Scott Hardie | December 29, 2003
The release of old television shows on DVD is a wonderful trend, and combined with the convenience of Netflix it's even better. I've seen miniseries (such as the excellent From the Earth to the Moon), finally experienced shows to which I previously had no access (The Sopranos), and caught up with every episode, in proper order, of old favorites (X Files and Star Trek TNG). But right now, I'm almost finished watching the best show I've rented so far, My So-Called Life.

If you watched it during its original ABC run or its many rebroadcasts on MTV, then you already know how good it is. If, like me a few weeks ago, you knew it only by its reputation as one of the best shows of the 90s, its DVD release is the best chance for you to find out what the fuss has been about. There were only nineteen episodes, so it only takes a few weeks to watch in full.

The strength of the show is its three-dimensional characters, who are portrayed warts-and-all. Consider Patty, the mother figure: We see how she sees herself, how her husband sees her, how each of her two daughters see her, how her teenaged daughter's boyfriend sees her, how her own best friend sees her, and so on. Through all of these different perspectives, she retains the same complex personality, we just get her filtered through another character's mindset, which is only possible when the other characters are as fully realized. In nearly every episode, every character (except for the underdeveloped kid sister) plays a significant role, demonstrating that each character is an integral part of the larger story, and allowing for a variety of viewpoints on each show's central topic. The show also has sudden flashes of humor like lightning bolts; the father figure has great one-liners throughout.

I do anticipate an abrupt ending, since there is no proper conclusion to the series. However, the only major problem I've seen so far is the "Brady Bunch syndrome," in that whatever problem the characters face as the primary storyline in that episode, it's resolved in the final minutes, leading to a feeling that these characters will always live happily ever after. There should be some happy endings, just not this many I think.

Anna Gregoline | December 29, 2003
Don't forget to vote for your favorite shows on tvshowsondvd.com!

Scott Hardie | December 29, 2003
The other show I'm waiting for is Survivor. As popular as that show is, and as it is entering an All-Star edition in February, I can't believe they haven't published it yet. I wonder if they're held up by rights issues, like the contestants have to approve DVD publication or something.

I would also like more seasons of ER and The Simpsons to come out; those are being published at a glacial pace.

Jackie Mason | December 30, 2003
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Scott Hardie | December 30, 2003
It was forced off the air due to questionable content? I'd always heard it was because of low ratings. Huh. Well, ABC is much more cancel-happy these days, so I guess it was lucky to last 19 episodes.

The problems you listed, Jackie, are the overall problems the characters faced in the course of the series. I was speaking more of the primary conflicts faced within a single episode. When Ricky seemed to have brought a gun to school and several students faced expulsion, it was quickly resolved at the end. When Sharon's dad had a heart attack, he was fine by the end of the hour. When the Chases were being audited, they buckled and agreed to pay the taxes, and Patty made up with her father in the final scene. When Angela got a zit, her self-esteem plummeted because she thought she was ugly, but her mom helped her "be herself" by the end of the episode and it was never mentioned again, at least up through episode 14. These are the problems I was talking about. The fact that they're resolved so quickly is a problem of episodic television in general, not a failing of this series.

Scott Hardie | December 30, 2003
Holy shit, I just watched the Christmas episode. That had to be one of the most patronizing hours of television I've ever seen. Did the producers of that episode actually think that any teenagers in the audience knew someone homeless (as evinced by the hotline number at the end), but needed an insulting after-school special to teach them that homeless people "are just like you and me"? Not to mention, the carefully-developed characterization flew out the window so that the main characters could act wildly unlike themselves to service a ridiculous plot. This is the first bad episode I've seen and I sure hope it's the only one there is.

Erik Bates | December 30, 2003
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Anna Gregoline | December 30, 2003
If it was cancelled due to questionable content, could it have been some of the homosexual overtones from that one kid? I don't remember the show clearly (I loved it, though), but the public might not have been quite ready for it?

Jackie Mason | December 31, 2003
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Erik Bates | December 31, 2003
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