"Daria’s Sick, Sad World"
MTV has, in its most recent years, become a sham and a mockery to its glory days. Once upon a time, MTV stood for something: music. Now, MTV is home to Snooki and Silent Library. It’s no longer about the music. But it wasn’t always like this.
When MTV first debuted, it was all about the music. It was all about finally getting to see our favorite performers find a new medium to present their art. In short: it was the most awesome time in television. We saw the birth of the Moon Man, the death of the radio star, and video jockeys. But as it happens with all good things, MTV changed. They claim they “grew up” and changed with the times. In actuality, they started to suck at life.
But before this “sucking at life” phase happened, before the Tila Tequila’s and Real World drama of “who can get who pregnant and who can end up in jail” (it’s no longer about peanut butter!), there was a time when MTV wasn’t only about music. It was a time when the programming was nicely balanced with music and creative programming (you know, actual TV shows… not shit infected with Carson “The Tool” Daly).
Somewhere in the late 1990s, MTV finally produced a television program that could hold my attention for its charming storytelling, its satirical elements towards pop culture and the lifestyle of the high school student, and for its complete depravity towards the human species. No, it wasn’t Beavis and Butthead. However, oddly enough, it was the spin-off of those two Cornholio idiots. That show was Daria.
Initially designed by Glenn Eichler and Susie Lewis Lynn, Daria was introduced to America to be the foil to the slackers that imposed slacker, bodily-function sound loving, rock-adoring Beavis and Butthead. Daria Morgendorffer came onto television screens as a smart, entirely-too-clever-for-her-own-good, highly misanthropic teenager who was enduring the trials and tribulations of high school.
Lasting several years, the show had an ensemble cast that resembled every aspect of the real-world. There were the crazy parents, endearing friends, the overachiever, the underachiever, the QB, the cheerleader, the sex-fiend, teachers and administration that act as a dime a dozen, amongst many others that satire our own lives. But not just satirizing life, it directs its attention to pop culture and the infamous chapter of our lives that belongs to high school. In short: this show was amazing.
"This show was amazing and ahead of its times. If you disagree – you are probably 13 and never ever heard of this show."
For several years, audiences watched Daria move to the smallest, most gullible, and most certainly fictional town in the United States: Lawndale. Daria came with her two parents, Jake (a consistent favorite of mine, as Jakey-boy always blames his deadbeat dad and the mean boys at school/boot camp for his failures) and Helen (her high-profile lawyer of a mother who loves her job more than her family… even though she doesn’t realize it always), and her younger sister Quinn (who claims that Daria is is not her sister, but just some random girl who lives in the same house… or is the maid... or is the foreign exchange student… or you know, whatever). Daria and Quinn attend the infamous Lawndale High, and then the rest of the cast ensemble comes into play. There’s Jane Lane (Daria’s BFFL), Trent Lane (Daria’s quasi-love interest), Ms. Li (the fascist principal), Kevin and Brittany (the star QB and head cheerleader), the Fashion Club (a quartet of freshman hell-bent on plucking eyebrows), and several teachers that range from passive aggressive, aggressive-aggressive, feminazi, or downright hippie.
"Class photo! SMILE DAMNIT!"
Even with the ensemble cast, there was one other thing that made this show entirely too delicious to not watch. Every single episode offered a consistent promise: the Morgendorffer’s eating lasagna, Daria pissing someone off, pop culture references, and commercial interludes for a certain TV show: “Sick Sad World.”
In this show, we only ever saw the commercial to “entice” the viewer to watch. The commercial would say something truly sick and sad, and it’s no wonder why the show would be a classic favorite of Daria. How could you not love a voice saying to you: “It’s 911 in the morning and 1-900 in the evening. The phone sex/EMS dispatcher when Sick, Sad World returns.” Or: “Are microbes having sex in your drinking water? H-2-aooh! Next! On Sick, Sad World.” Or: “Would you moan my name… if I boinked you in heaven? Ghost hookers in the sky, tonight on Sick, Sad World.”
Those are all real. I’m not that clever. But if you laughed, or even smiled just once at the absurdity of it – you must make a point to watch this show.
But as life is (also known as: “how everything I like gets cancelled or dies”), Daria Morgendorffer’s reign as MTV’s smartest geek-chick ended early in 2002. But as the world spirals closer and closer to 2012 and Clint Eastwood’s impending destruction of the world, people cut us breaks. Smart people who want to make a lot of money. People that I would gladly give my money to with a note that says “hey, you are pretty cool.” This past May, an entire box set of the television series and two movies were compiled and sold. As expected, I jumped with glee and purchased the collection without any hesitation.
Since then, I have spent countless of hours sitting and watching one of my favorite program’s from my teenage years. The show, while a bit dated with the pop culture references, was still delightful. It was refreshingly honest about the decline of intelligence in America. It showcased the underdog of high school who wanted to do only one thing: survive as quietly as possible. It was still just as funny, maybe even more so because the jokes made more sense with my advanced age (side note: I’m only 26, but that’s like a million in teenage years! Plus, I still remember when they played music videos on MTV… that alone makes me certifiably old).
It’s without little hesitation, and much enthusiasm that I remind you that MTV didn’t just roll over and die. MTV didn’t just bring forth a world of Tila Tequila’s and Snooki’s. They, once upon a time, had quality programming that was smart and quirky. A show that can be best summarized with one of the best quotes from the entire series (one in which if it doesn’t make sense – you must go out, buy the DVD set, watch all the episodes, then come back and laugh at this joke): “If you were to get impaled on a float or sexually harassed by a clown, things could get ugly.”
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