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thirtysomething: The Complete Second Season (1988-1989)

Shout! Factory
DVD Released: 1/19/2010

All Ratings out of
Show: 1/2
Video: 1/2

Review by Stephanie Long, Posted on 1/19/2010

When I was a sophomore in college, I dropped whatever I was doing when thirtysomething came on. Sounds odd, I know, but there was something about that show that touched me like no show has done since. I wanted to be like Hope Steadman and live in a big house with an adoring husband and a great group of friends for support. However, I was also realistic, and perhaps that is why the show has stuck with me ever since, for this was not a neat and tidy show where everything is solved in an episode, or one in which the protagonists got everything they wanted. It was a brutally honest picture of life- the happy and the sad, the exciting and the mundane, the good and the bad. Because it was so real, I could easily identify with the characters as if they were actual people I knew leading the kind of life I wanted and would one day have.

The second season of thirtysomething continues the story of Hope and Michael Steadman (Mel Harris and Ken Olin), and their friends Nancy and Elliot Weston (Patricia Wettig and Timothy Busfield), Ellyn Warren (Polly Draper), Gary Hart (Peter Horton), and Michael’s cousin Melissa (Melanie Mayron). Michael wants another child, but he has to convince Hope the time is right, in addition to handling a failing business and his role as the main provider for the family. Elliot works on himself as a father and tries to earn a second chance with soon-to-be ex-wife Nancy. Nancy delves further in to the world of work and dating while continuing the writing of her children’s book. Ellyn deals with her parent’s divorce, her relationship with Woodman (Terry Kinney), and an ulcer. Gary meets Susannah (Patricia Kalember), an opinionated director of a social service agency who changes his life in many significant ways. Melissa begins to experience growing success, including photographing Carly Simon (who makes an appearance in the episode “Trust Me”). Equally important to the cast is antagonist David Clennon, playing Miles Drentell, the owner of an ad agency that plays heavily in to the second half of the season.

season one, the creators and writers of thirtysomething were able to accurately capture what it is like to be in your thirties dealing with the life you have, versus the life you think you want. Season two does an equally good job of this with stand out episodes mainly coming in the beginning of the season, including “The Mike Van Dyke Show”, “In Re: The Marriage of the Westons”, “No Promises”, and “First Day/Last Day”. A noticeable improvement of this season is in the actual storytelling itself. The stories of each episode seem more complete, and not just snippets of “everyday life”. The use of fantasy elements (usually in the form of the character’s imaginations), works much better this season. In season one, those elements often felt artificial and gimmicky, whereas in season two they help tell the story of the episode without detracting from it.

Season 2 of thirtysomething is, overall, a very solid and satisfying collection of episodes. However, the beginning of the season is stronger than the second half. Twenty something years later, all of the episodes I remember the best are the ones in the beginning of the season. Much of the second half feels as if it is setting the storyline for the next few seasons to follow. The latter episodes of
this season may not be as memorable, but they are important to the whole story, and they are better than most of what has come since on TV dramas.

thirtysomething: The Complete Second Season relies heavily on a milk company on DVD courtesy of Shout! Factory. The five-disc boxed set contains all 17 episodes from the show's second season. The shows are presented in their original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The image's here look much better than those presented in Season One. The image is relatively sharp and clear. There is some very mild grain present and some occasional defects from the source material, such as black spots and small scratches. When compared to Season One, the image is much brighter and the colors aren't as washed out. However, there are a handful of shots which are very grainy and dark, as if they were pulled from a different source. While this still looks like a 20-year old show, the video has definitely improved. The DVDs carry a digital stereo audio track. This track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is a fairly lackluster track, but it does the job that it's asked to do -- we can understand all of the dialogue and there is no intrusive cracking or hissing. The in-show music sounds fine.

The thirtysomething: The Complete Second Season DVD set contains several extras. Kudos to the crew at Shout! Factory for gathering so many of the original cast and crew members for AUDIO COMMENTARIES. Disc 1: "We'll Meet Again" Commentary by Director Scott Winant and Writer Richard Kramer; "The Mike Van Dyke Show" Commentary by Marshall Herskovitz and Scott Winant. Disc 2: "First Day/Last Day" Commentary by Director Peter Horton and Writer Joseph Dougherty. Disc 4: "Michael Writes a Story" Commentary by Joseph Dougherty; "Be a Good Girl" Commentary by Director Richard Kramer and Melanie Mayron. Disc 5: "Best of Enemies" Commentary by Writer Joseph Dougherty. The remainder of the extras are found on Disc 5. "Mad Ad Man" (16 minutes) focuses on the character Miles Dentrell, as embodied by actor David Clennon. The piece features comments from Clennon, along with series creators Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz who discuss the creation of the character, what he is about, and how he came to effect the other characters on the show. This idea is continued in "The Metamorphosis of Miles" (13 minutes), where Clennon shows us rough cut footage of Miles Dentrell in action which was then re-shot to create the character who the fans love to hate. Clennon points out the differences and describes how the change came about. "Inside the Outsider" (13 minutes) is an interview with Patricia Kalember who discusses her character, Susannah Hart. She describes how she got the role and how she approached the character. We also get comments from Peter Horton. In "W.G. Snuffy Walden on the Music of thirtysomething" (16 minutes), the composer discusses how he attempted to make his music fit the show. He talks about how he had to adjust his writing style and his instruments to do the score.

Review Copyright 2010 by Mike Long