I too find this to be the most compelling dramatic show on television. It has
to be the prettiest shooting and editing I've seen in a long time on the
Part of my pleasure comes from the shifting alliances of characters, which seems
right on target for high school. People who shouldn't have anything to do
with each other (the class brain/geek and a gay character, the slutty girl
and the nice girl) seem to recognize some sort of link, and they establish
a sort of behind-bathroom-doors, halting relationship.
The facet that critics have rightly emphasized is that this is a show which
treats the earthshaking crises of middle-class teenagerdom as if they were
really earthshaking, not just cute. Breast size, rejecting your old friends
to hang with a cooler crowd, unrequited lust for beautiful but brainless guys,
etc., are the focus of episodes (as in much familiar television), but the
treatment is dark, often painful.
Why is it dying in the ratings? The usual explanation is that it's in the
wrong time slot, that ABC decided it was a "family" show and put it on early
instead of labelling it a sophisticated adult show (a la NYPD Blue) and
put it on later. A partial explanation at best, which still doesn't explain
why this show's ratings are _so_ horrible.
The show received critical raves at the beginning of the season, but critics
have been silent ever since. My instinct is that some critics feel that
they should issue the "viewers, save this quality show" trumpet call sparingly.
Many begged viewers to watch this show at the beginning of the season.
That was enough for last season's _NYPD Blue_, but _My So-Called Life_ seems
to need more consistent publicity as a quality show.
I'm betting that ABC will hold onto _My So-Called Life_, waiting for it to
get a buncha Emmys (and therefore more publicity). Sort of the same strategy
NBC tried with _Homicide_ (which didn't get many Emmys and now is spending
its second season just a couple of notches up in the Nielsens from _My So-Called
Life_. Another fine, fine show, by the way). Here's hoping.
Greg M. Smith
Hollins College/University of Wisconsin-Madison
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