A Top Five list of TV Shows on DVD must include My So-Called Life. I actually own two versions of
My So-Called Life on DVD. That is love, friend.
My So-Called Life originally aired 1994 to 1995, and was only nineteen episodes long. Claire Danes played Angela Chase, a fifteen year old sophomore trying to figure out who she was. This is classic coming-of-age drama, with Angela balancing the expectations of family and new and old friends. The clothes and music may be dated, but everything else is fresh and current.
While many critics loved this show, others dismissed it. Too white. Too middle class. Too high school.
I LOVED this show. Danes perfectly captured a teenage girl at the crossroads: between child and adult. Discovering and trying to figure out sexual attraction, lust and love. Wanting something new and different, as represented by new friends Rayanne and Rickie. Not knowing how to leave behind childhood and childhood friends easily -- hence her dumping of Sharon, who is too plain vanilla compared to Rayanne and Rickie. Loving cool unattainable Jordan, ignoring next door neighbor Brian.
And Jordan Catalano. The gorgeous object of Angela's affections. Who did not cheer when Angela eventually kissed Jordan? Yet at the same time... Jordan always stayed what he was. A stoner; someone more interested in cars and music; someone -- let us be honest -- not as smart as Angela. Watching this the first time around, and every time since, I loved that Jordan was allowed to be a whole real person, flawed, and was never turned into the "but secretly he's a deep poet" bad boy.
That was the genius of My So-Called Life: while apparently about Angela's so called life, it was actually about each character's own life. Each person was nuanced, with depth, with their own dreams, heartaches, and joys. Rickie and Delia's dance? Rayanne's sexed up version of the theme from Sesame Street? Even the parents were allowed to be whole people.
Little things happened or didn't happen that made this show one whole rather than a series of episodes. The same clothes being worn. Sayings such as "In My Humble Opinion" starting with Patty, Angela's mother, and soon spreading to all of Angela's crowd. And, of course, Tito.
On the one hand, I'm almost glad it was just a season long, a season in the life of Angela Chase. It was, in a way, perfect, a perfect portrayal in the year of one girl's life. On the other, because this was about so much more than Angela, I wish it had been longer. For those who must: there were two book tie ins, one covering the time period of the show (My So-Called Life) and one the summer after the series ended (My So-Called Life Goes On).
Here is what is probably the most perfect scene from the show, and I don't care about the spoilers.
Why this is perfect: everyone in Angela's high school life is there, in the hallway. Jordan, who is making out with Angela but refuses to acknowledge her in public glances across the hallway at her. Next to him, his friend who thinks Angela is weird. Rayanne and Rickie and Sharon, looking on, as is Brian. And Angela, looking at Jordan, wanting him but knowing its not a healthy relationship.
And then... Jordan walks up to her. From one clique to the other, ignoring the stares. Talks to her; takes her hand; Sharon, befuddled because Jordan is the bad boy, Rayanne and Rickie practically cheering, Brian, desolate. And its all conveyed in a few short minutes.
My So-Called Life is part of the Zwick/Herskovitz family of TV shows. Which in my head I call Teensomething (this show), Twentysomething (Relativity), Thirtysomething (hey, you call it that too!) and Fortysomething (Once and Again).
In considering what shows to highlight, I gave brief thought to both Party of Five and Felicity.
Party of Five failed to make the cut in part because it didn't sustain its early promise. The first two season I can watch over and over; after that, it floundered, especially in the portrayal of Julia. Sometimes, the "one season" show is actually a gift to a viewer because you don't have to see such "now she's married! not going to school! she loves Justin! she loves roommates boyfriend! she loves professor! she loves girls! she's a writer!" storytelling.
And Felicity...ah Felicity. Loved that show; loved her character growth. Loved that we got to see a grown up Brian Krakow (and yep I think Angela may have dated the older, improved, taller, better hair cut Brian.) Loved it ended up being four years at college. But this suffered a bit of a sophomore slump, pulling in odd problems (I cannot get worked up about gambling storylines, sorry) that sometimes seemed like filler. Plus the time travel wtfery the last season still confuses the hell out of me. Still, I own all episodes on DVD.
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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy