I've been using the following summary and commentary elsewhere on the Net to introduce "MSCL" to those who hadn't heard of it, and who might be inclined to sample it on Hulu. If you want to reuse any of my descriptions yourself, be my guest. ~ SR
Hulu has just added a rich tapestry from '90s television, one of the best-written, most perfectly acted series of the last few decades: the single cruelly short season, in full, of "My So-Called Life
I've written thousands of net.words about the virtues of this series since its debut, 15 years ago this week, many of them centering on how well the series portrayed teenagers — played by superbly talented teenagers (what a concept!) — and, equally vivid, the families and teachers they encountered.
That's the core of my review for Amazon.com
of this series. Which DVD set
you will, methinks, find yourself compelled to buy from the series' sheer dramatic quality, after you've sampled only a few of the 19 episodes on Hulu (about 48 minutes each).
Claire Danes, who at age 15 won a Golden Globe for her portrayal of Angela Chase, is the epicenter of a dramatic earthquake that told sprightly, emotional, intricate, sometimes comedic, but always fascinating tales. Angela, who narrates all but two of the episodes in voiceovers, is finding out about what friendship, fidelity, intellect, passion, and disappointment are all about, set against the lives of her friends and family.
The main narrative line is of Angela being riveted on a smolderingly handsome "bad boy" of unknown strengths and vanishing potential, Jordan Catalano, portrayed with grace and unexpected depth by Jared Leto. Yet the riffs on this plot line bring in utterly unexpected side issues and new personal adventures, mostly from Angela's having to deal with both old friends and new, despite her own shortcomings and lack of knowledge.
You'll see many tropes and situations that have found their way into series TV in the 15 years since, but "MSCL" told them first, freshest, and best.
The production values are also superb, from humorously aware dialogue, to a brilliant music score, to its visual and sound strengths. Its producers, Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick, also created the very different "thirtysomething" and "Once and Again" series, along with a host of other TV and movie creations, almost all with strong protagonists.
Pioneers are usually distinguished, as the un-P.C. aphorism goes, by the arrows in their backs, and this series was very much thrown aside by ABC due to the savage twists of ratings. The network didn't know what a scintillating creation it had, and didn't try to give it half a chance for its audience to build. That didn't happen until MTV showed it — even before ABC had cancelled it! — and thus raised its audience, above the fodder fed to it, by fifty IQ points.
Hulu is helping to continue expanding the audience this creation always deserved. If you want a series that is worth your investment in streaming-video time, and at all remember high school as being something better than a living hell, you will
enjoy "My So-Called Life."