Ken Olin Interview: thirtysomething, This Is Us

Ever since we started the thirtysomething podcast, one guest has been requested the most, Ken Olin – Michael Steadman. Your wish is granted. Join Carolyn and Scott for a 90 minute interview with Ken Olin. We talk about the thirtieth year of thirtysomething as well as his directing on the new #1 hit show, This Is Us.

We ask him about a few episodes of thirtysomething and his thoughts on a reunion show. Ken also talks about what it was like to read my upcoming book, thirtysomething at thirty. We asked him different questions than I asked him for the book, so there is little cross over. If you want to hear Ken talk about working with Mel Harris, how he developed his character and the intense scenes in “I’ll Be Home For Christmas”, you will want to order thirtysomething at thirty.

Enjoy this laugh-filled conversation with the one and only, Ken Olin.

Listen to the podcast here:

Download the  Interview here.

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Click here for KINDLE eBook version.

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Spotlight on “Strangers”

“Strangers,” the 44th episode of thirtysomething, aired back in 1989, or was that 1889? The world went crazy for a moment because two men had the nerve to sit side by side, shirtless in bed and have a conversation. Last week the Entertainment Weekly did a 5 minute oral history about the episode (Will it be ungracious of me if I scoff? I wrote a 370 page oral history about thirtysomething. 5 minutes??!!) Advertisers pulled out of the episode, ABC threatened the producers and the Christian right protested. The episode played and the world went on. But what were the true lasting effects of this episode? If you watch “Strangers” in 2017 it is pretty tame. No one would bat an eye. I don’t think even VP Pence would try to pray the gay out of it.

So how controversial is this episode, written by Richard Kramer and directed by Peter O’Fallon? Not at all. Two men meet, have an affair and then are too afraid to call each other the morning after. So, is that why it is called “Strangers?” No. The stranger in this episode is someone who is very familiar to thirtysomething viewers. The stranger is Melissa Steadman, the wonderful Melanie Mayron. Melanie won the best supporting actress Emmy the previous season for another episode written by Richard Kramer, “Be A Good Girl.” Richard claimed Melanie was his muse on thirtysomething. He wrote some of her greatest scenes in the series. With all due respect to Melanie’s performance in “Second Look,” which is the single most heartbreaking moment in a heartbreaking episode, I submit “Strangers” is Melanie’s best work in the series. Work that is not given a mention today whenever television historians talk about the episode.

Melissa is dating Lee Owens (Corey Parker.) Lee is younger than Melissa and she is embarrassed by that. She doesn’t want her friends to meet him, she doesn’t want to be judged. So she does what we all do when we are scared, she tries to ruin everything. The end of the episode has a fantasy sequence where Melanie plays 3 different roles. She boxes herself as she watches from the crowd. The reason “Strangers” resonates with thirtysomething fans thirty years later, isn’t because two men sat in bed next to each other. It is because Richard Kramer looked into our deepest hidden fears where we all know that the only obstacle in our way is ourselves. That human moment of facing who the stranger is, ourselves.

Here is an excerpt from thirtysomething at thirty: an oral history where Richard talks about the episode.

Richard Kramer: I feel incredibly grateful to have been given the opportunity to write that episode. I was supported by Ed and Marshall at a period when not everybody would have been supported. One of the principles of the show was that we couldn’t do an “important” episode. I wasn’t trying to write the gay scene. It was very much about something else. It was about the burden of self consciousness and absorbing what other people think of you. Melissa was letting that be an obstacle in her life.

Melanie Mayron: The theme of the episode was how we sabotage relationships. Russell sabotaged his and Melissa sabotaged hers. We get something good and then we stand in the way of it. 

 - from thirtysomething at thirty - Bear Manor Media and Scott Ryan Productions

The reason this episodes sticks with me all these years later is a small scene between Melissa and Lee. Melissa is fretting over her friends meeting Lee. Corey Parker does some of his best acting when he responds with, “No one is watching, No one cares.” I wish I would have taken these words to heart sooner in life, I bet we all do. These little gems are peppered through all of Richard Kramer’s scripts, as well as all episodes of thirtysomething.

Even though I have talked to Richard many times, he was a huge help on the book and always made himself available to assist, I have never asked him this question. Did he listen to Billy Joel’s The Stranger when he wrote this episode and picked the title? Billy Joel sings in his 1977 song, “Well we all have a face that we hide away forever and we take it out and show ourselves when everyone is gone.” They could have used that song and it would have fit, but it probably would have been a little too Mad Men end credits-like. thirtysomething was a great show because it never hit the nail right on the head, it just set up the nail and laid the hammer on the table and let you finish the work yourself.

Read the top 10 episodes picked by fans. Click here.

SCOTT RYAN IS THE AUTHOR OF THIRTYSOMETHING AT THIRTY:AN ORAL HISTORY and THE MANAGING EDITOR OF THE BLUE ROSE MAGAZINE. FOR MORE INFORMATION from Scott Ryan Productions CLICK HERE.

Order the Paper back, signed, at scottryanproductions.com for cheaper than you can order it anywhere.

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thirtysomething Turns Thirty

While television fans can look forward to the return of Twin Peaks and Curb Your Enthusiasm in 2017, they can also look back at one of the pop culture icons from 1987. thirtysomething, a show about 7 friends in their thirties, turns thirty on September 29th, 2017.

When we were introduced to Michael and Hope they had just had their first child and were deeply in love. Conversely, we also meet Elliot and Nancy who are ten years into a marriage and falling out of love. Over the next four years these characters, along with Melissa, Ellyn and Gary, go through so many changes that a network executive would panic today. These 7 characters became so real to us that fans had trouble separating the actor from the character.

Fans related so closely with each story that they connected it directly to their own lives. The show became a poster child for the baby boomer generation. Cancer, business failings, death, parenting and being single were just a few of the topics covered. The writers took all the normal plots from night time television and threw them aside. The main story in the pilot is about finding a baby sitter . . . and that is it. The series moved slowly and with purpose. The characters’ lives as well as their homes were messy. Anyone who has raised a toddler knows that the floor of your house is always covered with toys and laundry. The creators, Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick, brought this reality to television for the first time. For years, I kept going  back to the series because I missed these characters and always wondered, why couldn’t another show do “real life” this well?

Parenthood tried, Brothers & Sisters tried, This is Us is trying right now on NBC. While those shows were good and This is Us even has Ken Olin, Michael Steadman, as the executive producer, none match the simplicity of thirtysomething.

On June 7th my book, thirtysomething at thirty, will finally be published. I was able to interview the entire main cast, Michael, Hope, Elliott, Nancy, Gary, Melissa and Ellyn. I spoke with every writer who wrote more than 2 episodes of the series. I spoke with the creators Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick. I then assembled all those interviews into a round table reunion of the people who crafted thirtysomething.

There are over 150 photos in the book, the final script that was never filmed and essays from Peter Horton (Gary), Ann Lewis Hamilton (wrote “Second Look”), Joseph Dougherty (wrote all the great Miles episodes) and even an essay by the Mad Magazine editor, Nick Meglin, who paid the thirtysomething set a visit.

There is a special section all about the directing of the series where all the directors talk about the rules of directing on the series and what they learned from Marshall and Ed about staging a scene. Most of the cast would eventually direct an episode of the series. They tell tales of what it was like to watch dailies with the rest of the cast at lunch every day.

thirtysomething may not be streaming anywhere (really, Netflix?) but it is engrained in the memory of the fans that adored it. 2017 serves as the year that the show finally reached its own age. thirtysomething at thirty set out to tell the story of the series and honor the amazing work that these artists did over a 4 year period that we are still talking about thirty years later.

 

SCOTT RYAN IS THE AUTHOR OF THIRTYSOMETHING AT THIRTY:AN ORAL HISTORY and THE MANAGING EDITOR OF THE BLUE ROSE MAGAZINE. FOR MORE INFORMATION CLICK HERE.

thirtysomething Podcast Episodes

Carolyn Hendler & Scott Ryan set out to interview all the cast and crew of the Edward Zwick & Marshall Herskovitz television series thirtysomething. We will post all the interviews to this page so it is a great page to book mark and see who we have interviewed.  You can also go to iTunes and subscribe to get the episodes automatically on your phone. Also please help us spread the word so if you can share our Facebook page or this page that would be kind of you.

Scott has also written a book about thirtysomething here is the Promo for the new book.

Order Scott’s book, thirtysomething at thirty. SIGNED by Scott.

This show was one of a kind and we are not going to let it slip into television history without comment. We are just beginning and won’t rest until all have had their say. So put Ethan and Brittany to bed, turn on the answering machine so Miles can’t call you and enjoy our walk down Bedford Falls Lane.

Intro Episode: Carolyn & Scott set the concept for the podcast in a short 15 minute preview of the podcast.

Episode: Writer Richard Kramer – I’ll Be Home For Christmas, Strangers, Be A Good Girl, Happy New Year.

Episode: Writer Joseph Dougherty – Michael Writes a Story, The Go Between, Competition, The Distance.

Episode: Actress Polly Draper: played Ellyn Warren

Episode: Actress Melanie Mayron: played Melissa Steadman

Episode: Writer Winnie Holzman – I’m Nobody Who Are You, Life Class, The Guilty Party

Episode:  Actor Timothy Busfield Interview: played Elliot Weston

Episode: Creator Marshall Herskovitz

Episode: Actor/Director Peter Horton: Played Gary Shepherd

SEASON 2


Episode: The Fan Show – Fans talk about thirtysomething

Episode: Corey Parker – played Lee Owens

Episode: Patrcia Kalmeber – played Susannah Hart-Shepherd


 

Episode 14: Fighting The Cold with Joseph Dougherty

Episode: Second Look with Ann Lewis Hamilton

 

Episode: thirtysomething at thirty author, Scott Ryan

Episode: Ken Olin  played Michael Steadman

If you have forgotten about the show, start watching again. You can pick up the DVDS here.

Subscribe to the podcast or Download on iTunes

Please like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter.

Purchase Richard Kramer’s Book here.

Order the new book thirtysomething at thirty.