THE PLOT THUS FAR

Few television programs can claim to have the cultural resonance that thirtysomething did in late 1980s America. Winner of four Emmy Awards, the groundbreaking hour-long drama held up a mirror to a generation of young adults struggling to find a larger meaning to their existence in an era marked by rampant consumerism and the yuppie ethos. Season Two picks up where everyone left off and then some.

Hope and Michael contemplate a second child; Elliot moves to lure Nancy back; Gary gets serious with his girlfriend Susannah (played by Patricia Kalember); Melissa continues to find herself; and Ellyn gets an ulcer. Then there is all that happens in between, including the arrival of an antagonist for Michael and Elliot: David Clennon joins the cast as the diabolical, smug, manipulative and very successful advertising mogul Miles Drentell.

In becoming a commercial force that connected with millions of viewers every week, the series continued to push the limits of what a great television show was capable of while consistently maintaining its artistic and creative edge. thirtysomething: The Complete Second Season features all 17 episodes restored from the original film elements along with new interviews and commentaries for the optimal DVD experience.

WHAT WE THOUGHT

“Thirtysomething”, at least at the start, primarily revolves around married couple Michael (Ken Olin) and Hope (Mel Harris) and their baby girl, Janey. They’re a squeaky clean pair who only get angry with each other in brief spurts, happy by the time the end credits roll; they deal with typical problems like money, work, parents, and the occasional miscommunication. Then there’s Elliot (Timothy Busfield), Michael’s business partner in advertising, and his wife, Nancy (Patricia Wettig). Theirs is a different kind of marriage altogether: problematic and waiting to explode. Busfield and Wettig give easily the most engaging performances on the show, but that’s also because they’re given such good material with which to work. Then there are the three single friends: Melissa (Melanie Mayron), a hip, aspiring photographer and Michael’s cousin; Gary (Peter Horton), a college professor with a Peter Pan complex and Michael’s best friend; and Ellyn (Polly Draper), Hope’s best friend, and a career woman who ends up falling for her boss.

These days, watching thirtysomething means seeing a program that somehow pioneered a huge number of things we accept as vital to our current sense of good TV drama. But it’s also a program that’s mostly been forgotten, perhaps because it never got the universal critical praise the similarly influential Hill Street Blues did, simply because the conflicts are so small. The second season is virtually identical to the first season. But, you’re not watching for huge changes. You’re watching for interpersonal drama.

The DVD comes with a ton of new interviews and commentaries. Hell, they even managed to get Snuffy Walden to talk about the music. Most of the other featurettes are basic EPK material that doesn’t do a lot. But, I do appreciate the commentaries with the showrunners and actors that show off what went into the production. After watching this show again, I’m just blown away by how much “Brothers and Sisters” apes it. Oh well, it’s still worth a rental.

RELEASE DATE: 01/19/10

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