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Remember the first time you said goodbye to someone and you knew you
would never, ever see them again? Remember how that felt? If you do,
then you know Angela Chase and her family and friends on "My So-Called
Life", a simple show about a group of people at a specific time in
their lives that is like the fly stuck in amber.
There are only nineteen episodes of this most compelling of programs, then it is done. As the nineteenth episode ends, you are left with a painful feeling deep inside. You have come to care for these people and now they are gone. The next day, the rerun cycle will begin again and you will watch, entranced, as Angela and Rayanne and Rickie and Jordan and Brian and Sharon and Patty and Graham and Danielle travel through the same nineteen hours again, as you sit back, longing for that nineteenth episode to be followed by episode twenty. But it never comes. It's cruel.
"My So-Called Life" is a good argument to never watch television again. And a great argument to say you're glad you did. It's not simply a show about angst-ridden mid-ninetees teens. It's much more.
You owe it to yourself to watch these nineteen episodes, to get a glimpse at what a five-star television series looks like...and how wrong it is when a television network takes it away.
Kudos to all involved.
This series is required viewing.
My So-Called Life is one of those instant classics. A brilliant show, it
just came along at the wrong time and was subsequently canned after one
season. But that only adds to it's legend and in a small way makes the
series even more enjoyable now on DVD. The writing never got a chance to
waiver. There was never really a bad episode. The cast never had to grow
up and face "the college years" or even prom. Instead we are left with this
one season, this one year of high school, with a brilliant group of
characters who are locked forever in youth.
The shows are great. Claire Danes took the Golden Globe and was nominated for an Emmy. And when you compare this one series with two High School dramas it was sandwiched between; the richy richy farce of the early 90s' Beverly Hills 90210 and the glossy junk of the late 90s' Dawson Creek, you see how true, poignant and amazing these 19 hours My So Called Life truly are.
This was a real classic. That it was canceled so quickly only proves Networks know NOTHING about quality.
When seen in order, these 19 episodes form an amazingly rich chronicle of a
year in the lives of Angela Chase, her high school friends and the adults in
their lives. Writing this great rarely makes it into series television. As
disappointing as it was when the show was cancelled after one year, the
result was a self-contained almost novelistic tapestry of interwoven stories
that stands alone as one of the finest depictions of adolescence and
parenthood ever created for the screen.
One of the most distinctive threads that runs through the series is the way both children and adults deceive themselves about what they really want and need out of life. The drama and humor of the series often revolves around the struggle of the different characters to break through to their genuine selves.
Among many fine story lines, one standout is that of Rickie Vasquez, probably the first depiction of a gay teen on series television, and if not the first, certainly the most unapologetic. I could go on way too long about all the other moving, surprising, heartbreaking and ironic story lines, about the way characters are always surprising us with unexpected depths or insights or abilities, about the use of music, about the incredibly honest and unexploitative depiction of teenage sexuality, and about the performances, which are uniformly superb, even in the smallest roles. Best of all the show is so rich and crafted so brilliantly that it rewards repeated viewing.
For some reason I keep coming back to this show. Every year I get the
out and watch them again. Every year I see new things. I understand
I'm twenty-six now. What's going on?
When you're a teenager, and you have those problems, and you know your friends will make fun of you if you tell them, you look to film, music and TV for answers. Living in England, honest to goodness teen shows are pretty thin on the ground. There's 'Byker Grove', 'Grange Hill' and hints of 'HollyOaks' and that's about it. The trouble is that none of them quite has the audacity or time slot to cut to the heart of what its actually like to be a teenager. Most of the time you have to look to US shows like 'Dawson's Creek' or 'Buffy'. But standing above them all was 'My So-called Life' a television programme that answered all of our questions. When the show was transmitted on our Channel 4 in 1995 it was stupidly popular.
No one had seen anything like this. Suddenly you knew what to do about that older boy or girl you fancy. Or if you have feelings for the girl next door. Or if you weren't sure about your sexuality. Or of someone loved you but you couldn't return their feelings. Or if you got handcuffed to a bed. Your heart was broken by it week after week, but you came back before because you knew it was doing you good. A free hour of therapy with what amounted to being your friends.
Even if you didn't want to admit it, you were one of them. You were Rayanne Graffe, afraid of the world and overcompensating. Sharon Cherski, searching for your own identity beneath the expectations of others. You were Ricki Vasquez unsure who you were but quietly finding an equilibrium. You were Jordan Catalano torn between your friends and something else. You were Brian Krakow, the romantic with so many high expectations of people. You were Danielle Chase, always being kicked out of different rooms. You were Patty Chase fighting to keep your family together. You were Graham Chase fighting to keep yourself together. And you were always Angela, your world falling apart around you, every choice being wrong, every moment a battle, but somehow slowly working it all out.
Then, after nineteen episodes, it was gone. Replaced, I believe, by a rerun of 'Matlock'. The show should never have been cancelled. It wasn't fair goddam it. And not on that cliffhanger. But perhaps it had the right end. The perfect ending. The only ending this show could have had. Making a choice then watching in pain the road not travelled. So like life. So-called Life.
This year we would have had its sixth season. All of the contracts would have been up for renewal. The teenagers would have been twenty something. Characters would have gone, new characters brought in. The writing teams change. But it would not have been the same show.
The show I keep coming back to.
'My So-Called Life' is a classic- forgotten as it was 'just TV'. The 19
episodes prior to it getting cancelled were classic- much better than the
anodyne Hitler-youth utopia of 'Dawson's Creek' or the vile 'Party of
It caught the era of teenagedom wonderfully- with a nod towards grunge music- but felt like a teen-soap that might have read 'Smithereens' & 'Generation X'. The characters were great- and one of the benefits of being a TV show meant that we could focus on any one at any given point.
Jared Leto stands out as Jordan Cataleno- he would make an excellent transition to adult films such as 'American Psycho', 'Fight Club' & 'Requiem for a Dream'. Plus, blink and you miss him in 'The Thin Red Line'...Claire Danes is great as Angela- a likeable performance when it could have been irritating. What happened to her career?...Ricky is a dude- nice to have not only a homosexual character but one of mixed race- he popped up as a butler in 'Nixon'.
I feel it was the presence of his storyline and the gay teacher that contributed to this being cancelled. It would happen in this country- where we have 'Clause 28' which prohibits reference to homosexuality in schools I felt this storyline was believable (unlike the one in 'Dawsons Creek') and would help people empathise with such a character...Rayanne was a great character- again, we were given a mess of a person- promiscous (a faker?), hedonistic and the worst kind of best friend (who meant well...). Sharon is Angela's slighted best-friend who develops wonderfully over the series. Plus Gram Chase's character is great- he is close to an affair with his business partner at the end- much like his affair Angela discovers around the pilot episode.
The best character is Brian Krackow- the unrequited lover of Angela and king of the nerds. Kevin Williamson would rip him off for 'Dawson Leary'- though make him more utopian and therefore less truthful...The best episodes are the one with Buffalo Tom, the 'Weekend' episode (a handcuff populated farce which will remind anyone of teenage parties) and the fun Halloween episode. Love the fact we never see Ricky's cousin!...I've still got this on longplay video from 1997 and everyone I've shown it to has loved it...They ought to do a sequel for 'adults' on HBO- and get Elizabeth Wutzel to write it! Proof, along with programmes like 'Larry Sanders', 'The Sopranos' & 'Twin Peaks' that TV-drama can be fantastic and anything but a formula ridden distraction.
The best show I've seen in years, though that wasn't my first opinion
of it, as probably the same for other fans of the show. Give the show a
This will comfort and encourage teenagers. It's so real, and anyone who's watched more than a couple episodes will agree! Angela, Ricki, and Rayanne are the typical teens. Even though it was made in 1994, you'll find that Angela's mind works like it's in this time period. You'll laugh, you'll cry (I should know)and you'll feel much better about life in general. Watch it, and you'll be transfixed on the show. I rate it four stars!
Actually MTV ran it right after it ran on ABC as part of a campaign to
get it recomissioned (and as a brilliant marketing ploy for them, I
agree). They ran it every day after school with various members of the
cast introducing the episodes.
I was a year older than the characters in this film and yes one person can have that much drama in their lives and especially at that age. People that are too young to have come to this show for the first time need to remember that this was made for the same kids that a few years before were watching 90210 where nothing was even close to a real teen's life. This was very real for a lot of people and it also broken boundaries. Anyone remember a gay high school character on TV before this show? I can't. Plus, the fashion is too true that it is scary.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Just like other people who have commented before me, I also had watched
"My So-Called Life" over the summer while The N had aired it. I found
it to be a well written show about a subtle and perceptive 15 year old
girl. Reading past articles about the show the network ABC regretted
canceling the program years before. They recently have tried to redeem
themselves by airing a new teen drama(Life as we know it)but after
watching it, I realized that its not going to last as long as MSCL
My So-Called life dealt with real issues. It wasn't about a bunch of good-looking rich kids off somewhere having sex, then complaining that their parents will buy them a car but won't spend time with them. Claire Danes was perfect as the role of Angela. She wasn't a tall skinny model posing a teenager with a unblemished face. She is real!!The show was real!! It delt with real issues like having a friend who homosexual, a friend who got all the attention while you sat on the sidelines and envied her. The show also shined light on her not so perfect parents. Angela didn't fall in love with the captain of the Football team and win his heart.
In this show their was love, hate, drugs, child abuse, sexual idenity, neglect,family & friends issues, and angst that many teens deny having yet, rebelling against angst itself shows how much of a teenager you really are. The truth is teenagers around the world go through a lot more crisis than the show had revealed. Just because you don't see it doesn't mean its not happening. MSCL was just a good way to relate to one out of control thing going on in your life. Teenagers are constantly defending their existence. It's just too bad ABC network couldn't see its potential.
my so-called life is the GREATEST TV show ever made. it's a time
capsule, a snapshot of what it was like to be a teenager in the early
nineties. claire danes as angela chase is poetic and heartfelt. she
goes through struggles that all teenagers go through... feeling
alienated, pushing her boundaries, being hopelessly in love with a
this show is AMAZING. i've seen every episode twice and i still watch it every night on the N. if you doubt how fully amazing this show is, just watch the end of the episode "self esteem" where jordan realizes he loves angela because she's real and has flaws...then walks across the hall and asks in front of everyone if they can "go somewhere". as they're walking away, he takes her hand. MAGIC!
I just happened to read the comments made by the previous reviewer and
I have to laugh. First I will address the "need for a show about a teen
nerd." Have you watched TV at all in the last 50 years? Let's see:
Doogie Houser, M.D., Blossom, The Facts of Life, etc... T.V. has
repeatedly offered up fare consisting of pure, wholesome, virtuous
The fact is that teenagers rebel against their parents, care too much about that they wear, obsess over sex, etc. The teens are a time of experimentation and soul-searching. And My So-Called Life was the first T.V. show that honestly addressed the issues that modern teenagers were facing on a day to day basis. We can thank it for the other television shows that dared to follow its example and offer characters that teenagers can actually relate to.
Unfortunately, it doesn't contain the morality lessons that Leave it to Beaver always imparted, but the morality of the Cleavers was a thing of the past in the divorce-ridden, gay-friendly, sexually aware 90s. And before anyone attempts to throw it in my face that things would be so much better if we could hearken back to days gone by, let me remind you that the "decline of the family" occurred as a result of the staunch and oppressive 50s. People didn't confront issues back then and it made the situation worse. But now we have an opportunity to examine these issues with great programs like My So-Called Life.
It is a travesty of justice that it was ever cancelled.
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