As most of you know, I’m just a tad obsessed with television. Yet one of the predominant killed-too-early shows, “My So-Called Life,” I didn’t watch until it had been long gone from the airwaves. When you’re 22, three years feels like a long time.
I did watch it, eventually. For Christmas last year, I finally became the owner of one of the best series ever to grace television.
Now as I settle back into a show that is amazingness incarnate, I’m thinking about the other times, that I watched MSCL. Most shows that I love, are shows that I’ve kept watching throughout the years, like “Gilmore Girls” and “Buffy.”
MSCL is different. It’s a series that I’ve watched voraciously, but always all at once. I’ve never owned it, till now, and I don’t have cable, so my enjoyment of it has always been very full-force, total season/series, not so much casual ep-watching, throughout the near-20 years since it aired.
The times I embraced this series falls into specific times in my life, throughout aforementioned two decades. And here they are:
Like I said, I’d never seen MSCL, despite being a Gen-Xer. In retrospect, I think at 19, which I was in 1994 when MSCL aired, the show made me sad. I understood that it was Very Realistic For Teenagers – and it was! But a year away from the end of my teenage years, it felt too raw, so I avoided it.
In 1997, it was only three years later. But man, it felt like apples and oranges, 19 and 22. When MTV aired MSCL in ’97, I felt like I was revisiting my past, though MSCL was not part of my past. MTV re-aired the show around the same time that I watched “Salem’s Lot” with Shannon, on a bar/sleepover evening. That the movie that gave me countless sleepless nights wasn’t scary anymore, to me, placed me in a proper position to finally visit MSCL. Because times, they were a-changing. And meeting Angela, Rayanne, et al., felt lovely. Three years and a lifetime later, I finally succumbed to the embrace of this amazing show.
This was the year my ex left, and my worldview got shattered. The summer of 2004, after the initial pain had subsided, was spent dancing at clubs with Shannon, and watching comforting television. When I wasn’t watching “That ‘70s Show” people go ice fishing, I was watching Claire Danes Deal With Life. I dated again, that year, after many years of serial monogamy. Nothing made sense.
What did make sense? Angela’s utterings:
Rayanne: I think part of him is partly interested in you. Definitely. I mean, he’s got other things on his mind.
Angela: But that’s the part that’s so unfair. I have nothing else on my mind. How come I have to be the one sitting around analyzing him in, like, microscopic detail, and he gets to be the one with other things on his mind?
Man, did I ever feel Angela’s pain, as I wandered around the dating world, for the first time since – well, ever.
And I freaking loved “The Zit.” Encapsulation of teenage angst, while exploring relationships more important than high school could ever be:
Angela: It’s good to get really dressed up once in a while. And admit the truth: that when you really look closely? People are so strange and so complicated that they’re actually… beautiful. Possibly even me.
I needed to hear that, at 29. After a breakup that was so much more than any other breakup. As I dated men as a knee-jerk reaction, just to feel accepted again, loved again. Pretty again.
This time, I was well into my 30s, a year older than Meg Ryan’s 32-year-old freakout in “When Harry Met Sally,” RIP Nora Ephron. 40 was coming – in eight years, sure, but it was there. And I was not prepared.
What I’d been prepared for, was to be, at 33, a mother of many children. No white picket fence required, but I’d envisioned much more stability than what 2008 had brought – Heath Ledger dying, me almost dying, and my family moving to Colorado.
When 2008 drew to a close at Christmas time, I rewatched MSCL. Christmas Eve, I reposted all of “My So-Called Angels” on a blog that I posted, in lieu of getting to hug my mother. That was a beautiful day. People came and posted, Andy in particular, about what that episode meant to them, what that time of year meant to them.
Loss, love. Et cetera, et cetera, but what does et cetera mean?
Like I said, this is the first time in my life that I’ve owned the series that’s haunted and blessed my life, for nearly two decades.
And I’m loving it, yet feeling this intense heart-pain, as I do.
Everyone is so young. And during this particularly awful time, I’m finding that I have trouble getting through “Guns and Gossip.” When this show first aired, it was All Controversial that Ricky might be “bi.” All these years later, I can only wish that life stayed as “edgy” as this show from 1994.
But I sit on my chaise lounge, and look forward to the episode where they explore “Our Town,” like nobody’s done quite as well since Winnie Cooper in “The Wonder Years.”
I look forward to Rayanne’s major facepalm with “I Wanna Be Sedated.”
I look forward to so much, from a show that lasted only one season. Because if I’ve learned anything from this past year, these past years – my own so-called life – is that everyone needs something to look forward to. Some hope.
Nearly two decades later, after life, after tragedy, after loss? MSCL helps make it all make sense, a little bit at least, for a little while. Something about flannel.