Friday, November 9, 2007

"I'm in love! His name is Jordan Catalano."

I heard a review of the new box-set editions of the complete Seinfeld, Twin Peaks, and My So Called Life on the radio show Fresh Air the other day. Among other things, the reviewer played an interesting clip of My-So-Called-Life producer Marshall Herskovitz commenting on the show's appeal.

"We always felt that this show would appeal to everyone. Because everyone wants to be a teenager, is a teenager, or was a teenager, and those years are so powerful and evocative--nobody forgets what they were like in high school."
This is particularly interesting to me. I am a couple months older than Claire Danes and the show ran roughly parallel to my own high school experience. I probably saw bits of every episode. I say "bits" because I hated the show and so did my friends. We called it my "So Called Like" because of what we thought was the inexcusably cliched and tone-deaf dialogue. But we still watched, even though we'd certainly rather be caught watching the other two shows in the review--both of which seemed worlds away from teenage experience and infinitely more sophisticated. (Are there ever any teens in Seinfeld? And, yes I know Laura Palmer was in high school, but please, that's not really the point, is it?)

I'm tempted to rent My So Called Life and watch it again now. I don't know if I could honestly evaluate the sincerity of my teenage reaction--did I hate it because it was bad, or did I hate it because it's right on?--but I do know that Herskovitz's quote above is basically what I say every time I try to explain or argue for YA as a genre.
The other interesting observation the reviewer makes is about how Claire Danes' age at the time of filming (15) meant she could only work five hours a day, and thus the writers had to work in lots of scenes with only the parents and the other supporting characters. I agree that that probably was a good thing.


elizabeth genco said...

I bought the set. Like you, I wasn't as enthralled as everyone else seemed to be when the show came out. I didn't hate it, but I didn't go out of my way to watch it, either. I'd just graduated from college back then, and high school was still a little too close for comfort. (Plus, I've always resisted the mad crazy TVlove... any excessive gushing and fawning from the collective consciousness and my shields go up instantly.)

Later, I became curious to dig in and see what everyone saw in it. Especially writers. So many writers have talked about how this show has influenced them (indeed, Joss Whedon waxes philosophically and fanboyishly about this in his essay in the booklet that comes with the latest release). I missed it when it came out on DVD the first time, so I pounced on this one. We've been going through them over the past week or so.

I have to say, it hasn't always been an enjoyable experience. Downright uncomfortable at times, in fact. Because it IS so real. Angela is so self-absorbed and moody, I find myself asking why I want to spend any time around this person. You know, kinda like how I was in high school. :) The mother is high-strung and neurotic, and I have little interest in that kind of drama, be it on TV or in real life... and yet, she's caring and fragile and connected and gorgeous too. And don't even get me started on Brian Krakow! If that kid isn't an archetype, I don't know who is!

I can't look away, but I can only watch an episode or two at a time!

wrigleyfield said...

I hope you do watch it -- and post your reactions now. I'm one of those who loves the show (and loves the YA genre too -- or at least, the best of what it has to offer) so I'd be really interested in your take.

debbiereedfischer said...

I hope you watch it as well, and post your thoughts. I think Angela is beautifully flawed, and Claire Danes is dead on as an outsider trying to rise above feeling like an outsider. Another show with a great YA character is Joan of Arcadia. Of coure, that show had a vomeous, sappy moral message in every episode, but Joan is a teen malcontent I like a lot, much like Angela. That was the only reason I watched it, and because Amber Tamblyn nails it, and I can always watch skillful acting. There haven't been any network teen shows in recent years that have struck a chord with me, though.

Anonymous said...

I didn't care for MSCL very much. I was older when it came out, my younger sister loved it though. I like "Dawson's Creek" better. Better writing, more likeable characters...but I do agree that MSCL was more "realistic." (Moodiness of characters, unrequited love interests etc.)


Brian Mandabach said...

interesting post & comments. I remember this show existing, that's about all. Jay Asher is a huge fan, though, and after reading the comments, I might have to put it on my netflicks queue.