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Some random thoughts about DARIA on DVD

Last summer, after years and years and years of waiting, MTV finally released The State on DVD. Like many of us here at Scarecrow I grabbed one right out of the box, took it home and settled in for a sketch comedy/early 90s nostalgia marathon. This is the first thing that came up on Disc One:

And with that, I joined the millions of Daria fans in the countdown to Daria Day. For those not up on MTV animated series history, Daria began as a deadpan commentator on Beavis & Butthead's moronic exploits (her comments were usually met with a rousing chant of "Diarrhea, cha cha cha"). In 1997, almost a year after B & B ended, Daria reappeared with her own show that sent her to a new town and a new school. For five seasons she navigated the halls of Lawndale High and the quirks of her family with a refreshing intelligence and welcomed biting sarcasm. Since it ended in 2002, fans of the show have made do with the scarce VHS & DVD releases and the occasional re-run on fancy digital cable networks until last Tuesday, when the entire series and the two longer specials finally arrived together on DVD.

My Crow colleague Paige had to say about the wait: "Before I started working at Scarecrow and was just a customer, Daria was one of the first things I sought out (along with old Disney craziness and other tidbits from my childhood) and was upset when I found out most, if not all of it, was unavailable on DVD. Daria was my hero when I was 13 and now, as a 23 year old, she still is. I don't remember that much from the 90s, but I sure remember her."

Friend-of-the-store Monty Ashley has also been patiently waiting for Daria Day. Here's what he had to say on his blog, excerpted here with his kind permission:

It has been a long wait, but MTV's animated series Daria is finally on DVD. Due to some copywright disputes, it doesn't have much of the original music, but I'm not sure I care. I mean, it was mostly just generic '90s music to begin with, so it's fine with me if it's been replaced by generic imitations. I hope they kept the "Everybody Hurts" scene, and I'm pretty sure Cake's song "Daria" showed up over the end credits at one point. But we're not talking about WKRP here. The music just represented "music", it wasn't really a plot element. Watching it now, I'm pleased to report that I still like it as much as I used to. Lines like "Can't talk now. I'm chairing a meeting of the 'Resting Quietly' Club." continue to amuse me. I like me some deadpan snarking. Although my favorite character is Jane, not Daria. Slightly less Deadpan, slightly more Snark. Anyway, my point is that this show is awesome. And finally being on DVD (legitimate DVD, not the kind you find at that one booth hidden in the back at comic conventions) is also awesome.

You can read the rest of his review on his excellent blog, Mysterious Exhortations.

As Monty noted, the DVD release doesn't include much of the original music. There's a note from show creator Glenn Eichler tucked into the set that explains their choice to work around the hefty licensing fees to satisfy the fan's demand for a DVD release. Therefore, Monty didn't get his wish--"Everybody Hurts" is absent from the "Road Worrier" episode in which Jane, Jessie, Trent & Daria get stuck in traffic on their way to Alternapalooza.* The omission is made even more noticeable by the fact that Trent mentions the video as they stare out onto the road. But like Monty, the lack of original music isn't a deal breaker for me. Sure, it would be ideal to have the episodes exactly as they aired and hearing some of those sweet hits of the 90s would increase the nostalgia factor. But the essential satire and snark of the show is what's important, and that remains firmly intact. I'm already two discs in to the five seven disc collection and I must agree with Monty--the show has held up extremely well. I'd already packed up my Sassy magazines and was in college by the time Daria debuted, but I remember watching the early episodes and wishing I'd had the courage and smarts to be as cool as she was. The high school social structure is a pretty timeless construct of the popular, the not popular, those who care they aren't popular and those that don't. Daria and Jane provided a sardonic Statler and Waldorf-like commentary on all this that is universally true to the similarly minded regardless of when you went to high school. Though I was too old to be in Daria's target demographic even then, watching these shows now puts me right back into the green Doc Martens I stomped around in at 16. If only I'd had Daria's wisdom to guide me down that path.

I've also enjoyed rediscovering the show's colorful supporting cast, characters like Principal Li (who refers to Lawndale High with a breathy, awed tone one usually reserves for the discovery of buried treasure), Mr. O'Neill, the English teacher who's feel-good attitude inspires instant eye-rolling, and the obnoxious, borderline creepy but ultimately harmless Upchuck. I look forward to finishing up the series over the weekend and filing it next to Freaks & Geeks in the "Shows I can watch a thousand times and still enjoy" section of my DVD collection.**

I'll end this haphazard overview with another sentiment Paige shared with me: "And seriously, there are few hotter (in animated form) men than Trent."I agree, Paige. I agree. Scarecrow has Daria: The Complete Animated Series for rent in the New Release section and on sale for $47.95. *This is also one of the first essential episode for fans of the "Daria loves Trent" subplot. **The pile closest to the DVD player in my bedroom.

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