It sometimes takes a few years from the date a show is originally broadcast before it is able to find an audience. Unfortunately, this can lead to a television program being cancelled before it really has a chance to gather any steam. Such was the case with My So-Called Life, a show which captured the essence of exactly what it was like to be a teenager growing up in middle-America in 1994. Set against a backdrop of high school, with an alternative rock soundtrack and a no-holds barred approach to discussing the problems faced by teens, My So-Called Life managed to avoid the saccharine-
inflected nostalgia of similar programs like The Wonder Years.
The star of the show was Angela Chase, played by a young Claire Danes in one of her very first roles. Angela struggles to find acceptance in a world she never quite feels a part of, and she also deals with the perpetual young person’s struggle to form her own identity. She is at the stage of her life when her childhood friends have begun to clash with the new choices and people she is meeting. A large part of the show deals with the emotional price that is paid as a result of personal growth.
My So-Called Life was also populated with a cast of stock characters typically found in teen dramas, but the writing of the show portrayed them all in a sadder fashion than normal. Angela was joined by the promiscuous problem child Rayanne, nerdy next door neighbor Brian (secretly in love with Angela), flamboyantly gay Rickie and heartthrob Jordan Catalano (played by soon-to-be superstar Jared Leto). These individuals gave the show’s creators the building blocks they needed to explore as many of the pressing issues of the day as could be crammed into an hour of television drama.
Although it only lasted one season, the show was critically acclaimed and maintained enough of a buzz throughout the decade to find a second life as a DVD release. Given that poor ratings were what killed My So-Called Life, the majority of the program’s fans have been drawn to Angela’s mid-1990s fashion sense and musical taste through the miracle of box sets.