Thirtysomething: Accounts Receivable

[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.]

Remember last week when Michael’s dad got sick so Michael and Hope invited him to come live with them? Well he died. When Michael gets the phone call, he can’t help but remember all of the incredible memories he shared with his father, from his being in the hospital last week, to his coming to live with Hope and Michael.

What a life he led! it is sad that he is gone, but we will always have these two memories of him.

Michael goes home to begin planning for his father’s funeral. He has to call his mom and break the sad news. “Mom, dad died. You remember dad, right? I know that you weren’t at the hospital last week, or at our house when he moved in last week, but search your mind, maybe there’s a memory of him that we’re not remembering.” And he has to pick up his brother from the airport. And now all the pipes in the house are making noise and they need to get them replaced. It really is like they always say, on-going plotlines about a bourgeois couple’s attempts to renovate their first home are for the living!

Michael goes to pick his brother up from the airport, but he’s not there. Classic Michael’s brother who we haven’t heard of until just now! Michael begins to tell some of his classic stories about his younger brother and everyone is just cracking up so much. Some might say too much?

His brother walks in and is like “I am so sorry about the airport.” What? Apparently I need to read a book about how human beings traveled in the 1980s, because personally, when I plan an airplane trip, there aren’t a lot of Plan B’s. “Sorry, bro, sometimes you just have to go with the flow.” What flow? You mean the flow of people through the security line? You mean the flow of baggage around the carousel?

Then they get drunk.

I love how this show is so intent on showing life how it REALLY IS, or whatever, but their idea of two brothers getting drunk in memory of their recently deceased father involves lying Charlie and the Chocolate Factory style on a couch. “Oh man, I am so wasted right now. Remember dad?” “That is a low blow, Michael. I haven’t seen dad in two weeks, how do you expect me to remember him?” The next day, the brothers have to pick up their dad’s body from the hospital, but when Michael wakes up in the morning, his brother ISN’T THERE. Classic brother. So classic. He shows up and apologizes but is like “you know how business is.” Oh, totally. Business! Why didn’t you just say business in the first place. Michael gives him a forgiveness noogie and they go coffin shopping.

As with most coffin-shopping trips, there are a lot of jokes about the killer coffin apps (one of the coffins has a “built in Dustbuster,” which, for those of you too young to remember the ’80s, Dustbusters were basically the iPhones of the time) but then things get pretty serious. And the talk turns, as it so often does in these situations, to the topic of Bar Mitzvahs. Yikes.

Meanwhile, Michael meets with one of his father’s former business partners in a sauna. Again, you know how business is.

He suggests that Michael take a look at the books of his dad’s business when he gets to Chicago. But when he tells Wally that he wants to look at the books, Wally gets mad, because Michael has never shown interest in the business before while Wally is actually working there. Fair enough. But when Michael does look at the books, he realizes that the business is completely insolvent, and they have no choice but to sell it off and cut their losses. This, naturally, causes a pretty big fight between the brothers Steadman.

The thing is, though, bad loans and lack of capital aside, the Steadman family has been in the garment business for 40 years:

“Hi, I know you make knits, but do you also make casuals? You do? Great!”

And yet this is the type of sweater they are making?

Yikes. The only thing worse than the restrictive loan structuring that completely destabilized the cash flow are THE FALL-LINE OF SWEATERS, am I right?!


Michael has really had it with his younger brother, but his mom is like “stop really having had it with your younger brother,” and Michael realizes that maybe she’s right. Michael’s brother has had a much harder time of it, we are told. He spent all his life trying to regain his dad’s love after he left the family, whereas Michael took that love for granted because he grew up with it, and left the house before it disappeared. And now Wally has lost his father AND his job. But Michael goes up to their old childhood room, where Wally is pouting, like a man, and tells him that if they split the money from dad’s defunct business, there is not much (although one assumes that there would be a bright new shiny set of HOUSE PIPES for a certain someone’s FIXER-UPPER) but if Wally takes all of it, he can go back to architecture school, because that is what brothers are for! Awww.

Also haha.

I mean, that is nice of Michael, or whatever, but as we all know, architecture (and advertising) are the two most common ways in which to express that a character is “creative.” This isn’t just some regular boring guy! He is interesting! (See also: 500 Days of Summer, How I Met Your Mother, The Lake House, Three Men and a Baby, Click, My Super Ex-Girlfriend, Butterfly Effect, Sleepless in Seattle, The Last Kiss, etc.)

Good luck, you special snowflake!