Team-Up Review: My So-Called Life, “Resolutions”

msclbannerMy So-Called Life is probably one of the most talked about one-season shows and here at This Was TV we wanted to try and add something different to this conversation. Pop culture is constantly reusing and rebooting and the ’90s is on trend right now. With this is mind, Julie and Emma are going to have a bi-monthly look at MSCL and, as both went to high school in the ’90s, we will be using this nostalgia test to see how the show stands up now. Emma watched MSCL around the time it first aired and has strong positive feelings towards Angela Chase and this is Julie’s first watch; this is another aspect we want to incorporate into our discussion. We will also be looking at how MSCL fits into the high school show pantheon and watching the show as adults vs. teens. 

My So-Called Life
Season 1, Episode 16: “Resolutions”
Original airdate: Jan. 5, 1995

My So-Called Life, "Resolutions"Emma: The episode starts on New Year’s Eve (1994 going into 1995, feel so old right now) and we get to hear each character’s resolution in Angela voiceover fashion. Angela’s is hilarious and I’m going to start with her, even though this episode is actually rather light on the Angela front. Angela resolves to be less introspective, but then over thinks it (ha) and worries that if she stops thinking too much then she’ll become shallow. Angela’s second resolution is to stop doing Jordan’s homework, another resolution that she doesn’t stick to as we soon see her in his car (good old Red) doing it still. Jordan is the one that realizes that he’s using Angela by letting her do this for him and tells her to stop doing it.

Jordan has actually been rather thoughtful in the last two episodes, in his vacant Jordan like way—the cut to of him in the resolution sequence with him only just realizing that it’s New Year’s Eve is brilliant. Another moment of Jordan comic gold is when he reads Brian’s name as “Brain”—this is an easy play on Jordan’s reading ability, but it works in this awkward scene. I expected Jordan to go off on Angela about this tutoring sign up, but this doesn’t happen and he goes all in. It’s actually Brian and Angela that are the ones that resist these tutoring sessions, we can put this down to those feelings that Brian is well aware of and Angela is yet to acknowledge.

My So-Called Life, "Resolutions"I really liked these tutoring scenes as we got the classic cool guy/nerd exchange of information; Jordan actually wants to learn (even the basic basics) and Brian wants the skills to get a number off a girl. Angela’s interruption of their session is also rather comedic and considering the seriousness of the Rickie storyline, these light moments are appreciated. Jordan casually asks Angela to sleep with him, but it’s actually not that seedy this time and I think that in part is due to Angela’s reaction of hysterical laughter. Also Brian is actually sharpening his pencil at this point which is visually brilliant and invites so many comments (which, because I’m so mature, I already wrote to you on Twitter yesterday).

The only thing with Angela that doesn’t sit well with me in this episode is how Angela deals with the Rickie elements of the story after the last episode. She seems to take Rickie’s story that he’s back at his aunt and uncle’s too easily, saying it’s Rayanne that is concerned. The fault here is that it feels like they want Rickie to get to this desperate place at the end of the episode, but in doing so they’re doing a disservice to the other characters. I get that Rickie is a private person who doesn’t want to be a burden, but there’s no way that Angela would be so shallow to worry more about Jordan’s homework than one of her best friends. Like I said before, I get that there needs to be a balance in the types of storylines in an episode, but this just feels a bit off.

What do you think?

Oh, and Happy New Year!

My So-Called Life, "Resolutions"Julie: Happy New Year to you too!

This episode was kind of hilarious with all of the shallow resolutions peppered in with the not-so-shallow ones. I loved how Danielle resolves to badger her mother to the breaking point so that she is finally allowed to use makeup. And Sharon’s resolution to stop having sex juxtaposed with her newfound Brad Pitt fetish is a lot of fun. And I am with you, Jordan Catalano has been a lot less objectionable as of late.

Maybe the writers were given notes from The Powers That Be to make Jordan less of a douchenozzle. I always assume that’s the case whenever a character has a bit of a random personality change. Jordan used to be this brooding, slightly sinister dream boat who tries to coerce girls into having sex with him in abandoned houses. Now he’s sort of the lovable goof who hangs out with Krakow as a sort of nerd-helping Mr. Miyagi. And I think he told Angela to have sex with him as a joke, because he knew she’d have some kind of ridiculous reaction. Hilarious jokester, that Jordan Catalano.

Like you mentioned, I had some problems with the character inconsistencies. At Christmas, Angela is super worried about Rickie. But by New Year’s, she’s all, “Whatever, Rickie, get over yourself,” and Rayanne is the one with concerns. Also, it’s barely mentioned, but Rayanne resolves to stop drinking again and we never had a chance to see her regret drinking again or how her New Year’s resolution plays out. Maybe we will later.

My So-Called Life, "Resolutions"

I suppose the meat of the story is Rickie’s homelessness and the desire of his English teacher, Mr. Meredith Grey’s Father (aka guest star Jeff Perry), to help Rickie out of his predicament. Mr. Katimski/Mr. Grey likes Rickie and is very concerned about where he’s sleeping at night. At first he was a little much for me, a little too in Rickie’s business, but then as he kept trying to pawn Rickie off to different people, I found myself comparing this situation to the one in The Wire, where Carver has an opportunity to save Randy, but doesn’t take it. I shouted at my TV screen, “Just let Rickie sleep in your house you fool!” I mean, it seems so simple. Except that it’s not. Meredith’s Dad, gay or not, could be opening himself up to a world of legal problems, taking a minor who doesn’t belong to him into his home. It’s sad and disheartening to think that something as simple as providing shelter for a kid who needs it has to be so complicated.

But this is just a TV show, right? So, take Rickie into your house, Mr. Grey, and be his new father! Turn this into Diff’rent Strokes or something.

What did you think of poor Rickie’s problems? Is this getting to be a bit much for you? I mean, does he have to be gay AND homeless AND abused? He’s the saddest teenage character of all time.

Emma: I am starting 2013 off talking about MSCL so all is good.

My So-Called Life, "Resolutions"To the sadness and seriousness of the episode and you’re right Rickie really does have all the issues. Wilson Cruz is exceptional once again at playing the guy who doesn’t want to be a burden, but hits such a low that he needs to reach out to someone. In true TV fashion he overhears the part of Patty and Graham’s conversation that has them saying that he can’t live there forever, but he misses all the wonderful comments they make about him. When he finds out that his uncle and aunt have moved without leaving a forwarding address it’s particularly heartbreaking, especially because we know how awesome he is.

I get what you mean about the similarities between Mr. Katimski and The Wire‘s Carver and it’s so frustrating that there’s so much red tape. Of course it’s there to protect kids, but it can also be detrimental to the situation. It’s an interesting twist to Mr. Katimski’s story to makes his character gay, because it adds yet another layer of conflict as to how much he can help. I mean this is 1995 and so it feels like a progressive story (but keeping in line with the show already) and even now in 2013 you can imagine some narrow-minded people having issues with gay teachers.I kind of just want Rickie to go live at Brian’s as his nonviable parents probably wouldn’t care all that much.

My So-Called Life, "Resolutions"

Now to the problematic part of the episode and that is the Graham restaurant story. I don’t like the hints at Graham’s wondering eye, even if they altered that story at the start of the season. Friday Night Lights proved that you could have a central married couple with no affair drama and you’d still get compelling stories out of them. Unfortunately this is following the more tried and tested formula of affairs, or hints at affairs makes good TV. I have no interest in seeing Graham and Hallie holding discussions in a restaurant space (with that ugly centerpiece, because Patty is awesome and their marriage is interesting already. I also found it odd that Patty thought that Graham was going to confess to an affair and then was all “oh yeah sure, open a restaurant with the woman I thought you might be sleeping with.”

I did like Graham’s reasons for wanting to do it though, in that he always misses out on things. I just hope it moves the character forward in a positive way, without negative implications to their marriage.

One aspect of the episode that I loved was all the Rayanne/Sharon relationship advice scenes, but more on that later. What did you think of this Graham/Patty story?

Julie: That is a genius idea. Rickie should definitely move in with the Krakows. Jordan should probably move in, too, and then they’d just phase out the whole notion of Brian’s parents until it’s just the three boys living together, throwing killer parties, and asking chicks (or dudes) for their numbers like it ain’t no thang.

My So-Called Life, "Resolutions"Ugh. The Graham and Patty restaurant drama. I’d actually be okay with Patty suspecting the affair if there were no hint of of a potential affair smoldering under the surface of Graham’s conversations with Hallie. Patty seems insecure enough that she would suspect affairs constantly. She is Angela’s mother, after all. The girl has to get her introspective neuroses from somewhere. But the fact that Hallie is now single and she and Graham are meeting alone in an old abandoned restaurant (one of the sexiest places on Earth), it’s just a little too much. It could’ve been cool to look at this situation from the angle of a strong, independent woman who still worries that her man is going to stray. They could’ve coupled it with Angela worrying about Jordan’s loyalties and then shown the flip side and give us Kyle’s perspective when he thinks Sharon is not reciprocating his feelings with the same intensity. And, again, I’m writing a whole new show.

But having Hallie be kind of into Graham and having Graham be not totally NOT into Hallie, it just feels trite. Of course this woman would be after Graham. Of course Graham would be after her despite the fact that he and his wife have sex every five minutes and in the beginning he seemed kind of annoyed with Hallie. He’s a man. He can’t be expected to keep it in his pants under any circumstances. The Iowa Supreme Court determined this as fact.

I agree with you about Graham’s reasons for wanting to open the restaurant. He’s reaching middle age and he’s finally getting to do what he’s always wanted to do. He’s not going to let this opportunity pass him by. I hope he gets everything he desires in this endeavor, except for a little piece on the side.

I’ve written too many things. What say you about Sharon and her Brad Pitt fantasies?

My So-Called Life, "Resolutions"

Emma: I think the Sharon story is great as it really helped to lighten what could have been a pretty bleak episode. Yes she’s using Kyle which is bad, but he really wasn’t the best boyfriend first time around (am I awful for not caring about Kyle?). I also like that Sharon, who is pretty uptight in the pilot is exploring her (Brad Pitt) fueled urges. Of course Rayanne is who she ends up discussing this predicament with and of course Rayanne is all for Sharon having some no strings sex, even if Kyle doesn’t quite see it that way. Their friendship has been developing nicely and they don’t even pretend to hate each other any more. The Brian/Sharon interaction in the corridor is also hilarious as once again someone is using Brian as a sounding board while he complains about something else. The teddy bear moment makes this scene even better, especially as he gets the bear out in front of Jordan later on.

Oh and I totally love the alternate version of the show that you’re writing.

Oh, and also thanks to this Vulture piece I found out that the guidance counselor is played by MSCL creator Winnie Holzman.

My So-Called Life, "Resolutions"Julie: That’s awesome. I had no idea Winnie Holzman played the guidance counselor. What did Rickie call her? Some funny name. I didn’t write it down.

I think you’re in the right, not caring about Kyle. He was a jerk to her, and part of me thinks that he’s probably using Sharon for sex as well, despite the presence of the “I Love You” bear. And he seems to know that Brad Pitt pushes her buttons. Kyle’s head = Not just a hat rack.

Again, Rayanne and Sharon’s scenes are some of the most entertaining in the show. They have much more in common with each other than they do with Angela. Rayanne brings Sharon out of her shell, and, if they do become friends, Sharon could help Rayanne go back in her shell a little bit. Maybe it will help her sobriety in the new year.

Poor Brian Krakow. But at least he knows a girl’s phone number now. And knowledge is power, right?

Emma: I just went back and checked and he says “Miss Crazy or whatever her name is.” Oh Rickie.

I think you could be on to something with Kyle figuring out the Brad Pitt angle (and of course he’d say that Thelma and Louise is about two old babes). This would have been around the time that Pitt was attempting to shed his classic good looks and go a bit grungy. Wonder what Sharon would think of his Chanel ad?!

Julie Hammerle is, according to Klout, an expert in the areas of both Morgan Freeman and glasses. Her writing can be found at chicagonow.com/hammervision and you can holler at her on Twitter as well.

Emma Fraser wanted to be Angela Chase when she grew up, but is sadly not a CIA Agent now. Her writing can be found at TVOvermind and you will find her on both Twitter and Tumblr.

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