She broke my heart. That started it all. I sat in my room with my heart pounding and my thoughts racing. How could she have done this to me? I grabbed a pencil and a piece of paper, and decided to write down my thoughts. The first thing I wrote wasn’t about what happened or a plea to get her back. I wrote two words: Chapter One.
I was 10 years old. I wrote Life In Timberline. A 6 page hand written lament about my first love.
Today, June 7th, 2017, 37 years later, my first book is published. Yes, in 2014, I self published an eBook called Scott Luck Stories, but this book, thirtysomething at thirty: an oral history, has pages, a cover, pictures and an ISBN number. This book is on sale across the globe. It can be found in book stores, online stores and on my own website. I have signed over 90 copies already and sent them out. I did it. I didn’t know at 10 years old that I was becoming a writer, although the fact that I wrote Chapter One before I shared what was on my mind, should have been a clue.
For my entire life I have written things. Movies, songs, Broadway reviews, Television series, essays, novels, blogs and magazine articles. But now I am published. This journey of bringing this book to life has been an amazing experience. My favorite part of my book is my Special Thanks section. Mostly because there are so many people who helped me get here. I love thanking people who help. I won’t repeat those thanks here. They are in my book. Did you know I have one? I do. It is fun to have a dream come true.
So let’s talk thirtysomething. It started as a podcast and just an interview with Richard Kramer. It grew so quickly, and before I knew it, I was getting emails on a daily basis from some of the artists who have inspired me the most. Writers whose words set my life on a trajectory of honesty and compassion. Actors that made me understand what creating characters was all about. I spoke with directors that shaped how I would film scenes for my movies. I learned so much about art by doing this project. I am excited to share thirtysomething with the world, but I am more excited to share how good art is crafted in a time where well crafted items are usually thrown away for something new and inferior.
I also need to thank the fans of thirtysomething. These people love this show in such a deep way. I can’t imagine the letters and comments that the people connected with the show must get. I get Facebook messages all the time with people just pouring out their hearts to me. This show touches people in a way that just doesn’t happen anymore. I am honored to take these stories and listen. I respect the show and the fans that created all these feelings.
I have had a very good year and half working on this project. I couldn’t have done it without my wonderful wife Jennifer that supports me everyday. No artist thrives without encouragement. I am lucky I have it.
There will be other projects, The Blue Rose Magazine is taking off, and I have 3 other books I want to start as soon as I can. The thirtysomething project will always be my first book that actually worked out and was born into the world — just like I dreamed as a ten-year old. I am still excited to write those magical words that I wrote so long ago. They always mean begin. Begin is such better than finish. So while I put this experience to rest, I know that I will very soon grab a pencil and paper to write again: Chapter One.
Big Bad Buffy heads out to Whedon Con 2017. We discuss Buffy & Angel with Actors Dagney Kerr (Kathy), Camden Toy (Lead Gentlemen), and Andrew J. Ferchland (The Anointed One), stunt coordinators Sophia Crawford (Buffy’s Stunt woman), Jeff Pruitt and comic book writer Cristos Gage.
This is a lively discussion where everyone jumps in, so just go along for the ride. Episode 10 will have Nicholas Brendon (Xander). We spoke to him at the Con. We will put that interview together with some fan interviews we did out there. That is coming soon…
A Documentary about the filming locations of Twin Peaks and the last public appearance of The Log Lady (Catherine Coulson). With tours from Brad Dukes and Josh Eisenstadt and a look at Scott’s journey to the real town of Twin Peaks.
Issue #1 of The Blue Rose, the Kindle Edition. An essay about Mark Frost’s Secret History of Twin Peaks Book, Part 1 of Bob Engels interview, Part 1 of The Missing Pieces, the Vinyl releases of the Twin Peaks Soundtrack and an in depth look at the UK Twin Peaks Fest 2016.
Scott & Josh talk about the first 4 parts of New Twin Peaks on Showtime. Spoilers abound so only listen if you have seen the first 4. Scott also talks about his trip out to Los Angeles and going to the red carpet event for the Twin Peaks Premiere. We break down the episodes as best as we can with such a quick turn around of time. For more coverage of the cast premiere party be sure to subscribe to The Blue Rose Magazine.
Hey, thirtysomething at thirty fans. Listen to Scott talk about the show on the podcast Return to the 80s. Even more exciting listen to us talk about Billy Joel. I also got to pay tribute to Don Rickles.
You can listen by clicking the play button below. It was fun to talk with Paul about all things 80s, including thirtysomething.
We have been waiting to release our cover of Issue #2 and we finally can. The main focus on Issue #2 is The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer written by Jennifer Lynch. We have an interview with Jennifer Lynch, an article about Laura’s life and struggles with abuse and cover the history of the diary and the new Audible release. Sheryl Lee reads the diary, so it made sense to have Sheryl Lee on the cover. We were able to have Sheryl Lee pose for a picture and she approved it for us. We are beyond honored to display our cover designed by Becca Ryan
As if having the free Showtime giveaway wasn’t enough, we now have an original cover with Sheryl Lee. The best way to get Issue #2 is to subscribe to The Blue Rose Magazine. When you subscribe, you get a better price on each issue and shipping. Issue #3 will come out 2 weeks after the new season ends. It will be a detailed episode guide of all 18 parts.
Issue #2 has an interview with Mark Frost conducted by Andreas Halskov, an essay about the Hazel Drew Case (the murder in Mark Frost’s home town) with new comments from Mark and Scott Frost, a recap of The Missing Pieces, a review of the new book about the Twin Peaks soundtrack, John Thorne’s thoughts on the return of Twin Peaks, an interview with Robert Engels about FWWM and coverage of the Laura Palmer Diary.
This Issue is more packed than the Roadhouse when Julee Cruise is performing.
Jim Harold invited John Thorne and Scott Ryan to guest on his wonderful show, The Great TV Podcast, to discuss the return of Twin Peaks. They talk about the original 29 episodes, Fire Walk With Me and the new series that debuts on Showtime on May 29th. They also discuss Blue Rose Magazine, Issue #1 and how the magazine covers the new series.
Listen to the interview here or head out to iTunes to subscribe to Jim’s podcast. Scott will be a guest on a future episode to discuss the upcoming book about thirtysomething, thirtysomething at thirty.
“I want all my Garmonbozia,” said The Man From Another Place. Well, “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me” sure delivered plenty of pain and suffering. The world of the film “Fire Walk With Me” is nothing like the world of the television series “Twin Peaks.” Not that it should be anyway. FWWM is Laura Palmer’s story – the story of her last days. The film resonates with the trauma and exclusion Laura is experiencing. The first part of the film is the story of the death of Teresa Banks, but we soon discover that Banks and Palmer have an unusual connection. His name is BOB.
Sunday marked the eighth and last day of the USC Twin Peaks Retrospective. Tonight featured a screening of the prequel/sequel “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.” FBI Agent Gordon Cole (David Lynch) charges agents Chester “Chet” Desmond (Chris Isaak) and Sam Stanley (Kiefer Sutherland) to travel to the town of Deer Meadow and investigate the murder of Banks. It will be a tricky investigation as the sour-faced dancing Lil points out: there are problems with the local authorities, trouble higher up, a lot of leg work involved, drugs involved, and something more mysterious … indicated by the blue rose. The town of Deer Meadow is the negative of Twin Peaks. The men and women who work at the Sheriff’s station are corrupt and callous, Hap’s is certainly no RR Diner (I mean, did you see that neon sign of the crying clown?!), and Banks was no homecoming queen. Agent Desmond’s journey down the rabbit hole searching for the blue rose causes him to disappear – but to where? Then the film takes us to Philadelphia. Cooper experiences a strange encounter with the phantom Agent Jeffries (David Bowie).Cooper travels to Dear Meadow to investigate the disappearance of Agent Desmond. Cooper is unsettled and is positive the killer will kill again – but this time it will be a blonde school girl. Cue Laura Palmer walking down the tree-lined streets of her suburban Twin Peaks neighborhood. Popular, beautiful, and sweet: Palmer is all of these things but so much more. Too much more. Laura is slipping down the slippery slope of self-medication and escapism, finding solace in cocaine, alcohol and sex. The abuse by Bob is too much bear, and now he is getting inside her head. He wants to be her. Laura slips into the shadows with Bob, and he carries her off to the boxcar of her death. But, in the end, we know that Laura is going to be OK. She has two guardian angels watching over her in the waiting room of the Red Room – the guardian angel of her dreams and Special Agent Dale Cooper. Laura is saved. Her smile says it all. The end.
After the screening, Ray Wise (Actor, “Leland Palmer”) – who was seated in the front row during the screening – stood up, faced the audience and said, “Well, that was exhausting.” The crowd roared and gave him a standing ovation. Then, the panel entered the stage. This week’s panel included actors from the TV series and film and the co-writer. Unfortunately Sherilyn Fenn and Miguel Ferrer could not attend the panel.
PHOEBE AUGUSTINE (Actor, “Ronette Pulaski”)
IAN BUCHANAN (Actor, “Dick Tremayne”)
BOB ENGELS (Co-Writer)
SHERYL LEE (Actor, “Laura Palmer”/”Madeleine Ferguson”)
JENNIFER LYNCH (Author, The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer)
JAMES MARSHALL (Actor, “James Hurley”)
RAY WISE (Actor, “Leland Palmer”)
Alex Ago (Moderator) began the discussion by asking the panelists how they became involved in “Twin Peaks.”
James Marshall (Actor, “James Hurley”) said he was young and having fantasies about owning a Harley Davidson motorcycle. He started to get nervous because he wasn’t getting enough auditions. He was approached about doing a project involving a “Harley guy” and David Lynch. Perfect. Marshall said when he met with Lynch, David said, “You know, basically, James, I’m pretty sure you’re it.” Marshall said Lynch “took the nerves right out of” the situation. But Marshall didn’t tell anyone he was involved until it was official.
Marshall said he grew up in New Jersey, which was similar to the Northwest. He said, David Lynch’s “take on life is weird because life is weird.” When asked what it was like to play a “bad boy” who was actually good, Marshall said when he grew up the bad boy was actually the popular guy wearing the letterman’s jacket who was bad because he was the one who committed date rape. However, the long haired guys who didn’t look normal were actually the good guys.
Marshall said Lynch rarely gave direction – he would simply coax. He described an emotional scene he was performing with Lara Flynn Boyle. Lynch wasn’t getting what he wanted out of the scene, so he got down on his knees with his head pointed down and put his arms in the air and rubbed his fingers together. He did this for about three minutes. Finally, he stood up and said, “Go for it, James.”
Ray Wise (Actor, “Leland Palmer”) said when he was sent the script for “Northwest Passage,” which became the pilot for “Twin Peaks,” he thought he was going to play Sheriff Harry Truman. (Everyone in the audience laughed at this idea.) Wise said when he met with David Lynch, they talked about their first cars – Wise’s was a 1950 Alpha Romeo, and he thought Lynch’s was a Volkswagen. They also talked about actors and people they knew in common. When he found out he was playing Leland Palmer, he read the script again and discovered the character he was going to play was a “big cry baby.” That was his initial reaction to playing Leland, but Wise said Leland Palmer was “the greatest character I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing.”
Wise said he was “fooled by everything and everybody. I thought Leland was a good guy who loved his wife and daughter. I didn’t know I was going to be the killer of my own daughter.” Wise said he had a baby girl who was born in 1987 – a few years before the show aired. He said, “The whole idea about being the killer of your daughter did not sit well with me.” Wise said Sheryl Lee (Actor, “Laura Palmer”) gave him a picture of herself when she was in the third grade. He kept it in his “Leland” wallet throughout the series.
When Wise found out his character killed Laura Palmer, he was in a room with David Lynch, Mark Frost, Sheryl Lee and Richard Beymer. In his finest David Lynch impression, Wise said that David told him, “Ray, it’s you. It’s always been you.” Wise told David, “No!” But Lynch tapped Wise on the knee and told him, “But it’s gonna be a beautiful thing.” Lynch told Wise he would die in Cooper’s arms while Cooper recites from the Tibetan book of the dead. In the end, he’ll reunite with his daughter Laura, who forgives him, in heaven. Richard Beymer was in the room during the reveal to Wise because Beymer’s character of Ben Horne was one of three possible identities for the killers of Laura Palmer. This was done in order to throw off the crew and public. Wise said there were several scenes in which Sheryl Lee had to be “killed” – by Leland, by Ben Horne and by BOB. Even the crew did not know the actual killer.
Wise said the murder scene in the boxcar was very intense and an “amazing thing.” He said he likes to think of it “like a religious experience of the entity taken over.” It was his way of justifying the actions of BOB in that moment.
Ian Buchanan (Actor, “Dick Tremayne”) said he had worked with David Lynch on a commercial for Obsession for Men – a cologne by Calvin Klein. The commercial also featured Lara Flynn Boyle (Actor, “Donna Hayward”). David Lynch told Tremayne on the set of the commercial, “You’d make a good Dick!” Tremayne was taken aback until he found out that Lynch wanted him to play the pompous department store employee Dick Tremayne.
Buchanan said he felt like he was on a different show because he never had access to a script – just a few pages with his lines. He said he was always wearing a “plethora of plaid.” He recalled going to the make-up room and there would be these “buckets of blood and fingernails. I had no idea what was going on.” When asked if he developed a backstory regarding Dick Tremayne, Buchanan said he assumed Dick was “impersonating everyone he saw on TV or screen.”
Jennifer Lynch (Author, The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer) said she became involved with “Twin Peaks” after a call from her father, David Lynch. Lynch asked Jennifer if she remembered a conversation they had when Jennifer was only 12. Jennifer told her father that she really wanted to steal another girl’s diary. She said, “I wanted to know if she was scared of the same things I was, if she yearning for the same things I was.” Jennifer Lynch said, “Like all other adolescent girls, I was afraid.” During the phone call, David Lynch asked his daughter, “Jenn-O, would you like to write Laura Palmer’s diary?” Jennifer said, “Fuck yeah I would!” Lynch said she became one of only three breathing mammals who knew the killer of Laura Palmer at the time.
Lynch said that the story of Laura Palmer is “perhaps the most real story about child abuse ever made. This was so eloquent.” Alex Ago said he saw the film as a child with his mother and his mother said it was “the most insightful film about child abuse.” I think this is a crucial reason why the film resonates with so many people — the story of Laura Palmer shows the horrors of abuse but also reveals the strength and perseverance of the victim.
Sheryl Lee (Actor, “Laura Palmer/Madeleine Ferguson”) responded to Jennifer Lynch’s story. Lee said, “I, too, had the same tears and confusion and pain, and I am grateful for your words.” Lee said she became involved with “Twin Peaks” when David Lynch called her after seeing her photo. Lynch said Lee was “probably this dead girl.” Since Lynch didn’t audition his actors, he simply had a conversation with Lee. Lynch asked her how she felt about being wrapped in plastic, doused in cold water, and thrown into a river. Lee laughed, and said she was from Colorado, so she didn’t mind the cold. After she completed the pilot, Lynch called her several months later and asked her if she wanted to come back to the show. Lee was confused and said, “How? I’m dead.” But Lynch and others had tricks up their sleeves – Lee returned to play Laura Palmer’s sweet dark-haired cousin Madeleine “Maddy” Ferguson.
Alex Ago asked Lee if anything from the diary inspired her performance. Lee said she felt the character from the diary helped pull her through the performance. She said, “Sometimes it’s physical. Sometimes it’s intellectual. With Laura, it was raw emotion. Living with that – the shame, the secrets, the double life. It’s hard to talk about because I can still feel it. The rawness and the truth – the way Jen wrote that – it’s all there.” Lynch responded, “Yeah, but look what you did with it.”
Sheryl Lee described the incredible experience of working with David Lynch. She said he worked like a photographer or a painter in his attention to detail. She said, “It’s like he’s friends with the creative force, and the creative force steps in and plays with you.”
Phoebe Augustine (Actor, “Ronette Pulaski”) was a newlywed when she was cast in “Twin Peaks”, but her maiden name had still been printed on her headshots. She told David Lynch she wanted to use her married name for the series. Lynch asked her what it was, but when she told him, he said, “No. Phoebe Augustine looks better on the screen.” And so it was.
Augustine recalled the exhausting portrayal of Pulaski when her character was hospitalized. She recalled the orderlies holding her down. She said she kept bruising from the physicality of the scenes. Lynch told her, “I know this is really hard on you.” He then took a piece of gum and stuck it to the camera and told Augustine, “When we are done, you can have it.” Augustine laughed and said that was Lynch’s way of making her laugh and putting her at ease.
Bob Engels (Co-writer, “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me”) was gracious to come to a second panel to discuss the film. He also attended the Feb. 10 retrospective. Engels discussed the creation and process of writing the script of “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me” with David Lynch. Engels said when he and Lynch were working on a script called “In Heaven,” Lynch told him he wanted to make a “Twin Peaks” film. Engels and Lynch decided to write the film as a prequel and sequel to the television series. Engels said it was really an attempt to answer the question, “What else can we tell about this story?” Engels mentioned a lot of scenes that were cut from the script and film, including scenes in Argentina involving Josie Packard and Windom Earle. There was a whole 1950’s sequence of the inauguration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower that was cut. Shots of bugs crawling under a Formica table were removed. Engels said the process of writing with Lynch took some interesting turns because “you kind of go wherever you go. We would hit on something, and then we would do 10 pages of that.” Engels said the dreamlike sequence of everything allowed for the possibility of anything to happen, so it wasn’t unimaginable to tell the story of “Twin Peaks” going back to the 1950s or even the 1850s.
Regarding the knowledge of who killed Laura Palmer – Engels said he knew who the killer was in episode three. He said keeping the secret (or any secrets) about the show was difficult because the scripts were getting leaked. The National Enquirer was even getting access to scripts. Engels said they started numbering and tracing the scripts. It turned out that someone in the costume department was leaking the scripts.
Engels described the actual writing process with David Lynch. He would arrive at Lynch’s place at 3 p.m. and they would work until 6 p.m. Then, they would call it quits and drink wine with their wives, and he would go home. He would type and Lynch would stand behind him. Engels said the actual writing of the script only took about a week after they figured everything out. He and Lynch would act out the parts – Lynch would usually play the bad guys, and Engels the good guys.
Several of the panelists told stories about Frank Silva (Actor, “BOB”). Jennifer Lynch said Silva was “one of the most important people in her life. Frank turned me on to this apartment building. It was still the most beautiful apartment I’ve ever lived in. We made furniture together out of particleboard. We stayed up three days straight – sober – making furniture.” She said Silva was so kind he would “go to the other side of Mars to help someone.” Bob Engels acknowledged that Silva was not an actor so he had to be coached. Engels said Silva “couldn’t have been more opposite of what BOB was.” Marshall told the story of how Silva went from being a set dresser to becoming BOB – when Lynch recognized his potential while Silva was trying to stay out of a shot. Augustine recalled the scene in the pilot where she walks across the bridge after emerging from the death throes of Laura Palmer. She said the whole crew was standing at the end of the bridge as she walked toward them. She kept getting nervous and told Lynch there was one guy in the crew who was making her afraid but she wasn’t sure why. It was Frank Silva. When she asked Lynch who he was, Lynch said, “He’s the bad guy, but don’t tell anyone.”
During the Q&A, Alex Ago asked Bob Engels how an angel found her way into the Black Lodge. Engels said, “Whenever you had to explain the rules of the Red Room to David Lynch, you were hitting a brick wall.” Sheryl Lee was asked if Lynch ever asked her to do something she couldn’t bring herself to do while playing Laura Palmer. She said, “Yes. It had to do with a pig’s head.” She explained that, “I trust David Lynch so much as a director. I was so young, but I felt so safe. He surrounds you with people who make you feel safe.” But there was one scene Lee couldn’t perform. Lee said they were shooting the bedroom scene in TP:FWWM in which she finds a bloody Annie Blackburn in her bed. She had a funny feeling that something was going on. People around her kept saying things like, “Is it here yet?” She found out they had brought an actual severed pig’s head from a butcher shop to cross-cut between the faces of BOB and Leland during the rape scene. It was too much for Sheryl Lee. Fortunately, Lee said, the DP told Lynch they couldn’t physically do the scene with the pig head due to technical reasons. Lynch eventually relented. Lee said despite this particular disagreement, she and Lynch had a great way of working. When she was confused, he would take her hand and lead her on a “walk-and-talk”. She said it was almost like he was hypnotizing her to create a mood. Phoebe Augustine also agreed that a majority of Lynch’s directing involved telling long stories to the actors right before a scene to set the “mood”.
During the Q&A, Bob Engels revealed some crazy information about the One-armed Man and Mike. Engels said “Garmonbozia” referred to a far off planet made of creamed corn and all the evil entities of the Red Room were desperately trying to return there. Alex Ago said, “You just blew my mind.” He blew my mind, too. Still reeling. Engels also said the blue rose was a reference to Tennessee Williams’ play “The Glass Menagerie.” Engels also revealed when David Bowie says “Judy” in the film, it is a reference to Engels sister-in-law. Here’s the scene. Engels said Judy is his wife’s sister, and when you work on TV, you put in references like these in your scripts to give a friendly shout-out to your friends and family. Engels revealed David Bowie was included in the film because of David Lynch’s assistant Debbie Trutnik. According to Engels, she would always ask if they were going to write a part for David Bowie. They finally did.
Engels told a funny anecdote about Lynch. One day they passed by Alfred Hitchcock’s former office. They knocked on a door until an assistant opened it. Lynch told her, “ I have an appointment to meet Mr. Hitchcock in one hour.” He and Engels waited patiently in the lobby even though Hitchcock has been dead for years.
Someone asked James Marshall how he felt about his excursion to “Noir Town”. He said, “I didn’t like it. I didn’t think it was my place to say anything. I tried to push it gently. I thought the James/Donna thing was beautiful in their innocence, and I don’t know how you prolong that, but I would have preferred we explore that instead.” He always felt his character was a soulful person, and that his antics in “Noir Town” betrayed that.
Alex Ago asked if there was ever any discussion about a third season or a sequel to “Twin Peaks.” Engels could not recall if there was. Ray Wise said that David Lynch used to tell him, “The town of Twin Peaks is still there…but you’re not.” Everyone laughed. Jennifer Lynch responded to this by saying when she heard about the rumors for a season 3 of “Twin Peaks,” she called David Lynch to ask if the rumors were true. Jennifer Lynch said, “He said no. From the horse’s mouth.” Her own thoughts about a season 3 were similar. “It should be where it is. It is a beautiful movie. I wouldn’t want to see new actresses try to be in that world.” So, this begs the question, what did Mark Frost mean when he said “Twin Peaks” is an ongoing story, and that comes from David, too? Perhaps Kyle MacLachlan’s quip from the last panel was correct – maybe “Twin Peaks” is a continuing story, but only in our heads. If so, I’ll take it. If Mark Frost and David Lynch want to continue the story of “Twin Peaks,” I’m in. If they don’t, I’m OK with that decision. At least I have two seasons and a film. The rest of the story can play out in my dreams.
Since this is the final retrospective blog, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Alessandro (Alex) Ago, the Director of Programming and Special Projects at the USC School of Cinematic Arts. Alex whipped up an amazing bevy of panelists for this retrospective, and he asked the questions we wanted to ask. He was an excellent moderator. I would like to thank Visions and Voices and USC School of Cinematic Arts for supporting this retrospective and other valuable programs. The retrospective was really a lesson in filmmaking – direction, working with people, writing, the art of cinema and the business. A big thank you goes out to all of the lovely “Twin Peaks” fans that I’ve met over these past few months. You are a special group. I’ve met some good friends – especially Michael, Dee and Joyce. I salute you. I’d also like to thank my husband, Bob Canode, who attended several of these events. He is my rock and a convert to the cult of “Twin Peaks.” Finally, I would like to thank Scott and Joshua from the Red Room Podcast. They are truly dedicated to intelligent discussions about film and television. I am honored to be one of their bloggers. Thus concludes the final panel of the retrospective. Remember, my friends, when this kind of fire starts, it is very hard to put out.
John Thorne joins Scott Ryan and Josh Minton to talk all about Mark Frost’s book The Secret History of Twin Peaks. We recorded this podcast the day the book came out so things have changed since then, but the basic fun of cracking the code of this book is here for you to listen to. John has deepened his knowledge of this book and wrote our first lead essay in the Blue Rose Magazine, Issue #1. I have a feeling after the series, there will be more to discuss with the Frost sequel to the book, Twin Peaks: The Final Dossier.
As a thirtysomething aficionado, even after thirty years, when given the opportunity to share my thoughts about one of the 85 episodes, my mind frantically begins to flip through mental photographs. I can see images and moments like stills in an old box and once I have the photos in focus the story quickly comes to mind. So the very concept of picking one over another to share my thoughts has become a rather arduous task. The question is not which one do I do but rather which one should I do first?
I settled my inner turmoil with my favorite episode. As impossible as it is for me to pick favorites from a series that continually delivered excellence in writing, acting and directing in just about every episode, I am forced to select one to start with.
I’ll be Home for Christmas.
No shocker here, this one has been a favorite for many fans for years. This is the first episode to give insight into Michael Steadman and who he really is. thirtysomething revolves around a magnificent ensemble of fine tuned characters whose intertwined lives are so beautifully written and portrayed. Like all of us, I have a favorite character and we could all sit down at a Starbucks and argue for hours about why we feel our character is our favorite, but one thing we can all agree on is that thirtysomething is truly a series about Michael Steadman and the world according to him.
Through the first few episodes we have seen Michael the doting husband, the new father, the loyal friend, the business partner and entrepreneur, but in this episode we peel back a few layers to see a more intimate side. Michael the insecure and conflicted man with jealous and creative urges that have been quietly stifled deep within.
We are introduced to a driven and ambitious side with a thirst to succeed even if it means using others along the way. At the same time, we are shown a humble man who eventually can admit his failures and will part with his will for the ones he loves, in this case Hope and Melissa.
Richard Kramer so meticulously created some of the most eloquently written and memorable scenes of the entire series just in this episode alone. We get to see Melanie Mayron at her finest.
Since this is probably being read by fellow aficionados I will forgo doing any kind of recap and rather clarify my picks for the pivotal moments that make this episode so unforgettable.
I’ve always felt that it was a nice touch to have a pregnant aerobics campaign as the current account for Michael and Elliot especially for a Christmas episode. With pregnancy being a time of great waiting, it befits this episode perfectly since both Michael and Melissa seem to be waiting for acceptance and affirmation.
Michael’s disregard for Melissa’s schedule and failure to give her notice for the necessary photo shoot indicate his lack of respect for her talent and a general disbelief in her ability to be a successful photographer.
Although Melissa and Michael are cousins there is a slight discrepancy towards their faith and acceptance of Christmas.
While Melissa welcomes Christmas as a holiday, comically using a Barbie doll at the top of her tree and introducing her to Gary as Lauren, Barbie’s Jewish friend, Michael looks within to examine his adolescence and Jewish heritage.
I love that Gary is extremely introspective in this episode. I’ve often said, when discussing the series, that Gary is the Linus of the group. He is Michael’s inner voice – out loud. While Elliot attempts to persuade Michael to use Melissa’s first shoot, Gary is the one who calls out Michael’s real issues for his apparent disregard to Melissa’s work and feelings. Michael’s hidden desire to be a writer is exposed for the first time, and we the audience have an immediate aha moment thanks to Gary’s incessant prodding.
When Melissa casually mentions to Michael and Hope about meeting Andy Aronson and his implied interest in her work, Michael scrutinizes her assuming that she is being naïve about his motives.
Thus begins the tension that later explodes magnificently in Michael’s office. Elliot and Gary have front row seats to the Melissa and Michael stand off. I don’t know how many takes that portion took to film or if the director Robert Lieberman allowed any creative freedom in the scene, but it is brilliant. There is almost a crescendo in the tension and delivery between the two characters. Their banter is uncomfortable and almost cruel and for a moment we forget that we are watching two very talented actors at work and not the cousins they portray.
Here is an excerpt from thirtysomething at thirty by Scott Ryan. This section is from the chapter about I'll Be Home For Christmas:
Ken Olin (Michael): Everything shifted in that episode. Rob Lieberman came from a very different film background. They wanted the director to bring their own sensibility to the episodes. He was a hip, contemporary commercial director. He brought this vibe to the episode. It was really liberating for me. The struggle for me was how do I bring this character to life when I am not in synch with what Ed and Marshall wanted? They wanted a quirky type of performance. Rob really helped, we had a great relationship.Richard Kramer: We really blew the lights out with that. When I was writing the fight scene for Melissa and Michael Ed said, “Take it as far as you can.” I remember Ken and Melanie shaking on the set after doing it because they were so overwhelmed by finding this in their characters.Melanie Mayron: Rob had two cameras and they had the longest lens he could find which meant the cameras were really far away. It felt like it was just Ken and I on the set. The crew was back where the cameras were. When he said action we just went for it. It was like being on stage. We could play it as big as we wanted to the balcony because the people were sitting far away on the other side of the orchestra pit. It was the only time we shot the show that way.
from - thirtysomething at thirty: an oral history published by Bear Manor Media and Scott Ryan Productions.
As Michael’s conflict increases so does his guilt. As Christmas nears, we see Michael battle within himself and questions what is right. Ashamed with his behavior and embarrassed by his actions he reveals his greatest side. The side we shall see throughout all the episodes to come. Michael, in the end, will always do what he feels is right. We tend to always see the fight within us all. He brings Melissa’s photographs to the gallery owner, and he surprises Hope with a Christmas tree with once again, Gary’s help. And as good prevails, after trying to correct his mistakes and an attempt at making things right, Michael is rewarded in the end. As he enters his home he finds Hope and Janie waiting to light a menorah and Melissa, his loving and forgiving cousin waiting to embrace him and welcome him home.