My So-Called Life: The Complete Series

My So-Called Life: The Complete Series
Adolescence is a bitch, and no television series has proven this better than My So-Called Life. A sincere and accurate portrayal of teenhood, it was critically lauded and constantly name-dropped when it aired in 1994 but for some reason, no one was watching and the inept ABC couldn’t promote it. Before Judd Apatow experienced the heartbreak of a one-season lifespan, My So-Called Life was the casualty most diehard TV addicts considered to be the great cancellation tragedy. And as sad as it was to never see a 20th episode, watching the complete series now feels like discovering a perfect time capsule of those awkward teenage moments. The launching pad for Claire Danes’s career, her portrayal of Angela Chase should be remembered as a landmark moment in television history. Series creator Winnie Holzman tapped into the nerve of every single person who went through high school with this timeless role, using voiceover lines that declare insular importance like tenderly intimate diary entries. Whether it’s the impossibility of a relationship with her number one crush Jordan Catalano (Jared Leto), dealing with the transition between old and new friends or living with an overbearing parent, it’s all here somewhere. But there’s so much more as well. Few programs have mastered balancing both the children and adult characters at once, and although Angela is the star, her parents (Bess Armstrong and Tom Irwin) are just as engrossing, battling a failing marriage that provides arguably the most dramatic arc. And one can’t overlook the groundbreaking role of Rickie, Angela’s black/Latino gay friend. With the special features this box set covers all of the bases. "My So-Called Life Story” looks back at the series in meticulous detail, with producers revealing golden nuggets like the casting of a then 13-year-old Danes was mostly for her ability to be both "beautiful” and "regular” when necessary. Commentaries are sporadic, but Danes’s commentary with Holzman on "Self-Esteem” shows a little embarrassment, but it’s fascinating to learn the original idea was to dye Angela’s hair white, which as slight as that seems, could have changed the entire show. It’s also amusing to hear them swoon over Jordan’s sweet whispers to Angela during a boiler-room make-out session. Danes also returns with Holzman for a present day one-on-one interview where plenty of giggling ensues. Best of all though is a notebook featuring episodic breakdowns and anecdotes by the likes of Joss Whedon, Janeane Garofalo and of course, Holzman, who discloses aborted ideas she had for a second season! So good. Plus: featurettes, interviews. (Shout! Factory)