Mad magazine said it best.
When Mad -- that ever-astute critic of pop culture -- parodied "thirtysomething" they renamed the show "thirtysuffering," and suddenly all my negative feelings about it crystallized.
These people just wallow in suffering. Sure, life offers up its hard knocks, and I'll admit that "thirtysomething" always did a fair job of realistically reflecting what some parts of life are all about. But for most people, life includes ups and downs, joy and pain; on "thirtysomething," the light-hearted moments were precious few and far between.
If it wasn't a business going under, it was cancer. If it wasn't a marriage souring, it was the angst of being single. Bent kids. Weird bosses. Screwed-up relationships. Untimely death.
And all these misadventures couldn't be happening to a less sympathetic ensemble of characters.
Michael epitomized self-absorbed yuppiedom with his whiny introspection. Elliot -- how could anyone ever have any sympathy for this selfish, thoughtless, dirty-dealing representation of the scum of humanity? Ellyn -- that voice, would someone please put her out of her misery? Gary -- the leftover hippie, all earnest good intentions, none of it ringing the least bit true.
"That show," said my husband, who hated it much more than I did (and whose comments had to be sanitized for use here), "gave me some real insight into the [expletive deleted] who aggravate the hell out of me every morning at rush hour. All these me-firsters, people that'll kill you just to get one car-length ahead of you. People who get all existentially despairing about insignificant minutiae."
OK, you ask, if I disliked the show so much, why didn't I just exercise my option to turn the damn thing off? Well, frequently I did. I don't think I've watched a single episode this year.
But at times, I admit, I watched it plenty. Maybe because there was nothing else on, nothing else to do at 10 o'clock Tuesday nights. Maybe because I share some of the perverse masochistic qualities that I hated in the "thirtysomething" characters. Maybe because, for a while there, it was the show everyone was talking about in the office on Wednesday morning.
(I feel it only fair to temper this vitriol with one disclaimer: There was one episode of the show that I thought was great, when Nancy was struggling with her cancer. I thought it was handled sensitively and artistically. But the best thing about the hour was the wonderful performance by a non-cast member, Tess Harper as Nancy's sister. The other good thing was that most of the regulars made only fleeting appearances.)
So, goodbye "thirtysomething." I can't say you'll be missed at my house. Besides, these days if I want to suffer, all I have to do is turn on an Orioles game.