My So-called Life

18th December 2008 – 3.23 pm

It is occasionally said that you shouldn't revisit your childhood heroes once you've grown up, because they will never live up to your expectations or dreams. This makes sense, because the world moves on and we all grow in different ways, our experiences shape our perceptions and nostalgia clouds our memories. It is like watching an episode of Batfink now. I used to think that programme was brilliant and remember avidly watching it each day after coming home from school, so I was stunned by its terrible production values and stories that were superficial to the point of not existing. But whilst there are things that should only remain a fond memory there are still reasons to look to the past. My recent watching spree of Mission: Impossible and Columbo didn't disappoint and let me enjoy some classic television.

Both Mission: Impossible and Columbo were both almost classic programmes when I first saw them, though, watching repeats of the series many years after they first aired. That they were repeated, back in the days when satellite or cable TV weren't around, already highlighted the quality of the shows. Thus it was with some trepidation that I bought myself the complete DVD box set of My So-called Life, a show that ran for only one series—and maybe not even a complete series—and as far as I know has not been repeated on terrestrial channels. The series even had an aborted DVD release previously, with only the first disc released before being cancelled, which cannot be a positive sign. I still have that three-episode disc, by the way.

I watched My So-called Life on TV when it was first shown and I remember enjoying it tremendously, even to the point of buying the CD soundtrack to the series, something I rarely do. Despite my good memories I am aware that nostalgia can play tricks and know that I have grown considerably since the series aired, leaving me wondering if it would still be relevant. I sat down and started watching the episodes in order and have been not only pleasantly surprised but quite touched emotionally again by how the series portrays its characters. The clothes and hairstyles may be a little dated, as well as the music to some extent, but the characters' situations still are issues that people deal with, and they are dealt with in the show by flawed but sympathetic people.

I may be somewhat older and, hopefully, wiser now than I was when I first saw My So-called Life, but the show still appeals greatly. A real joy is in realising that I am viewing the programme through more experienced eyes, relating more to the adults and realising how these elements must have passed me by the first time. I cannot directly relate to the high school students but I can still empathise with them, remembering what it is like to be in similar positions, as well as understanding that what must seem like awful conundrums to the teenagers are mostly minor issues that will likely be dwarfed by problems faced when advancing through adulthood. And even though I don't have children I find myself more drawn to the parents' stories, which are just as relevant now as the teenagers' stories were when I was growing up.

I am only half-way through the series at the moment but I can comfortably state that my memories of the programme have not been tainted by nostalgia. Instead, I am enjoying watching My So-called Life all over again.

  1. 2 Responses to “My So-called Life”

  2. I really liked "My So-Called Life" when it was on MTV about 14 years ago. What always surprised me was how much those characters in 1994 looked like the high schoolers I remembered from 1989. In retrospect I know it was only 5 years' difference, but at the time it seemed like a lifetime of difference.

    Did you know A.J. Langer is now Lady Courtenay? I just discovered that today.

    By Stacia on Dec 20, 2008

  3. I didn't know that. The last I saw of A. J. Langer was when she appeared in an episode of Seinfeld.

    It was fun to see Barbara Bain turn up as Angela's grandmother too.

    By pjharvey on Dec 21, 2008

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