In 1987, 'thirtysomething' Brought Baby Boomer Problems to Primetime

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From left: Patricia Wettig, Polly Draper, Peter Horton, Mel Harris, Ken Olin and Melanie Mayron in a 1987 promo shot for 'thirtysomething.'

"Introspective people loved it, and extroverted people despised it," says co-creator Marshall Herskovitz of the Emmy-winning show, which turns 30 this year.

In a milestone sure to make baby boomers feel old, thirtysomething has turned 30. Yes, Michael, Hope and the gang now qualify for Social Security.

The Emmy-winning show, which ran for four seasons, was part of ABC's effort to reach that demo, and the network promoted it with an ad that said, "Real life is an acquired taste."

When thirtysomething first aired Sept. 29, 1987, The Hollywood Reporter's review was a bit harsh. It sounded like a grizzled World War II veteran describing the younger generation as self-indulgent, whining yuppies. ("You have to care for someone other than yourself, boys and girls. Gosh, oh gee, life is tough.")

The series' creators became inured to criticism. "The show was a lightning rod for people's emotions," says co-creator Marshall Herskovitz. "Introspective people loved it, and extroverted people despised it. They would say, 'Why are you complaining so much? Just get on with it.' "

Episodes examined postfeminist men, interfaith marriage, ethics in advertising, ovarian cancer and gay men in bed together, which caused a ruckus when advertisers fled. "Maybe there was something presumptuous and arrogant about us acting like we were the first generation to have children," says co-creator Ed Zwick. "But we were also trying to be more to the bone about relationships and why we do what we do." 

This story first appeared in the Sept. 20 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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