When I was in college in the late 80s I was obsessed with a few things: my sorority (I bled wine and silver blue and rarely wore anything without an arrow or the Pi Beta Phi letters on it from 1987 – 1989); the bagel sandwiches from College Street Deli that I could rarely afford but were totally worth the splurge; and Michael and Hope Steadman.
I’m not kidding, you guys. From 1987 – 1991 (the entire run of Thirtysomething), I kept a photo of Michael, Hope and Janie I’d cut out of a magazine (most likely Entertainment Weekly) right in the center of my bulletin board. It was my first vision board, you might say. (I still have that photo, BTW, which is scotch-taped around the edges so it wouldn’t tear, in a keepsake box in my office.) When I began dating my boyfriend (now husband) in 1988, his thick shock of dark hair (now long gone) coupled with my own thick shock of long dark hair (quickly following suit) led to countless hours of me fantasizing that we, too, would one day buy a ramshackle fixer-upper in Philadelphia with a darling, plump baby girl and have a few close friends (who often drove us crazy) regularly letting themselves in our front door whenever they felt like it, helping themselves to a cup of coffee and then sitting on the kitchen counter listening to us argue with each other.
My ideal was not so ideal
Looking back, I have no idea why the Steadman marriage was such an fantasy of mine. Let’s be honest: they never seemed to like each other very much. After rewatching half of Season 1 a handful of years ago after my husband gave me the DVDs for Christmas (I think I wept when I opened it), I realized that both of them were not only boring, but kind of (super) depressing. Needless to say I didn’t finish the season; I refused to mar my memories.
Each week, from 1987 – 1991, the exact years I was in college, I escaped to Philadelphia and ached to become part of the gang. Besides my infatuation with Hope (the baggy sweaters!) and my not-so-secret crush on Michael (the suspenders!), I had strong feelings for the the rest of the crew.
I hated Elliot. I loved Elliot. Then I hated him again. Melissa was the kooky cousin I wish I had; Ellen the cool, independent best friend (even though she made some questionable decisions with her love life). I abhorred Miles Drentel, but was also weirdly fascinated by him and his desktop Zen garden. Nancy drove me crazy (I don’t know why but she did). Then I spent months terrified she’d die. But she didn’t ( I think we all know where this is going … I’ll pause if you need to get a tissue) someone else shockingly did.
The bike accident heard ’round the world
I can still remember where I was when Gary died. It was February, 1991. I was a senior in college. We were watching in my apartment living room — it was me, my boyfriend-now-husband (he’d become a huge fan of the show over the years, and while it’s true he probably started watching because he was trying to impress me, he honestly became invested), and my best friend and roommate, who was also rabidly obsessed. When Gary so shockingly died we were all completely and utterly gut-punched. We expected Nancy to die. We’d prepared for it. But Gary? Out of the blue? In such a senseless accident? I honestly felt true grief for days. I’m pretty sure I missed classes the next day because I couldn’t shake my shock and sorrow. WHATEVER. DON’T JUDGE ME.
I’m still raw, you guys.
Nostalgia television is IN
And now Hope, Michael, Elliot and Nancy are coming back — Nancy’s obvs still alive – hooray! — to live more stories with their now-adult children. I really don’t want to do the math on this, so let’s just say we’re all much older. Apparently Melissa, Ellen, and Susannah will pop in and out as well (but no Gary, obviously, unless his ghost is still haunting Michael).
I’m so excited about this, you guys. And with nostalgia TV such a huge deal, I think it’s a smart move. Plus, since Ken Olin (Michael) and Timothy Busfield (Elliot) have spent the better part of the past 30 years behind the camera (Ken Olin directs and produces This Is Us and Timothy Busfield has a laundry list of credits as well) I feel confident they are on top of what this should look like.
So what do we think has happened in the past 30 years? I’ve got some questions:
Are Hope and Michael still together? Are they as frustrated now in their (gulp) 60s as they were in their 30s? Now that my own real-life Michael and I also have grown up kids, will I still view them as my OTP and be as enamored with them?
Did they ever finished remodeling the house?
Are Janie and Leo fully and healthily emancipated adults? Are they disasters? Is the Steadman Guilt (TM) genetic?
What about Elliot and Nancy’s kid, Ethan? (He was kind of a piece of work as a child, TBH.) Did they ever find a way to get on the same page as parents once they reconciled?
I’ll be honest, I’m not sure I care as much about the answers to these questions as much as I am excited to be transformed back to that time in my life when that group of angsty pals felt like, in a weird (and questionable) way, hope. (No pun intended.)
BRB, going to stick that scotch-taped magazine picture back on my bulletin board.