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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » My So Called Life - The Complete Series
My So Called Life - The Complete Series
BMG Video // Unrated // November 19, 2002
List Price: $89.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Phillip Duncan | posted April 23, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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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 it.

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.

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