Sunday, February 21, 2010


1994 is a mysterious and wonderful period of time to me. I was alive, but not really aware of the wonders that surrounded me. By wonders I mean the gratuitous presence of flannel, stubble, and jeans with ripped kneeholes, (the Seattle grunge does for me what tuxedos do for most other women). I also mean one of my favorite eras of music, Smashing Pumpkins, early Green Day, Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots, etc. It was a great year for movies, spawning such gems as Forrest Gump, the Little Rascals and SPEED.

But the greatest product of 1994 has to be the under-appreciated cult classic tv drama, My So-Called Life. I consider myself somewhat of a connoisseur of teenage-oriented tv shows, imbibing the good (The OC, Freaks and Geeks), the bad (the new 90210, Gossip Girl), and the ugly (the old 90210 and Felicity post hair-cut). But in all of my days of gluttonous tv watching, My So-Called Life is the only show that has ever approximated what it really means to be a teenager who isn't perfect looking, doesn't live in Southern California or Manhattan, and whose parents actually give a damn about them.

The characters feel real and natural, like people you might have known in high school. It's impossible to not relate to Angela Chase, who blows everything way out of proportion exactly like we all did at that age (and still do sometimes). Everyone has a Jordan Catalano they swooned after and probably never got to make out with in the boiler room. And Rayanne and Rickie, with all their flaws stand in for your own unique, lovable best friends. The dialogue is smart, but not unrealistic. The plotlines are complex but not convoluted. The show doesn't shy away from real issues like alcoholism, homosexuality, and homelessness, and yet still manages to avoid the 'very special episode' that most other shows of its time preached.

My So-Called Life is a truly amazing show that always seems to capture whatever shade of angst I'm currently feeling and help dissolve it by living vicariously through the lives of the students of Liberty High. Perhaps the best thing about the show is the fact that it was cancelled before it had a chance to deteriorate. Many of the best shows are misunderstood by their parent studios and large-scale audiences. But for me, My So-Called Life allows a glimpse into the recent past of 1994. A time I was too young to really remember, and history has yet to recognize. I'm curious to see what new shows will act as cultural artifacts of this time period until hindsight tells us how to characterize the year 2010. I seriously hope it's not Rock of Love or American Idol.

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