Sunday, September 15

Cast, fans face the facts of ‘so-called life’


Cast, fans face the facts of ‘so-called life’

Ratings overrule quality in determining fate of critically
acclaimed television program

By Gaby Mora

Daily Bruin Staff

On the ABC television show "My So-Called Life," lead character
Angela Chase (played by Claire Danes) is in love with an
unattainable guy, questions the authenticity of life and is unable
to resolve her teenage angst by the end of each hour program.

In real life, Danes faces a similar dilemma. Though her show has
garnered critical acclaim, and she was awarded best actress at the
Golden Globe Awards for her work, consistently low ratings may put
"My So-Called Life" on the shelf ­ leaving Chase’s problems
forever unresolved.

The quality of the show has never been questioned, but
considering its place in a time slot (Thursday at 8 p.m.) running
against Fox’s "Martin"and NBC’s "Mad About You," it was hard for
the new show to gain strong enough viewership to keep advertisers
happy. ABC reportedly received over 5,000 fan letters protesting
the end of the show, but statistically, that isn’t enough support
to affect a decision.

Earlier this month, Ted Harbert, President of ABC, cited "My
So-Called Life" as one of his favorite shows for the Los Angeles
Times. And though his affection for the show would clearly be
enough to greenlight its second season, he also told the Times that
questions about the show’s fate wouldn’t be answered until May of
this year.

But three months was just too much of a wait for a group of
about 50 UCLA students who held an event at Hedrick Hall on Jan. 19
to show their support for the show. Entertainment Tonight filmed
the exchange between students and "My So-Called Life" cast members,
Devon Gummersall, Wilson Cruz and Devon Odessa, as they watched the
second to last episode together.

Gummersall, who plays Brian Krakow, the curly-haired boy with
the eternal crush on Angela, says he is saddened by the prospect
that the show may be cut, but is also more or less accustomed to
the uncertainty.

"We shot the pilot two years ago, and it took eight months to
get another order and then another couple of months to start
shooting again. So it has always been kind of an iffy thing whether
or not we would continue."

"But the quality has always been so good that it has all worked
out. Obviously, things are unclear right now, and my reaction to
that is mixed. In one way I want what we’ve done to be
acknowledged, and there is also this great feeling of loss due to
the close ties we have all formed with one another," explains the
actor.

Similarly, the close ties viewers feel they have formed with the
cast make it difficult to fathom an unresolved storyline.
Fourth-year student David Ginsburg, who coordinated the event that
brought members of the cast to campus, says he enjoys the issues
"My So-Called Life" explores mainly because it is done in a
realistic manner.

Erin Dabbs, a first-year student, also says the show is her
favorite. She doesn’t understand how such quality programming can
be cut, "when things like ’90210′ are still kept on the air."

And though some people would place the show in the "Beverly
Hills 90210" category, to many "My So-Called Life" is a more
realistic portrayal of the students whose lives it claims to
chronicle.

For one thing, the actors ages are realistic for their
characters. Both Danes and her character are 15 years old, and as
Gummersall explains, "Age is really important because I’m going
through adolescence now and so it’s really easy for me to be
realistic and portray that in my character."

The students all agreed that the cast was nothing like the
typical Hollywood types one might expect, and Gummersall found the
event to be exciting, "because we got to see 50 people’s live
reactions to our work."

Whether or not the show ends up getting cut, both actors and
viewers feel that it would not mean defeat of any sort, except
maybe on the business end of television.

"If we did end right now it would be like going out on top,"
says Gummersall, "because you can’t erase all of the good feedback
we’ve received. So it’s, cool."

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