It was a Monday night, and Murphy Brown was a rerun. But I was happy anyway. We had thirtysomething — my long-departed passion — on tape. Or so I thought until I saw the queasy look on my husband’s face. He almost never forgets anything, but the other night he had forgotten to set the VCR to catch thirtysomething on cable’s Lifetime network. I felt irritated. I felt mean. I felt betrayed. ”How could you?” I snarled through clenched teeth.
And that’s when I knew — I was addicted. Again. I should have known it would happen. It was dangerous enough when thirtysomething was on ABC every Tuesday night between 1987 and 1991. Now, Lifetime has put it on twice each weekday (at 2 and 11 p.m.) and once on Saturday (at 3 p.m.). Some of my warier friends had warned me not to watch the five-episode marathon that inaugurated Lifetime’s thirtysomething resurrection on March 3. I seemed alone in its thrall while others made excuses: I don’t have the heart; I don’t have the time; I don’t have cable. ”Will you tape it?” one friend asked. ”And if you get through it, I’ll give it a try.”
But I didn’t just get through it. I loved the whole thing. The fun really started the next night, though, when Lifetime replayed the first episode. When ABC killed the series last May, everything about it seemed infused with gravity. It was heavy with the living and dying of four years. But the episodes now playing are from lighter days in 1987: Michael and Hope are lithe and in love. Elliot is irrepressible, and Nancy is repressed. How could anyone not enjoy this?
Then last week came the moment when Melissa calculated the number of Saturday nights she and her lover-turned-pal Gary had left to them if they lived to be 80. My husband and I looked at each other. We already knew that Gary, at least, would not see Melissa’s estimate of 2,497. (Gary died in a car crash in the final season.) It was a little weird — and sad — to be so omniscient.
Part of the fun of watching the show had been never knowing what would happen next — because anything could. Now thirtysomething is predictable. Sure, we’ll never know whether Gary’s ghost was a reliable prophet when he said Melissa would marry Lee (her winsome beau, played by Corey Parker). We’ll never know what she would have worn to the wedding. But we also don’t have to worry about whether cancer will claim Nancy.
Now we can move off the edge of our seats. Relax. Revel. Unless somebody forgets to set the VCR.