One of the most acclaimed series on TV during its brief run from 1994-1995, My So-Called Life pioneered the modern teen drama and made a star out of 15-year-old Claire Danes. Ostensibly centering around the trials and tribulations of high schooler Angela Chase, My So-Called Life actually expanded to include everyone in its protagonist's orbit, from school friends to extended family, and gave its stellar ensemble cast ripe material to work with during its too-short life. Produced by thirtysomething creators Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick, MSCL evoked that yuppie-friendly show with its emphasis on finding extraordinary drama within ordinary situations, but was far more heartfelt and heart-wrenching, echoing the dizzying highs and lows of adolescence. As such, it developed a cult following among young viewers who identified strongly with Angela's high school traumas and followed her every move with rapt attention. (After cancellation, the show enjoyed a popular reprise on MTV.)
Okay, I admit it. This is one of those shows that I absolutely adored and it made quite an impression on me when I watched it back in the mid 90's, even though I was already in my 20's at the time. Yes, I am one of "those" girls who had an enormous crush on Jordan Catalano (though I can proudly admit not so much today). I anxiously tuned in every week waiting to see if Jordan would ever notice Angela or if she would continue to live my life and be ignored by the love of her life.
The reason I'm thinking of it now is because there just isn't a lot out there that affected me the way this show did. It was not a sugar-coated fantasy world, but an intense, darker, more complex show. I remember all too well the pain of teenage unrequited love, and this show positively radiated unrequited. Each character was made up of various shades of gray, so even when you didn't like one of them, you might have been able to sympathize. Angela was awkward, sweet, selfish, introspective. So while she's the protagonist of our story, that didn't mean I loved her every single minute. Sometimes the way she'd treat Brian bothered me. But she embodied the same type of behavior I had at her age. I know this because several times her reactions or comments hit awfully close to home several times. Even watching it years out of my teens, I still would get that curl of embarrassment when I certain scene would trigger a memory.
There's also the whole situation with Angela's parents and the cracks in their marriage, which was interesting because we're not only experiencing the pain of the teenagers, but also the trials of marriage and how things can get off-track. I didn't care much for Angela's mom, but how her husband dealt with his growing feelings of discontent isn't all that admirable either. I'm curious to see how far they would have taken things if the show had remained on the air.
And speaking of which, you had to love Ricky, Angela's openly gay friend. He was one of my favorite characters, so full of love and yet so vulnerable; he was a loyal friend. So ready to be loved. If the show can continued, I hope that eventually would have happened for him, and that it would have shown a positive storyline. Now we'll never know. I wonder what the actor who played Ricky is doing these days....
Now the show had it's occasional payoff. It couldn't be all angst and moments of mortification, how could it? I mean, who didn't get all excited when Jordan sauntered down that school hallway and took Angela's hand? I must have re-wound that scene 25 times to relive that long-awaited experience. (Yeah, I get a little obsessive). As I mentioned, at the time, I had a huge crush on Jared Leto. Looking back, I wonder if there's much going on beyond the pretty face, though I do love some of the song from his band 30 Seconds to Mars.
So tell me: were you a fan, or were you way too cool