102 - Attack of the Killer Parents
Old screen capture from a VHS tape
New screen capture from the DVDs that finally came out
Jade & Lauren Mortimer as Jane Steadman, Rachel Nagler as Brittany, Jason Nagler as Ethan, Robert Neches as Salesman, Tim Russ as Salesman, Penelope Sdrow as Babysitter #1, Maggie Montgomery as Babysitter #2, Carol Gustafson as Babysitter #3, and Kimberly Foster as Fantasy Girl.
Hope and Michael Steadman, Nancy and Elliot Weston, Gary Shepherd, Melissa Steadman, and Ellyn Warren are introduced as thirtysomething friends, relatives, and colleagues with an array of domestic troubles.
The pilot establishes Gary and Melissa as having dated and broken up, Elliot as having had an affair, Nancy as the long suffering mother, Ellyn as the anti-maternal career woman, Michael and Elliot in a stressful business together, and Michael and Hope as a married couple with a new baby who are hopelessly out of touch with how good their lives are. Basically, the plot revolves around the stresses of Hope and Michael's life as parents, homeowners, and career people.
Notes (contributions by Matt Minton)
Janey is referred to as "Jane"; Hope and Michael were married by a minister and a rabbi both, and it was raining on their wedding day. There's a Beowulf sign in the background on Michael's side of the office. Elliot slept with Sheryl Eastman six times; No opening sequence--the credits appear over Hope and Michael's flashbacks and ill-fated attempts to make love with a new baby in the house; It's intimated that Michael's brother (Brad) has a business that's doing well; Grendel was quite visible in this episode, in many of the shots; The sleeping bags Michael was looking at were North Face, the same kind I own; You can see cars going by at night outside of Michael and Elliot's glass window. Dan Lerner was the director of photography. Tim Russ who had a bit part as the camping store salesman is now starring on Voyager as the Vulcan Security Chief Tuvok. Michael complains about having to pay $278 for a stroller.
In a phone conversation with Ellyn, Hope refers to Shilliday as a "he"...oops. It looks like Ethan and Brittany are at the park with Hope and Jane (on top of the slide that Hope places Jane on), but there is no sign of Nancy or Eliot...Hope must be babysitting. <g> The man about to walk Hope down the isle in the flashback to their wedding scene is not George Coe, who plays Hope's father throughout the show; I wonder if they hadn't cast that part when they shot that short scene. Hope and Michael's noisy neighbors never show up again. Ever. Lousy continuity.
Speaking of the noisy neighbors, Matt Minton has recognized two of the songs coming from that wild party as "Life During Wartime" by Talking Heads from the album Stop Making Sense (1984) and "Livin' on a Prayer" by Bon Jovi from the album Slippery When Wet (1986). Like him, I can't believe they'd pick a Bon Jovi tune for this, unless they were making some ultra-ironic statement about the theme of the couple very much in love without any resources, surviving just on their shared love (which is simply ludicrous when you're talking about yuppies and not steel workers). Also, there was occasional use of piano music in a dramatic sense. I just don't quite recall that as being as typical as the acoustic guitar riffs.
Becky Cormier has kindly written in with this observation:
"Take a look at Hope and Michael's kitchen, particularly in the scene when Melissa and Gary are trying to talk them into going camping and Melissa is wearing that horrible red strapless thing (I'm glad they did so much better for her in later episodes). The kitchen, you will notice, is much smaller, and has a different layout, with a peninsula counter sticking out, instead of the long row of counter and cabinets we see from the second episode on."
Prelude to a Dream Sequence
thirtysomething was often noted for its use of dream sequences, but here in the premiere we see an unusual device that was never repeated--time lapse photography. Watch the camping trip preparations as the gang attempts to assemble the tent. Repeatedly.
"I make plenty of money when I'm not going bankrupt." --Michael
"Feels weird to be in a park without tear gas." - Ellyn at the start of the scene in the park (from Matt Minton)
"Do all babies radiate light or is it just her?" --Hope regarding Jane (AAARRGGHHH!!!!!! This has to be the worst line ever delivered on television in the fifty year history of the communication medium.) But, to be fair, Jan has offered a credible defense:
"I think you have to be a parent to understand that Hope's question is not one of the worst lines ever delivered but one of the truest.
"In my eyes, my children do seem to radiate---if not light than a magnetism that draws my eye to them in a crowd. During the school play and concert, other children melt into the background of my child's stage presence-----BUT I realize that every parent feels this way and so I have the sense to keep my opinion to myself.
"While we squirm with embarrassment to hear a parent make this kind of comment out loud, Hope's private comment to Michael can be understood by every husband and wife who marveled together over the unique, beautiful child they have created."
Sylvia has an additional perspective on the quote:
"While Jan is right about why Hope-the-parent said that (I agree, it's terrible) line, I think what's so nauseating about it is the self-absorbed, self-congratulatory delivery. She seems to feel she's made some original discovery, and doesn't include Michael in it. It's somehow all about Hope, and, finally, not even about Janey."
I found it very interesting how Herskovitz and Zwick used lying as a way of establishing the character differences between Michael and Elliot. In one scene, Elliot is telling Michael about the affair he had with Cheryl Eastman. He tells Michael how easy it is to lie. Whereas, when Hope was grilling Michael about Elliot's infidelity it was obvious that Michael could not lie. In fact, Hope referred to him as "the worst liar in the world". This sets the stage for the rest of the first season. Elliot is a liar, he shuns responsibility and fears intimacy. Michael is honest, he has integrity and accepts responsibility. In film and literature, the liar is traditionally portrayed as being creative, artistic, and flamboyant. Whereas, the truth teller is stable, organized, and a bit boring. It sounds like Elliot and Michael to me.
"Lying increases the creative faculties, expands the ego, lessens the friction of social contacts. . . . It is only in lies, wholeheartedly and bravely told, that human nature attains through words and speech the forebearance, the nobility, the romance, the idealism, that- being what it is- it falls so short of in fact and in deed." Clare Boothe Luce (1903-87), U.S. diplomat, writer. Vanity Fair (New York, Oct. 1930).
Is it just me, or does Mel Harris not shed tears when she cries? She is definitely supposed to be crying in the final scene of this episode but is not shedding a tear. This made me curious, so I checked a few other Hope "crying" scenes in other episodes and sure enough...no tears! It's really bad in the first few seasons, but the tears do eventually flow in later episodes like "second look" and "fighting the cold".
1.Why are all of them -- especially Michael -- totally obsessed with SEX in this episode??
2. Lifetime (mercifully) cut out a line that Gary says to Michael while buying sleeping bags. Asking about sex after a baby, he says of Hope, "At least she's still beautiful," but Lifetime cut out, "I think she'll lose the weight," which was a ridiculous line considering that every woman on that show was stick-thin.*
3. It looks like Elliot was much thinner in those days, or at least his face was. I actually think his face looks better when it's rounder in later epsiodes.
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The dashed line marks the point where Lisa Stevenson Blackwell's original version of this page ended, and where Bob Fahey began adding material.
*Scene edited in Lifetime version. - Luiza Hirsch (Luiza@gmx.org) has both the Lifetime versions and the unedited versions aired in Germany. She writes: "It's true that Gary says "I guess she'll lose the weight" or something to that effect. Probably the only thing Lifetime was artistically and morally justified in cutting out."
My own view is that people sometimes really do say things like this. It isn't nice, but it would be dishonest to leave it out.
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