First Impressions

General discussion about the nineteen episodes of "My So-Called Life". Note: Our episode guide can be found here.
chocolateboy

First Impressions

Post by chocolateboy » Jan 4th 2003, 4:44 am

Hiya.

Just finished watching the DVDs. As a Brit, I never got a chance to see this show before. I've tried to watch them as slowly as possible, knowing the end to be so painfully and terminally nigh :-( Anyway, I thought someone might be interested in the rambling first impressions of a newbie viewer who has come to it as a completely clean slate.

Perhaps I should start with criticisms seeing as I only have two. Which is actually really just the one. I don't like the magic realist Christmas and Halloween eps. Or more accurately the magic realist elements in these two eps - 'So-Called Angels' can almost be construed as a normal 'realistic' ep with magical elements. 'Halloween' reminds me of the (later) Buffy episode ('I Only Have Eyes For You') in which ghosts occupy Angel and Buffy and have their romantic way with them. Patty and Graham's possession by their costumes also recalls another Buffy episode, also set on and called 'Halloween'. I love this kind of material (I think both of these Buffy episodes are great), just not in this show. I found the Christmas ep. ultimately schmaltzy - despite also being the hardest-hitting story in many ways, with its portrayal of violence and homelessness. I got that it was 'doing' an It's A Wonderful Life without it needing to be telegraphed; and frankly, I didn't need it. I think it's stronger with its own stories, rather than recycling old chestnuts and roasting them on an open fire. The Halloween episode I found disorienting and dissatisfying, despite, again, having wonderful moments that I would have loved to have seen without the Completely-Different-Show/Genre quality the episode possessed (for me). I'm sad to say that it reminded me of the ('in my humble opinion') very lame Dawson's Creek (not a show I admire; although I do, occasionally, guiltily enjoy it) Halloween special ('The Scare') that did a total conversion of the show to force it against its will into ghoul territory.

I can't enumerate the things I love about MSCL - I don't have world enough or time. I've tried to keep references to specific scenes, characters, dialogue and events out of this... love letter... because I knew if I started, I'd never stop. I cried for the characters and for myself in almost every episode; at times, in almost every scene. I laughed like I was in love; revisited my childhood and my yesterdays to see what I could learn by inspecting them through the show's lens; I reeled in slow-motion from the aftershock of the high drama; and marveled - till my eyes, ears, heart and mind were sore - at the miniature, pixie handiwork lavished on every 'like', every look, every inarticulacy, and every profundity.

No show has made me feel for such a risky, rich tapestry of characters. I've never seen a young pre-teen girl as well written and acted as Danielle; or a 'dorky' teacher as loveably portrayed as Mr Katimski. The pilot is the best pilot I've ever seen for any show, British or American - I watched it 3 times in disbelief before ever daring to venture into the second episode: I particularly adore the blank, un-classic, banal exchange that is Jordan and Angela's first conversation. That's exactly how I remember it. And that's how it still is.

I was expecting this show to make mistakes, to fall into clichés, to stumble. I feared it wouldn't be able to handle the complexities of Ricky and Mr Katimski's sexuality sensitively. If not through its own fallibility then surely (and more probably) through network interference? But it handles these and every other delicate or unchartered issue it touches with an astonishing absence of cliché. The closest it comes to well-trodden ground is the inspring (temporary) English teacher ('The Substitute'), but even here it has a light touch and doesn't outstay its welcome; and, heck, even jaded cynics like me have a sweet-tooth for this oft-told story, especially when it comes bearing new gifts. In every other particular this show outsmarts me, keeps me on my toes, frustrates me in a highly controlled way, always taking care to amuse, entertain, sadden, stimulate and surprise.

To contrast it with another show (one which I like a great deal): Gilmore Girls needs to force drama upon its characters for any movement to take place. That forcing is clear right from the start, from the pilot - in which Rory and Lorelai are (economically) forced to attend a weekly dinner with Emily Gilmore. The show is full of imposed dramas that for some reason or other the characters can't wriggle out of. One gets the feeling that there would be no show if it wasn't for these dei ex machina. MSCL has none of that. The dramas arise or (more importantly) don't arise naturally.

Now that it's over I want to commit suicide or fall in love. Perhaps both at the same time. I know that things can't be the same because I'm not the same.

love,
chocolateboy.

Guest

Re: First Impressions

Post by Guest » Jan 4th 2003, 5:05 am

chocolateboy wrote:
Now that it's over I want to commit suicide or fall in love. Perhaps both at the same time. I know that things can't be the same because I'm not the same.
love,
chocolateboy.
I can like..complete relate!!! That was beautiful and well said!

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Post by KrokRos » Jan 4th 2003, 7:24 am

How am I suppose to watch the show when I can't see through all the tears in my eyes?
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Post by NatalieSB » Jan 4th 2003, 11:42 am

What a beautiful post! ITA!!! MSCL was so honest and sensitive at the same time. I've never in my entire life EXPERIENCED a show! When watching MSCL it's like I was reliving my own teen years. When I think of all the episodes that should have been, the future trials and tribulations of Angela Chase that we should have laughed and cried with, I still have this very strong resentment towards ABC.
Nat

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Post by Guest » Jan 6th 2003, 12:29 am

I can't even convey how much I agree with what you said about Halloween and So-Called Angels. Halloween has always been my least-favorite episode for the very reasons you stated, and So-Called Angels would be a least-favorite of mine if it weren't so well-done. The spiritual aspects are out of place, I feel, but it's so realistic and dramatic and well-acted. Still, I sometimes cringe when the angels spreads it wings and flies away at the end.

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Post by dTheater » Jan 6th 2003, 12:31 am

The above was me.

I hate when that happens.
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Post by K-man » Jan 6th 2003, 2:48 pm

Chocolateboy, How cool you are just now getting to see 'em all thanks to the DVD's! I would second (third) that yours was an amazing post. Can't say I have many regrets with regard to Life but one of them would be that I was 27 when the show first aired on ABC, and 30 before I even saw it (in re-runs). Was I too far removed from high-school/teen years by then? Would I have been able to relate more thouroughly had I been 15 in 1994? I'll never know but one thing is for sure......I'm 35 now and this is still the best show I have ever seen. I also concur with your sentiments on Danielle. I wish there would have been more ep's just so her character could have grown into a more prominent presence.
Daddy sold the farm and they've killed my trees. K-man

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Post by chocolateboy » Jan 6th 2003, 7:49 pm

Bless you all for the lovely comments.

And warm thanks to everyone involved for this amazing life-support system of a site!

love,
chocolateboy.

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Post by lithiumkat » May 21st 2003, 1:40 am

"Now that it's over I want to commit suicide or fall in love. Perhaps both at the same time. I know that things can't be the same because I'm not the same. "


Wow, that was beautiful lol, a very profound statement!


"When watching MSCL it's like I was reliving my own teen years. When I think of all the episodes that should have been, the future trials and tribulations of Angela Chase that we should have laughed and cried with, I still have this very strong resentment towards ABC."

Completely and wholeheartedly agreed, I feel a resentment towards ABC for cancelling such a beautiful heartfelt show all the time!!!! It just maddens me!


And the last thing I have to say is AFGL:KSAGkjdfhgakihrfpiuHAKJL:SKJ AHHHHHj! sorry I just had to vent my frustration since everyone seems to be so into bashing "So-called Angels" which happens to be ONE of my favorite episodes, along with "On the Wagon," and "With Dreams come Responsibilities." And it is ONE OF the episodes that touches me the most. And like everybody hates it!!! A:LKJSGH you people have no clue how much that frustrates me. Everyone is indeed entitled to their own opinion, I totally respect that. BUT OMFG, It is so irritating the like...bad vibes that everyone has for that ep when I hold it so dear to me. I just *had* to stick up for it!
"people always say how you should be yourself, like yourself is this definite thing...like a toaster or something, like you can know what it is even."

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Post by Guest » May 21st 2003, 3:22 am

"So-Called Angels" is one of my favourite episodes too-Angela is getting more aware of the real world around her,Jordan is not acting like a butthead,Rayanne and Brian :D ,some very emotional scenes between Patty and Angela: ("That girl, she could be me..."), and the end is priceless, especially Jordan lighting the candle while smoking(there's also a drink), he looks kind of sad sitting there all by himself

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Post by Nothingman » May 21st 2003, 12:36 pm

I've said this before, but i feel very lucky that the show aired when I was 15. All the clothes and the music were what i was wearing and listening to. Makes me think about when I have kids someday, i will be able to put in the dvd's and say this is what highschool was like for you parents. I'm sure they'll just make fun of me and roll their eyes :roll:
"To come to your senses, you must first go out of your mind." - Alan Watts

shorty

Post by shorty » May 22nd 2003, 6:53 am

K-man wrote:Chocolateboy, How cool you are just now getting to see 'em all thanks to the DVD's! I would second (third) that yours was an amazing post. Can't say I have many regrets with regard to Life but one of them would be that I was 27 when the show first aired on ABC, and 30 before I even saw it (in re-runs). Was I too far removed from high-school/teen years by then? Would I have been able to relate more thouroughly had I been 15 in 1994? I'll never know but one thing is for sure......I'm 35 now and this is still the best show I have ever seen. I also concur with your sentiments on Danielle. I wish there would have been more ep's just so her character could have grown into a more prominent presence.
I also like Dannielle too. I don't see why everyone wants to knock her; she had some great one-liners and delivered them perfectly ("duh...I'm not leaving I live here." , "can someone please tell me whats going on..for like once in my life?") I think she portrayed her character brilliantly, and if she was ignored anymore in another series, it would have been very interesting to see what she would have done to get some attention once she hit her teens! :lol:

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Post by Guest » May 23rd 2003, 10:18 pm

Chocolateboy I was just wondering what sparked your interest in buying/watching the dvds???

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Post by lithiumkat » May 24th 2003, 5:05 am

Anonymous wrote:Chocolateboy I was just wondering what sparked your interest in buying/watching the dvds???
I was wondering the same thing, since you said you'd just gotten to see them for the first time all on the dvd set, i wondered if you'd never seen any of the eps what prompted you to up and get the set, bold move to buy a big dvd set of a show you've never seen, what made you do it? the curiousity of that has just been KILLING me as well lol.
"people always say how you should be yourself, like yourself is this definite thing...like a toaster or something, like you can know what it is even."

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First Impression

Post by newmaks » May 25th 2003, 12:36 pm

I have to say with all honesty that MSCL eally changed my life when I was 15. I completely identified with Angela and Rayanne at the same time. In a way i really wanted them to make another series but then again one of the main reasons why were all talking about it to this day is because it was one of a kind and ended on a high point. Often the best things in life that really change you as a person come in small quantities...that way you never forget them.

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