Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Instructions: Watch and Repeat. Do Not Avoid Contact With Eyes.

Today is a big day---one I've waited countless years for. The television show "thirtysomething" is finally being released to DVD some 18 years after its final episode aired. It's been a frustrating experience waiting for thirtysomething to get the DVD treatment, especially when lesser shows from the era (1987-1991) have already been released, but it sounds like the wait will be well worth it. The biggest obstacles the Emmy-award winning show faced in trying to make it to DVD were the expensive music-rights clearances for various episodes, as well as a lack of master copies that would allow for easy transfer to DVD. The busy schedule of the show's creators, Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick, also complicated matters, but all the hurdles have been cleared and the first season arrives today. Each of the following three seasons will be released every six months.

Up until the arrival of Aaron Sorkin's "The West Wing," thirtysomething was my unambiguous choice for the best television show in history (or at least my personal favorite). While I only watched a few episodes during its initial run, I became a devotee of the show in the mid to late 90's when Lifetime Television aired re-runs five nights a week. I watched the series from start to finish at least three times in a row, always careful to note the date when an especially memorable episode (this was often) was due to be repeated (there were 85 episodes in all). This experience also became a bonding experience for me and my writing partner from college. We had discovered the show independent from one another (a remarkable enough coincidence) and both concluded it was genius. Our tumultuous relationship as friends and creative partners was also closely reflected in the one shared between the characters Michael and Elliot. Anyone who has ever seen the show and also seen the two of us at work would get chills.

If you're not familiar with the show, or if you've only ever dismissed it as self-indulgent yuppie angst, do yourself a favor and stick this in your Netflix queue. The pilot is a little rough, but once the show gets going you'll be treated to some of the most fully realized characters ever seen on the small screen. While there are serialized storylines to a degree, the show is principally an on-going slice-of-life. For four years you follow an outstanding ensemble cast through the highs and lows of marriage, parenthood, aging, birth, death, and every other human frailty that makes life simultaneously intolerable and invaluable. I have never been more invested in a show and its characters. If you give thirtysomething a chance, I suspect you'll feel the same.


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