“The most painfully honest portrayal of adolescence ever on television”

“The most painfully honest portrayal of adolescence ever on television”

31 days of cult classics | Modern Mrs Darcy

Its run was short and its ratings were lackluster, but fans still remember My So-Called Life as a jewel of a show, the one Hollywood execs called “the most painfully honest portrayal of adolescence ever on television.”

My So-Called Life. 31 Days of Cult Classics | Modern Mrs Darcy

Claire Danes was 13 and undiscovered when the pilot was shot, and 15 when the final episode aired. She played the lead, high school sophomore Angela Chase, and looked like a teenager because she was one, living through the awkward changes she was tasked with bringing to life on screen.

I was a fan. I don’t remember how I found the show, or why I tuned in, but soon my friends and I were all watching it, drawn in by the earnest portrayal of our lives on the small screen. My So-Called Life portrayed teenagers without patronizing them; its characters were rich and layered. (And the casting was excellent.)

We were devastated when our favorite show was canceled after a mere 19 episodes, despite a passionate grassroots campaign.

(I’m glad we didn’t know then that it’s likely the real reason it didn’t get renewed was that Danes wanted to leave, but it wouldn’t be fare to blame her for that. She was just a teenager, after all.)

Critics say it’s not all bad news the show got canceled: it didn’t have time to go stale or endure awkward growing pains, it never had a chance to jump the shark. It will live forever because it was perfect while it lasted.

I don’t know if I agree with that (because the cliffhanger ending was a little cruel), but I do think it’s time for a re-watch.

Were you a fan back in the day? Have you re-watched it since? Tell us in comments. 

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This is the twenty-sixth post in a series, 31 Days of Cult Classics. You can click here to see a list of all the posts, updated everyday in the month of October.


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  1. Jeannie says:

    As soon as I saw your post’s title I guessed what show you meant. I probably only watched 4 or 5 episodes but I remember what an incredible actress Clare Danes was even at that age. Since then I haven’t followed her career closely; I’ve never watched Homeland and I’ve only seen a couple of movies she’s been in (Little Women and Temple Grandin — that tells you I’m a bit out of the loop!) but I think she’s brilliant.

  2. Suzanne says:

    I knew which show it was too, based on the title. I was in highschool when it aired and watched every episode many times over. It was my favorite and it really was painfully honest. My friends and I were so upset when it was cancelled.

  3. Leigh Kramer says:

    Jordan Catalano forever! I LOVED this show. I was 14 when it aired and Angela’s way of navigating life resonated so much with me, even if I didn’t have a Jordan of my own to navigate. I found the whole series on DVD at McKay’s a couple of months ago and snatched it up. I haven’t rewatched it yet- though have caught episodes here and there over the years (even owned 2 episodes on VHS)- but I plan on doing so soon.

  4. Tiffany says:

    I faithfully watched this show in high school, and recently re-watched it. I think it is on Netflix? or Amazon Prime? At least it was for awhile. Watching it a second time as an adult/parent, I could totally relate to the parents on the show. It was a different experience this time, but it is still a great show!

  5. Nancy says:

    From reading the comments, I am obviously at least 10 years older than those that have commented so far….In 1994, I was a new mom, busy changing diapers and working full-time so I didn’t watch much tv. This past year, my husband and I have watched Homeland and are hooked on it now (Danes does a great job in this show and if you haven’t watched it yet, you might want to, to see what the hullaballoo is all about – it might become a new cult classic!). I asked my 17 year old daughter today if she’d watch the LIFE series with me; it’s the next thing we’ll be receiving from Netflix. Thanks for sharing.

  6. I was in high school when I watched the first episode, and I still remember thinking when it finished, “Oh my gosh that was so my life!” Frankly, I was a little shocked. Up to that point, I hadn’t ever seen a TV show that I could relate to like that. Looking back now, I do kind of agree though that it might of been a good thing that it ended still at its peak!

  7. 'Becca says:

    I loved it. I was in college and didn’t get to see every episode, but I watched as many as I could.

    Another excellent show about adolescence, with a wider cast of characters, was “Degrassi Junior High”–made in Canada in the mid-1980s and aired on PBS a year or so after. We had just gotten a VCR and taped them all. My dad still uses the tapes with his church youth group and Little Brother to spur discussion of difficult topics. He says the dated fashions are off-putting to the teens at first, but by the end of an episode they’re exclaiming, “Kids way back then had the same problems we do!” and it helps them get their heads around the idea that my dad, who was a teenager 30 years BEFORE these 30-year-old shows, can relate to adolescent feelings, too. 🙂

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