thirtysomething was an American evening television drama, of the type popularly labelled a soap opera when broadcast during the daytime.
It was created by Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick, and depicted the lives of a married couple and their friends, all baby boomers in their thirties (hence the title), living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It premiered on September 29, 1987, and the last of its 85 episodes aired on May 28, 1991.
The main characters were:
- Michael Steadman played by Ken Olin
- Hope Murdoch Steadman played by Mel Harris
- Elliot Weston played by Timothy Busfield
- Nancy Krigger Weston played by Patricia Wettig
- Ethan Weston played by Luke Rossi
- Melissa Steadman played by Melanie Mayron
- Ellyn Warren played by Polly Draper
- Prof. Gary Shepherd played by Peter Horton
Michael and Elliot worked in the advertising business, initially running their own boutique agency, then going to work for Miles Drentell (David Clennon), the head of DAA. (Clennon would later resume the character of Miles Drentell in the ABC show Once and Again.) Hope was a writer. Nancy was Elliot's wife, who struggled with, and overcame, cancer in the last two seasons. Melissa was Michael's cousin and a photographer, whose career highlights were an album shoot of Carly Simon and her photos appearing in Vanity Fair. Ellyn worked for the city government, and Gary was a free-spirited professor of English literature. He died in 1991.
Impact on popular culture
An unintended consequence of the show's run was the coinage of the word "twenty something" almost immediately upon its debut in 1987, since younger Americans of that era were seen as exhibiting a fundamentally different collective personality than the "thirty something" characters depicted in the story (four years later, Douglas Coupland's watershed novel Generation X: Tales For An Accelerated Culture was dedicated to "the generation born in the late 1950s and 1960s;" today this group is often referred to as the "Baby Busters").
The show also made headlines with a 1989 episode in which two men (a gay friend of Melissa's and his partner) were shown in bed together, although not in a sexual context. Several major advertisers, fearing potential boycotts, pulled their commercials from the episode.