thirtysomething: South By Southeast

[Ed. note: In the New York Times a couple weeks 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. 2009, you guys. Anything can happen. There is no spoon.]

The first few moments of this week’s episode feature a woman lying face-down on a bed as sinister dialog from an old Hitchcock movie plays in the background. Oh no, is the woman dead? Of course not. It’s fucking thirtysomething. The camera pans over the bed to the TV where Dial M for Murder is playing, and then follows a coiled telephone cord to Gary Shepard huddled in the corner. It’s five in the morning. He calls Michael as dramatic music swells in the background. Michael answers the phone in a panic. “I’ve done something terrible,” Gary says. Oh no, did he kill that woman? Of course not. This is fucking thirtysomething, duh. “You’ve gotta help me, Michael,” Gary says, “I’ve fallen in love!” UGHHHHHHHHHHH.


And thus we begin what is easily the worst episode of this already-teetering-on-the-brink-of-terrible show. The whole thing is supposed to be an homage to Hitchcock, as if the world needs to wake up to the genius of Hitchcock because no one knows who he is, with the trademark thirtysomething focus on the middling problems of the petite (more like petty!) bourgeoisie. Music is constantly swelling, the camera is constantly moving in on frightened faces, and I am constantly BARFING.

So the “dead” woman wakes up and it turns out she is not the woman that Gary has fallen in love with, she is just a married woman that he slept with, which is how he realized that he was in love.

He tells everyone about how he is in love now, the way one does. You know when you fall in love so you go over to your friend’s house and pace back and forth and give everyone a lecture about it. I bet his ex-girlfriend Melissa particularly enjoyed it. “Neat speech, Gary!” There is actually a line where Gary says something about commitment and then says “Hope, I said it! I said the c-word!” The c-word. Shut up, Gary. Remember in the ’80s when men not being able to “commit” was basically every plotline. It was either a plotline about fad dieting, or a plotline about men being unable to even say the word commitment. Good job, the ’80s. Elliott and Michael are like “you have to ask her the question!” Yikes! What could the question be? It was the ’80s, so the question is probably either “how feathered are your bangs right now?” or “do you have AIDS or do you at least know what it is?”

Nope! The question is: do you want to have dinner at my friends Hope and Michael’s house? Uh, nice try, thirtysomething. That’s not the question. That’s not even close to the question. This show is such a liar. Even Elliott’s tie is a lie.


Never happened.

Michael and Hope are like “I bet Gary is bringing over another stupid 18-year-old, you know how he is, always with the 18-year-olds and sometimes 20-year-olds.” But it turns out that the woman he loves is actually a smart and funny thirtysomething just like them! She owns her own art gallery! Would a 20-year-old own their own gallery? Come on. Dinner goes well, and Gary and Eve head back to his place to fuuuuuuuuuuck (seriously, they are so gross about it, it’s an innuendo nightmare) but when they walk in they discover Gary’s apartment has been ransacked and grafittied.

The rest of the episode plays out like a mystery. Except it’s not a mystery. It takes the Goof Troupe hours of speculation to determine that maybe it was the husband of the married woman Gary f’ed in the opening scene. So they break into his office (they break into his office!), and they stake out his house (they stake out his house!).

These are grown adults! With jobs! And wives! Some of them at least! And it turns out that it was the husband. But was it really? A psychology professor broke into another adult’s home and spray-painted “die” on his walls? He sent a dead rat with a note tied to its tail? No he didn’t. C’mon, thirtyson! This show is seriously the worst at lying, which is weird, because you think it would be good at it, since it does it all the time.

Eve finds out that Gary slept with the married woman during the time that they were dating, so she is mad. Gary has lost his love! Boo hoo, so sad! Gary has an anxiety dream, and it might be the worst thing I have ever seen on television.


“You guys should really check out Alfred Hitchcock. It’s weird that no one has ever heard of him.”

Gary goes to the psychology professor and confronts him, demanding that the psychology professor do his worst, and the psychology professor is like “I’m not going to kill you,” and Gary is like “you’re not?!” SHUT UP, THIS SHOW. Instead, the psychology professor has decided that Gary’s punishment is…a photograph of his wife? “Add this to your collection,” the psychology professor says, “since sleeping with people is the only thing you’re good at.” Is that supposed to be a diss? Man, diss technology has really advanced at an exponential rate since the late ’80s if that is actually supposed to be a diss.

Although, Gary does look hurt by this MEGA-DISS. He burnt? Weird.

In a last ditch attempt to work things out with Eve, he goes to her art gallery, and tells her that he knows he messed up and it is because he was scared of falling in love. She is like “now you’re not scared because I’m driving away in my BMW convertible.” She had a BMW convertible the whole time? Gary is an even bigger idiot than I thought, and I thought he was a very big idiot!