thirtysomething: The Complete First Season

thirtysomething: The Complete First Season
Not every television show manages to work its way into the pop culture vocabulary of even those not watching it, let alone warrant a dictionary entry, but that is exactly what thirtysomething did. Debuting back in 1987, it told the story of a group of friends in a way that was unique. Instead of being driven by an obvious storyline, it documented their lives as normal day-to-day stuff happened — ordinary stuff, complete with angst, tears, anguish, self-examination and lots of talking about it all. At the centre of it are Michael and Hope Steadman (played by Ken Olin and Mel Harris), an apparently idyllic couple dealing with a new baby. Elliot Weston (Timothy Busfield), Michael's business partner, and his wife Nancy (Patricia Wettig) are at the opposite end of the spectrum with their disintegrating marriage, plus there are a trio of single friends (Gary, Melissa and Ellyn) rounding out the ensemble. It wasn't the huge hit that some people might remember but it was one of the first demographic hits, in that the most desirable group of people were watching it — the 30somethings — and advertisers loved that. That led to it being tagged as a yuppie show, which brought with it a certain amount of disdain and ridicule. Yet it managed to stick around for four seasons and it went on to influence shows like My So-Called Life, Friday Night Lights, Brothers and Sisters and many other inward-gazing family dramas. The show has stood the test of time better than most from that era, hinting that the writing was always special. Considering how many shows it has influenced, it's hard to watch it without noticing shots and tricks that have been stolen by every drama since. But most of all, you end up caring about the characters because they are so relatable and the situations relevant. That was the real strength of thirtysomething: everybody could see a little of themselves in at least one character and it was hard not to get pulled in because it felt like your life, and it still does. thirtysomething: The Complete First Season is TV on DVD done right. All the original music used in the show is still intact and the picture looks cleaner and sharper than ever. The extras are just as impressive, with commentary tracks on nine episodes featuring cast members, writers and directors. Most are insightful, apart from the inevitable multiple comments about the clothes and hair, with the ensemble ones being more fun and enjoyable. The solo commentary tracks are very informative but a bit dry. The main extra is an exhaustive two-hour documentary that covers all aspects of the show, from the origins right through to the cultural impact the show had. It also gives viewers the chance to catch up with the cast now that they are all 50something and have had a chance to reflect on their time on the show over the past 20 years. It more than makes up for the lack of deleted scenes or the other more typical features. (Shout! Factory)