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Excerpt #2: How Joseph Dougherty’s Handling of Work-Related Stress & Family Differs Thematically from Thirtysomething Creators Marshall Herskovitz & Edward Zwick

by R Heil last modified Feb 23, 2017 08:10 AM

 

        If Herskovitz and Zwick see family and friends as a safe refuge from workplace pressures (as in “Housewarming”), Dougherty reverses the equation:  not only are your loved ones ineffectual in providing solace, but job-related stress can damage friendships and destroy home life.  Michael and Elliot suffer the greatest fractures in their partnership during the Dougherty episodes, particularly in “Competition,” “First Day/Last Day,” and “Pulling Away.”  Michael, meanwhile, typically a Dr. Jekyll, mutates into Mr. Hyde at home as stress rises at work.  In “First Day/Last Day,” he yells and pounds his fist into the wall, scaring his daughter into tears.  In “A Stop at Willoughby,” he snaps at Janey when she tries to turn the television channel, and again brings her to tears.  In “Michael’s Campaign,” he preaches cynicism to his daughter:  “The world isn’t Mommy and Daddy.  It’s people with secrets and priorities.  People who don’t always tell the truth.  They’re ready to bang you into the ground . . .”  Alarmed, Hope cuts him off.

        A subtle scene exploring the impact of stress takes place in Dougherty’s first draft of “Michael Writes a Story.”  Michael’s business has collapsed, he is futilely looking for work, and his family is falling behind in their bills.  Early in the script, Hope attempts to rally her despondent husband:

 

     Hope moves her chair and attempts some good-natured snuggling. 

                                         HOPE

                    Come on.  Kiss the fat lady.  It’s good luck.

     Michael isn’t in the mood and makes little effort to be gracious.

                                          MICHAEL

                    No, I want to write checks and listen to the dry 

                    sucking sound of our bank account emptying. 

     She makes a playful grab for him under the table.  He moves away.  Hope tries to look like it was      

     just a joke and she isn’t hurt, which she is.  They look at the bills.

 

        Dougherty continues to mine this vein after thirtysomething.  In Abandoned and Deceived (earlier entitled A.C.E.S.), Gerri Anderson juggles three poor-paying jobs in a futile attempt to keep her bills paid.  In one of the most powerful moments of the screenplay, she explodes at her children when she catches them sneaking dry cereal at night.  In the action description, Dougherty writes, “Everything she’s put up with and and swallowed twists her anger into something disproportionate.  She’s never yelled at her kids like this; we can see it on their faces.”

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by R Heil last modified Feb 23, 2017 08:10 AM