My So-Called Life

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My So-Called Life
My So-Called Life.jpg
Intertitle
GenreTeen drama
Created byWinnie Holzman
StarringClaire Danes
Bess Armstrong
Jared Leto
Wilson Cruz
Devon Gummersall
A. J. Langer
Devon Odessa
Lisa Wilhoit
Tom Irwin
Narrated byClaire Danes as Angela Chase
Devon Gummersall as Brian Krakow
Lisa Wilhoit as Danielle Chase
Theme music composerW.G. Snuffy Walden
Opening theme"My So-Called Life Theme"
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes19[1] (List of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s)Marshall Herskovitz
Edward Zwick
Producer(s)Winnie Holzman (co-executive producer)
Scott Winant (co-executive producer)
Monica Wyatt (co-producer)
Running timeapprox. 47 minutes
Production company(s)The Bedford Falls Company
ABC Productions
Broadcast
Original channelABC[2]
Original runAugust 25, 1994 – January 26, 1995
Chronology
Related showsMein Leben & Ich
 
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My So-Called Life
My So-Called Life.jpg
Intertitle
GenreTeen drama
Created byWinnie Holzman
StarringClaire Danes
Bess Armstrong
Jared Leto
Wilson Cruz
Devon Gummersall
A. J. Langer
Devon Odessa
Lisa Wilhoit
Tom Irwin
Narrated byClaire Danes as Angela Chase
Devon Gummersall as Brian Krakow
Lisa Wilhoit as Danielle Chase
Theme music composerW.G. Snuffy Walden
Opening theme"My So-Called Life Theme"
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes19[1] (List of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s)Marshall Herskovitz
Edward Zwick
Producer(s)Winnie Holzman (co-executive producer)
Scott Winant (co-executive producer)
Monica Wyatt (co-producer)
Running timeapprox. 47 minutes
Production company(s)The Bedford Falls Company
ABC Productions
Broadcast
Original channelABC[2]
Original runAugust 25, 1994 – January 26, 1995
Chronology
Related showsMein Leben & Ich

My So-Called Life is an American teen drama television series created by Winnie Holzman and produced by Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz.[3][4] It originally aired on ABC from August 25, 1994, to January 26, 1995 and was distributed by The Bedford Falls Company with ABC Productions. Set at the fictional Liberty High School, it follows the emotional travails of several teenagers who are all in the social circle of main character, Angela Chase.[5] The critically acclaimed but short-lived show ended in a cliffhanger with the expectation that it would be picked up for an additional season, but it was officially canceled on May 15, 1995.

The show was praised for its portrayal of adolescence and the commentary of its astute central character, Angela. My So-Called Life was named the second Best School Show of All Time by AOL TV.[6] It placed No. 33 on Entertainment Weekly's "New Classics TV" list of shows from 1983 to 2008,[7] and then, in 2012, at No. 9 in that magazine's "25 Best Cult TV Shows from the Past 25 Years," with the praise,

"It was the first teen drama that didn't feel like an after-school special. No one ever learned a very important lesson or uttered the phrase 'I love you, Dad.' Angela acted like a real 15-year-old, with all the crying jags and Buffalo Tom concerts that implies. What's even more impressive is that anyone who watched the show back in the '90s, when angst and Manic Panic felt totally of the moment, can now enjoy it on a very different level. Suddenly, Angela's parents are relatable."[8]

In 2007, it was listed as one of Time magazine's "100 Best TV Shows of All-TIME",[9] and TV Guide ranked the series number 16 on its 25 Top Cult Shows Ever list.[10]

Contents

Themes

My So-Called Life dealt with important social issues of the mid-1990s, including child abuse, homophobia, teenage alcoholism, homelessness, adultery, school violence, censorship, and drug use. Many shows at the time used these themes as a one-time issue (a "very special episode") that would be introduced as a problem at the beginning of an episode and resolved at the end, but on My So-Called Life these issues were part of the continuing storyline. The title of the show alludes to the perception of meaninglessness that many teenagers experience and encapsulates the main theme of the series. The show depicts the teenage years as being difficult and confusing rather than a light, fun-filled time.[11][12]

Characters

The young cast of My So-Called Life

Ratings

Angela Chase (Claire Danes) and Jordan Catalano (Jared Leto)

For its original run in the United States, it aired on Thursday nights at 8 p.m. ET against top-10 hit sitcoms — Mad About You and Friends on NBC, as well as the popular Martin and Living Single on Fox, undoubtedly contributing to the series' low ratings.

The producers said that they could not fault ABC for the creative freedom and support they gave them during production, as there were probably few networks that would have even put My So-Called Life on the air in the first place. However, it was clear that ABC had tremendous difficulty in effectively promoting the show.

My So-Called Life was produced before the explosion of youth and teen programming. The culture of television would change significantly in the years that immediately followed, most notably with the rise of The WB and UPN, networks that would eventually cater to the teenaged audience My So-Called Life sought, in the late 1990s and early 2000s (decade) (The WB and UPN launched just two weeks and one week respectively before My So-Called Life's run on ABC ended). Holzman never intended the show to be exclusively for teens. This may have been even more confusing for the network in terms of placement and promotion as the show clearly was of interest to a broader audience. In the end, not enough viewers of any age were watching the show during its initial network run. ABC was more focused on larger ratings numbers and wider demographics. Holzman said, "It is one thing to have huge ratings, but it is quite another to have smaller ratings but with an extremely passionate following. I don't understand why the network did not understand that."

In conversations with then ABC President Bob Iger, producers Zwick and Herskovitz told him that by broadcasting My So-Called Life the network was giving a voice to millions of young women who otherwise had no voice on network television. The show was making money for the network, and they told Iger he should keep the show on the air for no other reason than "good corporate works", yet ABC simply could not yet see the economic appeal of an audience of teenage girls. At the end of its first season's run, the series ranked at #116 with a 7.0 rating with 6,678,000 homes tuning in from 1994 to 1995.[13]

Cancellation

Also significant was the arduous schedule and the mental and physical demands of the production of episodic television, especially for young actors who must balance schoolwork with rehearsal and time on the set. Herskovitz said Danes and her parents approached the show's creators and told producers that she did not want to be involved with the show if it was permitted to continue for a second season.[14] Nevertheless, the producers were fully committed to continuing the show. In perhaps one of the first times in the history of the new and burgeoning World Wide Web, fans used the new technology as a tool to help mobilize grassroots support. U.S. fans also took out expensive advertisements in Variety and the Hollywood Reporter urging ABC to renew the show, yet they had no way of knowing about the internal conflict in the show's last days.[citation needed]

When she heard that Danes was no longer keen to continue with the show, Holzman's attitude changed as well. She said, "When I realized that Claire truly did not want to do it any more, it was hard for me to want to do it. The joy in writing the show was that everyone was behind it and wanted to do it. And I love her. So part of the joy and excitement and happiness would have gone out of me if she had not been on board 100 percent. I wasn't able to say this at the time, but in retrospect it was a blessing for it to end at a time when we all enjoyed doing it. That's not to say that if the network had ordered more shows that I wouldn't have given it my best. But there was a rightness in how short the season was. This was a show about adolescence and sort of ended in its own adolescence. There was an aura about how short the series was like all things that die young. The show ended at a point that it was still all potential."[14]

The rumors of the end of the show strongly divided its fans. Flame wars raged across the Internet,[15] especially after Steve Joyner of Operation Life Support (a group that worked to save the show) and some cast members confirmed the rumors — angry themselves, in some cases. Joyner's letter was entitled "Claire Danes Brings Death to 'Life'." Fans were sharply divided between those who believed or disbelieved the reports, and those who thought it was forgivable in any event for a teenage actress to find a way out of a long contract. Others believed Danes' desire to leave was not acceptable, especially given her public stance of support for the movement to save the show. Many fans felt betrayed due to having spent significant time and money in an effort to save the show when its star was secretly working against them.[citation needed]

In a September 2004 edition of Entertainment Weekly, Danes admitted her role in My So-Called Life's demise, while insisting that she didn't have enough power to cause the cancellation by herself.[16] It is generally accepted that ABC seriously considered bringing the show back for a second season and may have even intended to (as then-executive Ted Harbert claims) due to its devoted fanbase, its quality and its critical acclaim. However, low ratings combined with Danes' unwillingness to return combined to end the series. ABC had no interest in getting into a public quarrel with a 15-year-old actress. Winnie Holzman theorized that the network was so on-the-fence about renewing the show that in some ways they used Danes' reluctance to return as a convenient excuse not to renew the show.[14]

Episodes

#TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air dateProduction
code
1"Pilot"Scott WinantWinnie HolzmanAugust 25, 199459300
In the Pilot, Angela starts her Sophomore year and finds herself abandoning her best friend Sharon for her new outgoing friend, Rayanne, and after dying her hair red, lies to her parents about a night out... 
2"Dancing in the Dark"Scott WinantWinnie HolzmanSeptember 1, 199459301
Rayanne arranges for Jordan to sell Angela a fake ID, while Patty and Graham stumble through ballroom-dancing lessons meant to re-spice their marriage... 
3"Guns and Gossip"Marshall HerskovitzJustin TannerSeptember 8, 199459302
A gunshot in the hallway and a rumor about Angela and Jordan send ripples through the Liberty High School community... 
4"Father Figures"Mark RosnerWinnie HolzmanSeptember 15, 199459303
Angela gives Graham the silent contempt treatment while Patty must deal with her own father when both the Grateful Dead and the IRS come to town... 
5"The Zit"Victor DuBoisBetsy ThomasSeptember 22, 199459304
The Annual Three Rivers Mother-Daughter Fashion Show is approaching. Rayanne's slut potential and Sharon's hooters get mentioned on a sophomore girls list and Angela gets a zit... 
6"The Substitute"Ellen S. PressmanJason KatimsSeptember 29, 199459305
An unconventional substitute teacher temporarily turns Angela's English class into a Dead Poets Society and causes a stir when he takes over the school's literary magazine... 
7"Why Jordan Can't Read"Mark PiznarskiLiberty GodshallOctober 6, 199459307
Angela and Jordan get close when she learns of his reading problem, and closer when she hears his new song. Patty and Graham try to cope with a possible pregnancy... 
8"Strangers in the House"Ron LagomarsinoJill GordonOctober 20, 199459308
Angela's relationship with Sharon and Graham's job dissatisfaction both hit critical levels when Sharon's father has a heart attack... 
9"Halloween"Mark PiznarskiJill GordonOctober 27, 199459401
Halloween rolls into Three Rivers, blurring the line between facades and realities... 
10"Other People's Mothers"Claudia WeillRichard KramerNovember 3, 199459306
Angela is entranced by Rayanne's hip hippie mom, while Patty gets the daughter treatment from her own mother... 
11"Life of Brian"Todd HollandJason KatimsNovember 10, 199459402
This episode is told from Brian's point of view. Everyone's love life gets screwed up by the school World Happiness Dance... 
12"Self-Esteem"Michael EnglerWinnie HolzmanNovember 17, 199459403
Jordan won't acknowledge his new relationship with Angela, Graham starts his cooking classes, and a new teacher invites Rickie to join the drama club... 
13"Pressure"Mark PiznarskiEllen HermanDecember 1, 199459404
Angela considers sleeping with Jordan, while Graham considers starting his own restaurant... 
14"On the Wagon"Jeff PerryElizabeth GillDecember 8, 199459405
Feeling left out of Angela's life, Rayanne becomes lead singer of the Frozen Embryos. Meanwhile, Patty thinks Rayanne has started drinking again... 
15"So-Called Angels"Scott WinantWinnie Holzman & Jason KatimsDecember 22, 199459406
Christmas in Three Rivers finds Rickie out on the street after a fight with his abusive uncle. Angela, aided by a mysterious homeless girl (Juliana Hatfield), tries to help him, putting her at odds with Patty. Meanwhile, Brian faces Christmas alone... 
16"Resolutions"Patrick NorrisEllen HermanJanuary 5, 199559407
The new year begins, and everybody makes their resolutions without resolving to keep them. Rickie's home situation puts him on his own odyssey, Brian and Jordan do some mutual tutoring, Graham considers Hallie's proposition(s)... 
17"Betrayal"Mark PiznarskiJill GordonJanuary 12, 199559408
Rayanne wins the starring role in the school play, but loses Angela's friendship after she and Jordan get drunk and umm... in his car... 
18"Weekend"Todd HollandAdam DooleyJanuary 19, 199559409
Rayanne accidentally handcuffs herself to Patty and Graham's bed when Angela's parents go out of town for a weekend... 
19"In Dreams Begin Responsibilities"Elodie KeeneWinnie HolzmanJanuary 26, 199559410
Everybody in Three Rivers is having weird dreams lately. Jordan, hoping to win Angela back, enlists Brian to help him say the right words, resulting in The Letter. Delia has a crush on Rickie, Patty dreams about her old beau and Graham cooks for the investors. Rickie's odyssey and the MSCL season comes to an end... 

Note: In 1997, TV Guide ranked the episode "Life of Brian" number 38 on its "100 Greatest Episodes of All Time" list.[17]

DVD and online release

On October 30, 2007, Shout! Factory re-released My So-Called Life on DVD in Region 1 in a 6-disc box set with a disc of special features, including an interview with series star Claire Danes. Shout! Factory is a distribution company that has released short-lived shows in the past.[18]

On September 13, 2007, Eurovideo released the complete series on DVD in Germany in Region 2; The 5-disc boxset featured German and English soundtrack but no special features. [1]

On June 10, 2008, Beyond Home Entertainment released the complete series on DVD in Australia in Region 4. [2]

On December 3, 2008, Free Dolphin released the complete series on DVD in France in Region 2, [3] with a 32-page booklet but no other special features. [4].

In popular culture

Tino is never actually seen but is mentioned in almost every episode as a running joke of the series. He is a friend of Jordan and Rayanne. Tino is also the lead singer of Jordan's band, Frozen Embryos (later called Residue). In the 2008 film Juno, the title character is asked whether her band will get back together, and she replies, "Once Tino gets a new drumhead, we should be ready to rock". This was confirmed as a reference to My So-Called Life by screenwriter Diablo Cody on the DVD audio commentary.

Soundtrack

Atlantic Records released a soundtrack of the show, which originally released on August 25, 1994, then re-released on January 24, 1995.

My So-Called Life (Music From the Television Series)
Soundtrack album
ReleasedAugust 25, 1994
January 24, 1995 (re-release)
Length34:54
LabelAtlantic Records
  1. "Make It Home" by Juliana Hatfield – 4:44
  2. "Soda Jerk" by Buffalo Tom – 4:26
  3. "Genetic" by Sonic Youth – 3:46
  4. "Petty Core" by Further – 3:46
  5. "Drop a Bomb" by Madder Rose – 2:11
  6. "Fountain and Fairfax" by Afghan Whigs – 4:21
  7. "South Carolina" by Archers of Loaf – 3:30
  8. "Dawn Can't Decide" by The Lemonheads – 2:19
  9. "The Book Song" by Frente! – 2:40
  10. "Come See Me Tonight" by Daniel Johnston – 1:59
  11. "My So-Called Life Theme"; words and music by W.G. Snuffy Walden – 1:12

References

  1. ^ Lloyd, Robert (October 28, 2007). "The gift of growing pains". The Los Angeles Times. http://articles.latimes.com/2007/oct/28/entertainment/ca-so-called28. Retrieved 2010-08-30.
  2. ^ "Rebroadcasting of 'My So-Called Life'". New York Times. April 3, 1995. http://www.nytimes.com/1995/04/03/arts/rebroadcasting-of-my-so-called-life.html?scp=7&sq=my%20so%20called%20life&st=cse. Retrieved 2010-08-11.
  3. ^ Aurthur, Kate (October 28, 2007). "Reliving the many upsides of 'Life'". The Los Angeles Times. http://articles.latimes.com/2007/oct/28/entertainment/ca-holzman28. Retrieved 2010-08-30.
  4. ^ Braxton, Greg (April 3, 1995). "'My So-Called Life' Gets a Second Life on MTV". The Los Angeles Times. http://articles.latimes.com/1995-04-03/entertainment/ca-50415_1_so-called-life. Retrieved 2010-08-30.
  5. ^ Rosenberg, Howard (August 24, 1994). "'My So-Called Life': Weary Trip Through Teen Years". The Los Angeles Times. http://articles.latimes.com/1994-08-24/entertainment/ca-30485_1_so-called-life. Retrieved 2010-08-30.
  6. ^ "Best School Shows of All Time". AOL TV. Aol, Inc. August 26, 2008. http://www.aoltv.com/2008/08/26/best-school-shows/. Retrieved September 14, 2012.
  7. ^ The New Classics: TV. Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved on 2009-08-20
  8. ^ "25 Best Cult TV Shows from the Past 25 Years." Entertainment Weekly. August 3, 2012, p. 39.
  9. ^ Poniewozik, James (September 6, 2007). "The 100 Best TV Shows of All-TIME". Time (Time.com). http://www.time.com/time/specials/2007/article/0,28804,1651341_1659192_1652529,00.html. Retrieved March 4, 2010.
  10. ^ TV Guide Guide to TV. Barnes and Noble. 2004. pp. 330. ISBN 0-7607-5634-1.
  11. ^ Bellafante, Ginia (October 28, 2007). "A Teenager in Love (So-Called)". New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/28/arts/television/28bell.html?scp=1&sq=my%20so%20called%20life&st=cse. Retrieved 2010-08-11.
  12. ^ Weber, Bruce (August 25, 1994). "TELEVISION REVIEW; The So-Called World Of an Adolescent Girl, As Interpreted by One". New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/1994/08/25/arts/television-review-so-called-world-adolescent-girl-interpreted-one.html?scp=10&sq=my%20so%20called%20life&st=cse. Retrieved 2010-08-11.
  13. ^ fbibler.chez.com
  14. ^ a b c "2002 Bonus DVD Interview (transcribed on www.mscl.com)", My So-Called Life DVD Box Set (AnotherUniverse.com), 2002. Retrieved 2011-03-25.
  15. ^ Well.com
  16. ^ Jeff Jensen "Life As We Knew It: Looking back at My So-Called Life - How ABC's angsty gem set the tone for teen dramas", Entertainment Weekly 10 September 2004. Retrieved 12 July 2010.
  17. ^ TV Guide Book of Lists. Running Press. 2007. pp. 185. ISBN 0-7624-3007-9.
  18. ^ Shows on DVD

External links