What My So-Called Life, Skins, and Freaks and Geeks have in common is that they are all the dark side of being a teen. Unlike a show like Gossip Girl that mainly focuses on the elite or being part of the elite and or popular crowd, These three shows are about the outcasts and the kids who could care less about being popular. These shows also have another thing in common: They are all shows that don’t end on a happy note. MSCL and F&G are two shows that were really trying to mirror true life and what it is to be a teen in two time periods. in My So-Called Life, creator Winnie Holtzman went to a high school for a week to get notes to create her characters, while in a case like Freaks and Geeks, most of the stories came from actual anecdotes from creator Paul Feig and other crew members. However, they both show in detail what it really is to be the alternative teen, or the freak.
What Freaks and Geeks does in the opening of its pilot is show what this show is not. It starts off with a football player and a cheerleader having an over-dramatic conversation about their relationship which is what we would expect from almost every teen show. However, almost right away it takes us under the bleachers where we meet our freaks, and soon enough our geeks and bullies. The show so brilliantly deconstructs everything we expect from a teen drama and turns it on its head. Unlike its other episodes, the pilot ends on a happy/silly note while all of the others end badly, similar to My So-Called Life. In the end of the episode “Life of Brian” All of the characters end up at the dance but the show ends on a down note because no one gets who they want. Angela obviously does not see Brian in the same way as she sees him, Jordan doesn’t stay with Angela, and the guy Ricky liked seems to dig Rayanne not him. Skins is another show that also doesn’t always end on the sunnier side of things. While we see Cassie about to take a bite out of the cheeseburger we are not sure if she has really overcome her anorexia. Although, Skins lives in a very different world than F&G and MSCL.
Skins is in an almost magical realism show. Everything is heightend and we get some unreal moments that would never actually happen in real life, or moments of pure fantasy, like the text messages Cassie thinks she is getting. Unlike the other two, Skins has been a success, most likely because of its heightened realism. When people watch a TV show, they want to usually escape from the world they are in. This is a reason why a show like Dawson’s Creek succeeded vs. MSCL. DC is has a similar premise in the sense that Dawson and his pals are all the underdogs, but they are also in a heightened reality where at the end of the day the “anti-prom” is a success and even the most damaged character can find love and happiness. While both Freaks and Geeks and My So-Called life are both brilliant and critical darlings in their own right, I personally think that they are actually mismarketed and should be for an older crowd who can look back on high school and laugh. for many teens, they will just hit way to close to home.