9 years ago

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

Post by Sascha » Aug 24th 2003, 7:58 pm

Happy Anniversary "My So-Called Life"

August 25th 1994 - August 25th 2003

On this day 9 years ago somebody wrote: It's Fifteensomething - `My So-Called Life' zeroes in on adolescent angst

Marvin Kitman - August 25th, 1994, Newsday

MY SO-CALLED LIFE, starring Claire Danes; created by Winnie Holzman; executive producers Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz; premieres tonight at 8 on WABC/7.
I'VE BEEN reading all the gloomy reports about the dismal new season. Any season with "My So-Called Life" can't be all bad. It's a wonderful quality show that ABC and TV can be proud of.

"Life" is an hour-long drama dealing with the five W's of a teenager's life, including: who am I, what am I doing here, and wasn't I switched at birth and really somebody else's rich famous and beautiful child?

Groan. Not another teen angst show, like "Beverly Hills, 90210" and "Beavis and Butt-head"? This one is different.

ABC dragged its heels about putting the series on for two years, finding one reason and another for delaying this dark and difficult - i.e., not mindless - show.

Second, it's produced by Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz, the creators of "thirtysomething," another angst classic. And it's created by Winnie Holzman of Long Island, one of the major writers on the last two seasons of "thirtysomething." "My So-Called Life" is what the angst-eteers like me have been waiting for all these years and I am not disappointed.

It's a fifteensomething kind of a show about the so-called life of Angela Chase, played marvelously by Claire Danes, who is trying to figure out how she got into this mess called growing up and where she fits in. Her so-called life arrives in a one-hour pilot with characters fully developed. They come up in the darkroom hypo tray in 30 seconds, with the shadings and nuances all there, a wondrous thing to watch.

Angela's life is miles away from Beverly Hills, 90210. She lives in a suburb of Pittsburgh, 15217, although it's hard to tell this from the palm trees in future episodes. In all my years in western Pennsylvania, I never saw a palm tree near the mills and coal mines, but maybe I didn't look hard enough.

At 15, Angela is in the process of discovering all the games kids and parents play in the process of growing up. She's in a middle-class urban high school, which is a battle for your heart, as she explains to the camera in one of the inner monologues that give a - dare I say it - literary quality to the program.

"My parents keep asking how school was," Angela muses to the camera. "That's like asking how was a drive-by shooting? You're just lucky to get out alive."

Angela has two main problems in life: Her mother doesn't understand her. Neither does the rest of the world.

She is your above-average, brooding, confused adolescent. She has an identity crisis, trying to be her own person, separating from her parents, and marching to her own acoustic guitar.

She has dyed her hair tonight - "of natural causes," as her mom explains. Mom does not like the new reddish look. She also has quit the yearbook. Her room is a disaster area. She has dropped her best girlfriend for no reason, and taken up with a faster crowd. She has a crush on an older man, a student who has been left back twice. She has started experimenting with lies to her parents about going to school plays while going to her first wild party with her new way-cool friends.

It's the age-old game of giving mom and dad a hard time, which, we veterans recognize, has the goal of getting a reaction: "Hello, is anybody home?"

What gives "My So-Called Life" dimension beyond the usual teenage angst TV series are the sensibilities it brings to portraying Angela's life with her parents. Mr. and Mrs. Chase are parents in even more trouble than Angela.

Patty Chase, played superbly by Bess Armstrong, wears the pants in the family. Mom solved her midlife crisis by joining Dad's printing business, and he now works for her.

Graham Chase (Tom Irwin) is a frustrated man. He wanted to be a chef, not a printing salesman with a wife as his boss. His marriage is not cooking with gas, either.

Angela can't look at her mother right now, as she explains, "without wanting to stab her." But she used to get along better with her father. "My breasts came between us," she says.

She tries to confide in her father about all the new things she's discovering. "I'm starting to like Anne Frank."

"She in your class?" the distracted father asks.

Angela is fascinated by "The Dairy of Anne Frank" because she was hiding. So is Angela. The enemy is not the same, but it's hard to tell teenagers how good they have it.

Holzman's writing is brilliant. The script is filled with Angela's acid, on-target comments on life and society: "Cafeteria is the embarrassment capital of the world," she explains at lunch in school. "It's like a prison movie."

Yes, it's a little on the not-so-sunny side of the street. But Holzman's bittersweet humor added to the relative honesty makes "My So-Called Life" a charming and irresistible mixture.

The show will be attacked for having a certain whining quality, like "thirtysomething." It's funny: Whenever a person is introspective on TV, they call it "whining."

What Angela is going through in her 15th year is identifiable and universal drama. Regardless of sex, religion or Generation X or Y, everybody hurts. Life in the teens is hard.

"My So-Called Life" says it all with the kind of consistent insights missing on TV since "thirtysomething" prematurely went dark. I just hope they don't break our hearts again before Angela reaches 16.


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Post by Debs » Aug 25th 2003, 6:18 am

Happy Birthday MSCL!!!!! I love you!

I don't recall any palm trees though.
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Post by JPP13 » Aug 25th 2003, 8:16 am

That Newsday article is wonderful, but I don't remember any palm trees either.

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Post by Chase Cat » Aug 25th 2003, 8:58 am

A very happy birthday!!! If it would be possible, I would wish MSCL a second season.

Here's my tribute to the 21st century version of MSCL :wink:.
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Post by Megs » Aug 25th 2003, 9:03 am

Happy Birthday!

It's still shocking to read this article today and know that such a great show was never given a chance. :(
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Post by seedman » Aug 25th 2003, 10:46 am

My wife just finished watching the show on my DVD's. (She never saw it when it was first on T.V.)

Her comment after "In Dreams.." was that the show was so brilliantly written, and you got to know the characters so intricately, that in that final episode practically every scene was powerful and there was so much at stake for the characters and the viewer.

I don't know why, but this show affects this 39 year old man more than any other I have seen. I still get goosebumps in dozens of scenes and it makes me feel young again.

Happy Birthday MSCL, I have as much love for you as the production team obviously had in creating you.


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Post by Nostradamus » Aug 30th 2003, 11:45 pm


Thanks for the time warp, Sascha! Looking at the publicity photo, you'd think Sharon was the main character. I guess being in charge of yearbook has it's advantages.


I, too, don't recall the palm trees, or cacti for that matter. Shooting much of the show indoors or at night probably helped to create the illusion of a temperate Pittsburgh climate, instead of the tropical/desert of SoCal. Rain is also an easy effect to insert, and I suppose there might even be camera filters or editing tricks to make bright sunshine look more like overcast "soft light".
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Post by Nik » Sep 2nd 2003, 12:48 pm

anyone know why Ricki isn't in the picture?? Just curious.

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Post by Debs » Sep 2nd 2003, 5:57 pm

Oh, poor Rickie.
I feel awful I never noticed that x
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Post by DarkApprentice » Sep 3rd 2003, 12:45 pm

Maybe Rickie aka Wilson Cruz is taking the picture...:-D

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Post by Oldguyy » Sep 3rd 2003, 3:08 pm

Seedman, I am almost as old as you and I agree with what you say entirely! MSCL has a timeless quality, like it could have been made any time in the last 30 years and all the stories and characters still work perfectly. What a great show! Happy 9th birthday!

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Post by sine » Sep 3rd 2003, 5:40 pm

DarkApprentice wrote:Maybe Rickie aka Wilson Cruz is taking the picture...:-D

Actually, that aka thing got me wondering: is the photo a photo of (almost all of) the main characters in the series, or is it a photo of actors dressed as the characters?

Now, look at Brian/Devon, he has a distinctive brian-like look on his face, perhaps feeling a bit awkward or whatever Brian might be feeling. Also, the parents/Bess&Tom seem very much like the parents from the show. Again, Rayanne/A.J. in the photo manages somehow to capture the essential quality of Rayanne.

But, Jordan/Jared -- this one seems out of place. Jordan wouldn't be smiling like that, at least not the Jordan in my head :) Perhaps the photo was taken early in the production process and the character of Jordan hadn't been fully developed yet.
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Post by Nik » Sep 3rd 2003, 5:56 pm

But, Jordan/Jared -- this one seems out of place. Jordan wouldn't be smiling like that, at least not the Jordan in my head
This struck me the same way :?:

To me, they look in character and a little later in the show. When did Patty cut her hair?? I am totally blanking which episode that was in. Anyway, I just think it's wierd that they left Rickie out.

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Post by Nothingman » Sep 3rd 2003, 6:03 pm

Judging by the hair of Jordon, Angela, and Patty this is a post pilot picture. I'm guessing it was taken shortly after the first group of episodes were shot. If you wanted to, you could be more exact by going back and finding out what episode Jordon's hair is mid-ear length and then check the shooting schedule to find the date. Regardless, Rickie was a big part of the show when the picture was taken, making it even odder that he wasn't included. And I agree, Jordon smiling in Graham' direction doesn't make sense.
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Post by Natasha (candygirl) » Sep 3rd 2003, 6:08 pm

Nik wrote:When did Patty cut her hair?? I am totally blanking which episode that was in.
Patty cut her hair in Dancing in the Dark (episode 2).
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