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.