You've heard the story a thousand times. You're favorite television
show gets cancelled and the creators and star go on to do bigger and better things,
while you're forced to continually watch the SLP VHS copies that you made
just because you were afraid to miss an episode. Thankfully with the wide acceptance
and high capacity of DVD, full seasons of television shows are being released
at a dizzying pace.
One such cancelled, but much loved, show finally making its way to DVD is My
So Called Life. This critical hit from 1994 starred a then unknown couple of
kids by the name of Claire Danes and Jared Leto.
Danes played Angela Chase, a supposedly typical 15-year old high school student
that is suffering from a typical teen identity crisis. Fueled by teen-angst,
she begins making changes in her life by finding new friends, changing her hair
color and daydreaming about boys. Color me crazy, but if I remember my sister's
high school years correctly, this is a typical week, but I digress.
Life was an atypical show that had the misfortune of debuting amongst a landscape
of typical shows. In the Fall of 1994 with competition coming from new shows
like Friends and ER, My So Called Life didn't have a chance with its dark
and depressing look at high school. For some reason TV audiences don't
want even a hint of reality when it comes to drama shows dealing with high school
or education, no Freaks and Geeks or Undeclared for me, I'd prefer a nice
healthy dose of Saved By the Bell please.
Ahead of its time, My So Called Life dared convention by covering topics like
guns in school, parents that don't get along, drugs, alcohol, runaways
and mortality and actually carries the threads of these decisions through the
show. A recovering alcoholic doesn't deal with their problem in one episode
to never have it mentioned again and parent's don't fight and make
up all in one day.
Groundbreaking at the time, the show forecasts many of the trends that would
later become staples on television, especially cable television. Characters
developed in realistic ways. Much like HBO's popular shows The Sopranos
and Six Feet Under, the popular and life-affirming choice is not the one always
made. But as the ratings proved, people just didn't want that type of
show at the time, or at least the popular and important demographic didn't
and My So Called Life was cancelled after its initial 19 episodes.
Television is thought to be escapism entertainment and perhaps for the time,
My So Called Life wasn't that. It was a familiar look into everyday life,
a way of reminding people of the problems of the word when all they wanted to
do was to forget them.
Video: Given the relative age of the show, I would have expected
a better transfer and presentation (in 4:3 aspect) that what is given. The colors
are well defined for the most part, but many of the episodes have a grainy and
washed appearance to them. Either the source for these has suffered or they
were not re-mastered in any fashion. Despite the flaws, it's not a distraction
once you get caught in the story and most will not notice unless they look for
Audio: Re-mastered for Dolby 5.1 is usually a good thing,
but not in this case. The surrounds are constantly filled with everything. The
vocals and music emanate from each speaker at an equal level; there is no subtlety
to the mix. It's like a bad simulation of surround sound. The original
Dolby 2.0 mix is included as well and works just fine for the show. Considering
it's a realistic drama with no special effects, full surround really wouldn't
add anything relevant to the experience any way.
Extras: None are included on the set.
Overall: Fans of this series will definitely want to pick
this up. It's a nice and straightforward presentation of the series they
know and love. Besides starting the career of a few actors, it influenced many
television creators today. Buffy the Vampire Slayer mastermind Joss Whedon has
stated that My So Called Life was the main inspiration for his show, and it
shows on the first few seasons. Perhaps if Claire Danes had only had a few vampires
around, it might have lasted for a year or two more.