Next Time On DVD: My So Called Life


by Beal

Here at Next Time On, we believe that keeping a season/series running on DVD is as important (if not more) than having a book going at all times. You know, something to fall back on when the infomercials (that don’t star Jack LeLanne) begin, or maybe to watch from your bedroom television that doesn’t have cable, or maybe just, because you LOVE a show, and it’s no longer in syndication, and when it is, the episodes are NEVER in the proper order, and they have commercials. Let me pop in a DVD and hit “play all” because without commercials to remind me of how much time has passed, it becomes easy to watch an entire season/series of my favorite programs in less than a week. My most recent conquest was My So Called Life: The Complete Series, a program that was cut down in its prime, but that I was able to enjoy 15 (wait, what? that show is 15 years old? I’m sad.) years later, through the magic of shows on disc.

MSCL was actually one of the first shows available on DVD. Long before there was an entire “television” section at the local Best Buy, and before every show on TV spout out a DVD boxed set the moment after the season finale aired, there was MSCL: The Complete Series, a boxed set featuring all 19 episodes and a bonus features disc. It was originally less affordable than it has become, and for me was made even cheaper when I traded it for a dozen CD’s (which had been ripped to my hard drive) at Second Spin on Wilshire in Santa Monica.

As soon as I delved into episode one, it was over. I watched the entire series in about a week and a half–every angsty second. Now, I watched this show back in the day, and ad nauseum after MTV purchased the rights to air it, but apparently I forgot just how much drama went down, or maybe compacting the drama into 19 hours of one week, instead of 19 hours over a summer vacation made the drama feel that much more constant.

6a00b8ea074bfd1bc000c11413010cc408-320piAngela Chase (Claire Danes) is obviously the normal center of this program and of her two best friends, Rayanne  (A.J. Langer) is an alcoholic drug abuser from a broken home with a penchant for skipping school and Rickie (Wilson Cruz) is a somewhat closeted homosexual, without parents, who lives with abusive relatives who eventually abandon him, causing him to become a homeless teen. Jordan Catalano (Jared Leto), who Angela is in LOVE with, can’t read. He can drive, but he can’t read. 

Things I had forgotten about:


  • Rayanne sets Rickie up with Cory to go to the dance, Cory thought he was meeting Rayanne there. A saddened Rickie steps it up with heartbroken-over-Brian-Krakow, Delia on the dance floor.
  • That Rayanne’s mother came home and SAW her super trashed before leaving on a date with her shady boyfriend, forcing sober Angela and Rickie to call Patty Chase to come to Rayanne’s rescue.
  • Rayanne sleeps with Joran Catalano! And Krakow video tapes it!
  • Sharon’s boyfriend Kyle, jock extraordinaire, who Sharon can only bring herself to have sex with (after they’ve broken up) if she watched a Brad Pitt flick. 
  • That Brian Krakow, as sorry as I WANT to feel for him, is so fucking obnoxious that it truly doesn’t pain me when Angela drives away with Jordan, leaving Krakow alone on the street with his bicycle even though she KNOWS he wrote the love note (for illiterate Jordan).


Things I learned:


  • clue24The role of Angela Chase ALMOST went to Alicia Silverstone (gasp!) but when Claire Danes came in for the audition, “she was Angela.” Still, Danes was a minor, and Silverstone was not, so casting Alicia would have made scheduling much simpler (Claire could only work five hours per day). Still, they went with Danes. — My brain tries to imagine this, and can only come up with a Clueless meets MSCL premise where Angela Chase is both vapid AND angsty, which just makes my head spin.
  • Danes was only 13 when they filmed the pilot, 13.
  • Because Danes working hours were limited writers/creators were forced to create more extensive story lines for “side” characters, which they hadn’t originally planned to do. As a result, we get episodes like the one in which Rayanne OD’s.
  • There was a styrofoam head (where you hang wigs) that had all of the little colored hair clips that Rayanne wore, ever sitting in the makeup trailer.
  • Bess Armstrong (who plays Patty Chase) is the single worst DVD commentator in the world.
  • Devon Odessa (Sharon) taught Claire Danes how to drive in real life.
  • Devon Odessa still has the EXACT same hairstyle that Sharon sported in the early 90’s.
  • Before Wilson Cruz (Rickie) ever auditioned, creator Winnie Holtzman wrote the character as a being half-black, half-hispanic and gay. Cruz was all three.
  • Claire Danes has Thanksgiving dinner at Bess Armstrong’s house.
  • The show died a slow death. The pilot aired a full year and a half after it was shot. The second episode was filmed a YEAR after the pilot was shot. ABC would never order more than a couple episodes at a time. Despite creators/actors disappointment that their show was cancelled, there was also a sense of relief about ultimately stopping its slow demise.
  • Early drafts named Jordan Catalano, Jordan Veniziano, who was left back, twice.
  • From the creator, on what would have happened NEXT TIME ON My So Called Life: “I would have gotten somebody pregnant. Sharon’s the obvious choice. I would have made Angela unable to resist turning to Brian Krakow for advice about her doomed relationship with Jordan Catalano, and I would have s;it Graham and Patty up, so Patty could fall into a deep depression–the kind where you can’t get out of bed–so that Angela is forced to somehow run the household. I would have had Ricki move in with Mr. Katimsky and when Mr. Katimsky is fired for the crime of giving a kid a place to live, I would have forced patty out of her depression to defend him.”

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