thirtysomething: We Gather Together

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.]

Look, I don’t have any kids, so what do I know. Maybe when you have kids you forget that Thanksgiving is in three days. Is that true? I mean, I know that kids barf a lot and love filling up diapers and are crying experts, but do you seriously forget that Thanksgiving is in three days? Because you should be able to juggle at least those two things in your head at one time. I understand people of both sexes taking time off of work to focus on raising their children if they can afford to do so, and in a perfect world everyone would be able to afford to do so. I understand the many social and sleep sacrifices that people have to make. But you should really have the human capacity and mental fortitude to both raise a child and know that Thanksgiving is in three days.

NOT HOPE! She has forgotten completely that it is Thanksgiving in three days. She thought it was October. Um, you are a stay at home mom, Hope. No offense, but get a Far Side page-a-day calendar and keep up with the rest of us.

She can’t, though, because she’s too busy looking through boxes of old photos from when she was slightly younger and much more single. Hope is kind of a drag. I mean, everyone gets restless at times in make believe long-term relationships, and I cannot even imagine how exhausting it must be to raise a fictional baby, but Hope spends most of every episode being discontented and wishing she was living a different life. Although, to be fair, if she’s not doing that, then Michael is, so I guess they deserve each other. Anyway, she used to be in photos and it was incredible.

Also, wasn’t this show filmed in the late ’80s? Come on. They had color photography back then. That’s how we got all of these great photos of the dinosaurs.

Anyway, it is Thanksgiving in three days, and Michael wants to have their traditional Thanksgiving meal with friends, but Hope would rather have a quiet weekend alone with her husband and baby. Ugh. Relax, Hope. Like, she keeps saying she doesn’t understand why it’s so important to Michael. Really? I mean, all Michael wants to do is have a Thanksigivng meal with some friends as they do every year. There is nothing overenthusiastic about wanting to take part in a social custom that allows you to feel like you are part of something larger than yourself and an active member in the world of humans, which actually seems like something you’d want even MORE once you have a kid and spend most of your time cooped up at home making sure that kid doesn’t die. Again with the Hope and the being kind of the worst.

But everyone keeps asking them about Thanksgiving, since it is a tradition for them to celebrate together, and finally Hope begrudgingly agrees to let Michael organize a Thanksgiving dinner potluck style with everyone pitching in to help. OH THANK YOU, QUEEN HOPE! Although, when everyone does come over to organize who should do what (remember: this is pre-email, so you had to actually talk to other people, it was gross) Hope sits by herself and looks through old photos? Cool friend! And later it will turn out that the photos are actually of Hope’s ex-boyfriends? WHO IS THIS RIDICULOUS WOMAN? Michael should divorce her.

Anti-social idiot. Her friends are being too noisy planning THANKSGIVING, so she goes upstairs where she can look at her photos in peace and quiet?


The guy in the first photo is Melissa’s new boyfriend Jeff. No one likes him because he hates football and has no sense of humor. This is the part of the episode that I related to the most. I hate new people. Who do they think they are? With their own opinions and their failure to understand my group of friends’s inside jokes? A-holes. Later, Elliott and Michael will pretend that Jeff was stealing a spoon when Elliot catches him sneaking a bite of food in the kitchen, and they will pat him down and threaten to call the police. This is the part of the episode that I do not relate to as well. I’m all for hating and ignoring new people, but you don’t actually have to physically aggress them. Elliott and Michael are adults. Jeff runs away. Melissa is mad. For about two hours. You’ll see.

Oh, also, Hope and Ellyn go to the gym, because, you know, The ’80s.

Looking good, ladies! Hope actually says “go for the burn.” Haha. The burn. Then the ladies have a heart-to-heart conversation in a totally normal and not bizarrely posed for the benefit of the camera position.


So, finally it is Thanksgiving. Elliott and Nancy were in charge of bringing the turkey but they forgot to defrost it. Whoops? Classic Thanksgiving goof to just forget to defrost a turkey. Also, Michael and Hope’s baby is sick. Uh oh! I have a feeling that a plan that was supposed to be simple and flawless is going to become complicated and deeply flawed! There’s the whole attack on Jeff thing, so Melissa leaves because she’s angry (fair!), and none of the food is ready ever, and then Elliott and Nancy have to go because their kids are getting restless. Suddenly Michael falls instantly ill, because that is how illness used to work in the ’80s. He spends the rest of the day in bed, while Hope tends to her sick husband and her sick baby (in between going back to look at old photographs, naturally). How much tending does Michael really need? He’s a thirtysomething (get it?) year old man and he has to ask Hope to get him a glass of water because he has a cold? Grow up! Then Ellyn and Gary, who have teamed up to argue make stuffing show up in the middle of the night? When did they think Thanksgiving dinner was going to be? Also they are drunk, and just storm upstairs with their bowl of stuffing and their drunken shouts. Perfect. Hope is lying on the floor?


Then Hope passes out, because she’s so exhausted. From looking at black and white photos. Of her ancient ex-boyfriends.

She has a fever dream in which she dies and visits the future without her in it. You know what a fever dream looks like, right? It looks retarded.

But so it’s like A Thanksgiving Carol? This show is really stretching it this week. She doesn’t like what she sees! Michael remarries! Her daughter ends up in boarding school! Melissa…becomes homeless? Yikes. Melissa is a really shitty and very poorly imagined character if she would end up homeless just because her cousin’s drag of a wife died. Anyway, she wakes up and realizes that she does love her family and her friends and her life, and that she doesn’t need to spend all of her time looking at old black and white photos of ex-boyfriends and hating Thanksgiving. And then Melissa shows up and she doesn’t care that they scared her boyfriend away with their hyper-alienating and cruel behavior. And then…Elliott and Nancy show up…with ice cream? Huh? I mean, obviously, it’s Thanksgiving, so the episode has to end with them all getting together, but did Gary and Ellyn really call Elliott and Nancy and say “Hope just fainted from exhaustion and Michael is sick in bed, come over immediately and BRING ICE CREAM”? Whatever. It was the ’80s. The world was different back then.