We don't watch a lot of television in my family, but last fall we started watching "My So-Called Life" on ABC and have been faithful viewers ever since.

Now, however, the show is headed into "hiatus," the limbo where networks put terrific shows with low ratings while executives decide whether to cancel the thing or stay with it and build an audience. Normally I would not be paying much attention to a commercial decision by a network, but "My So-Called Life" is not a normal show, and its survival ought to be more than a commercial decision.

The series is about a 15-year-old girl named Angela Chase, her parents and her friends who attend the kind of large public high school most of our teenagers attend. It's tough, and it's realistic. As the mother of teenagers -- including a 15-year-old daughter -- I know it's an opportunity to find out what is going on in their lives and to talk with them about it. For teenagers who are struggling with the continuing identity crisis that defines adolescence, it's a show that gives them the most comforting message there is: You are not alone. Series creator Winnie Holzman, who has a 9-year-old daughter, says it is about a search for identity among its different characters. She wanted to do a series that would "show we are closer than we thought to each other, rather than parents living in their own world. The parents' world would not be so far from the teenagers' world: The basic questions we have throughout our lives are those about who we are, what is our purpose here and what does it mean to be somebody's friend -- to care about somebody."

And we don't always answer them well or with grace. She thinks part of what makes the show so gripping is that the audience is forced to meet real people and not stereotypes. "It's important that Angela make mistakes, that she's allowed not to be a nice person. I believe in the kind of storytelling where people aren't always flawless, where people grow and stumble."

Just like in our so-called real life. Holzman has done something else that too often adults fail to do with our teenagers: give them dignity and take them seriously. She understands that the cultural forces at work today probably make it harder to get through adolescence than ever before. "In my own small way, I wanted to just say, 'You know, we're over here and we're not making fun of you.' My commitment was to show the characters in as rounded a way as possible. I thought that would be entertaining ... because it would be about these intricately explored relationships."

The result has been an intense and passionate response to the series. "I get a lot of incredible mail," says Holzman, "about mothers and daughters who watch the show together, and it's brought up wonderful moments between them." By October, the show had become a topic of lively discussion on the Internet. Among those participating was Steve Joyner, a 27-year-old author based in San Francisco who has mounted a campaign to save the series using the Internet, newsletters, faxes, T-shirts and anything else he can think of to publicize the show and raise its ratings. He says he's received more than 8,000 e-mail messages in the course of "Operation Life Support," which he's turned over to ABC. (The address: save mscl@aol.com).

"We're letting people know that the show they love is in jeopardy," Joyner says. "They had no idea. They pull out all the adjectives when they hear that." He says he's gotten scores of letters from single-parent families who watch the show and then talk about it. "It is a platform for talking about some very touchy issues." He's also received a number of letters and faxes (415-292-4111) from teachers who say they use the show to start classroom discussions on ethics, morality and responsible living. "I think it's a public service," says Joyner.

The Ms. Foundation, which sponsors Take Our Daughters to Work Day, has become involved in efforts to save the show, and Viewers for Quality Television, which has extended the life of several series, has just launched a campaign to save it and have it moved to a later time slot. "It is not an 8 o'clock show," says VQT founder Dorothy Swanson. "It's too deep, too substantive. People aren't ready.

"It's not very often we say, 'This show has to be on the air.' But there's enough going for 'My So-Called Life' that you can truly call grass roots. It must be touching a lot of people."

Indeed it has. There are two more episodes scheduled to be aired on the next two Thursday nights.

I know that my family will be watching.

I hope yours will be too.