The third television show in this series is My So-Called Life. I caught this show in the middle of its initial run on ABC and then in subsequent reruns and later on MTV. This is probably the best written teen show I’ve seen on television and it starred actual teens not twenty-year-olds. Risky, dealing with present day issues (puberty, sex, under-age drinking, sexuality, etc.) handled not as some morality tale, After-School Special but with authenticity in the characters, their motivations and their emotions. You could honestly get connected and feel a connection with the characters. The stories on My So-Called Life were not convenient or as conventionally delivered as they might seem by simply reading an episode synopsis. This is what helped it garner much of its acclaim when the show aired.
Many teenage girls (I assume) could identify with Angela Chase (Claire Danes), who wasn’t the prettiest girl in her high school. This was a breath of fresh air for many viewers since the majority of high school girls are not model-caliber beauties. If I offended anyone with the last statement, forgive me but its true. Angela was the anchor of My So-Called Life and her journey of self-discovery and self-realization its primary strength. In one of the first episodes, Angela quits the Yearbook Committee, informing the proctor of the club when she does so, that a yearbook doesn’t reflect what really goes on in a high school student’s life. The proctor just stares at Angela after she makes her statement, knowing that Angela’s assertion is absolutely correct, though loath to admit it. She’s got a club to run and maintain after all. This is just one example of the great writing that My So-Called Life possessed and that script-writers Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick brought to the table. The storylines in My So-Called Life were also instilled with heart. One storyline in particular involving pretty boy Jordan Catalano (Jared Leto), who likes Angela (especially making-out with her) but doesn’t want anyone to know about their relationship because of her outer visage, was really well written, as was what their relationship evolved into and should not be missed.
The cast My So-Called Life was great, especially Angela’s new best friend, the morally loose Rayanne Graff (A.J. Langer) and Enrique “Rickie” Vasquez (Wilson Cruz), Rayanne’s best friend who is in the process of discovering his sexual identity. It was always amusing how Ricky hung out in the girl’s bathroom with Angela and Rayanne and ninety-nine percent of the girl population in Liberty High accepted or tolerated it. This was one of the more innovative, lighter moments in the show. What the characters usually went through in My So-Called Life, their reality, are the sort of teen-angst, self-evaluatory issues over dramatized today on channels like Fox Family and on shows like The OC. The decisions made during an episode of My So-Called Life had real weight to them; they weren’t hyper-realistic but thought-provoking and sincere.
It’s too bad that only critics and a few others seemed to “get” My So-Called Life and saw it for the pearl amongst gems that it really was. It’s one of those times when you wish a television station would have said: “F*ck the ratings. We all know what a quality show this is. It stays on the air.”