Why MSCL was cancelled

General discussion about the nineteen episodes of "My So-Called Life". Note: Our episode guide can be found here.
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Posts: 6
Joined: Jul 2nd 2000, 11:08 pm

Why MSCL was cancelled

Post by Christina » Jul 8th 2000, 12:36 pm

I was just reading some articles on this site about why MSCL
was cancelled. Many people seem to think it was because Claire
Danes wanted a movie career instead of the show. There is one
interview in there with Wilson Cruz and he says that Claire didn't
want to continue with the show for a second season and he also says
that he believes she told the ABC and the producers of the show that
she didn't want to do it anymore so that might give ABC a good reason
to cancel the show. He does understand that MSCL had very low ratings
but he believes that they might have brought back the show because of
thousands of letters ABC received saying that people wanted it back if
Claire Danes hadn't said she wanted out. He expressed a great deal of
animosity towards her for that and he said that anyone on the show knows
what really happened. I just had never heard that before.

Substitute Teacher
Posts: 179
Joined: Aug 29th 1999, 1:43 am

Re: Why MSCL was cancelled

Post by oldguy » Jul 10th 2000, 2:46 am

MSCL was cancelled for low ratings --- period.


Re: Why MSCL was cancelled

Post by Guest » Nov 23rd 2000, 11:09 am

hehehehe you said 'Period'


Re: Why MSCL was cancelled

Post by Guest » Dec 6th 2000, 11:09 pm

It would seem to me that unless oldguy himself cancelled the show, or is privy to information we are not, he would not be able to say definitively why the show was cancelled. I love Claire as much as the next guy, but I'm not convinced she wasn't in one way or another responsible. On a side note, I'm not sure that the show could have lived up to its first season. The ending of the last episode seems to be an apropros one, and revealing who Angela chose ultimately may have been a letdown.


Here's a paper I wrote...

Post by Guest » Dec 9th 2000, 9:55 pm

Believe it or not, I wrote my first college English paper on the cancellation of MSCL. For the record, I am a much better writer now than I was then. :D Anyway, this might have some more answers for your questions about the cancellation. I also lost the bibliography to it...sorry.

My So-Called Afterlife

It was called the best thing to happen to TV. It was emotional, at times hard to watch, and the closest to real life any TV show has ever been. Current shows like "Dawson's Creek" have been compared to it, but nothing has ever touched the golden halo that surrounds it. It was My So-Called Life. And if it was so wonderful, why did it die?

Ok, so it didn't really die as much as it got put on eternal hiatus. MTV still reruns the show and many fanatics (including myself) have all the episodes on tape for repeat viewing. An internet culture continues to thrive, three years after the engimatic final episode, and the show is compared to every teenage drama to date.


(I edited out the summary of the show...pointless to this topic, and really bad writing)


the pilot episode was taped in 1993 and sat on a shelf for a over a year. ABC couldn't find an appropriate time slot for it, and after a year they were reluctant to even bother with putting it on the air. however, pressure from media who had seen the pilot and poured gushing reviews managed to land it in the 8pm Thursday timeslot for the '94-95 season. 19 episodes were quickly written and produced, and then the series was put on hiatus January 26, 1995. (Bernstein)

ABC claimed that MSCL's ratings were too low, only 10 million viewers, which is 6.9% of the TV watching population. This is understandable considering it was holding a timeslot with "Friends", "Mad About You", and "Martin". The question arised about moving it to a more accessible time slot, but there were none that the fledgling show could fill. ABC was having a great year of ratings and any open slots were either too late for their younger target audience or pitted against very popular shows on other networks. (Lippman)

But no one bought that theory. when the FOX show "Party of Five" was pulling in 9% of the ratings, they switched timeslots and jumped to 37%. "Party of Five" was a show nowhere near the quality of MSCL, but it survived the ratings burn. (Lippman) some critics used MSCL's one true ratings bonus as a push to get the timeslot changed - one thursday MSCL had been pre-empted and ended up running Tuesday night at 10pm, which "NYPD Blue" normally ran. This was the highest ratings MSCL ever recieved and Ted Harbert, president of ABC, believed they should have targeted the show to an older audience instead of the younger one (Bash). I find this theory hard to swallow if only based on one ratings night. Of course an older crowd tuned in, they expected "NYPD Blue". Just because they watched it, didn't mean they liked it. If anything, MSCL should have been placed in a 9pm timeslot, where it would be accessible to teens as well as adults, who cherished the show equally.

Another issue brought up was money. the budget for MSCL was $1.1 million per episode, and the commercial time space only demanded $75,000 for a thirty second slot of time. it was understandable that ABC feared losing money. but one must also take into account that most series don't make any money until after the season when the show is sold to syndicated networks for reruns. MSCL did obtain this, being sold almost immeadiately to MTV, who bought it for two years. And since then, it has also been sold overseas to stations in Germany and the Phillipines. so it definitely made it's share of money. (Lippman)

the finger of blame was also pointed at Claire Danes, who played Angela Chase. after the last batch of shows were made, her agent made it very clear that he and Claire had no intentions of her returning to MSCL. she had already made a couple movies and wished to pursue that aspect of her career. however, as time progressed and the press became more negative, claire began stating in interviews that she had nothing to do with MSCL's demise. fingers where then pointed toward her agent, whom was said to make more money putting claire through less work in movies. (SPIN)


But the hardest fact to swallow was the blunt rejection of passionate fans begging to keep the show on the air. when a 27 year old San Franciscan native named Steve Joyner learned in Nov. 1994 that the show would very likely end in January, he formed a grass-roots organization called Operation Life Support (OLS). he first sent out a plea to fellow internet fans, giving a detailed description of his ideas, which came in Phases. Phase One involved putting out a newsletter that would bring in more voices and help people learn what they could do to keep the show on the air. Phase Two was to raise enough money to print an ad in Daily Variety around January 2ns calling for all ABC affiliates, especially Ted Harbert, to keep the show on. Steve immeadiately listed himself as Chairperson/Director of OLS and Robyn Landis as Associate Director. Steve laid out $600 of his personal funds for the first newsletter and asked each member of OLS to make a donation when they joined. he made it very clear that OLS would be non-profit and all money would be returned if it wasn't used. Steve also asked for members not to discuss matters of MSCL's future with any online ABC employees, in order to keep peace ("All Viewers...").

Within 5 days, 100 people had pledged to OLS and they had raised $1,200. the goal for the Daily Variety ad was $2,580 (Joyner, "Update, OLS, 12/3/94"). Steve and Robyn contined to release newsletters, 7 total, until the beginning of February. The ad not only ran in Daily Variety but the Hollywood Reporter as well on January 26, 1995 the day of MSCL's final episode. the ad was an open letter to Ted Harbert and in it, Joyner explained how OLS had raised over $6000 (after expenses) and had 11,000 emails asked to continue the show. Steve tried to appeal to the emotional side, about how MSCL appealed to many races, cultures, and ages. He explained that teachers used the show as a tool in classrooms. the ad did not go unnoticed, but in the end, it didn't do any good either (Joyner, "Life Must Live").

Febuary 1, 1995 was the mark of the last OLS newsletter. in it Bess Armstrong, who played Patty Chase, wrote:
"We - the whole cast of MSCL - are awed and inspired by what you all have done. ABC is swamped by letters and calls. Ted Harbert said to me, "Keep the heat on. Keep it coming. It just makes it easier for me to go upstairs and say, "We can't take this show off the air."' What you all have accomplished - are accomplishing - is tangible and unprecedented. Don't give up. The situation is looking better every day."
But in May of 1995, the plug was finally pulled on the show. an appeal was made to Bedford Falls, the producing company, for six more summer episodes, but it was declined due to short notice (Joyner, "***OLS Update (2/1/95)***").

But here we are, three years later, and still every review of a teenage TV drama bears a comparison to MSCL. it's achieved an almost cult status, and people still mourn it. people still write hate mail to ABC, people still make impassioned pleas to someone, anyone, to let us know - did Angela go for Brian or Jordan? did Rayanne ever stay sober? what about Graham, did he ever cheat on his wife? some fans have even resorted to writing their own scripts, which can be found at the "So-Called Fan Fiction Site" (http://www.fanfiction.home.ml.org).

rumors occasionally pop up that Winnie Holtzmann, the writer of MSCL, is going to write a book that will end everything. that there's going to be an actual finale produced. but after three years, we know it's not true. we're always going to be standing under that streetlamp, watching with brian as angela drives off in jordan's car. but one question remains - why did it have to be that way?

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Location: UK

Re: Why MSCL was cancelled

Post by Enrique » Dec 15th 2000, 8:10 pm

Hey y'all,
The canselation of My So-Called Life was practically a trauma to every MSCL fan! Even now, I'll watch the final episode and wish and wish that it would have been allowed to carry on. However, maybe leaving MSCL where it was left, leaving so many unanswered questionz is better, because it allowz us to create our own answerz, giving the show an even bigger thought provoking episode (if possible!). Luv ya

Overlooked Sibling
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Re: Here's a paper I wrote...

Post by Krakolano » Mar 4th 2001, 4:53 pm

so, anonymous...what did you get on the paper?

i don't believe in making plans...whatever happens happens.

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