We watch... so you don't have to.

Zwick-Herskovitz: TV Pushers

I just learned that Bravo will be airing the series run of thirtysomething, which is somewhat akin to learning that the neighborhood pot dealer has come home from college for the summer.

I should elucidate further, before all of you nurture the mistaken impression that I'm only interested in my neighbors for pharmacological reasons.

Back in 1994, when the World Wide Web was young and so was I, I was a graduate student with a raging case of insomnia. Since the Web was still comprised primarily of interesting and useful sites -- as opposed to the time-wasting dreck we all furtively surf at work now -- and since I could only read so much French deconstructionism before my brain cells began leaping out of my ears in self-defense, I finally turned to the house television in desperation.

You have to understand two things: I had never lived anywhere with unfettered access to cable, and I had never liked to watch television.

But I was overtired and desperate, and when I channel-surfed, I hit upon thirtysomething. I watched, if only because the show honestly seemed to make no sense, and within twenty minutes, I was out like a light.

A few days later, I couldn't sleep again, so I crept downstairs, clicked on the television, found Lifetime, and began watching. The questions I had been woozily asking -- who were these people and what were they talking about? -- went unanswered, since I conked out at the twenty-two minute mark.

For the rest of the year, whenever I couldn't sleep, I'd watch thirtysomething. By the end of the school year, my curiosity had gotten the better of me and I had done several Lexis-Nexis searches to try and unearth the missing pieces in my mental puzzle. Imagine my surprise when I learned that the main characters were not, as I had thought, sociopathic Gap employees. And imagine how disconcerting it was when I discovered that Michael and Hope were not mortal enemies engaged in a series of increasingly complex mindgames, but were actually married to one another.

Heady stuff, I tell you.

The other side effect to my year of thirtysomething was discovering television that didn't make me fall asleep. I had gone to school that fall watching only two shows -- Beverly Hills, 90210 and Melrose Place -- and those two only because they provided a handy weekly excuse for me and my friends to throw elaborate drinking parties. By the end of the year, I was conversant in The State, Beavis and Butthead, The Maxx, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Homicide: Life on the Street, E.R., Law and Order, Party of Five, Friends and The X-Files.

And now... and now, I write for two television Websites, read books like Make Room for TV: Television and the Family Ideal in Postwar America and Inside Prime Time, and generally pay much, much too much attention to what's on TV.

I blame thirtysomething: clearly, it was the gateway drug.

And now... now I've learned that it will be returning to the airwaves. And I'm torn: do I TiVo it against the next inevitable bout of insomnia? Or do I ignore it, lest I be sucked further into the heart of darkness?

I have always wanted to know if Michael and Hope went ahead and got that divorce they were so obviously heading toward....

On the other hand, there are better ways to induce a nodding stupor. O! The indecision!


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