My So-Called Life
My So-Called Life
Genre Teen drama
Created by Winnie Holzman
Starring Bess Armstrong
Wilson Cruz
Claire Danes
Devon Gummersall
A. J. Langer
Jared Leto
Devon Odessa
Lisa Wilhoit
Tom Irwin
Theme music composer W. G. Snuffy Walden
Opening theme "My So-Called Life Theme" by W. G. Snuffy Walden
Country of origin United States
Language(s) English
No. of seasons 1
No. of episodes 19[1] (List of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Marshall Herskovitz
Edward Zwick
Winnie Holzman (co-executive producer)
Scott Winant (co-executive producer)
Producer(s) Alan Poul
Monica Wyatt (co-producer)
Running time 47-48 minutes
Production company(s) The Bedford Falls Company
ABC Productions
Original channel ABC[2]
Original run 25, 1994 (1994-08-25) –  26, 1995 (1995-01-26)
Related shows Mein Leben & Ich
External links

My So-Called Life is an American teen drama television series created by Winnie Holzman and produced by Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz.[3][4] It originally aired on ABC from August 25, 1994, to January 26, 1995, and was distributed by The Bedford Falls Company with ABC Productions.

Set at the fictional Liberty High School in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, it follows the emotional travails of several teenagers in the social circle of main character Angela Chase, played by Claire Danes.[5] The critically acclaimed but short-lived show ended in a cliffhanger with the expectation that it would be picked up for an additional season, but it was officially canceled on May 15, 1995. The show was praised for its portrayal of adolescence and the commentary of its central character, Angela.


My So-Called Life dealt with major social issues of the mid-1990s, including child abuse, homophobia, teenage alcoholism, homelessness, adultery, school violence, censorship, and drug use. Many shows at the time used these themes as a one-time issue (a "very special episode") that was introduced as a problem at the beginning of an episode and resolved at the end, but on My So-Called Life these issues were part of the continuing storyline. The title of the show alludes to the perception of meaninglessness that many teenagers experience and encapsulates the main theme of the series. The show depicts the teenage years as being difficult and confusing rather than a light, fun-filled time.[6][7]


  • Angela Chase, played by Claire Danes, is a 15-year-old sophomore at Liberty High School in Three Rivers, Pennsylvania, a fictional suburb of Pittsburgh. She is attempting to discover and assert her identity. To do this, she distances herself from her past and pulls away from her parents and her childhood friends, Sharon Cherski and Brian Krakow. In their place, she befriends Rayanne Graff and Rickie Vasquez. Angela has a crush on Jordan Catalano and admires him from afar; they later begin dating and eventually break up. With these new relationships, Angela finds herself in precarious and sometimes dangerous situations; despite temptation, she remains levelheaded and responsible. Angela narrates 17 of the 19 episodes in voice-over.
Alicia Silverstone auditioned before Danes and impressed producer Edward Zwick, who wanted to cast her as Angela; she was also emancipated, so she could work longer hours. His partner Marshall Herskovitz thought, however, that Silverstone was too beautiful to play a conflicted teenager uncertain of herself. Danes' audition impressed both, but as she was 13 and had to attend school, after her casting, the show increased the screen time for the parental characters.[8]
  • Patricia "Patty" Chase, played by Bess Armstrong, is Angela's mother. Unlike many TV mothers, she is the main breadwinner and, at the beginning of the series, employs her husband. She is opinionated and often expresses her strongly held beliefs, which at one point leads to a confrontation with the free-spirited mother of Rayanne.
  • Enrique "Rickie" Vasquez, played by Wilson Cruz, is Rayanne Graff's other best friend. He is a gay 15-year-old boy being raised by his uncle, who physically and emotionally abuses him. Rickie wears eyeliner and bright clothing and feels most at home in the girls' bathroom with Rayanne and Angela. When his uncle kicks him out of the house, he is fostered briefly by the Chases; he is then fostered by gay English teacher Richard Katimski (played by Jeff Perry), who becomes a mentor to him.
  • Brian Krakow, played by Devon Gummersall, has an unrequited crush on Angela and is longtime friends with both her and Sharon. Despite his high IQ and insight into other characters, he lacks emotional intelligence and is socially awkward and self-righteous. This tends to alienate him from his peers. The other characters usually turn to him only when they have an academic or technological query, and he usually seems willing if not actually pleased to help them out. Brian is a conflicted character, fearing and often rejecting the intimacy that he intensely desires. He becomes friends with Rickie towards the middle of the series.
  • Rayanne Graff, played by A. J. Langer, is Angela's new best friend at the beginning of the series. She is wild, rebellious, and parented by a single mother (Amber, played by Patti D'Arbanville-Quinn). In the episode "Other People's Mothers", the depth of Rayanne's troubles are revealed when she suffers a drug and alcohol overdose at her own party.
  • Jordan Catalano is played by Jared Leto. He is good-looking but rebellious, his bad boy image masking the real reason for his poor scholastic record (he has an undiagnosed learning disability and is nearly illiterate). He is Angela's love interest, and during the series they have an on-again/off-again relationship. He reveals his emotional depth in his songwriting ability and his occasional profound thoughts.
  • Sharon Cherski, played by Devon Odessa, was Angela's best friend throughout childhood until Angela became friends with Rayanne. Sharon is pretty, conventional and academically minded, but her values and ideals are challenged throughout the show and she grows to be more open-minded.
  • Danielle Chase, played by Lisa Wilhoit, is Angela's younger sister. There is an emphasis on how much she is ignored by her family. She has a biting and sarcastic wit, serving as somewhat of a comic relief throughout the show. In the episode "Halloween", she dresses up as Angela and fools her parents with her near-exact replication of Angela's red hair, clothes, and demeanor. Danielle narrates the penultimate episode, "Weekend", in voice-over.
  • Graham Chase, played by Tom Irwin, is Angela's father. He's soft-spoken and struggles with his role in the household and the direction of his life in general.
  • Tino is never actually seen but is mentioned in almost every episode as a running joke of the series. He is a friend of Jordan and Rayanne. Tino is also the lead singer of Jordan's band, Frozen Embryos (later called Residue).


Critical receptionEdit

My So-Called Life has received widespread critical acclaim and is praised by some critics as one of the greatest television series of all time.[9][10][11] On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the show has a perfect 100% approval rating based on 10 reviews. The site's consensus reads, "Effectively avoiding cliche and cheesy exposition, My So-Called Life's realistic portrayal of the average American girl is ahead of its time".[12] On Metacritic, which assigns a normalised rating, the show has a score of 92 out of 100 based on 19 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[13] It is currently the 35th highest rated television series on the website.[14]

It was the first teen drama that didn't feel like an after-school special. No one ever learned a very important lesson or uttered the phrase 'I love you, Dad.' Angela acted like a real 15-year-old, with all the crying jags and Buffalo Tom concerts that implies. What's even more impressive is that anyone who watched the show back in the '90s, when angst and Manic Panic felt totally of the moment, can now enjoy it on a very different level. Suddenly, Angela's parents are relatable.[15]
My So-Called Life was named the second Best School Show of All Time by AOL TV.[16] It was number 33 on Entertainment Weekly's "New Classics TV" list of shows from 1983 to 2008,[17] and in 2012 number 9 in its "25 Best Cult TV Shows from the Past 25 Years". In 2007, it was listed as one of Time magazine's "100 Best TV Shows of All-TIME".[18] TV Guide ranked the series #2 on its 2013 list of 60 shows that were "Cancelled Too Soon"[19] and in 2004 ranked it number 16 on its 25 Top Cult Shows Ever list.[20]

Awards and nominationsEdit

Year Award Category Recipients Result
1994 Young Artist Awards Best Performance by a Youth Actress in a Drama Series Lisa Wilhoit tied
Best Performance by a Youth Ensemble in a Television Series My So-Called Life Won
Best New Family Television Series Won
Best Performance by a Youth Actor in a Drama Series Devon Gummersall Nominated
1995 Golden Globe Awards Best Performance by an Actress in a TV-Series - Drama Claire Danes Won
Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series Claire Danes Nominated
Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series Scott Winant for "Pilot" Nominated
Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series Winnie Holzman for "Pilot" Nominated
Outstanding Main Title Theme Music W.G. Snuffy Walden Nominated
GLAAD Media Award Outstanding Drama Series My So-Called Life Won
TCA Awards Program of the Year Nominated
Outstanding Achievement in Drama Won
1996 Bravo Otto Awards Best Performance by an Actor in a TV-Series Jared Leto Nominated


For its original run in the United States, it aired on Thursday nights at 8 p.m. ET against top-10 hit sitcoms — Mad About You and Friends on NBC, as well as the popular Martin and Living Single on Fox, possibly contributing to the series' low ratings.

The producers said that they could not fault ABC for the creative freedom and support they gave them during production, as there were probably few networks that would have even put My So-Called Life on the air in the first place.

My So-Called Life was produced before the explosion of youth and teen programming. The culture of television changed significantly in the years that immediately followed, most notably with the rise of The WB and UPN, networks that eventually catered to the teenaged audience My So-Called Life sought, in the late 1990s and early 2000s (decade) (The WB and UPN launched just two weeks and one week respectively before My So-Called Life's run on ABC ended). Holzman never intended the show to be exclusively for teens. In the end, not enough viewers of any age were watching the show during its initial network run. ABC was more focused on larger ratings numbers and wider demographics. Holzman said, "It is one thing to have huge ratings, but it is quite another to have smaller ratings but with an extremely passionate following. I don't understand why the network did not understand that."

In conversations with then-ABC President Bob Iger, producers Zwick and Herskovitz told him that by broadcasting My So-Called Life the network was giving a voice to millions of young women who otherwise had no voice on network television. The show was making money for the network, and they told Iger he should keep the show on the air for no other reason than "good corporate works". At the end of its first season's run, the series ranked at #116 with a 7.0 rating with 6,678,000 homes tuning in from 1994 to 1995.[21]


An online fan campaign attempted to save My So-Called Life, the first such event in the history of the World Wide Web.[8] The arduous schedule and the mental and physical demands of the production of episodic television, however, caused difficulties for the young actors who had to balance schoolwork with rehearsal and time on the set. Herskovitz said Danes and her parents approached the show's creators and told producers that she did not want to be involved with the show if it continued for a second season.[22]

When she heard that Danes was no longer keen to continue with the show, Holzman's attitude changed as well. She said, "When I realized that Claire truly did not want to do it any more, it was hard for me to want to do it. The joy in writing the show was that everyone was behind it and wanted to do it. And I love her. So part of the joy and excitement and happiness would have gone out of me if she had not been on board 100 percent. I wasn't able to say this at the time, but in retrospect it was a blessing for it to end at a time when we all enjoyed doing it. That's not to say that if the network had ordered more shows that I wouldn't have given it my best. But there was a rightness in how short the season was. This was a show about adolescence and sort of ended in its own adolescence. There was an aura about how short the series was like all things that die young. The show ended at a point that it was still all potential."[22]

The rumors of the end of the show strongly divided its fans. Flame wars raged across the internet,[23] especially after Steve Joyner of Operation Life Support (a group that worked to save the show) and some cast members confirmed the rumors — angry themselves, in some cases.

In a September 2004 edition of Entertainment Weekly, Danes insisted that she didn't have enough power to cause the cancellation by herself.[24] It is generally accepted that ABC considered bringing the show back for a second season and may have even intended to (as then-executive Ted Harbert claims) due to its devoted fanbase, its quality and its critical acclaim. However, low ratings kept the network from reviving it. Winnie Holzman theorized that the network was so on-the-fence about renewing the show that in some ways they used Danes' reluctance to return as a convenient excuse not to renew the series.[22]


Script error

DVD and online releaseEdit

On 14 May 2007, Universal Playback released the complete series in the United Kingdom in Region 2.[25]

On October 30, 2007, Shout! Factory re-released My So-Called Life on DVD in Region 1 in a six-disc box set with a disc of special features, including an interview with series star Claire Danes. Shout! Factory is a distribution company that has released short-lived shows in the past.[26]

On September 13, 2007, Eurovideo released the complete series on DVD in Germany in Region 2; The 5-disc boxset featured German and English soundtrack but no special features.[27]

On June 10, 2008, Beyond Home Entertainment released the complete series on DVD in Australia in Region 4.[28]

On December 3, 2008, Free Dolphin released the complete series on DVD in France in Region 2,[29] with a 32-page booklet but no other special features.[30]


Atlantic Records released a soundtrack of the show, which was originally released on August 25, 1994, then re-released on January 24, 1995.

My So-Called Life

Script error

Sequel novelEdit

A sequel novel by Catherine Clark, My So-Called Life Goes On, was published in 1999 by Random House.[31]


  1. Lloyd, Robert (October 28, 2007). "The gift of growing pains". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-08-30. 
  2. "Rebroadcasting of 'My So-Called Life'". New York Times. April 3, 1995. Retrieved 2010-08-11. 
  3. Aurthur, Kate (October 28, 2007). "Reliving the many upsides of 'Life'". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-08-30. 
  4. Braxton, Greg (April 3, 1995). "'My So-Called Life' Gets a Second Life on MTV". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-08-30. 
  5. Rosenberg, Howard (August 24, 1994). "'My So-Called Life': Weary Trip Through Teen Years". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-08-30. 
  6. Bellafante, Ginia (October 28, 2007). "A Teenager in Love (So-Called)". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-11. 
  7. Weber, Bruce (August 25, 1994). "TELEVISION REVIEW; The So-Called World Of an Adolescent Girl, As Interpreted by One". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-11. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 Lahr, John (2013-09-09). "Varieties of Disturbance". The New Yorker. Retrieved 4 September 2013. 
  10. "All-TIME 100 TV Shows".,28804,1651341_1659192_1652529,00.html. 
  11. Users, IMDb. "IMDb Top Rated TV Shows". 
  12. "My So-Called Life". 
  13. "My So-Called Life". 
  14. "Best TV Shows of All Time". 
  15. "25 Best Cult TV Shows from the Past 25 Years." Entertainment Weekly. August 3, 2012, p. 39.
  16. "Best School Shows of All Time". AOL TV. Aol, Inc. August 26, 2008. Retrieved September 14, 2012. 
  17. "The New Classics: TV". Entertainment Weekly. June 18, 2007. 
  18. Poniewozik, James (September 6, 2007). "The 100 Best TV Shows of All-TIME". Time (,28804,1651341_1659192_1652529,00.html. Retrieved March 4, 2010. 
  19. Roush, Matt (June 3, 2013). "Cancelled Too Soon". TV Guide. pp. 20 and 21
  20. TV Guide Guide to TV. Barnes and Noble. 2004. p. 330. ISBN 0-7607-5634-1. 
  21. "Complete TV Ratings 1994-1995". 
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 "2002 Bonus DVD Interview (transcribed on", My So-Called Life DVD Box Set (, 2002. Retrieved 2011-03-25.
  23. "Bay Guardian TV Online Story". 
  24. Jeff Jensen"Life As We Knew It: Looking back at My So-Called Life - How ABC's angsty gem set the tone for teen dramas", Entertainment Weekly 10 September 2004. Retrieved 12 July 2010.
  25. "My So-Called Life on". Retrieved December 17, 2016. 
  26. "My So-Called Life DVD news: Claire Danes interviewed for MSCL set - Press Release -". Archived from the original on 2007-07-16. 
  27. "Willkommen im Leben - Die komplette Serie (5 DVDs): Claire Danes, Jared Leto, Bess Armstrong, W.G. Snuffy Walden, Mark Piznarski, Scott Winant, Todd Holland: Filme & TV". 2008-04-21. Retrieved 2013-09-22. 
  28. [1] Script error
  29. "Angela 15 ans enfin en DVD !". Retrieved 2013-09-22. 
  30. "Test DVD : Angela 15 ans - Intégrale". Retrieved 2013-09-22. 
  31. Clark, Catherine (27 July 1999). "My So Called Life Goes on". 

External linksEdit

Template:GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Drama Series

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