ABC has announced a sequel series pilot to thirtysomething, the Classic TV show about the interactions of a group of baby boomers and their families which ran from 1987 to 1991. Original cast members expected to return include Ken Olin (currently a director/producer on This is Us) as Michael Steadman, Mel Harris as Michael’s wife, Hope Murdoch; Timothy Busfield as Elliot Weston and Ken’s real-life wife, Patricia Wettig, as Elliot’s wife, Nancy Weston. They in turn will be joined by a group of new actors playing their grown-up, 30-something children. The contrasts of generations should be interesting.
Over at our Classic TV Podcast, we had previously had the opportunity to sit down with Ken, talking to him about a number of shows he’s been involved with, among them thirtysomething, and our position that it was a pretty revolutionary show at the time. “The immediate reaction to it clearly distinguished it as somewhat revolutionary,” he exclusively told Closer Weekly, “because it wasn’t met with the same kind of critical or audience response as any other show up to that point. In the same way something like Hill Street Blues was considered revolutionary at the time, where it was just so different and broke a mold.”
“Certainly,” he adds, “TV, for the most part, at least up through that period, everything was part of a mold. There was either this kind of show or this kind of show or this kind of show and they were … It was just programmers. Then you had a show like Hill Street Blues and you went, ‘Wait a minute. This is tackling issues in a way that is really stylistically different.’ I think thirtysomething was like that. I don’t think there was a show on television, certainly in the hour[-long] format, that didn’t have some kind of a franchise attached to it — meaning a medical show, a police show. There was some kind of an engine behind it that was based on the professions of the characters. I think half-hours dealt with domestic situations, but that was certainly different.”
Also allowing the show to stand apart from a lot of the others was the “self-analysis” that informed it, which was fairly unique. “[Co-creator] Marshall Herskovitz was very involved in psychotherapy, and so the show had a strong analytical component to it. Also, as much as it could be in the late 1980s, sexuality was a big thematic part of the show and its exploration of sexual relationships. So, yeah, I think it was revolutionary in that way. It was polarizing in that way, too. There are many people that loved it, embraced it and felt it was a really complex and important depiction of the way people of that socioeconomic bracket were living. Other people felt it was really narcissistic and just pushed it away. Their reaction was, ‘These people don’t speak for me. They don’t represent me, and they’re holding themselves up as if they do.’ It was that kind of thing.”
During that same conversation we asked Ken, who has more or less segued from acting to a full-fledged directing career, if the idea of a sequel series — theoretically sixtysomething — came up, if he’d be interested.
“You know what?” he asked rhetorically. “If Ed Zwick and Marshall said they wanted to do sixtysomething, there’s a few of us they’d have to try to get. I don’t know how much of a desire there is to do it and, frankly, I don’t know if people really want to see a bunch of 60-year-olds. Listen, it would be fun or funny maybe to do it … Yeah, I’m definitely not going to leave This is Us to go to This Was Them. But that would be funny … You know what? I don’t think Ed and Marshall have any desire to do that.”
Actually, the funniest bit of that exchange was watching Ken arm wrestle himself from vague interest to none at all. “That’s exactly right,” he laughs. “That is my entire relationship with acting.”
Well, it looks like he — as well as Ed and Marshall, among others — will be back.
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