Nearly a decade ago, ABC took a chance on a new drama about the life of 15-year-old Angela Chase, a young girl overwhelmed with teenage angst as she searches for her identity. Unfortunately, the series only lasted 19 episodes. But during its brief run, “My So-Called Life” supplied one of the best teenage dramas of our lifetime.
Now, eight years later, BMG presents the entire series on five DVDs complete with specific scene selection for each episode. The package is a reminder that many great shows are often lost because of bad ratings.
Set in suburban Philadelphia, the pilot introduces us to the Chase family: Graham (Tom Irwin, “My Life and Times”), Patty (Bess Armstrong, “That was Then”), Danielle (Lisa Wilhoit, “Flying Virus”) and of course, Angela (Claire Danes, “Romeo and Juliet”). They perfectly depict the typical suburban American family complete with sibling spats and overprotective parents.
Annoyed by her mother and distanced from her father by puberty, Angela’s lonely and confused state leads her to befriend Rayanne Graff (A.J. Langer, “Beverly Hills, 90210”) and Rickie Vasquez (Wilson Cruz, “Party of Five”). This interesting pair offers a fun alternative to her boring “so-called life” but not without consequence. Rayanne suffers from alcoholism while Rickie struggles with his sexuality throughout the series. The two show Angela the teenage world of parties and mayhem. Many of their excursions seem unrealistic especially considering these students aren’t even old enough to drive.
Throughout the series, Angela’s voice echoes over her actions revealing her innermost thoughts and dreams and eloquently describing each moment of her life, giving it meaning and significance. Many of Angela’s thoughts revolve around Jordan Catalano (Jared Leto, “Fight Club”), a very good looking boy at school who, in his mysteriousness, intrigues her to the point of infatuation.
One of the 19 episodes is voiced over by another character, Brian Krakow (Devon Gummersall, “Felicity”) the boy-next-door, who is in love with Angela. His parents are psychiatrists and he longs for the “normal” family life of his neighbor. Brian and Angela were friends as kids but grew apart and are now only linked by Brian’s obsession, which leads him to the Chase residence frequently with lame excuses to see her. His unrequited affections are sad as she obliviously focuses on Jordan.
Though the menu on this DVD is lacking artistically with bizarre color choices and fades, the scene selection is an excellent feature usually unseen with television programs. There are no special features, but this is understandable considering the history of the series. Despite fan efforts to save the show in the winter of 1995, it ended abruptly yet appropriately for this thought provoking drama. Unlike many teenage series of today, fast approaching soap-opera like proportions with overly repeated storylines, the cancellation of “My So-Called Life” allowed for it to be viewed as something inspiring instead of overdone. The final scene of the series leaves the audience wondering about the outcome of the characters and about their own lives. No matter how many episodes actually aired, in this aspect, the show achieved great success making this DVD a worthwhile purchase.