Title: My So-Called Life S1.E06 “The Substitute”
Released: 1994

Drinking Game Tally: 21 drinks, 1 shot, 2 chugs
‘90s Fashion Award: Not Applicable
My So-Called Winner: Jordan
My So-Called Loser: Principal Foster

Who’s ready for an awesome trek back into the 1990’s this morning? I thought so.

Welcome to another addition of My So-Called Life Lessons, in which we wonder over ’90’s fashion, music and the insights of one Angela Chase. We also simultaneously hate her mother and love her father. We adore her friends, and try to solve the life-long debate over who is the better choice: Jordan Catalano or Brian Krakow. So far, I have noticed that they each have one major strike against them:

  • Jordan is dumb as a post
  • Brian is kind of a stalker

So I will be tallying up dumb/stalker points each episode to see how our challengers fair!

And we play a drinking game. Let’s go!

What Happened

Angela wonders about the hidden lives of teachers, when such a one wanders in, attempting an American accent — but not quite succeeding — offering toothpicks to everyone. And it’s Roger Rees!!! Otherwise known as Nicholas Nickleby, or the Sheriff of Rottingham, from Robin Hood: Men In Tights! One of the greatest comedies of our time! Also, I find him incredibly appealing. Let’s just call him The Sheriff this episode, shall we? Good! The Sheriff gives the students the option of leaving, but when Jordan Catalano decides to take him up on it, he threatens to gossip about anyone who leaves once they’re gone. His strange charm quickly wins over the entire classroom, and before they all know it, it seems like they’re about to embark on a literary experience.

Patty and Graham unload groceries while discussing parent-type plans, including who will contact the English teacher about printing the students’ literature magazine.

Back at school, The Sheriff rips the students’ writing a new a-hole — picking on and also making Jordan Catalano feel smart (no small feat) and throws all of their work out the window.

Brian shows up at Angela’s house, having sifted through the trash to rescue the one piece of paper written by her (Stalker Point -1). Angela didn’t really like her poem, so Brian does not get the merit badge.

The Sheriff goes after Jordan Catalano again, trying to harass him into participating in class. Angela stays after class to confront the insensitivity of The Sheriff, but he dead-poet-society’s the shizz out of her mind. Next scene, Rayanne (and a bunch of other kids not originally in the class) have shown up for super-awesome lit class. The Sheriff tells all of the students that today, they will be starting over. He wants them to write about their anger, their angst, their feelings, and that it will all be anonymous, so they can really let their hair down. Soon, every kid in the whole school is attending the class and loving him and writing by candlelight. Except Brian, who sulks in a corner. Then comes the time for them to read what they wrote. Annonymously. More laughter and gooey feelings. Then Rickie (who was also NOT in this class originally) starts reading Angela’s. (We know it’s Angela’s writing by the extreme look of uncomfortability on her face and the pretentiously deep context). It speaks of a girl in a gingerbread house whose life was made of icing or something, and everything was fake, and the girl woke up one day and her world crumbled around her. The Sheriff loves it. Brian tries reading Rayanne’s dirty limerick, but gets too embarrassed, so The Sheriff takes over. Everybody’s impressed because it’s all sexual, and Rayanne stands up and pretty much takes credit for it. Angela tries to connect with The Sheriff after class, but he brushes her off to work with Jordan Catalano. We are beginning to understand that Jordan can’t read good, when Graham comes in to get the lit printing order, but The Sheriff brushes him off, saying how smart Jordan is (funny that this is the episode I would pick to start cataloging his dumbness) and how pissed off he is that Jordan can’t read!!! Hey The Sheriff, I’m just one step ahead of you right now! I feel so connected, I think maybe we should go out for dinner or make out.

Patty comes into the school, refusing to print Rayanne’s piece, and The Sheriff accuses her of censorship. And also of just being afraid it was Angela who wrote it. He dead-poet-society’s the shizz out of her mind, but refuses to tell her which piece Angela wrote.

Soon the lit mag is printed, and is making the rounds of the school, and everybody is reading it, and everybody is loving it, because it’s so real and raw and right there, man! Much to the principal’s dismay. He doesn’t much approve of the content. In the girl’s bathroom, some of the girls are ridiculing the dirty limerick, and we find out that it was ACTUALLY Sharon who wrote it this whole time! Not Rayanne at all! Rayanne is really impressed, and she and Sharon strike up a truce in which they will both let people keep thinking that Rayanne wrote it. Angela comes in with the news that principal dickwad has confiscated ALL the copies of the lit mag, refusing to distribute it.

Angela discusses the students’ legal rights at the dinner table, and her parents are concerned. She throws them being hippies in the ’70’s in their faces.

The next day, principal dickwad shows up in the class and threatens to suspend any student caught distributing the lit mag. Jordan Catalano sees The Sheriff exiting the building and the kids all rush to the window to air-fist bump him. Then Jordan Catalano blurts out that The Sheriff was the best teacher he ever had! So Angela and Rayanne and Rickie and Sharon run after him. Graham meets with principal dickwad and stands up for The Sheriff. Way to go, Graham! However, we find out that The Sheriff is wanted for DESERTING HIS FAMILY. And REFUSING TO PAY CHILD SUPPORT. Angela finds The Sheriff, and confronts him. He tells her everybody is running from something, and encourages her to drop out of high school. She decides maybe he’s not the perfect guy she thought, but lets him give her a ride home.

Brian sees her getting out of The Sheriff’s car, and pretty much asks her if she had sex with him. Angela thinks Brian is being creepy. (Stalker Point -2) Inside, over Girl Scout cookies (HOW could the Chase’s ignore Danielle during this episode, when she had GIRL SCOUT COOKIES!!!!!) They encourage Angela to choose her battles wisely.

The next new substitute is reading off Angela’s old poem, but Angela is NOT in class! OMG, she’s copying off the lit mag and distributing it in the school!!!! Then Brian offers to help, redeeming himself this episode. Graham and Patty have been called in. Angela tells them that she has chosen censorship as her battle to fight, and Graham and she have a sweet moment before facing the principal. Angela doesn’t defend herself at all to the principal, and he decides he won’t suspend her, but Angela is angered by his dismissal. She goes back to the piece she wrote for the class, realizing that she was, indeed, waking up.

Drinking Game Tally: 21 drinks, 1 shot, 2 chugs

’90’s Fashion Award

I was so swept up by the emotion in this episode, nobody’s outfit really stuck out! I’m sure we could give it to Rickie for something, or to The Sheriff, for his mis-matched socks!

Lessons I Learned About High School:

  • As a new teacher, all you need to do to impress a rowdy bunch of teens is act all quirky and pretend to want to listen to them. This inspires them. A lot.

  • You can show up to any class you want. It doesn’t matter if you’re taking it or not. Just show up.

My So-Called Winner

Jordan Catalano! He was dead-poet-society-d! It lit a spark in him, and now he wants to read good, too!

My So-Called Loser

Principal Dickwad! WHAT A DICKWAD. I will send laser cats to torment him while he sleeps.

Life Lessons Learned

  • Just because someone makes bad decisions in one part of their life doesn’t mean that they can’t still be inspiring.

  • As we learn the importance of compromise in our adult lives, we should never let it make us complacent and let go of the passion we felt at injustice in our youth, and never stop fighting for what we believe in.

  • Censorship sucks.

Jenny grew up on a steady diet of Piers Anthony, Isaac Asimov and Star Wars novels. She has now expanded her tastes to include television, movies, and YA fiction.