were played by Timothy Busfield and Patricia Wettig. Elliot was Michael's business partner and Nancy was a former artist who had given up her career to raise their two kids. Gary Shepherd played by Peter Horton was Michael"s best friend and free spirited lecturer who embarked on a relationship with Melissa played by Melanie Mayron, an angst ridden photographer. Ellyn Warren played by Polly Draper was Hope's best friend who was career driven and relationship hapless. The show dealt with issues such as infidelity, cancer, death, marriage and break ups.
Like LA Law the show really was a representation of yuppie culture in the 80s but while the successful law show had a conservative, Reagan(esq) feel to it, thirtysomething really tapped into the Liberalism movement of that time. It also dealt with the changing expectations from men and women and the birth of second-wave feminism. thirtysomething broke many barriers; it was the first show to introduce an hour long drama based on the personal and professional lives of a group of friends. The show has been extremely influential on other programmes such as Friends, Cold Feet and Brothers and Sisters. It was created by Edward Zwick who directed films such as About Last Night, Blood Diamond and Love and Other Drugs. Also noticeable was the fashion which was very laid back preppy style with the characters seen in high waisted jeans, shoulder pads, braces, over sized shirts and sweaters topped with loafers. The hair was all about volume with bobs and flicks. Anyway I am glad it is back on the small screen so I can finally catch up with it.

thirtysomething airs on Sky Atlantic during weekdays at 10.00am and 3.00pm.

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