I was 15 years old when My So-Called Life was on TV, exactly the same age as its main character, Angela. I remember watching it as it originally aired on ABC and becoming more and more obsessed with the show. I really felt like it was like watching my own life in so many ways... except I don't have an annoying little sister, just an aggravating older brother.
The parents are truly exactly like my parents, the friends really are like my friends from high school, especially Sharon, Ricky and Brian-- I didn't have my own Rayanne until college. Everyone has had a Jordan Catalano in their life to some degree, let's face it.
Anyway, so the show has just been reissued on DVD and I am having the best time watching and reliving it all. I guess it's been about 2 years since I watched any of the 19 episodes, and this DVD set has all kinds of extras the other one didn't. The day I got the new box set I eagerly watched every extra (minus the commentaries as of yet).
There's a recent interview with Claire Danes (Angela) and she has this weird air about her. She seems unnaturally poised or something, and her perfectly coiffed layered blond hair stands in stark contrast to her fire engine red stick straight hair back when she played Angela. She seems miles away from Angela, and I guess she should since that was 13 or so years ago. In a way though, I still feel often like that kid I was in high school, and Claire, despite admitting to sharing many characteristics with the fictional Angela, seems not only to have moved waaaaay beyond her 15 year old self, but also seems determined in her speaking on the DVDs to prove it to be so. Maybe a lot of people come up to her in the street and still expect her to BE Angela. That really would get old. I'm glad she's agreed to be on the new DVDs at all. It was an interesting experience to see her now, speaking about what transpired so long ago.
In fact, everyone is on the DVD except Jared Leto, and we all know he's painting his face and getting drinks thrown on him in his rock band 30 Seconds to Mars these days, who cares. But otherwise it's sort of like catching up with my old friends from high school or something, watching the interviews. In one of the interviews someone mentions how Ricky (Wilson Cruz) is like the moral compass of the show, which I think is so true. I remember watching the show as a kid and thinking Ricky was the only one who seemed to know what was right in a given situation. It's like he had already been through so much in his life and he was searching like anyone else but was just able to see through B.S. more easily than everyone else somehow. I admired his navigation skills, despite the fact that he was facing so many difficult things. I remember watching the show and whenever Ricky would cry, I would cry....so very adolescent of me! But I think I was responding to his realness, and I just wanted so badly for Ricky to just be OK and to know life would get better. That's pretty much true of all the characters actually!
Wilson Cruz has gotten veneers or something on his teeth and they are big ol' chompers now (see photo above). It's still fun to see him these days, all grown up and able to look back and discuss how similar he was to his character. He's still acting.
The show's main writer, Winnie Holzman is interviewed as well and she's cheesing with pride. I don't blame her-- the show was just so dead-on in every way. That's what makes the show work, above all. There are so many details that bring so much more to the experience of watching it. It's so moving. I've only made it through the extras and about 3 episodes, so I might have more to say about it later, but for now I really do think it's the best show I can remember being on TV. (Yes, I do love Freaks and Geeks too. Why are all the best shows about high school? Most of us don't even want to think about that time anymore! It's just coincidence I think.)
When I have teenagers someday I am gonna make them watch MSCL, even if I have to sneakily leave it around the house, since clearly you can't make a teenager think anything is cool that their parent thinks is cool. I think no matter which character you relate to the most, the show is a good reminder that, as isolating as high school can feel, we aren't alone in what we go through.