Monday, June 1, 2009

My So-Called Life

by Amy K. Bredemeyer

My parents keep asking how school was. It's like saying, "How was that drive-by shooting?" You don't care how it was, you're lucky to get out alive.

Pretty much everyone I've ever heard talk about this show has wished that it would have lasted longer. I heard about it for the first time in the sixth grade. My math teacher asked for a popular TV show to use as an example and a popular girl in class responded with My So-Called Life. I jotted it down in my notes, vowing that if she watched it, I must find a way to do so as well. Problematically, I found out that it was already off the air and in reruns. It lasted a mere 19 episodes, and without any closure, assuming that a second season was gonna happen. It ran on ABC, so it was a real network in the beginning (many people seem to think that since the reruns were on MTV - a strange enough feat - that the show was always on that channel).

It was really a long series of "very special episodes" that had the same characters. I mean, in 19 episodes, the serious issues each had like a single episode devoted to them, and that was it. Unfortunately, the only ongoing topics were Angela's (Claire Danes) crush on the infamous Jordan Catalano (played by the dreamy Jared Leto), which led to dating and a breakup. The other always-there issue was Angela's breadwinning mom being way more serious and strict than her culinary-loving father. Another tie-in for the show: Angela did a lot of "thinking out loud" in the show, portraying her thoughts the existence kinda sucks, adding up to what isn't really a life.

Angela has a creepy little sister, Danielle. Creepy might not be the best descriptor, but she's very much a "middle child" without having any younger siblings... ie she's just ignored. However, she dresses up as Angela for Halloween. Now, I didn't have any older siblings to idolize, but that still seems creepy to me. Angela also has several different friends. There's her lifelong BFFs Sharon and Brian, and her new crowd of Rayanne and Rickie. Sharon is a goody-goody in the band, but is sexually active. Brian is the Jewish dork with people-skills issues and a secret love for Angela. Rayanne is kinda wild, doing the alcohol, drugs, and sex thing, with some tarot mixed in for variation. Rickie is biracial, beaten by his uncle-guardian, and about as openly gay as you can get. To round out the misshapen group, Jordan is a cute rebel who is pretty much illiterate, yet writes songs and hates vandalism. yeah, go figure.

Here's the thing about its low ratings... the problem wasn't that it was a bad show. It wasn't that it had young actors. It wasn't bad writing. The problem was that it was an hour. Now, the plots sustained an hour really well. BUT, in order to be an hour-long show, you are forced to run up against 2 half-hour shows on every other network, so that's a ton more competition. If a person even watched 1 other show religiously, they aren't going to tune in for just half of My So-Called Life. In the 8-9pm Thursday slot, the show was up against the powerhouses of Friends, Mad About You, Martin, AND Living Single. Oh, and the fact that Claire Danes wasn't really keen on doing television forever... she wanted to move into film, and had the opportunities knocking on her door.

Here you can see the first ten minutes of the first episode. It shows all the characters (Brian is the photographer at the very end).
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1 comment:

ProfTVWatcher said...

Katie LOVES this show. She guards her DVDs of it with her life. I saw the first few episodes and thought it was okay, but I think it was too early for my generation. I think it's worth mentioning Brian had his own episode that he narrated. It was towards the end of the season, but Katie always talks about it because apparently it was really good.