[Originally posted on February 24th, 2010.]

[Ed. note: In the New York Times a couple weeksmonths ago, there was an article about the much-anticipated DVD release of thirtysomething, a "groundbreaking" (not my word) television drama from the late '80s. By most measures, the show was not a huge success (according to that article, its highest ratings were during the first 15 minutes of a premiere), but it was a critical darling, and "thirtysomething" is now a word in the dictionary. But most importantly: when it came out, as far as I was concerned, it was a stupid-boring show for old people. Except that now I am one of those old people. And so, out of some misguided sense of curiosity, over the next few weeks, I will be recapping the first season of thirtysomething here. 20092010, you guys. Anything can happen. There is no spoon.]

Now, I know that thirtysomething is not Lost. For better or for worse, this subtle (and sometimes not very subtle whatsoever) drama about middle and upper-middle-class white people struggling with how hard it is to be an adult (the classic narrative conflict of man vs. mortgages!) has different goals and isn’t going to involve any JJ Abrams-paranormality (although that doesn’t seem entirely impossible. The dude DID write Regarding Henry after all…) or whatever, but a season finale is still a season finale. It is incredible to me that after 22 episodes of this clown show, absolutely nothing happened. Nothing. And the season finale proved just how much nothing. The finale was just like every other episode in that it featured some mild existential crises, and some minor self-realizations, but they were introduced at the beginning and worked out (kind of) by the end, with no connection to anything that had come before them. There were no outstanding plotlines we hoped to have resolved. There was no resolution because there was nothing to resolve. It is a zero sum game as far as dramatic stakes are concerned. This show spent months and months building nothing into nothing. Congrats? I hope that at the wrap party for this season, they just had a blank white cake with no decorations on it and in frosting it said “Oh well.” Just kidding. They do not deserve any cake for this.

Anyway, Hope and Michael have scheduled a romantic getaway to a bed and breakfast. Nancy is going to take care of baby Janie, and Ellyn and her new boyfriend, Draco Malfoy, are going to housesit. Michael has bought a bottle of champagne and some lingerie. Look at this guy:

That is him showing the lingerie to Nancy and Hope. Cool friendship. If I were Nancy and this happened to me, I would rescind my offer to babysit. When I do someone a favor, the least that I ask in return is respect for my eyes and imagination. Ellyn and Draco come over so Hope and Michael can tell them any last minute important information about taking care of the house before they leave. “Pro-tip: don’t burn it down, please.” Or actually, more like, “Pro-tip: don’t fuck it down, please.” Everyone seems to be aware that Ellyn and Draco have some kind of big Sex Weekend planned. I mean, fair enough, I guess, but also gross, everyone. Speaking of gross, that is not a responsible adult-and-respectful friend’s house sitting outfit, Ellyn.

Within minutes of Hope and Michael leaving, Ellyn and Draco start snooping around the house. And when I mean snooping, I mean CRIMINAL SNOOPING. Like, OK, Draco takes out a leather jacket from the closet and asks “who’s got the leather fetish?” and Ellyn is like “that would be Michael, he loves leather jackets,” and Draco says, “I bet Michael’s got a lot of wild stuff.” Huh? “Wild stuff”? Really? Based on what? His predilection to wear sweatpants, or his love of jeans without belts? But that is normal enough snooping. Closets: ACCEPTABLE. But then Ellyn sits down and goes through their home financing paperwork and discovers that Hope’s parents made the down payment on their house. Banking Paperwork: UNACCEPTABLE. Later they go through a shoebox of old photos and letters.

Seriously? Nevermind, I take back what I said earlier, burn the house down, just make sure to lock yourselves inside first. But uh oh, Snoop Time is over, because here comes Nancy with Baby Janie!

Nancy is sick, so the lovebirds have to take care of the baby. Oh no! Now they cannot have a disgusting weekend of Network Television Approved Sexual Suggestions. Also, Nancy’s sick kids are hilarious.

I hope that Social Services wasn’t watching this episode! This show had an amazing special effects artist because those kids look disgusting.

Having a crying baby that won’t shut up has definitely put a damper on the knife play. But even more than the crying is the part where the baby gets a rash because Ellyn and Draco tried to bathe it with dishsoap (ummm) and they take it to the hospital and the hospital is forced to call the parents, and so naturally Hope starts freaking out because Hopes will be Hopes. Michael doesn’t seem to care. He’s like, look, if I don’t get it wet this weekend, I’m going to throw that baby in the garbage anyway, so we might as well get it wet and hope that Ellyn and Draco don’t throw it in the garbage.

So, at this point you may have noticed that this is the season finale of a major network television show, and the two storylines are about a couple taking a fucking weekend vacation from their baby, and another couple that we really have no reason to even care about struggle to decide if they are ready to “get serious.” Perfect. I wish this episode was SUPERSIZED, but I don’t think they had supersizing in the ’80s, and also no I don’t. I’m more like:

Something happens. I mean, nothing happens. But something happens where Ellyn and Draco are, like, grouchy with each other. It’s the season finale, so obviously emotions are elevated. Very grouchy. He goes out for a bike ride and ends up biking into Michael’s friend Gary and the two of them have a hilarious bike ride together because a) all the audio is overdubbed, and b) they are biking too fast, why are they biking so fast? I’d upload the clip and let you see it, but I know that you don’t care. In any case, Draco is biking for hours, and Ellyn figures that this means they’re broken up. But she should have known he was going to be biking for awhile when she saw his Biking Hair.

He comes back to the house and Ellyn basically breaks up with him, but then he won’t let her, and he talks about loving her and moving in, and so, in dramatic conclusion…they don’t break up. And I guess the dramatic conclusion to the Hope and Michael plotline is that they SPOILER ALERT both got some sleep at the bed and breakfast where they spent a weekend. Back in 1988, people proabably spent all summer wondering how these issues would ever be resolved in season two (season two!). It could not come fast enough! “Don’t you wish there was a pill you could take that would make you go to sleep until season two of thirtysomething started?” someone probably said back then.

But as far as Videogum is concerned, we will never know, because we are done here.

[Originally posted on February 24th, 2010.]

Comments (12)
  1. where can i get those shorts?

  2. A year or so ago, I found these recaps and thought, “Hey, I’m going to watch this show so I can enjoy the recaps to their fullest.” I could not get through the first episode. Buck up, guys!!!

    • Same here. I think some other site (The Awl?) had around the same time posted a paean to the show. Ugh it is beyond boring.

  3. I like to imagine that somewhere, Gabe quietly finished the entire series and wrote recaps to be released upon his death. That hope is the only thing that gets me out of bed in the morning.

  4. You know a show is bad when even the title gets bored and distracted halfway through.

  5. I love this recap. I remember watching this show as a youngster with my mom; it might be the first show I ever hate-watched. Michael and Hope were so whiney and depressed, acting like every little decision was a meteor threatening the Earth. They’d seriously go into a meltdown of halted speech and gloomy stares over what color to paint the study, Extra Beige or Dull White. I remember saying “They’re not gonna make it, are they?” and my mom saying probably not but you never know, because it’s TV. I did like the fun-loving lit professor with long hair (who they killed off, because that’s life), and Ellyn, because her voice was sexy and she always wore pants hiked up to highlight the existence of her crotch. But this was a terrible show about terrible people.

  6. Ken Olin was the reason I watched that show. That picture of him in the towel reminds me again of how big of a crush I had on him. I hated hope for this reason and I LOVED Melanie. Now it all makes sense.

  7. Thirty was the new 60 though. In 25 more years we’ll totally get this show.

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