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For the album, see 30 Something (album).
Main cast
Created by Edward Zwick
Marshall Herskovitz
Written by Joseph Dougherty (16 episodes)
Ann Lewis Hamilton (10 episodes)
Richard Kramer (10 episodes)
Susan Shilliday (10 episodes)
Edward Zwick (8 episodes)
Marshall Herskovitz (8 episodes)
and others
Directed by Scott Winant (8 episodes)
Ken Olin (6 episodes)
Peter Horton (6 episodes)
Marshall Herskovitz (5 episodes)
Joseph Dougherty (5 episodes)
and others
Starring Ken Olin
Mel Harris
Melanie Mayron
Timothy Busfield
Patricia Wettig
Peter Horton
Polly Draper
Composer(s) W.G. Snuffy Walden
Stewart Levin
Jay Gruska
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 4
No. of episodes 88 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Edward Zwick
Marshall Herskovitz
Producer(s) Ann Lewis Hamilton
Joseph Dougherty
Richard Kramer
Running time 60 minutes
Production company(s) The Bedford Falls Company
MGM/UA Television Productions
Distributor MGM Television
Original network ABC
Original release September 29, 1987 – May 28, 1991
Related shows Once and Again

Thirtysomething (usually styled thirtysomething) is an American television drama created by Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz for ABC. The series followed a group of Generation Jones (late end of the baby boomers) friends in their late thirties as they went about their daily lives. It told of Hope and Michael Steadman, their baby, Michael's cousin, his friend's family as well as Hope's childhood friend. The title of the show was designed as thirtysomething (with a lowercase "t") by Kathie Broyles, who combined the words of the original title, Thirty Something.

The series premiered in the United States on September 29, 1987, and lasted four seasons with the last of its 88 episodes airing on May 28, 1991. By 1997, "The Go Between" and "Samurai Ad Man" were listed as number 22 on TV Guide's 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time.[1] It then placed the number 19 spot on TV Guide′s 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time in 2002,[2] and in 2013, TV Guide placed it as number 10 in its list of The 60 Greatest Dramas of All Time.[3] The show was also nominated for forty-one Primetime Emmy Awards, winning thirteen.

General plot and characters

Thirtysomething depicts the lives of a group of young parents during the late 1980s. They are bonded by their involvement with the peace movement and counterculture of the 1960s during their youth, a past that is in marked contrast to their current, middle-class lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Although seen as an ensemble drama, the series tended to revolve around husband and wife Michael Steadman (Ken Olin) and Hope Murdoch (Mel Harris), who provide the focal point for the group. Michael's cousin is photographer Melissa Steadman (Melanie Mayron), and his business partner is Elliot Weston (Timothy Busfield), who has a troubled marriage with his wife Nancy (Patricia Wettig). Michael's best friend is Gary Shepherd (Peter Horton), who eventually marries Susannah (Patricia Kalember). Hope's best friend is Ellyn Warren (Polly Draper).

Character descriptions

  • Michael Steadman and Hope Murdoch Steadman: Michael works in the advertising business with Elliot (initially in their own business, but later for DAA). They met when Michael joined the Bernstein Fox ad agency where Elliot was already employed both leaving there to establish their own ad agency. Hope is a writer and stay-at-home mother who struggles between her desire to be at home with her daughter Janey (and later son Leo) and her need to work. She sometimes feels like a sellout for having become a homemaker. Hope is from Philadelphia, Michael is from Chicago but remained in the area after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania. Hope's parents have moved to Arizona. Hope doesn't get along well with her mother which makes their visits trying for both. Michael (who is Jewish) and Hope (who is Christian) are also an interfaith couple, a fact that was referenced throughout the series.[4] During the third season of the series, Hope is attracted to environmentalist John Dunaway (J. D. Souther) and contemplates having an affair with him, but decides against it. The Steadmans have bought an old house and are trying to repair it with some redecorating and modernization. Gary Shepherd often is relied upon for the actual work.
  • Melissa Steadman: Michael's cousin and is two years younger and Gary's former girlfriend. Melissa is a photographer whose career includes the cover of an album by Carly Simon and photos in the magazine Vanity Fair. In the first season Melissa dates a divorced gynecologist with a daughter (played by Kellie Martin) who doesn't want more children. She later becomes involved with a younger man, Lee Owens (Corey Parker), a house painter, but the relationship is fraught with problems based largely on the age difference and on Melissa's insecurities. Melissa's friendship with gay artist Russell Weller (David Marshall Grant) developed in season two and continued off and on the last two seasons.
  • Elliot Weston and Nancy Krieger Weston: Elliot works in the advertising business with Michael (initially in their own business, but later for DAA). Nancy is an artist and stay-at-home mother to Ethan and Brittany. Like Hope, she often feels bored and unhappy in her role as a homemaker. In addition to coping with Elliot's infidelities, Nancy struggles with and overcomes ovarian cancer during the last two seasons. She also becomes a successful children's author and illustrator and was an Art major at the University of Rhode Island. Elliot's father Charlie (played by Eddie Albert) is divorced from Elliot's mother and now lives in California. Elliot's sister Ruthie (played by Meagen Fay) also lives in Philadelphia and is married with two children. Ruthie still hasn't forgiven their father for leaving them.
  • Ellyn Warren: Hope's childhood friend. Ellyn works at City Hall and is initially involved with Steve Woodman (Terry Kinney), who works at City Hall as well. Later, she has an affair with a married man, Jeffrey Milgrom (Richard Gilliland). During the final season, Ellyn becomes involved with (and marries) Billy Sidel (Erich Anderson), a graphic designer.
  • Gary Shepherd and Susannah Hart: Gary, Michael's college roommate at the University of Pennsylvania, is a free-spirited professor of English literature at Haverford College. When denied tenure at Haverford College, he thinks about becoming a social worker. It is at this point that Gary meets Susannah, a social worker. Despite the fact that no one else likes her, Gary marries Susannah when they have a baby, Emma. Gary dies during the final season in a chain-reaction car accident (ironic since he is a bicyclist and hates cars), just as Nancy recovers from cancer. Prior to Gary's death, Susannah accepts a job-offer and moves away to New York, the two marrying on the day of her departure.
  • Miles Drentell (David Clennon): Michael and Elliot's boss at DAA. Miles' lack of ethics propels Michael into periods of self-reflection and depression, in particular when he is forced to fire Elliot. David Clennon reprised this role in the series Once and Again (1999–2002) which is where Miles eventually dies.


Season Episodes Originally aired
First aired Last aired
1 21 September 29, 1987 (1987-09-29) May 10, 1988 (1988-05-10)
2 17 December 6, 1988 (1988-12-06) May 16, 1989 (1989-05-16)
3 24 September 19, 1989 (1989-09-19) May 22, 1990 (1990-05-22)
4 23 September 25, 1990 (1990-09-25) May 28, 1991 (1991-05-28)

Influences and cultural impact

Thirtysomething was influenced by the 1980 film Return of the Secaucus 7 and the 1983 film The Big Chill.[5] The show reflected the angst felt by baby boomers and yuppies in the United States during the 1980s,[6] such as the changing expectations related to masculinity and femininity introduced during the era of second-wave feminism.[7] It also introduced "a new kind of hour-long drama, a series that focused on the domestic and professional lives of a group of young urban professionals, a socio-economic category of increasing interest to the television industry [...] its stylistic and story-line innovations led critics to respect it for being 'as close to the level of an art form as weekly television ever gets,' as the New York Times put it."[5] During its four-year run, Thirtysomething "attracted a cult audience of viewers who strongly identified with one or more of its eight central characters, a circle of friends living in Philadelphia."[5] Even after its cancellation in 1991, it continued to influence television programming, "in everything from the look and sound of certain TV advertisements, to other series with feminine sensibilities and preoccupations with the transition from childhood to maturity (Sisters), to situation comedies about groups of friends who talk all the time (Seinfeld)."[5] The show also influenced the British television series Cold Feet, which featured similar storylines and character types. The creator of Cold Feet wanted his show to be in the mould of successful American TV series like Thirtysomething and Frasier.[8]

This series was spoofed as "Twentysomething" in a Sesame Street sketch where the Count and Countess were watching a television series about people similar to themselves and its episode featured Prairie Dawn.

In the third season of Tiny Toon Adventures, the series was parodied in the episode titled "Thirteensomething", where the character Babs Bunny becomes an actress on the show where the episode's title comes from.

The series also highlighted differences within the Baby Boomer generation as people who are classified as Baby Boomers but born during the early 1960s were only in their 20's during the shows entire run. At the same time those born in the late 1940s were in their 40s during the shows run.

Some were particularly critical of the show. Susan Faludi, in her 1991 bestseller Backlash, argues that the show exhibited a disdainful attitude toward single, working, and feminist women (Melissa, Ellyn, and Susannah) while at the same time "exalting homemakers" (Hope and Nancy).[9] The season three episode "Strangers," which showed a male couple in bed in one scene, prompted five regular sponsors to pull out of the episode.

In Coming Apart (2010), Charles Murray described the show as a forerunner to 21st century highbrow television, linking it to the 2000 publication Bobos in Paradise.

Oxford English Dictionary

Almost immediately after the introduction of the show, the term "Thirtysomething" became a catchphrase used to designate baby boomers in their thirties. This cultural shift was reinforced by the Oxford English Dictionary, which added Thirtysomething in 1993 (under the word thirty) and defined the term as follows:

[popularized as a catchphrase by the U.S. television program Thirtysomething, first broadcast in 1987], an undetermined age between thirty and forty; specifically applied to members of the ‘baby boom’ generation entering their thirties in the mid-1980s; also attributed as an adjective phrase (hence, characteristic of the tastes and lifestyle of this group).[10]

Thirtysomething was also responsible for the coinage of the word "twentysomething," to describe Generation X. This was reflected in Douglas Coupland's 1991 novel Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture.[11] The Fortysomething Team was used to describe the Clinton-Gore ticket in the US 1992 presidential election, as both members of the ticket were Baby Boomers.

Nielsen ratings

  • 1987-88: #44 (13.74 rating)
  • 1988-89: #40 (13.91 rating)
  • 1989-90: #47 (12.58 rating)
  • 1990-91: #54 (11.22 rating)

Note: Ratings data from

DVD releases

Shout! Factory (under license from MGM) has released all four seasons of Thirtysomething on DVD in Region 1.

Mill Creek Entertainment has re-released the first season on DVD in two volume collections. On January 18, 2011, they released Season One, Volume One, which features the first 10 episodes of the season.[12] Season One, Volume Two, which features the remaining 11 episodes of the season was released on January 10, 2012.[13]

In Region 2, Revelation Films has released the first two seasons on DVD in the UK.[14][15] Season 3 will be released on May 18, 2015,[16] followed by season 4 on August 24, 2015.[17]

In Region 4, Shock Entertainment has released all 4 seasons on DVD in Australia.[18][19][20][21]

DVD Name Ep# Release Dates
Region 1 Region 2 Region 4
The Complete First Season 21 August 25, 2009 November 26, 2012 September 18, 2013
The Complete Second Season 17 January 19, 2010 March 18, 2013 September 18, 2013
The Complete Third Season 24 May 11, 2010 May 18, 2015 September 18, 2013
The Complete Fourth Season 23 November 9, 2010 August 24, 2015 September 18, 2013

Emmy Awards

Thirtysomething won numerous Emmy Awards and nominations for:

1988 Winners:

  1. Drama Series
  2. Supporting Actress in a Drama Series — Patricia Wettig
  3. Writing in a Drama Series — Paul Haggis and Marshall Herskovitz (episode: "Business as Usual")
  4. Guest Performer in a Drama Series — Shirley Knight (episode "The Parents Are Coming")

It also received the following nominations in 1988:

  1. Supporting Actor in a Drama Series — Timothy Busfield
  2. Supporting Actress in a Drama Series — Polly Draper
  3. Editing for a Series — Single Camera Production (Victor Du Bois and Richard Freeman for episode "Therapy")
  4. Main Title Theme Music
  5. Costuming for a Series (Marilyn Matthews and Patrick R. Norris for episode "Pilot") and Marjorie K. Chan, Patrick R. Norris, Anne Hartley and Julie Glick for episode "Whose Forest is This?")

1989 Winners:

  1. Supporting Actress in a Drama Series — Melanie Mayron
  2. Writing in a Drama Series — Joseph Dougherty (episode: "First Day/Last Day")
  3. Editing for a Series — Single Camera Production (episode: "First Day/Last Day")
  4. Costuming for a Series (episode: "We'll Meet Again")

It also received the following nominations in 1989:

  1. Drama Series
  2. Supporting Actor in a Drama Series — Timothy Busfield
  3. Guest Actor in a Drama Series (Jack Gilford for episode "The Mike Van Dyke Show")
  4. Directing in a Drama Series (Scott Winant for episode "We'll Meet Again")
  5. Writing in a Drama Series (Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick for episode "The Mike Van Dyke Show")
  6. Art Direction for a Series (Brandy Alexander and Mary Ann Biddle for episode "Michael Writes A Story")
  7. Sound Mixing for a Drama Series (Clark Conrad, Tim Philben, Scott Millan and Will Yarbroug for episode "Michael Writes A Story")
  8. Special Visual Effects (episode: "Michael Writes a Story")
  9. Outstanding Hairstyling for a Series (Carol Pershing for episode "We'll Meet Again")

1990 Winners:

  1. Lead Actress in a Drama Series — Patricia Wettig
  2. Directing in a Drama Series (episode: "The Go-Between") (tied with Equal Justice).

It also received the following nominations in 1990:

  1. Drama Series
  2. Supporting Actor in a Drama Series — Timothy Busfield
  3. Supporting Actress in a Drama Series — Melanie Mayron
  4. Guest Actor in a Drama Series (Peter Frechette for "Strangers")
  5. Guest Actress in a Drama Series (Shirley Knight for "Arizona")
  6. Writing in a Drama Series (episode: "The Go-Between")
  7. Art Direction for a Series (Brandy Alexander and Mary Ann Biddle for episode "Michael's Campaign")
  8. Hairstyling for a Series (Carol Pershing for episode "Strangers")
  9. Costuming for a Series (Patrick R. Norris and Julie Glick for episode "Strangers")

1991 Winners:

  1. Lead Actress in a Drama Series — Patricia Wettig
  2. Supporting Actor in a Drama Series — Timothy Busfield
  3. Costuming for a Series (episode: "A Wedding")

It also received the following nominations in 1991:

  1. Drama Series
  2. Supporting Actress in a Drama Series — Melanie Mayron
  3. Supporting Actor in a Drama Series — David Clennon
  4. Writing in a Drama Series (episode: "Second Look")
  5. Guest Actress in a Drama Series (Eileen Brennan for "Sifting the Ashes")


  1. "Special Collector's Issue: 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time". TV Guide (June 28–July 4). 1997. 
  2. "TV Guide Names Top 50 Shows". CBS News/Associated Press. February 11, 2009.
  3. Roush, Matt (February 25, 2013). "Showstoppers: The 60 Greatest Dramas of All Time". TV Guide. pp. 16-17.
  4. "TV ACRES: Ethnic Groups > Jewish - "S-Z"". Retrieved August 9, 2015. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 "Thirtysomething". Museum of Broadcast Communications. Retrieved 2008-05-07. 
  6. 'Thirtysomething' Why We're Still Watching And Arguing About 'Thirtysomething'
  7. R. Hanke, "Hegemonic masculinity in Thirtysomething" and Margaret Heide, Television Culture and Women's Lives: "Thirtysomething" and the Contradictions of Gender
  8. Smith, Rupert (2003). Cold Feet: The Complete Companion. London: Granada Media. p. 6. ISBN 0-233-00999-X.
  9. Susan Faludi. "Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women -". Entertainment Weekly's Retrieved August 9, 2015. 
  10. OED:thirtysomething
  11. Alice Hoffman. "Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture". Retrieved August 9, 2015. 
  12. " Thirtysomething -Season 1 Volume 1: Timothy Busfield, Polly Draper, Mel Harris, Peter Horton, Melanie Mayron, Ken Olin, Various: Movies & TV". Retrieved August 9, 2015. 
  13. " thirtysomething - Season 1, Volume 2 - 11 Episode Set: Patricia Wettig, Timothy Bustfield, Ken Olin, Polly Draper, Peter Horton, Melanie Mayron, Mel Harris, Various: Movies & TV". Retrieved August 9, 2015. 
  14. "Thirtysomething - The Complete Season One [DVD]". Retrieved August 9, 2015. 
  15. "Thirtysomething: Season 2 [DVD] [1988]". Retrieved August 9, 2015. 
  16. "ThirtySomething - Season 3 [DVD]". Retrieved August 9, 2015. 
  17. "ThirtySomething - Season 4 [DVD]". Retrieved August 9, 2015. 

Further reading

External links