thirtysomething: The Parents Are Coming

[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.]

To be honest, I kind of liked the first episode of thirtysomething. It was a little dull and predictable, but there were some moments that seemed pretty true, and besides, I’m obviously looking at it through the lens of 2009, after Jurassic Park blew the door off of what was possible. But something kind of changed in episode 2. I wonder what it was? Oh, this is what it was:

I’m not saying the show is all bad now, but the show definitely took a turn for the ugh. What is it about Paul Haggis and turning the entire human experience into a greeting card written in candy-stained barf tears. He’s so cloying and melodramatic. I’m surprised he isn’t the CEO of Lifetime. ANYWAY:

Hope and Michael are talking about being married stuff when a lamp almost falls on their baby and Hope realizes that the world is a minefield of broken lightbulbs when it comes to being a baby. She is worried that she will not be able to protect this creature unless they lock down everything in the house, and so they do, but also her parents are coming. And now she is upset about her parents coming because she can’t spend five minutes in the same room with her mother (yes she can, she spends more than five minutes in all kinds of rooms with her mother all episode, but I guess she was just making a point). If you only saw the first 10 minutes of this episode you would be convinced that it was a show about a woman who was deeply unpleasant to be around. And I guess it is.

So, the parents arrive!

Hope is like “oh boy, here we go.”

and Michael is like “that’s why I married you, because of your constant gas faces.”

It does seem a little bit obnoxious of Hope to put all of this on Michael. I mean, isn’t it usually more stressful and frustrating for the person who isn’t related by blood to the people staying in their bedroom because the guest bathroom is all torn apart for renovations? Michael is being very patient and kind and welcoming and Hope is just getting her bitch juice all over everything. Anyway, Hope keeps complaining that nothing is ever good enough for her mother, but one starts to get the sense that nothing is ever good enough for Hope. Like, one morning her mother offers to make omelets and Hope gets mad? Like somehow her mother trying to make what sounds like a really delicious breakfast is an insult? Jesus, Hope, it is time to get your breakfast priorities in order. If my mortal enemy offered to make me an omelet for breakfast, I would be delighted. Omelets are delicious. Or, like, her mom tries to buy her a dress and Hope gets so mad?

Acting! Admittedly, that is a horrible, ugly dress and it should be ripped into pieces. But it doesn’t matter, because Hope wakes up and it had all just been a dream.

And then, of course, there is the salad of despair:

She is upset because her mother says that she doesn’t understand why Hope stopped dancing when she used to be such a good dancer, so Hope goes and cries into the salad. Later, she explains to Michael that the reason she gave up dancing in the first place is because every time she came home from dance class her mother would harangue her with her “constructive criticism.” Sure, I guess. But, I mean, you’re kind of expecting the reason that she gave up dancing to be because, like, her mom used to put out cigarettes on her eyeballs when she messed up or something. There are worse parents is what I am saying.

Then they have a moment.

But the moment passes. Hope is almost immediately back to being so angry about omelets and presents. What a monster! Hope’s mom can sense that there is some tension in the house so she invites them to a fancy dinner for their last night in town. Suddenly, last week’s problem of being completely incapable of finding a babysitter has evaporated. Whatever, the ’80s were a heady time, I guess. At dinner, they make small talk about cholesterol for awhile (Cholesterol! The Pet Rock of health issues!) Hope lays it all out on the table about how mad she is at her mom, but her mom lays it right back out about how mad she is at Hope. They are two grouch peas in an argument pod. Will their backstabbing and sniping never end?

Oh, but also, before they go to dinner, Michael has to cancel his plans to play squash (SQUASH! The skinny tie of sports!) with Gary, who is mad that his friend is always canceling his squash plans. See:

Speaking of Gary, I didn’t notice this last week, but check him out:


Looking good, bro! Mr. Cool Earring!

Oh, also speaking of Gary, what kind of friendship do these people have? Like what is this all about?

Uh? When my best friend bursts in on my wife while she’s taking a shower as a goof, he is going to get Scarfaced in that bathtub, Angel Martinez-style. Anyway, enough about Gary. Hope is at the end of her rope, but both her father and her husband are like “you really need to get a longer rope.” And hang yourself, hopefully. She is a drag. Michael realizes that she is even becoming her mother in Twilight Zone Town.

As the in-laws (or just laws, I guess, for Hope) are getting ready to leave, she and her mother have another moment, and Hope suddenly realizes for the first time that the same instinct that caused her to try and baby-proof the house (although did she really need to baby-proof the kitchen cabinets? How would the baby even get up there? I guess people didn’t know alot about Baby Physics back then) is the same instinct that causes her mother to worry about her still, even when she is well into her THIRTYSOMETHINGS. And then it is all like hugs hugs hugs, hatchets buried, you win this one, Captain, love is thicker than baby formula.

Live to fight another day, Hope.

P.S. in case you were wondering whether or not they went to Princeton:

T-shirts tell the whole story. Literally.