By Amy Longsdorf
While John Hughes was defining the 1980’s for teenagers in the movies, Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz were doing the same thing for yuppie boomers on television with “thirtysomething,” which is finally receiving the deluxe boxed-set treatment. A lovingly packaged six-disc collection boasts all 21 original episodes from the first season as well as a 40-page book and hours of extras.
The series centers on seven Philadelphians (played by Mel Harris, Patricia Wettig, Timothy Busfield, Polly Draper, Ken Olin, Melanie Mayron, and Peter Horton) muddling through their well-appointed lives. It’s an Ikea-outfitted meditation on freedom, responsibility, infidelity, and mortality; in brief, the big stuff.
“thirtysomething” is best remembered for being an ensemble drama but the Steadmans (Olin and Harris) are front and center for some of the best episodes. Harris is particularly terrific on a show about how mothers can drive their daughters batty, and vice versa. Harris and guest star Shirley Knight are like emotional timebombs in their scenes together.
The series took a lot of grief for its whiny characters – and, yes, some of their laments are tiresome – but, at the same, Zwick and Herskovitz had the guts to allow silences to well up between friends and family members, just like in real life.
“Marshall and Ed took that risk of having moments go by and us not saying anything,” notes Harris on a commentary track. Adds Mayron, “The drama was [found] in the stuff of life, the little moments.” And indeed, looking back on this seminal show decades later, that still makes it a revolutionary way to run a television series. (1987, Shout Factory, unrated, $60),
Release Date: 8/25/09
Official Site: www.shoutfactory.com
Photos courtesy Shout Factory.
[Amy Longsdorf’s entertainment coverage has appeared in Blender, People, the Chicago Tribune, the Toronto Star and Newsday. She doesn’t want to imagine a world without Preston Sturges movies, Stax singles and the music of Bob Marley.]