Friday, May 14, 2010

Children of the 90s' Top 10 Highly Recommended Daria Episodes

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In honor of this week's long-awaited Daria DVD release, Children of the 90s is counting down 10 favorite Daria episodes. While we're not licensed to officially prescribe you anything, we can highly recommend that you spend the requisite time emerged in fully focused Daria viewership. Really, you won't regret it. If nothing else, it will remind you of a time when MTV was so much more than just The Hills and World's Strictest Parents. Oh, the memories.

Daria fans have been calling for the release of all five seasons on DVDs for years, so it's with great pleasure that devoted Daria-heads embrace the 8-disc full series DVD release from MTV/Paramount. Truthfully, all of the episodes are worth watching; Daria gave us some the wittiest, cleverest, smartest humor ever seen on MTV to date. That's not exactly the top litmus test for intelligent, TV, of course; Date my Mom doesn't exactly register in the same tier.

Something must be right in the world. My digital cable's MTV on Demand is even offering the Daria! Musical as a free promotional feature. Verizon Fios must have known I needed some background inspiration on the big screen to write to. Oh, glorious day! The stars have aligned at last. For those of us with a penchant for sarcastic humor, we can now freely celebrate our 90s quipping idol without violating important copyright laws. Well, except for the clips I've posted here. To be fair, I didn't post them and I totally recommend you buy the series for your own collection.

When you do, here are ten of my favorites to check out. I'm obviously leaving out a horde of great material, so share your own favorites in the comments section. If you don't have any favorites, you've got a lot of make-up work to do. Let's get started:

The Invitation

Even in the second episode of the first season, the Daria writers were well on their way to establishing complex and well-fleshed out adolescent characters. They aptly captured the high school social hierarchy with a tongue-in-cheek commentary on its de facto caste system. Popular cheerleader Brittany invites outcast Daria to her weekend soiree, which Daria takes as a prime opportunity to humiliate social cliber younger sister Quinn. We also get a good look at Quinn's ubiquitous suitors, Jamie, Jeffie, and Joey, whom she tries to date simultaneously.

Quinn the Brain

As Daria muses, "Only Quinn could turn having brains into a fad." After Mr. O'Neill reads Quinn's "Academic Imprisonment" aloud in class and publishes it in the school paper, Quinn adopts a pseudo-intellectual persona whose main features are a black turtleneck and a beret. She also writes stellar poems like, "The greasy fry/it does not lie/the truth is written/on your thigh." Brilliant.


To fulfill their English class assignment of creating a short film, Daria and Jane settle on the perfect subject: Quinn. They set out to capture her vapidness and superficiality and capture some pretty solid material. Quinn tries to stage the whole thing to make herself look better, but when she asks Daria, "Don't you want to shoot me?" The only appropriate response is, "Yes. I want to shoot you." A guilt trip from mom Helen turns the whole project from an expose into a soft focus ode. Quinn emerges from the whole ordeal more popular than before, but we do get to see a softer side of Daria.


Daria's Trent-induced anxiety at a Mystik Spiral gig leads to a mysterious rash that lands in her the hospital. Between her mystery illness, an attractive young doctor, and Brittany's desperate attempts to cover up the fact that she too was at that gig incognito as an alternative chick, this episode is pure gold.

Arts n' Crass

Trust Daria and Jane to turn a benign district-wide arts contest into a social commentary on the skewed values of teen society. To fit the contest theme of "Student Life at the Dawn of the New Millennium," Jane draws a beautiful girl gazing into the mirror. Daria adds the wittily dark poem, "She knows she's a winner. She couldn't be thinner. Now she goes to the bathroom and vomits up dinner." Not exactly Pulitzer-worthy, but it does make a statement. The girls fight the school's censorship of their work and embark on an undercover mission to save their poster. Awesomeness ensues.


What if the town blew away? It's a legitimate question. As Jane says, "Being a post-apocalyptic town will be cool. Other towns will be scared of us." Sounds like a pretty good deal.

This musical episode is chock full of earworms, so watch with caution. You'll be singing along all day, particularly with gems like "God God Dammit" and "They Must be Worried." You've been warned.


What can I say? I'm a sucker for the sappy stuff. I have a soft spots for episodes where Daria and Quinn work as a team. Daria finally gets her driver's license, but she doesn't have much of a chance to enjoy it; Jane and the guys from Mystik Spiral land in jail on traffic charges and need Daria to come bail them out. Quinn's not one to miss out on an adventure, sweeping Daria into her schemes. "Face it, Daria," she says. "You're already accessorizing." Daria asks, dumbfounded, "Do you mean I'm an accessory?" How can you not love the banter between these two? It's just so on.

The Lost Girls

This episode is just pure brilliant commentary on the skewed and underhanded tactics adults use to market alleged youth culture at young girls. Mr. O'Neill enters Daria's essay in a contest for teen magazine Val. Daria lands the prize in the "Win a Day with Val" contest, meaning a self-obsessed name-dropping celebrity hanger-on dressed ten years too young for her true age shadows Daria around at school for the day. In the ever-wise words of Val, things get "jiggy" and "edgy" pretty quickly. Whatever that means.

Write Where it Hurts

Like I said, I go for the sappy stuff. This episode is sharp and funny and places our favorite characters in unfamiliar literary situations as pawns in Daria's story writing attempts, but it also ultimately heartwarming. After many failed tries at writing something good, Daria settles for writing something honest, giving us a peek into the Morgendorfer's future. Daria's parents are astoundingly relaxed, Daria's a famous journalist with an intellectual husband, and Qunn is hilariously a homemaker and mother to several small children. It's touching and sweet, without too much schmaltz.

Boxing Daria

Possibly the darkest episode of the series, "Boxing Daria" gets to the heart of some of Daria's more serious emotional issues. It's the last regular episode of the series before the final TV movie Is it College Yet? In "Boxing Daria," Daria is forced to come to terms with her different-ness and social isolation, recalling a fight her parents had when she was young that culminated in her hiding in a giant refrigerator box to avoid dealing with the situation. The reappearance of a large box in her house coupled with her anxiety about her impending graduation unleashes a Pandora's Box of emotions, culminating in one of the most honest and heartbreaking series conclusions.


coulrophobic agnostic said...

Boxing Daria and Arts n Crass are two of my three favorite episodes - and come to thnk of it, I think Monster would be in my number four slot - but you left out the one I consider the best. It's intelligent, funny, heartwarming and really contains a lot of character development for a half-hour cartoon. The episode in question: Lucky Strike. Daria is Quinn's substitute teacher! Can't not love that.

// krissy ♥ said...

Ohmyglee I LOVE Daria!! Thank you for this post! :)

Molly said...

I got so excited when I saw this in my feed reader. I love Daria. But I was sad to see that The Daria Hunter wasn't on your list.

Children of the 90s said...

The problem with Daria--well, it's not really a problem, it's positive--is that it such a well-crafted series it's hard to pick favorites. I am also a fan of Lucky Strike and the Daria hunter...Daria as a substitute teacher and an X-Files takeoff? Brilliant. Truthfully, the only episode I'm not so crazy about is Depth Takes a Holiday, but even that has its fair share of one-liners.

What I don't understand is why digital cable chose "The Misery Chick" as one of its two teaser Daria eps to promote the MTV DVD release. It's not a bad episode, but I wouldn't say it's the best first ep to watch if you're not familiar with the series. Daria! the musical, on the other hand, I can understand using as a teaser ep. It's pretty awesome.

.:Mandy:. said...

LOVE this. Is it bad that I can still quote it?

...or is it just really awesome.

Melanie's Randomness said...

I <3'd Daria back in the day. It was the female Beavis & Butthead! I quote it when I can & I still sing the theme song. I always wanted to do the volleyball hand thing too in shcool! LOL!! Her sister drove me nuts tho!! hehe.

Crystal said...

I was always quite fond of the episode in which Daria gets upset that Tom doesn't remember their anniversary. Despite all her sarcasm and cynicism she still has to deal with the fact that she still cares about such things...even if in her own way.

I'm picking this up today on DVD because it's payday!

LadyJ3000 said...

My all time favorite Daria episode was Road Worriers. I was totally rooting for a Daria/Trent pairing.

I am so glad this show is out on DVD.

Heather Taylor said...

I think Arts 'n Crass will always be my favorite episode of Daria. I love how her mother sticks up for her on the phone.
Classic line from "Quinn the Brain"- "Excuse me, did a mime die in here?"
This post made my day :)

Jewels Diva® said...

I quite liked this show when I saw it here in Australia, but I won't be getting the dvd set.

Miss Kitty Boo said...

ahh... Daria :) this show is one of the greatest cartoons to hit my DVD collection. I am thinking of going as Daria for halloween this year! (PS. yes I am thinkin about October in May lol)

Hope Chella said...

I love Daria! Such a great show :)

Anonymous said...

I love this show. But I HATED the Boxing Daria episode. What happened to the girl who said "I don't have low self-esteem. I have low esteem for everyone else."

*That's* the Daria I fell in love with. The unapologetic inconoclast who saw through all the bullshit of conformity and socialization.

She didn't need a touchy-feely psychoanalytical episode to explain why she was the way she was. Like she was defective and had to be fixed. It felt like the showrunners lost sight of what made the character so great and started apologizing for her behavior and trying to make her less anti-social. Meh.

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