"My So-Called Life" goes on.
In a highly unusual move that may help the struggling ABC series get a second lease on life, MTV on April 10 will start airing repeat episodes of the teen drama while ABC officials continue to ponder its future. The 19 episodes, which represent this season's run on ABC, will air weekdays at 7 p.m. through May 7.
The series never attracted a large viewership when it aired this season on Thursdays at 8 p.m., but it was a favorite with critics and had a loyal fan base that consistently lobbied ABC to stay with the show even as it struggled in the ratings.
Although the drama has been off the air since Jan. 26, ABC Entertainment President Ted Harbert said the network continues to view "My So-Called Life" as a contender for next season. He said he supports the agreement between MTV and ABC Productions, which produces the series.
But network executives stopped short of committing to renewing the show if it performs well on MTV. They will announce their fall lineup in May.
Jointly owned cable networks have been known to show each other's programming on occasion to help attract new viewers--Nickelodeon's cartoon series "Ren & Stimpy" had a run on MTV, for example, since both outlets are owned by Viacom--but this is believed to be the first time one of the broadcast networks has tried the tactic. The difference is that ABC is supplying its programming to a rival and allowing MTV to show the repeat episodes before it does.
But those short-term negatives would be far outweighed if the show turned into a long-term hit. "Our agreement with MTV is a unique opportunity for 'My So-Called Life' to attract new fans and gain valuable new exposure," said Brandon Stoddard, president of ABC Productions.
Ed Zwick, one of the executive producers of the series, said he was pleased with the plan: "It sounds like a good idea. I think this is an experiment not only for us, but for MTV. Much will be revealed in the weeks to come. Certainly we hope it will keep the show alive in the public's imagination. I'm convinced that a number of people didn't see the show."
He added, however, that he was concerned about the time slot. "Not a lot of adults saw us at 8 p.m., and less may see us at 7 p.m." But at 7 p.m. it won't compete with ABC's prime-time programming, which begins at 8.
The show stars Claire Danes as a bright, sensitive and sometimes troubled 15-year-old, Angela Chase, who lives in a Pittsburgh suburb with her parents and younger sister. Angela is undergoing the pains of adolescence--first loves, troubled friendships, fights and good times with girlfriends.
Joe Davola, senior vice president of original programming and development for MTV, said the arrangement came about after a conversation he had with Marshall Herskovitz, another of the show's executive producers. "I told him I liked the show and would like to put it on MTV," he said, which led to discussions with Stoddard and Harbert.
" 'My So-Called Life' speaks dramatically to our audience," Davola said. "It's a true portrayal of teens today. We always bring to our audiences the coolest things--music, movies, personalities. We thought we should bring them the coolest show. Hopefully we can expose it. If it helps (keep it alive), that would be great."
ABC executives said that MTV's airing of the episodes will not keep the network from showing the repeats this summer.