In the mid 90s ABC brought teens and young people a television series which was cancelled after its first season, but has gone on to gain a cult following in the subsequent decades. It also brought to people actors like Claire Danes and Jared Leto, who would go on to have huge careers.
My So-Called Life follows 15-year-old Angela Chase in her life and those people she is closest to – family and friends. Angela is on the cusp of becoming a young woman. In that transitory period everyone goes through from being a child to becoming an adult. Angela, like many others, tries to rush the process in many ways.
What sets this series apart is the honesty is uses to tackle different issues like homosexuality, virginity/sex, teenage homelessness, learning disabilities, teen friendships, family dynamics and many others. We get the feeling of it being authenitc as a result. And although several of the characters are archetypes or even stereotypes of the type of characters they portray there are enough layers injected into them that they don’t become totally one dimensional. Yes, Rayanne (played by A.J. Langer) is your typical wild girl, Angela (played by Claire Danes) is the type of good/smart girl we have seen before and after and finally, Jordan Catalano (played by Jared Leto) is the bad boy all girls fall in love with….I mean, those eyes! The script (written by primarily by the show’s creator Winnie Holzman) and the actors do a good job not allowing Jordan, Angela and Rayanne to be merely one dimensional.
Frank discussions and investigations are done on several levels. We get some really targeted teenage subjects like sex, drinking/partying, homosexuality and homelessness. We get them from the rare perspective of teenagers. It does equally well the storylines involving adults like teachers or Angela’s parents.
Besides the cutting edge (for the time) storylines you also get a hint as to the cool music of the time. Songs like “Everybody Hurts” by REM, “Dreams” by The Cranberries, “What is Love” by Haddaway, “Blister in the Sun” by Violent Femmes and “Fall Down” by Toad the Wet Sprocket.
-My So-Called Life Story
-A Conversation with Winnie Holzman and Claire Danes
-A Conversation with Winnie Holzman and Marshall Herkovitz
-The Character: Angela, The Chase Family, The Friends
-Interview with Claire Danes
-Highlights: The 1995 Museum of Television & Radio Panel