T.S. Elliot said that the world would end not with a bang, but a whimper. All last Tuesday, I prayed for a terrorist bomb or a plane crash, but it didn’t happen. Thirtysomething passed on, May 28, 1991. ABC turned off the respirator and the show faded, faded and died.
Gary was lucky. His character grew, flourished and then died with dignity. Ellen got her life together. Nancy beat cancer, got published and got her husband back. Not bad. The real losers (other than the strung along viewers) were Michael and Hope.
Remember Hope? Radiant. Maternal. Bitchy. Emotional Hope. Four years later, Hope has evolved into a woman whose only redeeming trait is a sudden desire to help the homeless. Her naïve assessment of the advertising business couldn’t possibly come from someone this close to an agency. Where the hell was she when Michael and Elliot owned a business?
Michael Stedman fell the furthest. Had he been a horse, he would have been shot. Pulling the plug on this show was an act of charity. Michael was introspective, but strong. He was, at times, consumed with guilt, and yet, he was a leader. He rose above his peers and they followed by choice. How painful it must have been for Ken Olin to portray this whimpering, indecisive jerk that moped across the screen like dark rain clouds on an otherwise pleasant June day. If Hollywood remade the Invasion of the Bodysnatchers again, this is what it would look like.
The opening credits listed eight writers on this last show. Whether to spread the blame or to hide in the crowd, no writer would claim sole responsibility for this mess. Written by committee, directed by a film student from Hollywood High, produced by accident, Thirtysomething dies an unfulfilled promise. So much potential, so little accomplished. Thirtysomething uncovered truths and then squandered them with overwrought writing and angst ridden characters you’d sooner slap then love.
I watched the final episode of Thirtysomething with a growing sense of betrayal. They had the subject matter. They had the budget. They had the palate. They had the moment. And they threw it all away. There may never be another television show with the potential to explore the world my friends and I face. It’s a shame they blew it.