School is like a battlefield ... for your heart.

My So-Called Life - Pilot

Nothing terribly exciting happens in the pilot episode; we are simply introduced to the characters. Angela Chase, a 15-year-old sophomore, is beginning to weather the trials and tribulations of adolescence. She dumps her childhood best friend, Sharon, and spends all her time with new friend & wild child Rayanne. She dyes her hair “Crimson Glow” after Rayanne tells her that her hair is “holding her back.” She is increasingly alienated from her parents, especially her mother. She is obsessed with cutie-pie and world-weary slacker Jordan Catalano.

Angela’s family is made up of an uptight mom, a cool dad, and a practically invisible little sister. Mom Patty took over the family printing company after her father’s heart attack, and husband Graham works for her, though his dream has always been to go to cooking school. There is a strong suggestion that neither of them would spending their lives in these jobs had they not been forced into it, although Patty does enjoy her work. Patty is the stricter parent, and is resentful that she has to “be the mean one.”

Angela’s new friends are Rayanne and Rickie. Rayanne is wild and independent, though she has a nasty little drinking problem. Rickie, who is gay and a minority, is supremely persecuted within the high school landscape. Adding to his troubles, he has an abusive uncle (though actually I’m not sure this is revealed at this point in the show).

Angela’s old friends/nemeses are Sharon and Brian, both of whom she has known since childhood. Sharon is as “normal” as they come, and is pretty one-dimensional in the pilot though she plays a much larger part later. Brian is the boy next door, a highly intelligent and socially awkward geek.

After the character introductions, a little story begins. Rayanne invites Angela to a huge party and she goes, but is shoved into a mud puddle about two minutes into it. She goes inside to clean up, and finds Jordan Catalano watching TV. The scene is excellent, and pregnant with possibility. Shocked speechless by the mere sight of Jordan, Angela tries to open a locked door and then stands awkwardly facing the wall, trying to gather the courage to open her mouth. When she finally does, this gem of a conversation develops:

J: This doesn’t seem like a Friday.
A: It’s Thursday.
J: Oh. Are you sure?
A: Well, yesterday was Wednesday, so…
J: Oh. Right.
A: So that’s how I know.

Jordan’s buddies come looking for him, and he leaves without another word, or even a glance.

Time passes. Rayanne convinces Angela to go to a rave [good god] and Angela has a charged interaction with Brian as she waits in front of her house to be picked up. It becomes starkly obvious that Brian is hopelessly in love with Angela, though she is totally oblivious. Brian has a hard time interacting with Angela, particularly when Jordan is involved, and thus comes across as judgmental and condescending.

At the rave (which they can’t get into) some creepy guys hit on Rayanne and the situation quickly turns serious, ending with Rayanne and Angela being loaded into a cop car … right in front of Jordan Catalano, who calls out Angela’s name. She, of course, is absolutely thrilled.

Arriving home, Angela sees her father talking with an unknown young woman around the corner. Nothing particularly sinister is taking place, except for the fact that Graham is taking to a strange woman, in the street, away from the house, in the middle of the night. Angela looks perturbed.

All in all a pretty good pilot, considering that nothing happens. The outfits are terrible, though familiar. Especially the sleeveless dress & long-sleeved top combo, which I totally rocked back in the day. The pilot was shot over a year before the rest of the episodes, so everyone looks really different. And, I just discovered a rather horrifying little factoid. According to MSCL.com, Claire Danes was 13 when they shot the pilot … and Jared Leto was 21. Yikes!

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