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10 years "My So-Called Life"

Posted: Aug 21st 2004, 10:15 am
by Sascha (sab)
Entertainment Weekly -- TV season preview -- August 20, 1994

ABC, 8-9 p.m.
* CONCEPT: Life as seen through the eyes of a 15-year-old girl.
* THE SCOOP: The best new show of the season. As wide-eyed Angela, Claire Danes is adolescence, all awkward emotions and surging glands. "When you're at that age and you're trying to find your identity, emotions you feel are so huge," says coexecutive producer and director Scott Winant. "We were trying to tap that feeling. Television could stand to have a truthful, honest interpretation of what it's like to be a young person in America." Indeed. Problem is, as 8 p.m. fare, Life may be on too early for carousing teens to get serious, and smart adults may be committed to Mad About You.
* BOTTOM LINE: Rearrange your so-called life to watch this show; let's try to keep it on the air until Angela gets married.

Only a few days till the big anniversary - the first episode of "My So-Called Life" premiered on August 25th, 1994 at 8pm on ABC. But the reviews started to appear a few days earlier -- I found the original "Variety" review (which isn't yet in our media library) which was published a few days before the premiere...

My So-Called Life

((Thurs. (25), 8-9 p.m., ABC))

Filmed in Los Angeles by the Bedford Falls Co. in association with ABC Prods. Inc. Executive producers, Marshall Herskovitz, Edward Zwick; co-executive producers, Winnie Holzman, Scott Winant; producer, Barry Jossen; director, Winant; writer, Holzman.

Cast: Bess Armstrong, Wilson Cruz, Claire Danes, Devon Gummersall, A. J. Langer, Jared Leto, Devon Odessa, Lisa Wilhoit, Tom Irwin, Nada Despotovich, Francine Riber, Amy Leland, Bianca Lawson, Stanley DeSantis, Margaret Nagle, Shane Powers, Tim Williams, Cameron Arnett, Devin Kamienny, Animalbag.


Angela Chase is a difficult but fundamentally good daughter. Her clothes are grungy and her hair's a weird color, but she's still pretty in an awkward teen sort of way. Her worldview is sufficiently gloomy that she envies Anne Frank, yet she can giggle at exchanging shoes with her best friend. If she sounds like any 15-year-old you've known, or been, that's because the central character in "My So-Called Life" feels so real. Like many adolescents, she -- and the series -- can be off-putting at first, but it doesn't take long to develop a deep attachment to her.

ABC will need to exercise parental patience in letting this child grow and develop, but the show looks to be a critical hit and has the makings of a ratings contender.

While "Life" faces stiff competition -- going up against NBC's "Mad About You ," which appeals to a similar audience -- the freshman series, centered around a high school sophomore, is armed with a dazzling pair of lead performances.

Claire Danes is subtle and magnetic as Angela, mixing gawky teenage insecurity (the actress, like her character, is 15) with an adult's inner strength. The series explores her troubled process of maturing; her first serious crush, on a remote older boy (Jared Leto); and her exchange of a parent-approved best friend (Devon Odessa) for the wilder, unpredictable Rayanne (A. J. Langer) and Rayanne's constant companion, the androgynous Rickie (Wilson Cruz).

The show's other standout is Bess Armstrong, as Angela's loving, conflicted mother, Patty. She is equally compelling and convincing as a woman still so in touch with her youthful idealism and values that she can't believe she's also a disapproving mother.

Through Armstrong's nuanced performance, we experience the first signs that Patty fears her youthful beauty may be slipping away (she may worry, but it certainly isn't noticeable to us) as well as the evidence of strain in her relationship with husband Graham (Tom Irwin).

Given the abundance of ambiguity and anxiety in all these characters, it's not surprising that "My So-Called Life" is from the people responsible for the late, lamented "thirtysomething": execexec producers Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick, series creator and writer Winnie Holzman and director Scott Winant (Holzman and Winant are also co-exec producers).

And as was the case with that previous show, simple-minded pooh-poohers will bemoan what they see as the new endeavorEndeavor's whininess.

That may be true of the show's pilot episode, where you do feel like reminding self-pitying Angela just how lucky she is. The tone lightens considerably with subsequent episodes, though without sacrificing the show's core strength: its unvarnished look at a handful of identifiable, interesting characters.

As the first show of the fall '94 season to debut, "My So-Called Life" sets a high standard -- particularly for an 8 p.m. series. Angela, of course, would probably hate it -- it would make her too self-conscious. The rest of us, though , can take heart in the existence of a quality drama.

Camera, Ernest Holzman; editor, Joanna Cappuccilli; production designer, Thomas A. Walsh; music, W. G. Snuffy Walden.

If you have other reviews/articles/thoughts from those days you would like to share, feel free to post 'em here.

A blast from the past: The Kory Lasker Website

Posted: Aug 21st 2004, 10:49 am
by Sascha (sab)

And to bring you even more of that "1994 feeling", I resurrected a very special website: Some of you "oldbies" may remember the very first "My So Called Life" internet homepage by Kory Lasker -- was the URL of the home for all MSCL fans long before came along. Unfortunately, the site disappeared from the web when Kory finished his studies at the University of Minnesota in 1998. You have now the chance to go back in time and visit an almost complete copy of the 1998 version of Kory's website which I downloaded in May 1998 here.

Note: I'm doing this without any authorisation by Kory (I haven't had contact with Kory for many, many years) - so the site won't be online forever to avoid trouble. But for now, enjoy the "blast from the past" ;-)

Posted: Aug 25th 2004, 10:34 am
by JPP13
Just wanted to pop in and say "Happy Anniversary". I loved the show (can't believe its been 10 years) and I love the fact that this wonderful web site exists.

Best. Show. Ever.

Posted: Aug 25th 2004, 11:14 am
by starbug
:thumpup: JPP13 - good to see you still around!

Posted: Aug 25th 2004, 12:15 pm
by K-man
It really is amazing that it has been 10 years, and also that we are all still here keeping it alive. Thanks huge to Sascha and M. Glenn for keeping the site up. Where would we be without them?

Posted: Aug 25th 2004, 1:13 pm
by Angela_Catalano
I love the website!! Thanks for keeping it around! Its great to have just started watching this show and have a place to discuss it with so many fans!! Happy Anniversary!!

I really loved getting to see the original website too! I took the quiz! It was really cool to see it!

Someone Like Me

Posted: Aug 25th 2004, 2:01 pm
by Sascha (sab)
Well, I have one last anniversary gift for everyone. And it's a "last minute gift", I had the idea just a few minutes ago while driving home :). What it is, you ask? It's the complete very first draft of the first episode written by Winnie Holzman in December 1992. Yes, that's correct - 1992. The pilot was shot in March 1993, but it didn't air until August 1994, but you all know that.

This early draft differs in many details from the aired episode, notably the names of the characters are different ("Jordan Veniziano"), Angela stripped her hair, Graham runs the Hilton at the airport, but it's also longer than the final version of the episode. Some scenes are more detailed and especially the scene descriptions by Winnie make the thoughts behind certain scenes more clearly. And the cat has many appearances :-)

There are some typos from the OCR run in this ASCII text, it's not formatted or anything - I'll clean it (and the scripts from the other episodes) up for the new ("coming soon" (TM)). But I thought it would be a nice fit to make this script available today.

So here it is: the December 15th 1992 draft of "Someone Like Me" by Winnie Holzman. ("Someone Like Me" was the original title for "My So-Called Life")


Posted: Aug 25th 2004, 2:55 pm
by whitespy12
That's a great gift Sascha! I haven't read much of it yet, but I was highly amused during the scene in the kitchen where we first meet Patty. When Rayanne says "She took your hair pretty calm", and Angela replies, "It's an act, she can't deal with change. Believe me. She's like still bitter that "thirtysomething" was cancelled." That line made me smile.

Posted: Aug 25th 2004, 4:32 pm
by Jody Barsch*
Wow! That was really fun to read! Thanks for including that Sascha! I also had fun going through the old website. I wasn’t an internet user back then, but a good friend of mine was really active on that website. I seem to remember that drinking game page…

Here’s some of my thoughts on the early pilot script:
Believe me. She's like still bitter that "thirtysomething" was cancelled.
Totally funny!
Anyway, she didn't choose her parents!
It’s weird to hear Patty saying this, when it is something both she and Angela are dealing with…

There were some things I didn’t get (partly because I think some of the words are missing), like the conversation about “gran” and “~n” and Angela’s “I'm A fiere!”

Some lines I really liked:
AVO: Completely changing your image is really...complicated.

RAYANNE: It was a lame party. That's the Problem. You need like better conditions.
RICKIE: Like darkness.

RAYANNE: Innocent. Like you'd have stuffed animals an your bed.

RAYANNE: Yeah, and your pupils shouldn't be bigger than your earrings, so get over yourself.
RAYANNE(resumes Angela's makeup...): So Rickie, Angela's in love with Jordan we have to help her.
No use of the last name here really changes things a lot. Jordan seems much more attainable here because he is enough a part of their world, they are intimate enough with him, that his first name is enough to identify him – no last name is required to qualify which Jordan they speak of.
RICKIE: Come to Tino's tonight, he'll be there..
Rickie is more active here, more part of the social world. I think it is strange that Rickie would think that Angela is “definitely right” for Jordan, and I like it better without him coming straight out and saying “I’m in love with him too”
Put it this way: They look somewhat high.
I love Winnie! That cracked me up.
RICKIE: If you're a fool, what am I?
I really like how so early in the series we see that Rickie is really feeling out of place, that he is aware of his difference…
JORDAN: I had to work. I have a job.
JORDAN: I mean I have a real job
Loved it. VERY real, and shows us a different, more defiant Jordan.
She's good in an emergency. So she makes everything into one.
That is a classic line. It’s too bad that couldn’t have made it into the actual show somewhere!
She grabs the clicker. CLICK.
I’m glad this changed, I don’t think Angela would have had the agency to change a channel that Jordan was watching at that point.
some things just -- happen!
Possibly an early version of “whatever happens, happens”
RAYANNE: But this is so perfect! You won't even have to think of anything to say to him. Cause no one can hear anybody!
I know this is in the Pilot, but I just love that this is a dating strategy to them. It’s so funny.
GRAHAM Don't interrupt.
PATTY It's okay.
GRAHAM It's not okay.
This seems like there is a different character dynamic at work here than in the series…(also with the conversation about growing up turning the lights off)
Tino always comes through.
Even though this early episode still sets up the precedent of Tino not showing up, it’s funny that the characters would say this.
PATTY: Graham, Grow up. There are always sides…..
PATTY Fine! Let her do whatever she wants, pretend you're still sixteen years old -- !

This is your house. I know that comes as a shock...
The slight change from “pick a side” to “there are always sides” is actually a big difference in how Patty represents Graham. In this early version, Patty really seems to see Graham as immature and unable to handle being an adult. We do see that some in the actual series, like when she says that he’ll finally have to figure things out, or that he can have trouble focusing, but never as outright and blunt as it is here. I like the idea of not being able to completely come to terms with the fact that you own a home and have a family, etc, even after you’ve had these things for something like 15 years.
ANGELA: Just...don't always say everything.
I love knowing that this line existed. You totally feel that about Brian (and Angela) at different points in the show; in “Father Figures” she says something similar “Why do you have to say things like that?” Also the idea of Angela telling Brian that he doesn’t always have to say everything resonates because he is so unable to say how he feels about her. It also resonates with Rickie’s “I don't usually say it. I mean, I've actually never said it...out loud.” In fact, there is a struggle between what is said and what is unsaid, through out the series between many of the characters (Ex: Angela and Sharon, Angela and Rayanne, Jordan and Angela, Graham and Patty, etc…)

Anyway, it was really cool to read this!!

Edit - fixing quote code

Posted: Aug 25th 2004, 5:48 pm
by MyLifeIsBrians
wow....first a look at the original website again and now the script....this has been one great day. I don`t know what I love more, MSCL or this site.

Posted: Aug 25th 2004, 5:57 pm
by JPP13
Hey starbug. I still visit to read at least weekly, just don't post so much. Thanks for asking. :)

Sascha, just a great job with the web site.

Damn, I wish we could go abck in time 10 years, and be all fresh and eager to see this new show. Oh, and buy a bunch of Microsoft stock. :)

Posted: Aug 25th 2004, 6:00 pm
by Angela_Catalano
That was really great to read the pilot. I couldnt imagine Jordan having a different last name. I just love saying "JORDAN CATALANO"! But it was very interesting to see all the changes they made. Thanks!

Posted: Aug 25th 2004, 7:19 pm
by Jody Barsch*
:flowers: Just wanted to give a heartfelt THANK YOU to MGlenn, Sacha, all the Moderators, and everyone else on the MSCL Team for keeping this site up! :clap: You are all awesome! :admire:

Posted: Aug 26th 2004, 10:49 pm
by Natasha (candygirl)
Just thought I would point everyone's attention to this thread in honor of the anniversary celebration:
Everything I Learned from MSCL


Posted: Aug 27th 2004, 10:25 am
by Nothingman
candygirl wrote:Just thought I would point everyone's attention to this thread in honor of the anniversary celebration:
Everything I Learned from MSCL

I remember that thread, you owned it.