FANDOM


Farm-Fresh balanceYMMVTransmit blueRadarWikEd fancyquotesQuotes • (Emoticon happyFunnyHeartHeartwarmingSilk award star gold 3Awesome) • RefridgeratorFridgeGroupCharactersScript editFanfic RecsSkull0Nightmare FuelRsz 1rsz 2rsz 1shout-out iconShout OutMagnifierPlotGota iconoTear JerkerBug-silkHeadscratchersHelpTriviaWMGFilmRoll-smallRecapRainbowHo YayPhoto linkImage LinksNyan-Cat-OriginalMemesHaiku-wide-iconHaikuLaconic

An American television Teen Drama, created by Winnie Holzman and produced by Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz as a Spiritual Successor to their critically acclaimed Dramedy Thirtysomething. This show about an angsty white high school student, Angela Chase (played by Claire Danes), like, really spoke to those of us who were teenagers when it aired.

Originally broadcast on ABC from August 25, 1994, to January 26, 1995, My So-Called Life is set at the fictional Liberty High School, in a suburb of Pittsburgh. It follows the emotional travails of several self-aware teenagers. This Too Good to Last critical darling -- all of nineteen episodes -- ended with a Cliff Hanger.

A typical episode featured an A-plot about Angela and a B-plot about her parents Patty and Graham.

The A-plot was usually based on one of two story arcs. One arc was about how Angela is torn between two groups of friends: the goody-two-shoes kids she always used to hang out with (most notably Brian and Sharon), versus the trouble-making girl Rayanne and Rickie, the effeminate Puerto Rican boy who served as her sidekick. The other arc was about Angela's obsession with the hot kid Jordan Catalano, who barely knew she was alive. Ironically, Jordan Catalano was originally supposed to only be in the show for one episode, but the producers liked actor Jared Leto so much that they made Angela's crush on him into Story Arc.

In addition, Angela's younger sister Danielle served as part comic relief, and part sardonic observer of Angela's Angst.

One of the most bleakly funny shows ever aired, it showed how much bitterness can result from a completely ordinary day at high school where nothing in particular goes wrong. Often the show took a comic plot (usually A Simple Plan) and subverted it by playing it for drama (and, arguably, realism) rather than for humor -- and this was both much funnier and much more painful than it would have been as a comedy.

Also notable for dealing with "hot topics" with relatively little melodrama. Rayanne episodes often involved guns, drugs, etc. but didn't have Angela instantly get involved and ruin her life, as would happen on almost any other Teen Drama.

See also Too Good to Last (of which this show is a classic example). Compare Freaks and Geeks.

Tropes used in My So-Called Life include:


  • Adult Child:
    • Rayanne's mother, Amber Vallon. Not in a good way.
    • Neil Chase, the younger brother of Graham, Angela's dad.
    • On occasion, Graham himself.
  • Adults Are Useless: Sometimes averted, sometimes played with, sometimes justified. It's not that adults in the series tend to be idiotic or evil or crazy -- often they're intelligent and well-meaning -- but rather that the adults and teenagers live so much in their own worlds that they are unable to understand much less help one another. For example, in an early episode about a gun brought to school, the teachers and parents are so out of touch about school bullying that any attempts to reach out to their students and children tends to do more damage than good. Definitely Truth in Television, as any victim of severe school bullying can attest.
    • A lot of the divide is simply Baby Boomer (the adults) vs. Late Generation X'er (the teenagers). Unlike many other teen shows, the adults (refreshingly) are not necessarily portrayed as being "uncool" or "out of touch." However, they grew up in an era where, for example, bullying was simply seen as a "rite of passage" and something the kid was responsible for handling on his own, which is a big part of the reason why they have such a hard time communicating with them about the issue in the gun episode.
  • Age-Appropriate Angst
  • The Alcoholic: Rayanne's mother, Amber Vallon. And probably Rayanne herself.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: Well, almost all. See also Love Dodecahedron, below.
  • All of the Other Reindeer:
    • The school is full of bullies who pick on Brian and Rickie.
    • On a more abstract level ... everyone is Rudolf and everyone is All of the Other Reindeer. Even the most popular characters are, at some point or another, victims of various sorts of bullying; even Brian and Rickie have their moments as bullies (although generally more out of social awkwardness than cruel intent). The show has neither any all-good nor any all-evil characters; each character we get to know has strengths and weaknesses, moments of moral glory and moments of moral shame. See also Grey and Gray Morality, below.
  • Ambiguously Gay:
    • Rickie Vasquez, in that he hasn't "come out" yet for most of the series.
    • One of the teachers, Richard Katimski, when we first meet him. Later, an example of Straight Gay.
  • Anger Born of Worry: A mostly-low-key and decidedly non-romantic example would be Patty's and Graham's reaction when Angela returns from a night out looking as if she might have been attacked. (In actuality, she just slipped in the mud.)
  • Angst
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: Jordan Catalano's Brain's Brian's Love Letter Lunacy to Angela.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling:
    • Danielle, as far as Angela is concerned.
    • To some extent inverted in that Angela is often a deliberately-annoying older sister to Danielle. But since the series is told (mostly) through Angela's eyes...
  • Axes At School: Rickie's cousin brings a gun to school in one episode, where it accidentally goes off. Brian, who's thought to be an eyewitness, ends up seeing a lot of unwanted attention over the incident.
  • Bathroom Stall of Overheard Insults: And how.
  • Best Years of Your Life: Subverted all over the place. Angela exemplifies the suckiness of high school life, while Danielle exemplifies the suckiness of childhood. In an ironic twist, their parents probably have more fun and fulfilling lives than either of them (though certainly not without their own sets of problems and issues).
  • Beta Couple:
    • Sharon Cherski and Kyle Vinnovich.
    • Patty and Graham (Angela's parents).
    • Potentially Graham and his "annoying" classmate Hallie Lowenthal.
  • Betty and Veronica:
    • Most notably, Brian (as Betty) and Jordan Catalano (as Veronica). Not a standard example, in that Angela (as Archie) no longer has much tolerance for Brian, even as a friend. See What Could Have Been / Word of God, below.
    • To some extent, Sharon (as Betty) and Rayanne (as Veronica) are vying to be the Heterosexual Life Partners version.
    • In "Life of Brian" Delia (as Betty) and Angela (as Veronica) are Brian's choices. He chooses…poorly.
  • Bi the Way: Rayanne, maybe. See also Les Yay, below.
    • In which case, she may take after her mother (Amber).
  • Bittersweet Ending
  • Book Dumb: To use one of the episode titles, "Why Can't Jordan Read?" (He probably has dyslexia or some related learning disorder.)
  • Bottle Fairy:
    • Rayanne Graff.
    • And her mother, Amber Vallon.
  • Bratty Half-Pint: Danielle, Angela's kid sister -- at least as far as Angela is concerned.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Angela certainly has her moments.
  • Broken Bird: Rayanne.
  • But I Would Really Enjoy It: Angela's deeply ambivalent about having sex with Jordan Catalano. So much so that she can go from one extreme to the other mid-paragraph.
  • Call Back: Sometimes for dramatic purposes, sometimes comic. An example of the latter: in the episode "Betrayal," Rayanne snarks about the play "Our Town" -- before auditioning for the part of Emily -- "It's just a stupid play. Dead people come back and visit. Like that's really gunna happen." This is two episodes after "So-Called Angels."
  • Camp Gay: Rickie Vasquez is a borderline example -- not quite Straight Gay, not quite Camp Gay.
  • Catch Phrase: Perhaps the most famous one is "In my humble opinion," tossed around both by Angela and by her mother Patty. Lampshaded late in the series when Rickie uses it and Rayanne tells him not to sound like Angela.
  • Chained to a Bed: In the penultimate episode "Weekend." Hilarity Ensues. Twice. Not among the high points of the series. Even the creators of the show nicknamed the episode "My So-Called Lite."
  • Character Development: An astonishing amount for just nineteen episodes.
  • Chick Magnet:
    • Jordan Catalano.
    • Less conspicuously, Graham (Angela's father), although he was invisible to girls in back in high school.
  • Children Are Innocent: Danielle, Angela's kid sister. For the most part, but played with. With ample justification, she complains, "My life is totally edited": her parents and Angela try as best they can to keep her in the dark about ... well ... anything and everything one would try to keep a kid in the dark about. Yet sometimes Danielle makes offhanded remarks that shock and embarrass her parents -- although it's far from clear how much of what she's saying she actually understands.
  • Color Coded for Your Convenience:
  • Control Freak:
    • Brian.
      • His parents are even worse, allegedly.
    • Patty (Angela's mother).
    • Sharon Cherski, at least to her clueless boyfriend, Kyle.
  • Cool Big Sis:
    • Played with. Danielle both admires and resents Angela, but Angela finds Danielle annoying.
      • Sometimes Angela's friends (and former friends) take on this role with Danielle -- during which times, Angela quietly simmers with a jealousy she can't explain to herself.
    • This is also Angela's initial reaction toward Rayanne's mother.
  • Cool Teacher: "Vic Racine," the titular character in the episode "The Substitute," was able to out-cool even Jordan Catalano.
  • Covert Pervert: Sharon's mother, Camille Cherski. To a lesser extent ... pretty much everyone who isn't an overt pervert.
  • Cut Short: It received a season finale, but then it was canceled.
  • Dawson Casting: Averted with Claire Danes as central character Angela and Devon Gummersall as her would-be love interest Brian. Averted (or at least mostly averted) with Lisa Wilhoit as Danielle, Angela's kid sister. But most of the "high school" cast were at least eighteen (and a few considerably older) when the series began shooting. Actually, Claire Danes was thirteen playing fifteen when shooting began. The DVD Commentary for the pilot episode includes a joke that the show is television's Ur Example of inverted Dawson Casting.
    • Jordan's Dawson Casting is justified in that Jordan is repeating the sophomore year for at least the second time.
  • A Day in the Limelight: A few, but most clearly the episode "Life of Brian."
    • The other episode narrated by someone other than Angela is the penultimate episode "Weekend," narrated by Danielle. Probably the weakest, and definitely the most lighthearted, episode in the series.
    • Christmas episode "So-Called Angels" maintains its central focus on Angela, but for the first time Rickie gets A Day in the Limelight, of sorts. He gets a few more before the end of the series.
  • Dead All Along: A minor character in the Do They Know It's Christmas Time? episode.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Almost everyone.
  • Deconstruction: Of the Teen Drama.
  • Dialogue Reversal
  • Disappeared Dad:
    • Rayanne's.
    • Rickie's biological father.
    • Angela's mother Patty was adopted; she's never met her biological parents.
  • The Ditz: A mild example: Kyle, Sharon's perpetually clueless boyfriend.
    • A less mild -- and far more grating -- example: Cheryl Fleck.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Brian. Subverted, in that Angela winds up with Jordan Catalano.
  • Do They Know It's Christmas Time?
  • Doting Parent: Angela's parents, Patty and Graham. Especially Graham -- or at least, he's better at ducking the unpopular, but necessary, role of disciplinarian. (Much to Patty's consternation.) Angela's going through a phase where she finds her doting parents annoying, but her friends, who have more serious family issues, are envious.
  • Dramatic Pause: The characters often pause mid-sentence, giving the dialogue a lurching and improvisational feel, even if the line is otherwise constructed very elegantly. Lampshaded when Rickie mimicks Mr. Katimski, who is probably the most Egregious offender. But all the major characters did this a lot. In the case of Jordan Catalano, it was used to highlight how he was fumbling to come up with something, anything, to say.
    • That lurching sensation, mentioned before ... was further heightened by having the actors ... pause at just the right point in the sentence that the apparent meaning being expressed ... seemed to change after the pause.

  Angela-V.O.: I felt like a really shallow person, because I was. (long Dramatic Pause) Hungry.

  • Dramedy
  • The Dulcinea Effect: It is High School, after all.
  • DVD Commentary: Alas, not on many episodes. Maybe some day.
  • Dyeing for Your Art: Claire Danes, as Angela Chase. Both the actress and the character naturally had dark blonde hair, but in the first episode Angela dyes hers red "crimson glow."
    • In-universe example: When Angela's little sister Danielle dresses up as Angela for Halloween, she dyes her hair the same color.
  • The Eeyore: Brian.
  • Extreme Doormat:
    • Brian, especially in anything involving Angela, but he at least has the common sense to be irked about it.
    • Rickie.
  • Favouritism Flip Flop:
    • In the earliest episodes, this was one of Rickie's trademarks -- almost but not quite to the point of Hypocritical Humor -- as he was always seeking approval and didn't have much confidence in his own opinions (or thoughts or feelings or self-worth or ...) (As the series progressed and Rickie developed more of a backbone, he relied on this less and less.)
    • Angela did this a lot, too.
    • Many of the other characters, but few as much as Angela, and none even remotely as much as Rickie.
  • Female Gaze: Most notably, how Angela views Jordan Catalano.
  • Fiery Redhead:
    • Certainly not Angela! Because, first, she's just Dyeing for Your Art; second, her hair is not red, it's "crimson glow," thank you so much for noticing; third ... oh gawwd, how can you say such a thing?
    • Also Sharon Cherski, at times.
    • Hallie Lowenthal, although compared with Sharon and especially Angela she's more "feisty" than "fiery."
  • Flash Back: Used occasionally, usually to time periods years before the series takes place.
  • Foil:
    • Rayanne and Sharon each fill this role for Angela. And, in the process, for each other.
    • In some ways, Rickie and Brian are each the Foil for the other.
    • Two substitute English teachers wind up as foils to each other, in retrospect, although one is gone by the time the other arrives.
    • Sharon's mother (Camille) and Rayanne's mother (Amber), with each other and especially with Angela's mother (Patty).
  • Five-Man Band
  • Full-Name Basis: Jordan Catalano is usually called "Jordan Catalano." Sometimes he's called "Catalano." He's almost never called "Jordan."
    • Just about all of the teenage characters refer to each other by their full names way more often than normal, even though they all know each other and are (mostly) on cordial terms.
  • Gag Boobs - Sharon Cherski, in the episode ("The Zit") wherein an anonymous poll designates her as having the "best hooters" of all the sophomores in the school. As is typical of the show, it's played for Angst as well as humor.
  • Genki Girl:
    • Rayanne Graff.
    • And her mother, Amber Vallon.
    • Sharon Cherski is a much calmer Genki Girl.
    • As is Sharon's mother, Camille Cherski.
    • Hallie Lowenthal.
    • Oh dear lord, Cheryl Fleck.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: You'd think that the science room scene in "Life of Brian" was blatant in its crap: when Delia brushes Brian's hand, his thoughts to the viewer are "Finally! An erection from actual physical contact!" However, within the context of the scene, the next line is funnier and much subtler. Delia is having Brian explain paramecium to her, and she's just bent down to look through a microscope, so naturally her next question to him is: "What are the little hairy things around the edges?" ...it takes Brian a second or two to break out of his daydream...
  • The Ghost:
    • Tino, who seems to be barely off-screen in almost every episode -- and who often plays an active (if invisible) role in the plot. This became a running joke among the writers, and was referenced in the movie Juno.
    • To a lesser extent, Andy Cherski, father to Sharon and husband to Camille.
    • And Rickie's cousin -- the one who brought the gun to school. He gets mentioned a lot, for someone we never see and whose name we never learn.
  • Girl Next Door: Angela, as far as Brian is concerned. Literal as well as figurative example. A Subverted Trope, in that Angela winds up with Jordan.
  • Good Bad Girl: Rayanne Graff. Or at least the image she tries to project.
  • Grey and Grey Morality: No one on the show is outright evil; no one on the show is without flaws. People just struggle to get by, and, as often as not, wind up hurting one another. High school, as seen by Anton Chekhov. See also, All of the Other Reindeer, above, although that's specifically about bullying, which is only one subset of the issues tackled in the series.
  • Halloween Episode: Complete with the ghosts of long-dead teenagers.
  • Happily Married: Angela's parents, Patty and Graham. Definitely married, but how happily can vary from episode to episode and scene to scene.
  • High School: Much of the show is set at the fictional Liberty High.
  • High School Dance: The World Happiness Dance in "Life of Brian".
  • Hilarity Ensues: Subverted, at least to the extent that such events on the show tend to transpire in a realistic manner rather than follow traditional sitcom logic.
    • An exception: the penultimate episode, "Weekend," which is a low-key farce. The change was deliberate.
  • Hollywood Nerd: Brian Krakow.
  • Hot-Blooded: Angela. Rayanne. Sometimes Sharon.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Almost everyone caught themselves in this at least once in a while. Usually played in a realistic and self-aware manner.
  • I Have Many Names: Substitute teacher "Vic Racine." Being on the run from the law will do that.
  • Important Haircut - Patty (Angela's mother), in the episode she and Graham (Angela's father) take up ballroom dancing. Leads to a quarrel between them ... or seems to but that may have been just a pretext, as Graham had already been thinking about having an affair with a woman he knew from work.
  • Incompatible Orientation: Delia Fisher admits to Rickie that she has a huge crush on him despite knowing he's gay in their final scene.
  • Informed Judaism:
    • Brian Krakow.
    • Hallie Lowenthal.
  • Innocent Prodigy: Angela's younger sister Danielle. Bonus points for being one of the few characters who really appreciates Brian as the Lovable Nerd he is.
  • Insufferable Genius:
    • How Rayanne regards Brian. At first.
    • Possibly how just about everyone in school regards Brian. Including many of the teachers.
  • Ironic Echo
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Several examples, none of them ever actually stated out loud. The last and most heartbreaking is when Brian decides to try Playing Cyrano to win Angela back for his rival Jordan Catalano.
  • Jerkass: While no one in the series is completely evil, among all the characters, the closest is the principal who tries to expell Brian just to save the school from a PR problem and doesn't even seem to care about catching whoever really brought the gun to school.
  • Jerk Jock: None of the major characters (Kyle is a classic jock but not a jerk), but several of the bullies.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Jordan Catalano.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Well, High School students anyway.
  • Kissing Warm Up: Danielle catches Angela kissing the mirror.
  • Kuudere: In a weird way ... Brian. He tends to go quiet or get snarky, but he really does care about people.
  • Last-Name Basis: Almost all the high school students.
  • Like Is, Like, a Comma
  • Lovable Nerd: Brian, oh so much.
  • Love Dodecahedron:
    • Danielle and Delia each have a crush on Brian, who has a crush on Angela, who has a crush on Jordan, who has a crush on ... himself?
    • After Delia's crush on Brian crashes and burns, she develops a crush on Rickie, who is gay.
    • At first Rickie seems to have had a crush on Jordan Catalano -- who's interested in Rickie's friend Angela ... well, as much as he's into anyone. Later Rickie develops a crush on an Ambiguously Gay classmate named Corey -- who's at least ostensibly interested in Rickie's other friend Rayanne.
    • Despite her many -- and meaningless -- sexual encounters, Rayanne's only true passion seems to be for Angela. This helps lead to the events in the episode "Betrayal," in which a drunk Jordan and a drunk Rayanne hook up, seemingly in a misbegotten attempt at intimacy with Angela. Naturally, it has the opposite effect. Later in the same episode, Angela tries to get her revenge by dressing up like Rayanne and throwing herself at Corey -- the guy Rickie likes -- until Rickie, gently, calls her on it.
  • Love Hurts: A central theme of the show. Even for those few whose love is reciprocated. Even for those in happy marriages -- or outwardly happy marriages.
  • Love Letter Lunacy: Twice: first a love letter from Angela "to" Jordon Catalano (but never intended for his eyes); later one from Jordon Catalano (or rather from "Jordon") to Angela.
  • Love Makes You Dumb: Yup. Very dumb. Even if you're a Teen Genius, like Brian. Worse yet, the characters usually fully realize even in the moment that they're being dumb and just can't help themselves.

 Brian (right after he uses a lame excuse to dump Delia Fisher): Of all the stupid things I've said -- which are, like, countless -- I've never wanted to take something back more than that one.

  • Magic Realism: Most notably in the episode "Halloween" and then in the Do They Know It's Christmas Time? episode "So-Called Angels." A holiday affliction, evidently.
  • Male Gaze: For the most part, averted. (See Female Gaze, above.) When the show uses it, it's nearly always to highlight that the shot is from Brian's point of view.
    • Example: In "Betrayal", we get a few POV shots from a camera operated by Brian, and one shot is aimed directly at Sharon's chest.
  • Manipulative Bastard: No evil examples, but there's a lot of Truth in Television-level manipulation and counter-manipulation, much of it below the level of consciousness. It's a passive-aggressive world.
  • Meaningful Echo: Yes. The show is so totally in love with this trope.
    • In love with this trope?
      • Yes, with this trope! Totally!
    • For example: the phrase "Oh, my God!" gets tossed around from character to character, scene to scene, episode to episode, and it usually is a way of highlighting who is noticing whom. This is most abundantly evident in a pivotal scene in the A Day in the Limelight episode "Life Of Brian."
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Angela.
    • Possibly her last name, too: Chase. As in pursuit. As in pursuit of her own identity. Note that she's also running in the opening credits.
    • Brian, aka "Brain."
    • Brian's last name, Krakow.
    • Sharon's (unusual) last name, Cherski, feels like it ought to mean something -- especially when paired with Krakow. The Chersky Range is a mountainous region in the Siberian Far East, northeast of China. It's toward the opposite end of the old Russian Empire (nearly five thousand miles) from the Polish city Kraków (and also from Odessa -- see immediately below). But it's unclear what contrast (or similarity) between the two characters the writers were trying to highlight thereby. (Worth noting: Chersky / Cherski is a Polish name, not a Russian name, and the Chersky mountains were named for a Polish explorer.)
      • The name "Cherski" may also be playing off the last name of the actress who played her: Odessa.
    • "Vic Racine."
    • Liberty High
  • The Messiah: While no one in the series is perfect, among all the major characters, the closest is Rickie. He goes to astonishing lengths to avoid hurting those he cares about; he's seldom deliberately unpleasant to anyone who is not picking on him or on someone he cares about; and, in marked contrast with the other characters, he's never angry about petty things -- only when worried or when feeling betrayed. As often as not, he's feeling worried or betrayed not on his own behalf but on behalf of someone he cares about.
  • Missing Mom:
    • Rayanne's mother Amber isn't literally missing, but she's not all there, either.
    • Possibly Rickie's mother.
    • As mentioned above at Disappeared Dad, Patty is adopted and has not met her biological parents.
  • Mistaken Message: Angela tries to cover up for a humiliating Love Letter Lunacy by pretending it's just a case of this.
  • Mood Swinger: Angela. Rayanne.
  • Mood Whiplash / Mood Dissonance
  • Narrator: Usually Angela. Brian in the episode "Life of Brian." Danielle in the fan-favorite "Weekend."
  • New Transfer Student: Delia Fisher.
  • Nice Jewish Boy: Brian.
  • No Periods, Period: In one episode, Patty thinks she may be pregnant.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: In the case of Jordan Catalano, it's difficult to know how much is acting cool, how much (if any) is actual stupidity, and how much is learning disorders. As is often the case, a lot of it is cyclical.
  • Oblivious to Love: Angela toward Brian, until the love note incident. Jordan Catalano toward Angela (at first). Brian toward Danielle, although it's not as if that had any chance of going anywhere anyway. Rickie toward Delia; same result as Brian/Danielle, different reason. Brian toward Delia, to crushing extremes.
  • Official Couple: Angela and Jordan.
  • One Scene, Two Monologues
  • Only One Name: Tino, who is also The Ghost.
  • Pettanko: Angela. One of many things driving her nuts in the episode "The Zit" -- not least because her ex-best-friend Sharon was just voted "best hooters" in the sophomore class. (Sharon's not pleased with the situation either.)
  • Playing Cyrano: Brian.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: A few. Most notably Rickie. Rayanne. Danielle at times.
  • Sarcasm Mode: Everyone's favorite mode. Even Brian, although, dork that he is, he often gets confused at the sarcasm of others.
  • School Play: Our Town; drawn out over more than one episode. Subverted by Executive Meddling, as the show was cancelled before the play's performance.
  • Selective Obliviousness: Absolutely everyone. Most likely Truth in Television.
  • Shallow Love Interest: Corey, to Rickie.
  • A Simple Plan: Subverted. (See Hilarity Ensues, above.)
  • Slice of Life
  • The Smart Guy: The series has no shortage of intelligent and almost painfully articulate characters, but Brian seems to be the one to beat. Evidently he takes after his parents, but they're nearly ghost characters.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Likely how Angela views Brian in her less patient moments. That is, when she's not being utterly oblivious.
    • Although this seems to change dramatically in the last scene of the last episode, when Brian accidentally confesses to Angela that he's Playing Cyrano behind "Jordan's" beautiful love letter to her.
  • Stepford Smiler: As mentioned in the DVD Commentary, the episode "Other People's Mothers" provides us with three generations (and three different versions) of this -- first and foremost, Angela's mother Patty; second, Patty's (adopted) mother Vivian; third, Angela herself, who is just beginning to shift into this mode, although it's hardly her default setting -- yet.
  • Story Arcs: A few for Angela and her friends, a few for her parents, with some crisscrossing.
  • Straight Gay:
  • Supreme Chef: Graham, Angela's father. Starts out as a quirky-sad backstory detail but evolves into a major Story Arc.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial (combined with You Just Told Me): In the heat of an argument with Angela, Brian indirectly and very much inadvertently confesses to his role Playing Cyrano in a Love Letter Lunacy. As is typical of the series, it's at least as much a Tear Jerker moment as a comic one. In fact, the ensuing scene is the only time in the entire series Angela looks at Brian with true tenderness for longer than a second or two -- and one of the few times in the series she looks at anyone with so much tenderness. And of course it's the very end of the series. Damn Sand in My Eyes.
  • Teen Drama: Both a Deconstruction and a classic in the genre.
  • Teen Genius: Brian is an unusually plausible example: not brilliant to an outrageous degree or in a cliched way, but he's definitely very book-smart -- the valedictorian next door, so to speak. With most of his teachers, Brian's able to parrot back whatever answer they want to hear; he's already taking calculus although he's only a sophomore; and (perhaps least plausibly) he got a perfect score on his PSATs -- or at least Sharon seems to think so.
    • In a later episode, Brian says he's studying for his PSATs, which suggests that Sharon was incorrect.
      • He also tells Delia that he has a "triple minor", though that may have been his dorky try at impressing her.
  • Timeshifted Actor: Kaley Cuoco plays "Young Angela" (around age seven) in a flashback at the beginning of the episode "Father Figures."
    • A few episodes later, in "Strangers In the House," we see another Young Angela with a Young Sharon. (They're about ten.)
  • Token Mini-Moe: Danielle was not intended as such, but, alas, Rule 34.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Nicky Driscoll, who didn't. Live. Less "dumb" per se than "reckless" and "self-destructive."
  • Tragic Dream:
    • Angela's father Graham seems to have one about becoming a chef. May not be so tragic after all.
    • The show presents much of life this way, and growing up as learning to recognize this. Truth in Television.
    • That likely includes Brian's love for Angela.
  • Troubled but Cute: Jordan Catalano.
  • Truth in Television: Hailed by many as the most blisteringly honest depiction of high school television has yet produced.
  • Tsundere:
    • Angela, although less in her romantic relationship(s) than in her friendships.
    • Possibly Brian, but he's far more of a Kuudere.
    • Sharon Cherski.
  • TV Genius: Averted. Although Brian got a perfect score on his PSATs -- or at least Sharon seems to think so -- otherwise he seems like a perfectly plausible smartest-kid-in-school type.
    • In a later episode, Brian says he's studying for his PSATs, which suggests that Sharon was incorrect.
  • TV Teen
  • Two Lines, No Waiting
  • Two Scenes, One Dialogue: For example, in the episode "Strangers in the House."
  • The Unfavorite:
  • Unintentional Period Piece: Thanks to the ungodly amount of flannel worn.
  • Unlucky Childhood Friend: Brian.
  • Unreliable Narrator:
    • The narrator (in most episodes, Angela) is seldom willfully deceptive -- just selectively oblivious.
    • Sometimes played for nearly simultaneous humor and pathos, as when Angela, feeling self-conscious about all the guys staring at her, narrates about how easy high school life is for guys ... only for the camera to pan to Brian being bullied by his classmates.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Plenty. But the central UST is between Angela and Jordan Catalano. Not surprising it's unresolved, as she's only fifteen.
    • According to Word of God, there's also plenty of Unresolved Sexual Tension between Angela and Brian. Angela rejects Brian (at least for now) in part because she and Brian know each other too well, and are too similar, with too much history -- and he's therefore a threat. By contrast, Jordan Catalano is a mystery and not much of an intellectual challenge -- and thus, on some level, he's less threatening as a teen crush. See also Word of God / What Could Have Been, below.
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist:
  • Verbal Tic: Not unusual expressions, but rather exaggerations, by the show's creators, of common speech disfluencies and fillers. Perhaps the two most ubiquitous examples are the interjection "like" and the phrasal suffix "or something," which are sprinkled liberally into the dialogue of nearly all the teenage characters, seemingly as a way to let them to have poetic or philosophical musings without, like, coming across as pretentious. Or something.
    • Both the teenage characters and the adults frequently say "Hi," (or "Hey," or other variations,) even when they are not actually greeting each other. It's used in this show more or less the same way as it had been used in the television series Thirtysomething (by some of the same creators / producers): as a way for characters to attempt to affirm or to reestablish intimacy (or sometimes just a pretense of intimacy) in the midst of a conversation.
  • Very Special Episode: "So-Called Angels." The one with Juliana Hatfield as the magic homeless angel.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: How some (including Brian and later possibly Angela) see "Vic Racine".
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy:
  • Wham! Line: Patty's conversation with the homeless girl in "So-Called Angels" is going fairly normally until she suddenly realizes what's going on and asks "How did you die?"
  • Wild Teen Party: Several. But not as wild as you might expect from a Teen Drama.
  • Word of God regarding What Could Have Been: So what's up with Angela and Brian? According to creator / producer Winnie Holzman, Angela and Brian have a very deep connection. But they are too similar to each other, too familiar with one another, and too combative for Angela's comfort. Brian represents those very aspects of Angela's life, and of herself, that she's so desperately trying to run away from, especially at the beginning of the series. By contrast, Jordan Catalano is distant and mysterious and intellectually unchallenging -- everything Brian is not and can never be. This, even more than looks, is Jordan's fundamental source of the attraction for Angela, but also the reason any relationship between them is doomed. In much of the show, Brian comes across as a bit of a Stalker with a Crush. But if the series had continued, Winnie Holzman has said, Brian would have evolved into Angela's romantic confidant, her primary go-to guy for whenever she wanted to vent about Jordan Catalano. The relationship between Brian and Angela might or might not have ever crossed over into anything explicitly (mutually) romantic, but it would in many ways have been far deeper than anything possible in her Official Couple relationship with Jordan.
  • You Gotta Have Blue Hair: Or, in Angela's case, you gotta have red "crimson glow" hair. See also Color Coded for Your Convenience and Dyeing for Your Art, above.
  • You Just Told Me: Brian traps himself in one of these during a quarrel with Angela. See Suspiciously Specific Denial, above.
  • You Suck: A not-always-comic example.
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.