My So-Called Life is simply one of the most groundbreaking, if not the most groundbreaking, television drama series ever produced. It debuted during the fall of 1994 and was cancelled after the first season ended in 1995. But when MTV decided to syndicate episodes, the show became a pop cultural phenomenon.
My So-Called Life was different from previous sitcoms — it was completely real. The show dealt with real issues such as infidelity, alcoholism, bullying, gay rights, and teenage sex. Previous shows ignored these issues or dealt with them in an unrealistic way where the issue was easily solved and everybody lived happily ever after.
Let’s take a look at the five best episodes of My So-Called Life.
5. “Guns and Gossip“
This episode originally aired on Sept. 8, 1994. Hearing a gun go off while the kids were in class was shocking. This, of course, happened before all the school shootings that started in the late 1990s. The episode makes the viewer question who actually shot the gun. We find out at the end that it was actually Ricky (played by Wilson Cruz), the gay character who was being bullied and wanted to be seen as some sort of threat.
Devon Gummersall, who plays Brian Krakow, gave one of his best performances yet, especially when he threatens the principal who tries to bribe information out of him. Clair Danes, as usual, also gives a great performance as her character, Angela, is facing rumors that she slept with a guy she’s been eyeing, Jordan Catalano.
The “Life of Brian” episode originally aired on November 10, 1994. Devon Gummersall is the narrator of this episode, and he once again gives a spectacular performance. The majority of the episode finds Brian trying to choose between two women, or at least that’s what he thinks. Brian at first chooses to go to the dance with Dalia Fisher, but he cancels his date (extremely heartbreaking scene) so he could go with Angela Chase, who is just using him to get a ride.
Angela sees Jordan at the dance and ignores Brian. Ricky falls in love with an (allegedly) straight guy he knows he just can’t get. All in all, everybody ends up having a miserable time at the dance.
3. “The Zit“
“The Zit” originally aired on September 22, 1994. It’s certainly an episode almost everybody can identify with. In the episode, Angela has an ugly zit by her mouth that she just doesn’t want to pop, and it makes her feel inferior. In fact, because of the zit, Angela doesn’t even want to appear with her mother at the latest mother and daughter fashion show.
Meanwhile, there is a student poll going around that lists Sharon as the one with the “best global assets.” Angela is upset that her name doesn’t even pop up on the list, but Sharon isn’t exactly happy either as she thinks her boyfriend loves her only because of her breasts. The whole episode deals with misogyny in a way that the topic hasn’t been generally dealt with until recently.
“Strangers in the House” is a tear-jerking episode about the loss of friendship, growing apart, and then coming back together. Sharon Cherski’s father has a heart attack and Angela’s parents agree to take her in so Sharon’s mother can be at the hospital. Given that Sharon and Angela were childhood friends and grew apart, it’s quite awkward for both of them.
Angela gives Sharon the silent treatment, mostly because she doesn’t know how to act. Towards the end, in one of the most touching scenes ever on television, Sharon tells Angela how much she needed her. They both cry, hug each other, and recall their childhood friendship.
1. “So-Called Angels“
“So-Called Angels” may be the most touching episode of a show ever made, especially if you were an LGBT member in the 1990s and survived all the hate towards the community. In this episode, Wilson Cruz gives the performance of a lifetime as Ricky, who becomes homeless after he is abused by his uncle, his legal guardian at the time.
He is followed around by a guardian angel, played by Juliana Hatfield, who herself was a runaway teen who died of frostbite. Angela’s mother Patty doesn’t like the fact that Angela is visiting Ricky or the angel (who she just thinks is a homeless girl) at the warehouse. Patty and Angela get in a huge fight, and Patty goes out to find Angela. Patty’s encounter with the guardian angel at the end is one that will require a box full of tissues.
[Featured Image by Jack Plunkett/AP Images]