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Saving "My So-Called Life"

January 26, 1995

Saving `My So-Called Life': Fans Rally in Cyberspace


NEW YORK (AP) _ You've seen it all before.

A certain TV series ignites passion in millions. But not enough millions. Its Nielsen ratings are low. It faces oblivion. Its fans scream bloody murder.

Sometimes, their SOS (Save Our Show!) is heeded by the network bosses.Much more often, it falls on deaf ears, and the show disappears.

The fate of ``My So-Called Life,'' which goes on so-called ``hiatus'' after tonight's so-called ``season conclusion'' (at 8 p.m. EST on ABC), won't be decided for as much as three months.

Maybe, just maybe, it will be back next fall. Then, viewers can resume their odyssey through the minds and hearts of Angela Chase, a 15-year-old girl living near Pittsburgh, and the friends and family that surround her. Then, the audience can rejoin this show's brilliant cast, including Claire Danes, who, playing Angela, earned herself the Golden Globe for best actress in a dramatic TV series last weekend.

Maybe ``My So-Called Life'' will return in a more hospitable berth than this season's, up against NBC's hit sitcoms ``Mad About You'' and ``Friends.'' Maybe then its ratings will be better than its current season-to-date ranking of 119th out of 142 shows.

Or maybe this unique and deeply affecting drama will call it a so-called day with episode No. 19, after which the antiquated and anything-but-unique ``Matlock'' takes over the time slot.

Maybe, schmaybe. But don't think the disciples of ``My So-Called Life'' are just sitting back and waiting for ABC to render its verdict.

For starters, they have mounted a letter-writing campaign _ just as viewer activists did a decade ago to successfully save ``Cagney & Lacey'' from an early demise.

Meanwhile, ``Never say die!'' echoes through cyberspace. Self-proclaimed ``So-Called Fans'' are wielding the same high-tech tools in the defense of ``My So-Called Life'' _ a computer, a modem and various on-line services _ that they embraced to share their devotion to the show from the moment it premiered last August.

``I'm absolutely gaga over MSCL,'' wrote Steve Joyner, a 27-year-old author who lives in San Francisco, in a lengthy e-mail missive he posted in December. ``It touches us in ways we never thought television could.''

The ``pamphlet'' by this computer-age Thomas Paine called for a pressure group he dubbed Operation ``Life'' Support.

Since then, this cyber-group has published a newsletter, raised several thousand dollars to buy imploring ads in TV industry publications, and helped organize a flood of e-mail onto ABC's hard disks.

``It's the first on-line campaign I know of that has been organized to save a show,'' Susan Choy, manager of ABC Entertainment's multimedia services, said earlier this week. She counted a total of more than 4,500 e-mail messages to the network, as well as an overwhelming volume of postings for ``My So-Called Life'' in the ABC network ``folder'' of American Online, a commercial on-line service.

It was to that forum that Susan Krashinsky of Ontario, Canada, directed her message for ``fellow MSCL lovers'' a few days ago, to thank them for their varied rescue efforts. ``You all know how intelligent and true this show is,'' she wrote.

``I identify so much with so many aspects of mscl,'' wrote another fan, Margery Cohen, who added that its future ``is a personal issue for me.''

In Seattle, Cynthia Chapman was trying to get a group together ``to watch (and possibly bid farewell to) our favorite show,'' and, from Portland, Ore., Benjamin Schoenberg wrote, ``The world is very quiet as I wait for Thursday night, not knowing if it's the last.''

But Schoenberg added hopefully, ``I think Ted's leaning positively.''

He was referring to Ted Harbert, president of ABC Entertainment, who had fielded questions about ``My So-Called Life'' almost to the exclusion of any other ABC program during his session on America Online a few days earlier.

``MSCL has not been canceled!!!!!!!'' Harbert responded with graphic insistence.

``I love this show but I wish more viewers felt the same way I do,'' he wrote. ``It deserves higher ratings, so I need you fans to try to convince everyone you know to watch it.''

OK, Ted. Count me in as a fan. And rest assured I'm trying to convince everyone to watch it tonight.

“My dad thinks every person in the world is having more fun than him.”

Angela Chase, Episode 1: "My So-Called Life (Pilot)"