Last edition's Society Page was the first in a while that wasn't about a television show. It was about the Jonestown massacre in Guyana. A depressing story. And speaking of depressing...
I used to watch Thirtysomething. Yes, I admit it. You're probably questioning my manhood now. Go ahead. Hell, I don't know why I did. I just did.
Actually, I remember living in an permit-challenged (i.e. illegal) youth hostel in Los Angeles in 1991. This tough guy I befriended and me were watching TV. I was flicking around the dial when a scene from Thirtysomething appeared on screen. I stopped the dial. Then I realized what I had done. I looked over at him. He looked at me sternly. Then he said, “Thirtysomething.”
I didn't know what to say. Would he out me?
He followed up with, “It has its moments.”
Relieved, I left the show on, and then it hit me. Forget all this solipsistic analysis from critics - that was probably the most pithy, spot-on analysis of the heavily praised/much-maligned late '80s/early '90s program ever uttered.
Here's the very first episode of Thirtysomething and man, let me tell you, the writers don't just seep the neurosis in slowly – they hit you over the head with it – BAM – right off the bat. (Surprisingly, Thirtysomething took place in Philadelphia, not Marin County.)
“Thirtysomething”? Maybe it's just based on my personal experience, but my friends and I were this self-absorbed and neurotic when we were in our mid-20s, not mid-30s. Maybe the show should have been called Arrested Development. Hell, by our 30s we wouldn't even want to be seen with people so ill-prepared to make it through the day.
Actually, I'm being mean (but accurate). Thirtysomething, like most TV shows, was your friend. And most likely everyone reading this has had a friend who was too self-absorbed, annoying, and often embarrassing to be seen with in public. Anyway - overall, that friend was a good (and often interesting) person. Maybe you were that friend to another “Thirtysomething” viewer.
I remember watching Thirtysomething in my room at my aunt and uncle's house in Silicon Valley in 1989, just counting the days until I got my useless degree from San Jose State University. Ah, yes – the memories. Well, I graduated in December 1989. The ceremony was in May 1990 (my name was left off the program – thanks, guys!) Anyway, I had entered the real world. It was a new decade. It was time for me to grow up and toughen up. Regardless of my plight, the characters in Thirtysomething just couldn't stop expressing (and expressing and expressing) their feelings and emotions...
I (hey, I'm allowed to keep using the word “I” - I'm writing about Thirtysomething for crying out loud) remember when the Peter Horton character died (in a car crash as I recall). My friend (and editor – I drew a comic strip for the school paper) at San Jose State, Scott G. Hamilton, offered a critique of how the death was handled. Scott said he kept waiting for the Ken Olin character (“Michael Steadman”) to cry: “Hell, he cries if he's stuck in traffic. He cries over everything. His best friend dies and he doesn't cry?!”
Actually, Scott said he really liked this other episode that links below. It's called First Day/Last Day and made the TV Guide List of 100 Greatest Televison Episodes of All Time...
Old Saturday Night Live skit about Thirtysomething...
Revisiting Thirtysomething from the Associated Press...
Hey, what if they made a remake of David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross and substituted the obnoxious alpha males with Thirtysomething sensitive beta males? Just a thought...
“Put the coffee down!”
“Why? Coffee is for closers?”
“No, it's unhealthy. Try tea. It has half the caffeine and is full of bioflavonoids.”
(Pause. Acoustic guitar chord plays in background. Michael Steadman smiles uncomfortably, sighs, looks at ground, and waves hands slightly).
A few years after Thirtysomething was canceled, Ken Olin starred as a tough guy detective on a show called EZ Streets. Though critically acclaimed, it never attracted much of an audience and was quickly canceled. Maybe the viewers were yearning for a kinder, gentler Ken Olin. Actually, a Michael Steadman-type character as a cop might have worked. I'm serious. Maybe. Anyway, here's a quick look at EZ Streets...
It turns out that Ken Olin is married to Patricia Wettig, who played Elliott's wife on Thirtysomething.Wow, like Oedipus, right? That's where... no? Oh. Never mind.
What if Thirtysomething was around now? They'd constantly be on their cell phones and the Internet. A plot may revolve around that Michael didn't get his wife, Hope, flowers on Valentine's Day – that he texted her a picture of his genitals instead. And she got upset instead of turned on. Then, tearfully, Michael said he did it because it made him feel like he was in his twenties again. Although when he was in his twenties there was no text messaging so he couldn't text a picture of his genitals to anyone. But... never mind. Actually, it would have to be called Fiftysomething.
The cast of Thirtysomething reflects on NPR...
Oh, man. When I thought of writing this piece I thought it would flow effortlessly from my neurons to my fingers on the keyboard, but so far it's been like pulling teeth. Maybe I need some help. As that great Thirtysomethingish beta-male Phil Donahue used to say, “Help me out here.”
What did you think of Thirtysomething?
From Steve Koehler of Palo Alto, California:
I only saw the show a few times when it was on, and a few times in syndication. To be totally honest, I thought it was kind of weenie-ish. It struck me as these ultra politically correct ex-hippies from Upstate New York, who now were yuppies.
The men struck me as majorly pussy-whipped. The women struck me as - what? Kind of full of themselves, I suppose. OK - the term that comes to mind is "holier than thou".
To me the show show had an air about that I just didn't like. There was something, and this might sound weird, totalitarian about it. Like, if you're not part of our mindset, there's something wrong with, and undesirable about you. Maybe I'm reading way the hell too much into it.
Maybe at that time I was still subconsciously pissed off that "Hogan's Heroes" had been canceled 20 years earlier.
That's about all that comes to mind.
From Ken Vollmer of San Diego, California:
I was forced to watch Thirtysomething by my ex-wife. It could be one of the reasons why she is my ex-wife.
Flashback from 2000: Bill and Hillary gave a pep talk for the new millenium - and since then - aside from terrorist attacks, wars, and worldwide economic collapse, things have been going great.
Man, this is over 13 years old already...
Actually, since the '90s when you say the name Hillary, you think of one woman - Hillary Clinton. I mean, come on, it's like saying the name Madonna, or Cher, or Britney, or Yoko. But for a brief time... very brief... very, very, very brief... maybe a week or two.... if you lived in New York or Los Angeles... the New Wave stations were playing a couple of songs off a debut EP (Extended Play disc for all of you born after 1975) from an artist known as... Hillary.
OK. Her name was Hilary, not Hillary, but you get the point.
Actually, her real name was Hilary Blake, she hailed from Los Angeles, and sadly, passed away in 2007.
The paragraph below is from her Wikipedia page:
The song Kinetic was about her hopes that awareness of changing cellular structure would help the human species to survive. Drop Your Pants was Blake's attempt to show how "ridiculous" the fear of sex in United States was. On August 4 it became her second song to be named "Screamer of the Week" by WLIR listeners.  This song was also mentioned in an edition ofThe Guide to Getting it On by Paul Joannides. 
Drop Your Pants
One record with 4 songs on it and no one ever heard from Hilary again.
It's Wednesday, January 30, 2013 as I write this, and it's also the day that Patty, the last surviving member of The Andrews Sisters passed away.
Here's a brief clip from The Andrews Brothers, a musical play I saw at the Off Broadstreet Theatre in Nevada City, California (near Lake Tahoe). The play was a musical comedy about how The Andrews Sisters can't make it to the South Pacific to perform for our soldiers, so three guys dress in drag and perform their songs in the hope no one can tell the difference. It features the lovely and talented Grace Fae (a real woman, obviously, not a guy in drag)...
(A big thank you to my recently deceased Aunt Carol for taking me and some other family members to see it back in 2010).
And continuing this Women in Music theme we'll end this edition's column with...
Tori Amos singing I Ran by A Flock of Seagulls...
Oh wait. I have to pay my respects to a recently deceased Bay Area radio personality. His name was Lee Rodgers, who hosted the KSFO Morning Show with Melanie Morgan and “Officer Vic”. When Lee wasn't being mean, cranky, and a little loose with the facts, he was being engaging, funny, and extremely knowledgeable. We'll miss you, Lee. Here's a clip from his show from a few years ago...
Actually, let's not end it yet. It's March 1, 2013 as I type this, so today would have been Frederic Chopin's 203rd birthday (if he wasn't born on February 22nd, which is debateable). Today would have been my late paternal grandmother's 105th birthday. And today is the birthday of our good friend, San Francisco's Hottest New Artist Laurie Jacobs. Let's see, she must be... OK, gotta go. Enjoy some Chopin...