My 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 18: “Weekend”
Original airdate: Jan. 19, 1995
Emma: I can’t believe we are already at the penultimate episode, I’m feeling all the feelings right now. To enhance the experience I check to see if there are any MSCL playlists on Spotify and there are! It’s a ’90s explosion of awesome.
On to the episode which after the misery of “Betrayal” was a mostly upbeat and fun affair that played with the whole parents are away convention. With teen shows it is hard to keep a balance between angst and fun, I think MSCL has mostly been successful at doing this (though sometimes it makes the actions of certain characters seem misplaced, i.e., when Rickie was homeless again and Angela was helping with Jordan’s homework). The fallout here is that we are still dealing with the repercussions of Rayanne sleeping with Jordan and this isn’t something that Angela is going to get over in a week. Rickie is in the dreaded stuck in the middle position, having to handle the “does she ask about me?” questions from both Angela and Rayanne. I’ve been in Rickie’s position before and it sucks as inevitably you side with one person more than other, even if you don’t intend to. Have you been made the mediator before?
This is essentially as close to a bottle episode that this show got to do, particularly with the handcuffs story and while the set up might be a tad convenient, I think the execution is excellent. For one I really enjoyed seeing the whole group together (sans Jordan, but really he would have no place here). There’s so much awkwardness and comfort all at the same time and I’m so glad that Sharon and Brian both got added to the mix. Danielle’s presence as the bothersome little sister is perfect here and she clearly worships the ground her sister walks on, I’m glad that her crush on Brian has returned. The bonus of the Angela like Danielle voiceover was a nifty way to play with this convention. If the show had got to run longer, I wonder if each character would have got to have their own voiceover episode (now I’m dreaming up more endless fanfic). They constantly think that they have to explain or hide things from Danielle, but really she isn’t bothered and probably knows most things by now anyway (I’m guessing one of her classmates has a copy of Judy Blume’s Forever that is being passed around as this is what happened when I was her age). While Danielle is used mostly as a comic device it’s also sad to hear some of her thoughts, such as been kicked out of various rooms (I am a little sister so know this pain).
I think the reason why the whole handcuffs predicament works is because Rayanne would do something like this without thinking about things like where the key is. It also puts her in an immediate proximity to Angela, but because there are so many other people there it never gets too serious between the two. The one time it appears that we might see the start of a chin quiver is when Rayanne asks to talk to Angela alone, but nope she doesn’t want to talk about Jordan but wants to go to the bathroom instead, awkward.
Angela might be the so-called face (see what I did there?! I’ll get my coat) of innocence but she is really great at stalling Camille with her questions of justice and taking an item of clothing back. Luckily Rayanne is even better at deception as she fakes an illness and conceals her handcuffed hand from Camille. I’m glad that Sharon stayed after her mom left, even if I vehemently disagree with her fashion choices and Sharon sums it up with this statement about her own clothing purchase “I know what you’re thinking ‘jumpsuit, barf.'” Yep Sharon, that’s exactly what I’m thinking. We are also reminded of Sharon’s sexual prowess as she knows of a place to get some handcuffs—the Pleasure Center—and Brian doesn’t know where it is… Oh Brian, you will learn one day. Near the Pleasure Center they bump into Kyle, who comes back to the Chase house; perhaps he whispered sweet nothings about Brad Pitt in Sharon’s ear. Regardless, we did get an excellent gag with dumb Kyle stumbling in on Brian trying to unlock the cuffs with Rayanne telling him that “it is too big,” Kyle thinks it’s extra kinky thanks to the audience of Angela, Danielle, and Rickie. Hopefully Brian will score a good rumor or two out of this when they go back to school.
Julie: Ha! I’ve been listening to ’90s music like crazy these days. There’s a Comcast cable station dedicated solely to the ’90s, and it is my go-to laundry folding music of choice. And I fold a LOT of laundry.
I really liked this “bottle” episode, and I liked that Jordan was the one component left out of the bottle. After what happened between him and Rayanne, there’s not much chance that he’s going to wind up being part of the group. Angela may be able to forgive Rayanne, in time, but I don’t think she’ll ever be able to trust Jordan. If the show were to have continued, I think we’d start to see a lot more of the group huddled on Graham and Patty’s bed. Eventually Danielle would get older and start hanging out, she’d probably skip a few high school grades, and then they’d all get a beach house together in college.
Another thing I appreciated about this episode is that it didn’t do the typical “home alone” stuff. There was no big party. There was no hooking up with boys. The most scandalous thing that happened was Rayanne hooking herself to the bed with the handcuffs, which didn’t even belong to her. They almost took it to “scandalous party” territory when Kyle and his friend showed up, but then the boys left. This whole thing felt real to me, and I liked that Angela was mature and responsible enough to follow her parents’ orders. Man, does that make me sound like a square!
My favorite part, of course, was when Brian showed up, because it was just so inevitable, but I totally didn’t see it coming. And then he had to go to the Pleasure Center with Sharon. Of course he did.
I definitely remember being in the middle a lot, especially during the days of three-way calling and someone would hide out on the other line and listen to what the third party had to say about s/him. We were so devious. And lame.
Watching this episode, I was wondering, did the MSCL writers know when the show was ending? Does the last episode feel like a finale? I suppose I’ll find out when I watch it.
The other half of the episode involved Patty and Graham going out of town for a weekend to “reconnect,” despite the fact that we’ve seen them get it on every single week. While their children are at home. What did you think of Patty and Graham’s storyline? I found myself feeling a great deal for Patty, but I’ll let you answer first. I’ve said so much.
Emma: I’m also a fan of it not going the usual massive house party route as it tends to in film and TV, quite often when my friends parents went away it would be a simple matter of just hanging out. Usually booze was involved, but the more outlandish parties were more infrequent than a simple small group affair. Though their mass tidy up in a limited amount of time reminded me of when my friends parents had been away for two weeks and a group of us had essentially lived there and we had created a rather big collection of empty bottles and cigarette ends all over the garden. My friend’s sister gave us the heads up about 30 minutes before they would be home and it was earlier than expected so we did a comical clean up involving running around with air fresher and bin bags. We managed to do it and passed her parents car on the road! It was a spectacular effort.
The Patty/Graham sexcation would make more sense if, yep, we hadn’t seen them do it all the time and if they weren’t going away with his brother. Also, who borrows sexy sexy clothes off their best friend? I know there’s being close but this seems too close. First their tryst gets interrupted by Dr. Kerry Weaver from ER‘s cackle of a laugh and then Patty gets way too wasted. I also felt bad for Patty, especially when they go on their liquor run. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen an unenthusiastic response to Patty trying to arrange an activity (I would also be up for ice skating, though I’d probably break my wrist all over again) and it sucks that they don’t seem that bothered by her efforts. Yes she might seem quite controlling and I know that Dr. Weaver thinks she is paying Patty compliments when she talks about her life being so settled, but like Angela you get the sense that she gets annoyed with the uptight label. Hence why she gets so smashed at dinner.
They are the least subtle when it comes to drinking out of the bottle, at least pass it under the table people (also are alcohol-free hotels like this common?). I do like drunk Patty, but they do even better with the look of hungover Patty. It’s normally when we’re drunk that truths come out, but Patty reveals her insecurities regarding Hallie when she is hungover. As there is only one episode left (sob!) there isn’t much room for development and from what I can remember they didn’t know it was going to finish (will do more research for the finale). I still hate this Hallie story, because I think the Chases have a pretty strong relationship and this hint of a possible affair is so unnecessary.
Oh, and Graham’s brother is pretty awful and spineless.
Also I kinda hate myself for using the phrase “sexcation.”
Julie: I definitely had one friend in high school who had a party every weekend while his mom was off with her boyfriend. And not just small gatherings, either. I think people showed up who had no idea who this guy was. I don’t know how he handled it. I would’ve been a basket case. My parents went out of town one time without me during high school (I think I was a senior) and they still made me stay at my grandparents’ house. I was, like, the biggest rule following nerd and they did not trust me to stay home alone. Whatever.
The brother/brother sexcation (there, I’m using it too) made zero sense to me. I’m trying to imagine taking a sexy weekend trip with either of my husband’s brothers or my brother, and I just can’t. No thank you. And none of our brothers is even one fifth as disgusting as Graham’s brother. There’s my fraternal compliment of 2013. You boys are not disgusting. Relatively speaking.
I felt like Camille was trying a little too hard to be, like, “I’m the sexy friend. Look at all my lingerie and handcuffs.” We get it, Camille. You probably gave your husband a heart attack from all the sexytimes. You are a goddess, just like your Brad Pitt-loving daughter. Now stop rubbing it in. Patty and Graham only have sex like once and episode. Who knows what you’re doing off camera, Camille.
I completely felt for Patty at the lodge. I have been there, woman. I don’t drink a lot (anymore) and I like going to bed early and oftentimes I get left behind or forgotten about (usually with the children) while other people go out on liquor runs or to the movies or shopping for Black Friday deals. As much as I don’t mind lying around on a couch reading for an afternoon, it sucks not to be invited or included in the shenanigans. And it sucks to be the one every one thinks of as responsible and mature, even if you brought those labels upon yourself. Sometimes I’d like to go and drink a bottle of hooch at a restaurant if only I could trust somebody to be the responsible one in my stead. So, yeah, good on Patty for letting loose a little bit.
The whole Hallie thing was a MSCL misstep, especially considering that we already did the cheating story in the beginning of the season. Is Graham that big an idiot that he doesn’t see how his “friendship” with Hallie might affect his marriage? That and the fact that he never told Patty about Hallie’s breakup does not make Graham look very good.
What have we not covered? Rickie is still living with Meredith Grey’s dad, so that’s nice for everyone. I’m very interested to see how the final episode leaves us hanging. I suppose we’ll all just have to keep hoping for a MSCL reunion special—Brian and Angela return home with their 2.5 children to help Patty deal with Graham’s sudden death. It’ll be a tearjerker!
Emma: A couple more things I want to add. First, despite Rayanne and Angela not having a huge talk about Jordan, Angela did get so show her frustration in the tug of war match when Rayanne tried to leave without tidying up. It was like she got to air all of her grievances in this moment with Rayanne being pretty terrible at taking any responsibility.
The other thing is I really loved the scene between Rayanne and Danielle when Rayanne asks Danielle to get her some liquor from downstairs. It’s a small moment but a sweet one that shows that Danielle is actually really intuitive if anyone gives her the time of day. I think if Rayanne had a sibling then it might ground her and the shot if them spooning in bed is rather adorable, not that Angela probably thinks so!
I’m so glad that one of the things I’ve got from this writing/watching experience is an appreciation for Patty Chase (I’m sure I’ll have a longer list on our final discussion, but this is the one that jumps out at me).
I want to watch that reunion special, especially if they visit Rayanne in her castle.