During my brief time in the FSU Library School, I made friends with Kristina Arnold, who was wrapping up a bachelor's in Russian. We had read some of the same books and so we started playing a little game called "Who would you cast for this character in the movie?" Kristina immediately recommended Mel Harris for the role of the brooding, secretive yet fiercely devoted mother from Blood Ties (unpublished manuscript). I, however, had never heard of Mel Harris. So, Kristina ordered me to sit down and watch a good dose of thirtysomething since that was the only thing she could think of that Mel had been in recently that I could find to watch.
It was the beginning of the end. That was the summer of 1994. I watched two episodes and was convinced that Mel was born to play the character from the novel and admitted that Kristina was right. After that, we turned to trying to "cast" other characters and I put thirtysomething out of my head.
Then I moved to Athens, Georgia to start grad school in another program. I guess I was feeling a little lonely one night when I was flipping around on the TV and saw the show go by. "Hey--it's Hope and Michael!" I exclaimed. Somehow I felt that even though I didn't know anyone in town yet, at least I knew these people. (Pathetic, but true.) So I watched a few episodes that week, trying specifically to find the one where Hope miscarries ("new job") just because I wanted to get a video clip of Mel Harris crying so I could prove my point about her being able to play the woman from the book. But then I made some friends, school got started, and I forgot about the show again.
Over a year went by. It was now March of 1996. I was embroiled in the worst school quarter of my entire life, taking Classical Armenian and Sanskrit II at the same time. I was having a lot of trouble sleeping in the week or so before the final, so I was staying up late and being grouchy. Lo and behold, there was thirtysomething, still faithfully showing up at 1:30 AM on Lifetime. I quickly realized that I was in the final season and that things were getting pretty interesting, so I decided to keep watching "just to see Gary die." Well, that episode came and went, and I kept watching, "just to see how things wrap up."
Then came the turning point. I decided that it was no good just having watched the final season. I had no idea how everything started! I should watch the episodes all from the beginning and keep tabs on them so I could discuss the events with Kristina and keep everything straight.
So I set my tape faithfully every night and reviewed it the next day, just jotting down a sentence or two so that I could remember the order of the episodes. By the time I hit the fourth season, those sentences had turned into short paragraphs. And then I decided to rewatch the fourth season since I wasn't really paying attention the first time. And by the end of the fourth season, my writeups were getting longer and longer so that my little list looked uneven.
So I decided to rewatch them all and this time I was going to get it all nice, even, and with good documentation. That was in September of 1996. In January of 1997 I began working in a computer lab with access to machines all day long. My lab supervisor, Lewis Noles, found out about my little obsession and suggested that I make it into a web page. I didn't have anything better to do at work, sadly enough, so I said sure and got to work on converting my text documents to html. I hadn't had time to finish up the fourth season yet because of my class schedule, but I had all of those episodes on tape and just figured that I'd catch up whenever.
I went online sometime in February of 1997 and was contacted shortly thereafter by Bob Fahey (then http://www.sound.net/~prism, now http://home.kc.rr.com/bobfahey/thirty.htm), who directed me to Ian http://www.thirdstory.com/thirtysomething). Ian contacted me about mirroring my episode guide at his site, which I thought sounded like a great idea. So ever since then I've been working to get the fourth season done (I went through five at one sitting on March 20th) and getting the files in shape to make the move over to Thirdstory.
Finally, in early April of 1997 I managed to finish the guide and get all of the summaries posted to the web. I felt like I'd really accomplished a mammoth task and then realized that I probably never would have started if I'd known what it would be like when I finished. But that's a neat thing about shortsighted people like me--sometimes we get things done that no one else would simply because we're too dense to know how hard they are.
My roommate thinks I'm insane and constantly mumbles about sending me to a 12 Step program for television addicts. I snapped back, "I am not addicted. I can stop watching anytime I want. Oooh look, another Mel Harris made for TV movie is coming on tonight!" That was when I knew I really did have a problem.
But since the reruns have gone off of Lifetime, I can honestly say that I've made a full recovery. I haven't even looked at the show or any of my videotapes in over two weeks. I think I'm on the road to recovery, but now I seem to have this itching, growing fascination with Homicide... True confessions by Lisa Stevenson
April 29, 1997