On the 20th anniversary of the cult classic My So Called Life, the show's creator talks about what could have been
If it weren’t for Winnie Holzman, pop culture might be a very different place. Claire Danes might not have been discovered; gay teenagers might not have made it onto TV; we may never have known the glory of Jared Leto’s incredible long flowing hair.
It all originated with the beloved hourlong drama My So-Called Life, which aired for a painfully brief single season back in 1994 and has picked up troves of fans in the 20 years since it aired.
While we’ll never know if Angela gave Brian Krakow a chance, we do have the scoop on which way the show would have gone. Holzman, who says she created the show because she wanted to be honest about what teenage life is, spoke with TIME about Angela’s future and if the show could have been saved in a social media era.
TIME: Did you know My So-Called Life would stay relevant to audiences for this long?
Winnie Holzman: It’s very easy to say to yourself, well, how am I going to be relevant? How am I going to connect to people? Rather than focus on that, I tried to focus on the idea that if you’re being honest and you’re being authentic about your own experience, then you have a real opportunity to connect with others. The show had a life of its own and a destiny of its own, which was so rewarding because when we were making the show, we could feel that it had a power. When it was canceled so early and then had this thing of coming back and having this life, that’s something that you don’t see every day. That’s something that’s very precious.
Your daughter, Savannah Dooley, has been very open about what the show means to her. How did that happen?
At first, the show was my place of work, and she would come and get to know the actors and play hide-and-seek on set. There was a beautiful transition where she did discover the show. What’s interesting is that she’s a lesbian, and I think it was very meaningful that even before she completely understood that she was gay, she knew I had created this gay character — this beautiful kind of coincidence.
Are you still in touch with the cast?
I’m still friends with Claire, which is one of the most treasured relationships in my life. She means a great deal to me as a person, and we’re so close in so many ways.
What would have happened to the characters if the show hadn’t been canceled?
There were thoughts I had, and I would have done some version of them. I wanted somebody to get pregnant — that probably would have been Sharon. I was also picturing something that had to do with Patti becoming depressed over the ending of her marriage. I was picturing Angela stepping into a leadership role where she really had to become almost the designated adult. So again, it’s all so theoretical and it remains that. Claire and I joke that she would have gone and become an agent in the CIA!
Do you think the show could have been saved if social media were around when it was canceled?
The Internet had been invented, like, 5 minutes before the show aired. At the time there was a huge push. I don’t know that it really would have made any difference, because it was the network and their needs and how they viewed the show.
What are you watching now?
Well, I really love Orange Is the New Black. I know Jenji [Kohan] a little bit as a colleague, and I think that the show is incredible. It’s a show that I fiercely admire.
My So-Called Life is available to stream on Hulu.