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'My So-Called Life' nostalgia recap: Matters of the heart

Season 1 | Episode 2 | “Dancing in the Dark” | Aired Sep 1, 1994

The second episode of My So-Called Life is framed by the less than subtle metaphor of Angela’s biology lab, where the students are learning what makes an experiment successful and literally dissecting hearts (of the pig variety). Everyone is experimenting in this episode. Patty is experimenting with her looks in an attempt to revitalize her marriage. Angela is experimenting with taking her flirtation with Jordan to the next level (and possibly vice versa). Poor Brian just wants to literally experiment, and maybe flirt with Angela a little.

We start off with Angela daydreaming about kissing. She’s been kissed only a few times—a counselor at summer camp, an usher at her mother’s cousin’s wedding in Milwaukee, and a lifeguard on the beach last summer. The last one was not so much a kiss as it was CPR, which Angela naturally found the most exciting (what’s more exciting than almost dying?). Rayanne urges her to take things to the next phase with Jordan, reminding her that “people throwing themselves at people is, like, the basis of civilization.” Taking matters into her own hands, Rayanne approaches Jordan to inquire about a fake ID for Angela, and he responds with about as much interest as we could expect from someone whose primary activity is leaning. Angela is initially humiliated, but mostly just wants to hear every detail of what Jordan said.

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Brian, Angela’s lab partner, has been covering for her lack of effort in class. He says if she wants to share in the extra-credit project he has almost completed himself, she needs to come over to his house to help. Rayanne and Rickie see this as the perfect opportunity for Angela to rendezvous with Jordan under the pretense of delivering the fake ID because Brian’s parents won’t be home. “Jordan Catalano? At Brian Krakow’s house? It’s like, against nature or something,” Angela protests, although she ultimately agrees to the plan.

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Rayanne and Rickie bring Jordan to Brian’s house. The two of them go inside to distract Brian, Jordan waits outside in his car, and Angela panics. She feels she needs her “obsession” (Rickie’s assessment) with Jordan to get through the day, and wonders if it might be better off remaining a fantasy. As Rayanne and Rickie drive poor Brian crazy with inane questions about his science experiment, Angela finally goes outside to see Jordan. He gives her the fake ID and invites her into his car. “What’s amazing is when you can feel your life going somewhere, like your life just figured out how to get good,” Angela thinks excitedly, only for that to come crashing down when Jordan aggressively and unromantically kisses her mid-sentence.

Angela is surprisingly unhappy about this development, scolding Jordan that he needs to work up to that and exclaiming, “I don’t open that wide at the dentist!” Jordan asks how old she is, saying she seems younger than 15 and talks a lot, to which an exasperated Angela says, “I’ve said like eight sentences to you my entire life!” Jordan calms down a bit, muttering something vague and brooding about having a rough day. As they sit in silence, everything begins to feel perfect again to Angela, but just when she’s back to hoping he’ll kiss her again, properly, he says he has to leave.

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This scene is surprising in the best way because despite how desperately Angela wants Jordan, she doesn’t want him if she doesn’t first feel respected. She stands up for herself, even when it breaks her heart. Moments like this are why Angela Chase is more than a lovesick, often whiny teenage girl—she’s also wise beyond her years in many respects.

Later, Brian finds Angela’s fake ID outside and has a brief and bizarre interaction with Jordan, in which Mr. Catalano makes it apparent that he finds Angela at least intriguing. Angela tells Brian she’s not going to take the extra credit, and goes back to analyzing every second of her time with Jordan.

Meanwhile, Angela’s parents are experiencing some angst of their own. Feeling as if she and Graham have drifted apart as a result of working together, Patty cuts her hair short, puts on her sexiest red dress, and convinces her husband to take a ballroom-dancing lesson with her. Graham upsets Patty with an ignorant remark about her haircut, and the dance lesson is a disaster. They struggle with rhythm and with connecting in general, to the point where the instructor suggests they should “dance with other people.” Yikes. Back home, they finally reach an understanding, and for the moment, things in their marriage seem to be going better.

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Luckily, they are going better enough for Graham to call off a secret rendezvous with the mystery woman from the pilot. He confides in his brother that he met a woman through work and that while all they’ve done so far is talk, he was considering taking things further—a plan Angela overhears him canceling on the phone at the end of the episode. For now, things seem to be okay in the Chase household.

Best Angela-ism: “What I, like, dread is when people who know you in completely different ways end up in the same area. And you have to develop this, like, combination you on the spot.”

Claire Danes Cry-Face Count: None!

Most Ignorant Teenage Moment: As Brian points out, the fake ID Jordan gets for Angela says she was born yesterday, making it utterly worthless.

Angst-o-Meter: Going with 4/10 this time, for everyone ending the episode on a relatively okay note.

Remember, if you’d like to follow along with my recaps, the entire series is available to watch for free on Hulu!

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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