My So-Called Life: The Complete Series

"Excellent"

My So-Called Life: The Complete Series Review


Few television shows have had such a short life while having such a major impact on the entertainment landscape as My So-Called Life.

The brainchild of Thirtysomething mavens Marshall Herskovitz and Winnie Holzman, the show aimed to present highschool life from the point of view of one emotionally conflicted sophomore named Angela (Claire Danes). As a direct response to Beverly Hills, 90210, the show was meant to be realistic, perhaps overly so, offering a look into Angela's psyche through copious voice over, and presenting real struggles the average kid has to deal with during what might be the toughest few years of everyone's adolescence. Real. Really real. Reality. How real was My So-Called Life going to be? So real it was set in Pittsburgh. (But not too real: It was still shot in L.A.)

The show lasted one season, 19 episodes including the pilot. If it seems like more that's because MTV bought the rerun rights after the show ended its ABC run in 1995. MTV ran those episodes hundreds of times for years, into the late '90s. (You may also have noticed that Danes looks a lot older at the end of the series (which spanned only one school year) than at the beginning. That's because she was: Network troubles gave the show an on-again/off-again schedule. The final episode was shot a full 2 1/2 years after the pilot.)

On the whole, Life follows some well-traveled teen drama territory. A prime plot: Angela is in love with Jordan Catalano (Jared Leto), a sophomore with a mild learning disability who's been held back twice, is never seen without his fur-trimmed leather coat, and who is never referred to as "Jordan" but always as "Jordan Catalano." Angela is also on the outs with her childhood friend Sharon (Devon Odessa), and has picked up with the rebellious Rayanne (A.J. Langer) and her bisexual pal Rickie (Wilson Cruz, who is still playing variations on this character over a decade later). Angela's parents have their own issues: Dad (Tom Irwin) is emasculated by his powerful, shrewish wife (Bess Armstrong, so overpowering she's almost unbearable). In later episodes he leaves their printing company to attempt to start a restaurant... while trying to avoid the temptations of a younger woman (a plot point that actually occurs twice in the series run).



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