My So-Called Life
|My So-Called Life|
|Created by||Winnie Holzman|
|Narrated by||Claire Danes|
|Theme music composer||W. G. Snuffy Walden|
|Opening theme||"My So-Called Life Theme" by W. G. Snuffy Walden|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||19 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||47–48 minutes|
|Distributor||ABC Distribution Company|
|Original release||August 25, 1994 –|
January 26, 1995
|Related shows||Mein 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. 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 in a fictional suburb near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania called Three Rivers, it follows the emotional travails of several teenagers in the social circle of main character Angela Chase, played by Claire Danes. The 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, despite being critically praised for its portrayal of adolescence and the commentary of its central character, Angela, and for receiving several major awards nominations, including Danes winning the Golden Globe for her acting work on the series. Besides Danes, the show also launched the careers of several other major actors of her generation, including Jared Leto and Wilson Cruz.
My So-Called Life dealt with major 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 was 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.
This section describes a work or element of fiction in a primarily in-universe style. (March 2020)
- Angela Chase, played by Claire Danes, is a 15-year-old sophomore at Liberty High School in Three Rivers, Pennsylvania, a fictional suburb of Pittsburgh. She is attempting to discover and assert her identity. To do this, she distances herself from her past and pulls away from her parents and her childhood friends, Sharon Cherski and Brian Krakow. In their place, she befriends Rayanne Graff and Rickie Vasquez. Angela has a crush on Jordan Catalano and admires him from afar; they later begin dating and eventually break up. With these new relationships, Angela finds herself in precarious and sometimes dangerous situations; despite temptation, she remains levelheaded and responsible. Angela narrates 17 of the 19 episodes in voice-over.
- Alicia Silverstone auditioned before Danes and impressed producer Edward Zwick, who wanted to cast her as Angela; she was also emancipated, so she could work longer hours. His partner Marshall Herskovitz thought that Silverstone was too beautiful to play a conflicted teenager uncertain of herself. Danes' audition impressed both, but as she was 15 and had to attend school, after her casting, the show increased the screen time for the parental characters.
- Patricia "Patty" Chase, played by Bess Armstrong, is Angela's mother. Unlike many TV mothers, she is the main breadwinner and, at the beginning of the series, employs her husband. She is opinionated and often expresses her strongly held beliefs, which at one point leads to a confrontation with the free-spirited mother of Rayanne.
- Enrique "Rickie" Vasquez, played by Wilson Cruz, is Rayanne Graff's other best friend. He is a gay 15-year-old boy being raised by his uncle, who physically and emotionally abuses him. Rickie wears eyeliner and bright clothing and feels most at home in the girls' bathroom with Rayanne and Angela. When his uncle kicks him out of the house, he is fostered briefly by the Chases; he is then fostered by gay English teacher Richard Katimski (played by Jeff Perry), who becomes a mentor to him.
- Brian Krakow, played by Devon Gummersall, has an unrequited crush on Angela and is longtime friends with both her and Sharon. Despite his high IQ and insight into other characters, he lacks emotional intelligence and is socially awkward and self-righteous. This tends to alienate him from his peers. The other characters usually turn to him only when they have an academic or technological query, and he usually seems willing if not actually pleased to help them out. Brian is a conflicted character, fearing and often rejecting the intimacy that he intensely desires. He becomes friends with Rickie towards the middle of the series.
- Rayanne Graff, played by A. J. Langer, is Angela's new best friend at the beginning of the series. She is wild, rebellious, and parented by a single mother (Amber, played by Patti D'Arbanville-Quinn). In the episode "Other People's Mothers", the depth of Rayanne's troubles are revealed when she suffers a drug and alcohol overdose at her own party.
- Jordan Catalano is played by Jared Leto. He is good-looking but rebellious, his bad boy image masking the real reason for his poor scholastic record. (He has an undiagnosed learning disability and is nearly illiterate.) He is Angela's love interest, and during the series they have an on-again, off-again relationship. He reveals his emotional depth in his songwriting ability and his occasional profound thoughts.
- Sharon Cherski, played by Devon Odessa, was Angela's best friend throughout childhood until Angela became friends with Rayanne. Sharon is pretty, conventional and academically minded, but her values and ideals are challenged throughout the show and she grows to be more open-minded.
- Danielle Chase, played by Lisa Wilhoit, is Angela's younger sister. There is an emphasis on how much she is ignored by her family. She has a biting and sarcastic wit, serving as somewhat of a comic relief throughout the show. In the episode "Halloween", she dresses up as Angela and fools her parents with her near-exact replication of Angela's red hair, clothes, and demeanor. Danielle narrates the penultimate episode, "Weekend", in voice-over.
- Graham Chase, played by Tom Irwin, is Angela's father. He's soft-spoken and struggles with his role in the household and the direction of his life in general.
- 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).
My So-Called Life has received widespread critical acclaim and is praised by some critics as one of the greatest television series of all time. On review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, Season 1 has a 95% approval rating based on 20 reviews. The site's consensus reads, "Effectively avoiding cliche and cheesy exposition, My So-Called Life's realistic portrayal of the average American girl is ahead of its time". On Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average rating, the show has a score of 92 out of 100 based on 19 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim". It is the 35th highest rated television series on the website.
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.
My So-Called Life was named the second Best School Show of All Time by AOL TV. It was number 33 on Entertainment Weekly's "New Classics TV" list of shows from 1983 to 2008, and in 2012 number 9 in its "25 Best Cult TV Shows from the Past 25 Years". In 2007, it was listed as one of Time magazine's "100 Best TV Shows of All-TIME". TV Guide ranked the series number 2 on its 2013 list of 60 shows that were "Cancelled Too Soon" and in 2004 ranked it number 16 on its 25 Top Cult Shows Ever list.
Awards and nominations
|1994||Young Artist Awards||Best Performance by a Youth Actress in a Drama Series||Lisa Wilhoit||tied|
|Best Performance by a Youth Ensemble in a Television Series||My So-Called Life||Won|
|Best New Family Television Series||Won|
|Best Performance by a Youth Actor in a Drama Series||Devon Gummersall||Nominated|
|1995||Golden Globe Awards||Best Actress – Television Series Drama||Claire Danes||Won|
|Primetime Emmy Awards||Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series||Claire Danes||Nominated|
|Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series||Scott Winant for "Pilot"||Nominated|
|Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series||Winnie Holzman for "Pilot"||Nominated|
|Outstanding Main Title Theme Music||W. G. Snuffy Walden||Nominated|
|GLAAD Media Award||Outstanding Drama Series||My So-Called Life||Won|
|TCA Awards||Program of the Year||Nominated|
|Outstanding Achievement in Drama||Won|
|1996||Bravo Otto Awards||Best Performance by an Actor in a TV Series||Jared Leto||Nominated|
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, possibly 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.
My So-Called Life was produced before the explosion of youth and teen programming. The culture of television changed significantly in the years that immediately followed, most notably with the rise of The WB and UPN, networks that eventually catered 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. 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". At the end of its first season's run, the series ranked at No. 116 with a 7.0 rating with 6,678,000 homes tuning in from 1994 to 1995.
An online fan campaign attempted to save My So-Called Life, the first such event in the history of the World Wide Web. The arduous schedule and the mental and physical demands of the production of episodic television caused difficulties for the young actors who had to 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 continued for a second season.
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."
The rumors of the end of the show strongly divided its fans. Flame wars raged across the internet, 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.
In a September 2004 edition of Entertainment Weekly, Danes insisted that she didn't have enough power to cause the cancellation by herself. It is generally accepted that ABC 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 kept the network from reviving it. 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 series.
|No.||Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date||Prod.|
|1||"Pilot"||Scott Winant||Winnie Holzman||August 25, 1994||59300|
|As Angela Chase starts her sophomore year at Liberty High, she dyes her hair red and abandons her best friend Sharon for her outgoing new friend Rayanne. She starts reading Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl, which she greatly enjoys, feeling that she relates to Anne Frank in some ways. This episode establishes her romantic interest in Jordan Catalano. She lies to her parents that she's staying at Rayanne's; instead, she, Rayanne, and Rickie head to a club but are unable to gain access. The two girls are hit on by some guys in the parking lot; after a confrontation, a cop drives them home and Jordan Catalano notices Angela in the backseat of the police car.|
|2||"Dancing in the Dark"||Scott Winant||Winnie Holzman||September 1, 1994||59301|
|Rayanne arranges for Jordan Catalano to sell Angela a fake ID as a ruse for getting Jordan and Angela interact more. Unfortunately, Jordan bungles in his romantic approach to Angela; although this constitutes the first time the two kiss, she describes it in a later episode as a really bad kiss. Meanwhile, Patty and Graham stumble through ballroom-dancing lessons meant to spice up their marriage.|
|3||"Guns and Gossip"||Marshall Herskovitz||Justin Tanner||September 8, 1994||59302|
|After a gunshot goes off in school, Brian Krakow experiences pressure from authority figures to inform on Rickie, who is suspected of bringing the gun to school; he didn't, but he wants fellow students to think he did, believing that he will be harassed less for his bisexuality. He points out in class that firearms are not just tools of aggression; they are also often tools of defense. After Angela comforts Rickie in his car, their friendship grows stronger. The parents panic more about the gun incident than the students do. Meanwhile, Angela is dealing with a rumor that she had sex with Jordan Catalano; she discovers that the rumor originated with Brian Krakow.|
|4||"Father Figures"||Mark Rosner||Winnie Holzman||September 15, 1994||59303|
|Patty, who runs her father's printing business, must deal with him when the IRS decides to do an audit; all of her various suggestions go unheard by her unyielding father. Meanwhile, Angela gives her own father the silent treatment after accidentally seeing him with another woman. Graham gives her and Rayanne Grateful Dead tickets, but Angela scalps them, angering Rayanne, who has no father figure so appreciates her interactions with Graham. Angela hides in Brian Krakow's car to make her dad think she went to the concert, knowing he'd be disappointed to learn she didn't, but he discovers the truth and gives her the silent treatment. Eventually he asks Angela what kind of music she likes.|
|5||"The Zit"||Victor DuBois||Betsy Thomas||September 22, 1994||59304|
|The Annual Three Rivers Mother-Daughter Fashion Show is approaching. Rayanne's slut potential and Sharon's large breasts get mentioned on a Sophomore Girls List made by some jocks. Angela, who is not on the list, feels self-conscious about her small breasts and a zit on her chin and concludes that she is ugly; coincidentally, Sharon becomes self-conscious about her large breasts. Patty doesn't understand why Angela doesn't wish to participate in the fashion show until she learns of Angela's insecurities. Angela suggests that her mom do the fashion show with Danielle.|
|6||"The Substitute"||Ellen S. Pressman||Jason Katims||September 29, 1994||59305|
|An unconventional substitute teacher (Roger Rees) temporarily turns Angela's English class into a poetry-writing club that encourages students to express themselves. Controversy arises when Patty, who runs a publishing company, reads an anonymous poem titled "Haiku for Him" alluding to sexual interaction, but the substitute assuages her reservations and she agrees to publish the poem along with the rest of the submissions in the school's literary magazine called Liberty Lit. The principal, however, does not share the libertarian attitude of his students; he confiscates every copy of the magazine he can, threatens to suspend any student distributing copies, and convinces the substitute to quit. Jordan is particularly incensed: he is illiterate and was learning to read under the substitute's tutelage. Sharon is worried that her authorship of the poem will be discovered; Rayanne is worried that people will discover that it will be discovered that she didn't write it; they agree to keep the deception going, and an agentic friendship builds. Disenchanted with the substitute after learning that he abandoned his family, Angela nevertheless maintains that freedom of speech is critical and engages in civil disobedience, distributing copies of the 1994 Liberty Lit despite the prohibition. She informs her parents, who had previously encouraged her to speak up for what she believes in, that she's willing to be suspended to fight the injustice she sees, and they back her, but the principal opts to not suspend her.|
|7||"Why Jordan Can't Read"||Mark Piznarski||Liberty Godshall||October 6, 1994||59307|
|Angela and Jordan get close when she learns of his reading problem by discovering the he was unable to read a note he found that she had written about him. She speculates that he might be dyslexic, although he doubts it. After being invited to his band's practice session, she grows even closer to him when she hears his new song, "Red," which she and Rickie believe is about her, but which is actually about his car. Meanwhile, Patty might be pregnant: Graham warms to the possibility of having a son, but when they learn Patty isn't pregnant, she realizes that he's disappointed. Graham resorts to playing catch with Brian Krakow.|
|8||"Strangers in the House"||Ron Lagomarsino||Jill Gordon||October 20, 1994||59308|
|After her father has a heart attack, Sharon moves in with the Chases temporarily. Angela wants to get closer to her but doesn't know how; however, Rayanne does get closer to Sharon and drives her to the hospital. Sharon's father is about Graham's age, and the experience prompts him to think about his future and his dissatisfaction with his job. He lands a big account, but Patty fires him as a way to free him to pursue a more fulfilling career.|
|9||"Halloween"||Mark Piznarski||Jill Gordon||October 27, 1994||59401|
|Halloween rolls into Three Rivers, blurring the line between facades and realities. When Patty and Graham venture to buy costumes on Halloween day, a pirate costume and a Rapunzel costume are all they can find, but serendipitously the costumes lead them to passionate roleplaying. Danielle dresses as Angela and goes trick-or-treating with Sharon. Meanwhile, Angela dresses as a schoolgirl from the early 1960s. After learning of Nicky Driscoll, a student who died in the early '60s, she, Rayanne, and Rickie decide to break into the school on Halloween night. Brian shows up too, facilitates the break-in, and comforts the achluophobic Rayanne in the basement while Angela sees visions of Nicky Driscoll and the events leading to his death. The experience gives Angela the motivation to convince Jordan Catalano not to let his teachers define his life for him.|
|10||"Other People's Mothers"||Claudia Weill||Richard Kramer||November 3, 1994||59306|
|Rayanne, Angela, and Rickie are in the Chase kitchen. 15-year-old Rayanne is drinking a beer; to take a bite of her pickle, she hands her beer to Rickie just as Patty and Danielle enter. Rickie doesn't drink but Patty initially believes he was drinking Rayanne's beer. She chastises Angela and warns her that consumption of alcohol by any minors, family or not, will not be condoned in the Chase household. Patty also reminds Angela that she must attend a dinner party to celebrate her grandparents' anniversary. Rayanne takes Angela and Rickie to the Graff home, where Angela meets and is entranced by Amber Graff, Rayanne's laid-back hippie mom, who doesn't mind if minors drink in her home as long as they do so responsibly. Rayanne decides to throw a party and schedules it for the same night as Patty's parents' anniversary dinner; meanwhile, Patty's mother, who has been treating her like a child, is pressuring her to have the party at the Chases' instead of a restaurant and commandeers the refrigerator, frustrating Patty and Graham. On the big night, the Chases discover that Patty's father won't be at the dinner. Angela, frustrated at being required to attend a party not being attended by one of the people being celebrated, heads to Rayanne's party, where Rayanne takes ecstasy and drinks copious amounts of alcohol; the combination has an extremely adverse effect on Rayanne. Amber enters, kicks out everyone but Rayanne, Rickie, and Angela, and chastises Rayanne for the noise level, not keeping the party's guest-list small, and drinking to excess. She shows little sympathy for Rayanne's condition, which concerns Angela and Rickie. Angela finally calls Patty, who comes over and takes Rayanne to the hospital. She then invites Angela and Rickie to a "very dull" party, which both attend willingly.|
|11||"Life of Brian"||Todd Holland||Jason Katims||November 10, 1994||59402|
This episode is told from Brian's viewpoint as the school World Happiness Dance screws up everyone's love lives, Brian gets his first erection "from actual physical contact" when new transfer student Delia (Senta Moses) touches his hand, and he asks her to the dance. Jordan won't ask Angela to the dance, so Angela asks Brian to drive her there; realizing that this is his chance to woo Angela, he cancels on Delia. Rickie develops a crush on Cory, whom Rayanne asks to the dance with her and Rickie. At the dance, Rickie thinks Cory might be hitting on him, but it's soon clear that Cory was interested in Rayanne all along. Angela gets angry at Brian for snubbing Rickie and scheming to get her alone. Brian sees Delia at the dance and tries unsuccessfully to reconcile. Jordan comes to the dance and tells Angela that he likes the way "she is." Angela, buoyed by a successful conversation with Jordan, admits she ruined Brian's night and asks him to dance; he declines.In 1997, TV Guide ranked this episode #37 on its list of the 100 Greatest Episodes.
|12||"Self-Esteem"||Michael Engler||Winnie Holzman||November 17, 1994||59403|
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.In 2009, TV Guide ranked this episode #44 on its list of the 100 Greatest Episodes.
|13||"Pressure"||Mark Piznarski||Ellen Herman||December 1, 1994||59404|
|Angela considers sleeping with Jordan; Graham considers starting his own restaurant.|
|14||"On the Wagon"||Jeff Perry||Elizabeth Gill||December 8, 1994||59405|
|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 Winant||Winnie Holzman & Jason Katims||December 22, 1994||59406|
|Christmas in Three Rivers finds Rickie out on the street after a fight with his abusive uncle. Aided by a mysterious homeless girl (Juliana Hatfield), Angela tries to help him which puts her at odds with Patty. Meanwhile, Brian faces Christmas alone.|
|16||"Resolutions"||Patrick R. Norris||Ellen Herman||January 5, 1995||59407|
|As the new year begins, everybody makes resolutions without intending to keep them. Rickie's home situation sends him on his own odyssey; Brian and Jordan tutor each other; and Graham considers Hallie's proposition(s).|
|17||"Betrayal"||Mark Piznarski||Jill Gordon||January 12, 1995||59408|
|Rayanne wins the starring role in the school play but loses Angela's friendship after she and Jordan get drunk and have sex in his car.|
|18||"Weekend"||Todd Holland||Adam Dooley||January 19, 1995||59409|
|Rayanne accidentally handcuffs herself to Patty and Graham's bed when Angela's parents go out of town for a weekend in this episode narrated from Danielle's perspective.|
|19||"In Dreams Begin Responsibilities"||Elodie Keene||Winnie Holzman||January 26, 1995||59410|
|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 both conclude.|
On October 30, 2007, Shout! Factory re-released My So-Called Life on DVD in Region 1 in a six-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.
On June 10, 2008, Beyond Home Entertainment released the complete series on DVD in Australia in Region 4.
Atlantic Records released a soundtrack of the show, which was originally released on August 25, 1994, then re-released on January 24, 1995.
|My So-Called Life (Music from the Television Series)|
|Soundtrack album by |
|Released||August 25, 1994|
January 24, 1995 (re-release)
|1.||"Make It Home"||Juliana Hatfield||4:44|
|2.||"Soda Jerk"||Buffalo Tom||4:26|
|5.||"Drop a Bomb"||Madder Rose||2:11|
|6.||"Fountain and Fairfax"||Afghan Whigs||4:21|
|7.||"South Carolina"||Archers of Loaf||3:30|
|8.||"Dawn Can't Decide"||The Lemonheads||2:19|
|9.||"The Book Song"||Frente!||2:40|
|10.||"Come See Me Tonight"||Daniel Johnston||1:59|
|11.||"My So-Called Life Theme"||W. G. Snuffy Walden||W. G. Snuffy Walden||1:12|
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