thirtysomething: I’ll Be Home For Christmas

[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.]

It is Christmas, and you know what that means: MIST! Hope is pulling out the old Chirstmas ornaments and apparently all the lights in the house are broken, and also she needs to crack a window before she dies of mist inhalation.

What is all that mist? It’s everywhere! At Michael’s advertising agency?


At the job site for one of Michael’s advertising agency’s clients?


Even in the shower!


Last week, Hope was freaking out, which means this week it is Michael’s turn to freak out. So he freaks out about tons of stuff. He freaks out because Hope wants to celebrate Christmas and he wants to celebrate Hannukah. Kind of? He doesn’t go to synagogue and he isn’t particularly religious, but what else is he going to pout about for an hour? Work? OK, but they’re not mutually exclusive! He can pout about Christmas and work AT THE SAME TIME.

Michael has hired his cousin, Melissa, to do some photography. He doesn’t give her any notice and he doesn’t give her very much money because he knows that she needs the work. She does, but she is also resentful about all this! Although, not so resentful that she doesn’t KISS HIM ON THE MOUTH?

What kind of cousins are these? And do not say “kissing cousins.” Although, I guess it makes sense that Melissa kisses Michael on the mouth, since clearly she is obsessed with him?

That is too many close up photos of your cousin’s face, Melissa.

Melissa goes to the job for Michael’s agency, and takes photos like a professional photographer.

That’s how you do it. David LaChapelle over here (I know a lot about famous photographers, that is how I am able to so quickly name the best one there is). Seriously, watching Melissa take photos makes me want to barf. Although listening to Melissa talk about photos also makes me want to barf. Like, she’s at a freelance job (taking photos of a new mother in a hospital? Do people hire photographers for that? Because they should stop) and she meets a Very Famous Photographer. He agrees to have coffee with her at Mistbucks, the Cafe for Mist Lovers.

They probably have to shout at each other the mist is so thick in there. Melissa likes it, though, because it’s more flattering.

She tells the Very Famous Photographer that one thing she never liked about photos is that they never explained where the people were coming from to get to the moment when the picture was taken. Huh? You mean like a movies? Maybe you should be a moviegrapher, Melissa. Because you are talking about movies. Later, she will tell Hope that she feels like she knows the photographer “here” and she will point at the bridge of her nose, between her eyes. I wish she would jump OFF a different kind of bridge if you know what I mean (suicide).

The Very Famous Photographer comes over to Melissa’s house to look at her work. He is like “could you turn the mist down?”

He can barely see the photos through all the mist in Melissa’s apartment, so he invites her to his hotel. Not that it’s any better there. “I’m staying in room 5 at the Mist and Breakfast.”

He tries to hit on her and she runs away. She runs all the way to Michael’s office to yell at him. You see, Michael has been giving her a very hard time about being a photographer. He didn’t like the first photos she took of the pregnant aerobics class (long story, don’t ask) so he made her take more boring photos, even though she is an artist. Then she left the negatives for the boring photos in the Mist Inn, so now he is really mad. But she is mad too! Why can’t Micahel be supportive of her? Why does he always have to put her down? Why can’t Michael express anger in front of black people?

Michael’s friend, and Melissa’s ex-boyfriend, Gary Shepard, tells Michael that maybe the reason he’s always so hard on Melissa is because she’s living the creative life that he abandoned for the more lucrative world of advertising. Maybe. And maybe Michael is Melissa’s employer and she needs to work to meet his requirements. I mean, I don’t understand a lot of Melissa’s problems in this episode. She is clearly able to afford a pretty decent loft apartment on her freelance income? Sure, she is not the Ansel Adams she dreams of being, but she’s still doing what she loves for a living. So maybe she should relax. (I also don’t understand why she is Michael’s Jewish cousin but she has a hipster Christmas tree.)

In counter-point, Michael argues that what he is doing may not be “Melville,” but it is still very creative. Huh? May not be Melville? The writer? Because no, making brochures for pregnant aerobics is not Melville. I don’t think anyone says that, though? “Advertising! I guess it’s creative, but it’s not Melville.” I also like that Melville is still the go-to reference for living the dream life of creative fulfillment.

Michael stops to think about it, though, and realizes that maybe he is hard on Melissa because she is pursuing her dreams and he is stuck in an office filled entirely with MIST. Although, Michael should be used to it, it seems there was never a time in his life when it as not very very misty.

So Michael takes Melissa’s work to the one art gallery in town. Because you know how art galleries cannot wait for a stranger with no connection to the art world to walk in off the street int the middle of the night with a portfolio of his cousin’s work? That’s how Andy Warhol and Herman Melville both got their start.

Michael also decides to stop being such an asshole about Christmas. He gives his staff the rest of the holidays off, and he buys a tree on his way home. He asks Gary Shepard to wait out in the car so that he can surprise Hope with the tree, but when he gets inside she is standing with a menorah, waiting for him to light the Sacred Hannukah Candles on the Holiest Night of the Year (not the holiest night of the year).

They light the candles in the proper ABSOLUTE SILENCE, and then Micahel asks where Hope got the menorah (because of how in the ’80s you could only get menorahs on the black market) and she motions with her head…

…to Melissa who has been standing in the corner the whole time? Silently? Like The Strangers or some shit?

Jesus Christ, Melissa. I also like that the menorah was her gift to Michael for showing her photos at the gallery? Nice gift, weirdo. Then they all hug and probably have a threesome.

What a bunch of CREEPS! Meanwhile, Gary Shepard brings the Christmas tree onto the porch and leaves it there and disappears into the night because Michael FORGOT HIM IN THE CAR. What an asshole!

This part of the episode was pretty great, though:

Kids make paper machine guns for Santa the darndest things.