It was about 10:30. Suddenly, I had this vision that I was a 6’4” tit. Just me and 10 million other tits around the country were sitting on our couches being manipulated – at first a gentle massage, now more forcefully – as Thirtysomething milked us and Nancy’s cancer like a sixteen year old boy reaching second base for the first time. Cancer. The Big C.
Prime time Tuesday night. All the hopes and fears of an entire generation were getting their weekly airing. Only Thirtysomething was up to the task of fleshing out cancer. Michael, Elliot, Hope, and Nancy wouldn’t trivialize a mosquito bite. No, this was a milestone, something worthy of the eternal whine they do so well.
Each scene was carefully set. Stark white sub-titles set in a field of black foretold each step Nancy took. NANCY MISSES HER KIDS. NANCY GOES OUT. Her angst. Her pain. Her loneliness. In case we were too dumb or unfeeling to know Nancy’s emotions, the show’s producers, Zwick and Herskovitz, prepared us. Each vignette led us, usually by the nose, towards the next revelation of Nancy’s condition. Director Peter Horton who also portrays Gary on the show, managed to skip a couple of close-ups in the beginning of the broadcast, but by the end of the hour, his baser instincts had overcome him.
There was a slight chance that even with all of the darkness we might not be appropriately spent by the time the show concluded. So when we saw Gary, Tuesday night, he was with Michael. Hope, and Melissa, instead of his new baby. And Nancy’s older sister, the nurse, referred to cancer as the Big C as opposed to the more commonly used medical term, ca. That is, of course, when she wasn’t fighting with her mother. And we got a different look at Elliot. We saw Elliot as helper. Elliot as loving husband. He cried. He loved. In two episodes he was transformed from Peter Pan to Alan Alda.
As the show draws to a close we find the Westons in the bedroom. The lights are low. The box of pizza is on the bed. An old Robin Hood movie is on the television. Son Ethan is overdosing on violence and junk food. Daughter Brittany climbs on her daddy and then, as usual, disappears. Elliot reaches over to his wife and kisses her. The show ends with the two of them contentedly snuggling, their eyes gazing into future episodes.
As the picture faded, I absent mindedly reached for a cigarette forgetting that I had quit six years ago.