It’s about time. The blisteringly acerbic MTV comedy Daria has been rescued from DVD limbo and released in an eight-disc set that includes all five seasons and both TV movies. Even the notoriously nonchalant Daria might be able to get at least a little excited about that.
Daria ran from 1997-2002 on MTV, and though its origins can be found within MTV’s Beavis and Butt-head, its humor strikes an altogether different chord. Exceedingly literate and sharp-witted, Daria contains some of the most on-point sitcom writing ever, and there’s even a charm to its anti-dynamic animation. This is the kind of show that’s worlds away from the bottom-feeding drivel that passes for programming on MTV these days — can you imagine what Daria would say about The Hills?
Daria tells the story of smart, sarcastic, and thoroughly unpopular high-schooler Daria Morgendorffer (Tracy Grandstaff), who moves with her family to soul-crushing suburbia in Lawndale. Daria’s younger sister Quinn (Wendy Hoopes) finds her place immediately within the social framework of Lawndale High, but Daria is content to remain an outsider. She finds a common soul however in Jane Lane (Hoopes), an aspiring artist who almost approaches Daria’s level of misanthropy.
Anyone who feels constantly surrounded by the clueless or idiotic will revel in Daria’s uninhibited perspective on the world. It’s to the show’s credit though that it doesn’t simply develop targets for Daria’s derision — her befuddled parents Helen and Jake (Hoopes and Julián Rebolledo), dimwit cheerleader and jock Brittany and Kevin (Janie Mertz, Marc Thompson), and a whole host of overbearing teachers offer plenty of fodder for Daria’s caustic remarks, but are all developed in interesting ways as the series progresses.
The show also deftly advances Daria’s character — opening her up emotionally without resorting to destroying her essence. Daria effectively explores relationships between friends, siblings, parents, children, and significant others in meaningful ways without resorting to “very special episode” schmaltz. Of course, the satire cannon never fully powers down, with pointed shots at commercialism, the education system, and the media (the recurring Sick Sad World promos are brilliant lunacy) always around the next corner.