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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

THIRTYSOMETHING: "The Haunting of DAA"


STATS:
“The Haunting of DAA”
thirtysomething
1990
Director: Joseph Doherty
Writer: Anne Lewis Hamilton
Starring: Timothy Busfield, Polly Draper, Mel Harris, Peter Horton, Melanie Mayron, Ken Olin, Patricia Wettig

WHA’ HAPPENED?
Ken Olin has to lay off a bunch of people at DAA, his advertising firm. While he struggles with the guilt, he gets chummy with the ghost of the company’s former owner. The ghost manifests himself as a creepy janitor with a squeaky wheel, which I think is a horror cliché, but I’m having trouble thinking of examples (Scream? Return to Horror High?).


The story climaxes in a costume party at DAA, where Ken Olin finds out that his boss is way more vulnerable than he knew. And sprinkled throughout the story are refreshingly random horror references (Darkman, Robbie the Robot), and a nice little running joke about Freddy Krueger.

Aw. Look at that little face!

WHAT YOU SAY?
“My chiropractor has suggested alternative positions.”

“Dressing up was the best part. You got to be somebody else.”

“Didn’t you find it the least bit enjoyable?”

“Brush your teeth or I’ll kill you in your sleep.”

ISN’T THAT SPECIAL?
thirtysomething (I feel like e. e. cummings whenever I write that title.) is one of the most important serialized dramas in the history of television. It was one of the first shows to elevate the triviality of daily life to high drama. It wasn’t soapy and operatic. It was mundane and simple, and the writers and actors were able to wring all the drama out of these extremely tiny stories. Without this show, all dramas would be much more Desperate Housewives and much less Brothers and Sisters.

From a gay perspective, thirtysomething was seminal for an earlier episode (“Strangers”) that showed a healthy gay relationship among two secondary characters. In particular, it showed a scene with two men sharing a bed, not being physical, just talking about their relationship. Advertisers went bonkers and the show shied away from its gay characters from then on. But points for effort.

And for upper-pec nudity, I guess. 

I chose this episode to spotlight because it’s a Halloween episode (duh), and it features no less than four Marilyn Monroe impersonators.

SHIRTS AND SKINS:
Nope and nope. Every few episodes of the show, Ken Olin walks out of the bathroom shirtless. He’s beefy and hairy and crazy-handsome. I hope those two sentences will bring at least a few new eyes to this underrated show.

Ken Olin (left) with Tarzan of the Apes 

BLOOD AND GUTS:
Not at all, unless you count the corporate blood-letting. Ken Olin fires a bunch of people and then decides to overthrow his boss Miles (again). Not exactly a disembowelment, am I right?

PLOT HOLES AND CRAZINESS:
None that I can count. Except, why exactly is Polly Draper’s character at the company party? She’s a government worker and has no relation to DAA except for being a dissatisfied customer last season.

What’s with the peanut in the wall? I mean, it beats a tooth in the wall (Anyone get the reference?) or an ear in the field (Again? Anyone?).


Worst product placement ever. 

Who was the guy in the frog mask? Was it even a frog mask?

RANDOM THOUGHTS:
I really, really want Patricia Wettig to be a gay icon, and I really, really don’t know why.

Lovely lady

David Clennon as Miles is the most reptilian human being I’ve seen outside of Theodore Rex.

I'm kind of stretching it for a joke, but I
really wanted to mention this film. 

Polly Draper sure sounded like Marilyn. She’s nothing else if not breathy.

I’ve discovered my new least favorite song. I think it’s called “The Day the Devil Comes to Getcha” and it is absolutely brutal with its 80s pop ugliness. You have to hear it.

OK. IS IT GAY?
Not this episode. Like I said, the show deserves serious points for normalizing gay relationships and then getting shat on because of it. So it’s understandable that this episode (and the rest of the show) is non-gay.

That said, for a Halloween episode centered on a costume party, it’s significantly less campy than equivalent Home Improvement or Roseanne episodes. A couple Marilyns and a Madonna can only go so far. I’m used to crazy-elaborate background costumes, and those were in short supply. (Fun fact: I brightened up because I thought I saw a cross-dressing Marilyn in the background, but it ended up being Polly Draper. Don’t I feel guilty?)

So that leaves me with a ranking. For being gay-friendly without ever really addressing the topic, I’ll give this episode two Brad Pitts.

Good thing Scientology isn't communicable.

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