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thirtysomething was a ground - breaking and award-winning comedy/drama (dramedy), of the type popularly labeled a soap opera when broadcast during the daytime.

It was created by Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick and reflected the angst felt by baby boomers and yuppies of the late Awesome80s. These issues were also reflected in other works of popular culture which appeared during the same year, Baby Boom, Fatal Attraction and Wall Street. The show became a cultural icon and was discussed in articles such as those listed in the reference section below.

thirtysomething depicted the lives of a married couple and their friends, all 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

Story line

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. The character died in a traffic accident in 1991 to allow Horton to pursue his love of directing.

Impact on popular culture

The style and form of thirtysomething set new standards for television drama and influenced virtually all of the shows which came after it. It was also responsible for 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. A few advertisers, fearing potential boycotts or do to their own homophobia, pulled their commercials from the episode.


Share Your Memories!

Do you have a favorite episode of thirtysomething? What do you remember about the series? Share your stories with the world! (We print the best stories right here!)

Your Memories Shared!

"I never missed Thirtysomething when it was on primetime. The characters on the show became in some part an extended group of friends. I had many favorite episodes, like when Michael and Elliott tried the forced buyout of the ad agency where they worked or when Gary and Melissa tried to get back together. But I think my favorite was when Nancy, after going through cancer therapy, told off her gynocologist when he suggested they "play" with her estrogen levels. That show was ahead of its time--addressing subjects that we boomers were dealing with as we became full-fledged, mortgage-carrying adults. I think many shows today have patterned themselves in many ways after Thirtysomething. I think it was also the first show to use contemporary artists for background music, or to build drama. I gave up LP's and began my first CD colletion based in great extent from the music I heard on this show."


"I was thirtysomething & really enjoyed thirtysomething. Now that I'am fortysomthing how I would love to watch that series again!!"


"I love "Thirtysomething," even though I'm 18! "Survivor" and all those other "reality" shows can't compete with the reality "Thirtysomething" brought to the small screen. Michael likes to be miserable, but that's okay because he was cute. Hope seriously needed a chill pill at times, and I wondered how Michael could honestly stand her. I like Melissa and Ellyn. I loved it when Melissa said that Ellyn should record an album called "Rod Stewart Sings Carly Simon." I happen to like Polly Draper's voice very much, seeing as I'm a little raspy myself, but it was still a hilarious line. I hope that the good folks at ABC get together with Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick to bring back "Thirtysomething." I know that a reunion movie seems more probable, but I really think that the Steadmans and their friends still hold huge pieces of the viewers' hearts, and the show should return with brand-new episodes. After all, I think the characters will be less self-involved, and Janey, Leo, Ethan, and Brittany could be causing some major headaches for their parents. Oh, well, if they don't, "Thirtysomething" will live on!"


"Thirtysomething showcased a group of friends who were leading-edge 'Boomers' (meaning they were born between 1946-1954). This is the group of 'Boomers' who have been obsessively spotlighted by the media since their birth. They have greatly overshadowed tail-end 'Boomer's (born between 1955-1964) as well as other generations. The affluent group of older 'Boomers', who were the characters in Thirtysomething, were what always came to mind whenever the word 'Boomer' is mentioned. In reality, that particular demographic made up a small minority of the 'Baby-boomers'. Still, they reeked with the over-weened sense of importance that the media has always granted them. Oddly, this factor made them interesting characters. Every week, I looked forward to seeing how the some of the most privileged group of americans ever born, had to come to terms with their own human foibles. Critics may have consistently panned this show, but to me, watching Thirtysomething was always a guilty pleasure."


"Thirtysomething a classic program that surrounds a group of friends - each with their own character to which you familiarised yourself with, the focal point being Michael and Hope. I was twentysomething at the time and could easily relate to the people who mimicked my own friends and family thus the memories are still ever present. The series will forever remain a classic, only wishing the cast were reunited for a special, Happy memories."

--paul jenkins



Aired: September 29, 1987 - September 3, 1991

Cast: Ken Olin, Mel Harris, Timothy Busfield, Brittany & Lacey Craven

Network: ABC

Genre: Dramedy

Theme song

Image courtesy of ABC

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.
It uses material from this Wikipedia article, which is probably more up to date than ours (retrieved August 12, 2005).

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