I was in my late twenties when this American drama came into my life.
A group of friends who hang out together a lot; it’s quite a well worn basis of a TV show but in my mind, there has never been anything quite like it. In my twenties and even earlier, this is what I imagined my life to be like when I reached my thirties. And it was.
The couple the show is centred on Michael (Ken Olin) and Hope (Mel Harris) have a young baby. Hope (I still love that name) has given up her magazine job to take care of Jane whilst Michael opens an advertising agency with his creative partner, Elliott.
Hope & Michael seem like an idyllic match but still have their fair share of ‘I gave up my career to look after your baby’ arguments. My boyfriend and I had got together when the film ‘About Last Night’ was released and I watched ‘Thirty Something’ when we were getting ready to be married. In my mind, the characters from the film (played by Rob Lowe & Demi Moore) morphed into Hope and Michael.
I’m at odds as to whether I wanted to be Hope – but without baby and with career because I secretly preferred the life of Melissa (Melanie Mayron). This sassy, not traditionally beautiful but kooky freelance photographer is Michael’s single cousin. So it’s not surprising that I work out I am not the marrying kind and I divorce after an eight year relationship.
Melissa has a crush on Gary (Peter Horton), her cousin’s token, male single friend. We always hoped they’d get together to make up the neat sextet and they do for a while but Gary ends up having a baby with an altogether less fitting woman, Susannah. And then they were eight. Until Gary dies in a traffic accident. No-one saw that coming to end the series.
So that just leaves Michael’s creative partner, Elliot (Timothy Busfield) and his wife Nancy (Patricia Wettig) who works as a freelance illustrator whilst raising their 2 children. This couple has problems right from the off and finally separate, a situation bought on somewhat by Nancy’s cancer and by the Michael and Elliot agency going under.
At this point, they both get a job with their rival agency working for an underhand, sleazy boss they despise. This doesn’t stop Michael’s rise to management so we watch as Elliot’s resentment drives him towards his dream; to being a movie director. Well directing commercials, anyway.
But this is the gloom, the upsides are when Gary & Melissa do get together, when the group finally accept the mother of his child, when Hope decides not to have an affair whilst at the same time being offered a job to resume her career. In a drama like this, of course there were many happy times around the dinner table.
I’ve written all this and completely forgotten about the 7th character, the irritatingly wispy- voiced Ellyn, best friend of Hope.
In my mind, ‘Thirty Something’ is only knocked of its ‘best drama in my lifetime’ perch when ‘West Wing’ starts, a short lived but faultless series.
I mention this because when ‘West Wing’ finished, the makers split up to make two programmes; Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip which I was surprised to like but was equally short lived and Brothers and Sisters which I dislike but still watch occasionally. Why? Partly because Rob Lowe was on it but also, once again, it’s a continuation of the Hope & Michael story, even with some of the same actors. Patricia Wettig stars whilst Ken Olin makes guest appearances in between directing. In addition, while researching for this I find out he has also directed episodes of the West Wing.
So that’s my 20s and 30s covered I look forward to seeing what will be the defining series of my forties.
Stop Press: For those in the UK, ‘Thirty Something’ is currently being repeated on the new Sky Atlantic channel. I’m much more excited about that than the rest of the star studded, new dramas that have been hyped.