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They're Moving On to Somethingelse

May 22, 1991|STEVE WEINSTEIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The two creators of "thirtysomething" are off directing feature films. The cast is busy and preoccupied--Ken Olin is directing a TV movie for Fox, Mel Harris is in Atlanta starring in an NBC miniseries opposite Corbin Bernsen, Patricia Wettig can be seen next month in Billy Crystal's new movie, Timothy Busfield and his wife are having a baby in August.

And Scott Winant, the show's supervising producer, hasn't had more than two weeks away from the show in the last four years. Maybe, he said, it was time for all of them "to move on."

"I'm not too upset about it," Winant said of "thirtysomething's" cancellation after four years on ABC. "I believe that we've done some very good work in four years, and I know that many of the people involved want to move on to other things, to stimulate themselves creatively in other ways. Sometimes a series runs its course, and it makes no sense to keep it on the air simply to garner revenue."

The show's final episode will air Tuesday at 10 p.m.

"I think ABC made the right decision," said Busfield, who played Elliot, the show's adolescent in adult's clothing who experienced a near-divorce, bankruptcy, his wife's battle with cancer and other spiritual crises. "We've lost the creative center of our show."

Busfield said that the show's creators, Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz, had outlined every storyline over the last four years and left the series to direct feature films. Zwick, who directed 1989's "Glory," which earned three Oscars, is currently directing "Leaving Normal" for Universal starring Christine Lahti and Meg Tilly, while Herskovitz is directing Fox's "Jack the Bear," starring Danny DeVito. Busfield said that Susan Shilliday, Herskovitz's wife and one of the show's writers, and Joseph Dougherty, one of the show's producer-writers, had also decided to move on. Zwick and Herskovitz were unavailable for comment.

Though "thirtysomething" has never been a ratings smash, its young adult viewers were highly prized by advertisers. During the last season, however, the shows ratings dipped a bit. Last week, the show was watched by 16% of those viewing television during its time slot and finished 51st among the 87 programs airing that week. For the season, the show ranked 63rd.

The show won an Emmy for best dramatic series on television. Wettig also earned an Emmy for best supporting actress and one for best actress, while Melanie Mayron received one for best supporting actress. Winant received a best director Emmy for his work on the show.

Winant suggested that today's TV climate had chilled to "experimental" dramas like "thirtysomething," "China Beach" and "Twin Peaks," all of which have fallen by the wayside.

"This type of show may be passing out of favor," Winant said, "but hopefully that's only temporary. I know there is an audience out there for these shows and I think the networks believe that too. They just need to find the right timing."

Of "thirtysomething's" loyal fans, Busfield said that he was "sad because they will miss the show, and I will miss the show, too. That's the only part that is hard about this."

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