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Featured TV on DVD Review: Daria: The Complete Series

May 8th, 2010

Daria: The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon

The late 1990s was a weird time for MTV. It was about this time when they started phasing out music videos (yes, MTV used to play music videos) but it was before they transitioned to soul-crushing Reality TV. Daria came out during what is arguably the best time for MTV's original programming. It was a spin-off of Beavis and Butt-head. Liquid Television had just ended in its numerous spin-offs like The Head, The Maxx, and AEon Flux and they were still fresh in the minds of most people. Daria was one of the last such shows to air, but was it the network's last dance with quality TV, or was it a portent of what was to come?

First a note: halfway through the first episode I assumed I wasn't going to need to watch this DVD to review it. I'm a huge fan of the show and right from the start I remembered nearly everything about it. I don't mean that I remembered the characters, I mean I remembered specific lines. I remember Jane Lane talking about pink taffeta in the first episode. I don't know what taffeta is. I had to look up the spelling for taffeta, but I remembered that line. So there's little need to rewatch a show that I've seen this often. I did notice that some of the voices were different in the early episodes compared to what I remember them being, but that's because there were actually different voice actors for the first season for a number of key roles.

Daria tells the story of Daria Morgendorffer, a sarcastic misanthrope whose family just moved to a new town, Lawndale. She begins going to Lawndale High School. The show is essentially evenly split between three worlds: Family, Friends, and School. Her family consists of her parents, Helen and Jake, and her younger sister, Quinn. Helen is a powerful attorney who constantly puts her work above her family, while Jake is a "consultant" who handles stress poorly, which is trouble because he is also easily stressed. While her parents worry that Daria won't fit in, Quinn is the polar opposite: energetic and popular and incredibly vain. She immediately becomes part of the most popular clique, the Fashion Club, and has three boys throwing themselves at her, collectively known as the Three Js. On the other hand, Daria is sent to self-esteem class, but at least there she meets Jane Lane, the second most sarcastic student at Lawndale High and her new best friend for the next five years. Daria's other friends include... ummmm...

She does interact with a wide number of fellow students, including the stereotypical stupid jock and dumb blonde (Kevin and Brittany). There's Charles "Upchuck" Ruttheimer III, who is just creepy. One of the few students that "get" her is Jodie Landon, who is also one of the few African-American students at the school. She is also the most driven and is trying to live up to her father's achievements. While also at school she interacts with many teachers from the overly sensitive Mr. O'Neill to the overly psychotic Mr. DeMartino to the bitter divorcee Ms. Barch. During the five-year run of the show, she does have a boyfriend for a couple, Tom Sloane, who actually started out as Jane's boyfriend. Awkward.

Most situations seen in the show will be very familiar to those in high school, or those that still remember high school, but they are a little more exaggerated. Exaggerated enough to be funny, but not so much so that it becomes cartoonish. Yes, ironically, a cartoon is a lot more realistic depiction of high school life than a lot of live action shows aimed at roughly the same demographic.

Extras on the 8-disc set all appear on the eighth disc and start with the two TV movies: Is it Fall Yet? and Is it College Yet?. There are character profiles for nearly a dozen characters. The two-sentence descriptions are not that interesting, but the 30-second slideshow of the various character designs are. There is a 5-minute animated pilot for Daria, Sealed With a Kick. Next up is a music video by Mystic Spiral for "Freakin Friends". (There's also a .pdf of the pilot script on the DVD-Rom.) The Daria and Jane Top Ten Countdown is six minutes of bumpers from the Top Ten Animated music videos. They don't actually show the videos (no surprise because that would cost too much) and they don't even say what the number one video is. I assume it was Sledgehammer, because that's the only video to win 9 MTV Music Video Awards. Finally, there are six-minutes of interviews by the cast and creators. We actually get to see what Daria Morgendorffer looks like in real life.

There are also Daria Day Intros on select episodes, but they are a pain to find.

An important note: the music has been changed. Yeah, I know, that sucks. However, I feel I should make two additional notes. Firstly, I understand why they did this, because if they didn't, the DVD would cost several hundred dollars. Maybe more. Secondly, it doesn't really matter, because the show is much better than the music. You don't need to hear the original music to enjoy the show; in fact, hearing the late 1990s to early 2000s music might date the show, while now it has aged very well.

The Verdict

La, la, laa, la, la,
La, la, laa, la, la.

Daria is one of those shows that I've been waiting to get on DVD for as long as there has been a TV on DVD market. It has been a few years since I've seen the show, but it is just as good as I remember. The 8-disc Complete Series release is absolutely worth picking up and has just enough extras to lift it to a Pick of the Week contender.

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