print this page

Press Archive

Life must Live

Operation Life Support
January 26, 1995

Life Must Live

An Open Letter to Mr. Ted Harbert, President of ABC Entertainment

Dear Mr. Harbert:

As you know, tonight at 8:00 p.m. (PST), ABC will broadcast the season finale of My So-Called Life--the most provocative, intelligent, and heartfelt television drama of the season.

Since our formation on November 30, 1994, our organization, Operation Life Support, has vigorously supported the renewal of Life. In fifty-eight days, we have received nearly 11,000 e-mail messages, raised over $6,000 from individual viewer contributions, and generated a tempest of publicity throughout the United States and Canada. In this open letter, we would like to tell you why we strongly believe that Life must live.

As you are aware, Life has attracted a devoted following that crosses all boundaries of age, gender, lifestyle, profession and economic standing. Teachers, students, doctors, lawyers, and college professors and many others have come to care deeply about this drama and its characters. The reasons are many.

Ostensibly, Life tells the story of 15 year-old Angela Chase, (played by Golden Globe winner Claire Danes), but on a deeper level, Life is intergenerational. Life unites us all by portraying the common experience of two diverse age groups: Teenagers, coming of age, and their parents, entering middle age. Viewers identify with these characters facing the challenges of adolescence--that critical period when one achieves self-awareness and self-identity. Viewers also identify with the characters facing the challenges of middle age--affirming and renewing established self-awareness and self-identity. Many viewers regard Life's characters so perceptively real that they consider the characters to be friends--friends whose lives have greater meaning than their own on Thursdays nights.

Life provides another kind of uniting force as well. Parents look forward to Life nights because it is a time of their choosing when they can spend time with their sons and daughters. Teachers use Life in the classroom to initiate and encourage discussions about critical issues facing teens today. People of all ages find Rickie's (Wilson Cruz) ``Odyssey'' poignant, honest and utterly real. It is no exaggeration to say that this character has saved lives. Truly, Life is more than a television show; Life is both art and a public service.

Unfortunately, the excellent quality of Life and the emotions it evokes from its audience are not reflected in its ratings. Given the true demographics of Life, cited above, and the time a high quality show sometimes needs to build a large audience, we believe its time slot and on-air promotion should be reconsidered. We believe that an 8:00 p.m. air time may be too early for viewers who are, and would be, properly part of Life's audience. We further believe that ABC could increase viewership with greater promotion. Finally, Life needs, and deserves, more than a single season to establish its audience as have other quality shows such as Hill Street Blues, Cheers, and 90210.

The response Life evokes from its followers is not inexplicable. It is the response that intellectual challenge evokes in our minds. It is the response that all art evokes in the human heart. It is the response which transcends Nielsen ratings and the ``bottom line.''

Accordingly, Life needs a champion. Be Life's champion Mr. Harbert, as you have from the beginning. When you ``make that gut call in May,'' do what you know is right and renew Life. We know you believe, as we do, that Life is too good to end.

Steve C. Joyner
Director, Operation Life Support

This ad was paid for entirely by viewer contributions to Operation Life Support, a viewers' initiative to save My So-Called Life. For further information please write, phone, fax, or e-mail. Operation Life Support, P.O. Box 641200 San Francisco, California 94164-1200. Phone: (415) 292-5809 Fax: (415) 292-4111 E-mail:

“School is a battlefield for your heart.”

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