Showing posts with label MTV. Show all posts
Showing posts with label MTV. Show all posts

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.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Celebrity Deathmatch

If you were ever looking for a show that was simultaneously enticing and repugnant, here it is. Parents hated this show, meaning as kids it was our antagonistic duty to like it regardless of its nausea-inducing violence. It could be sharp and witty, yes, but more often that sharpness led to puncture wounds. Very, very bloody ones.

In the days before MTV poured their limited resources into the Guidoful Jersey Shore, they had a few satirical animated shows in their lineup. Amongst these shows, Celebrity Deathmatch was undoubtedly the sickest and most twisted. The 90s were a pioneering time for adult-targeted cartoons. In a time before animated program blocks like Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, it was still a relatively novel concept to develop an animated program that was at best completely unsuitable for children.

Of course, Celebrity Deathmatch was not just animated. It was claymated, which has been scientifically proven to be the most nightmare-causing form of animation. Granted, this conclusive analysis is from my own research as a sleepless eight year old scared silly by a Gumby cartoon, but I stand behind my contention. Claymation is inherently disturbing, second only to Tim Burton-style stop-motion animation. It just leaves you with a bad aftertaste.

The show poked fun at both individual celebrities and the ridiculousness of professional wrestling, all in a convenient 30-minute format. As the name clearly states, the program showcased satirical fight-to-the-death matches between popular celebrities. Each episode usually featured three separate deathmatches, most of which culminated in the gruesome, bloody death of one of the participants. What, that doesn't sound like a comedy to you?

Whenever I saw the show as a kid I always had a distinct uneasy feeling that this was something I was not supposed to be watching. It was excessively violent, used crude humor, and was generally unsettling. It was certainly not meant for child audiences, as it usually aired in the later evening lineup. There were, however, occasional daytime repeats that led to my unending pondering of such deep questions as "Who would win in a fight for their life? Britney Spears or Christina Aguilera?" The question haunts me to this day. I don't think I ever caught the ending.

A short version of the show premiered in the late 90s on MTV's Cartoon Sushi, featuring a deathmatch between Marilyn Manson and Charles Manson. The concept was revived for the 1998 MTV Super Bowl Halftime show, featuring pressing real-life questions such as "Who is a more annoying band--Hanson or Spice Girls?"

Hanson vs. The Spice Girls. - kewego
The brothers Hanson take on The Spice Girls for the title of "Most annoying band in the world!", also featuring Marylin Manson.

In this warped reality, a deranged Marilyn Manson (is there any other kind?) cut the light rigging off the ceiling and wiped out both bands in one fell swoop. Tragedy or triumph? The quality of your music taste decides.

Following their Super Bowl appearance, Celebrity Deathmatch was soon picked up as a full series. The first full episode premiered in May of 1998 featuring the following 3 shorts:

Hilary Clinton vs. Monica Lewinsky

clinton_vs_lewinsky - MyVideo

It seems MTV used to be into topical political humor as opposed to simply scripting the dating of moms. This was a cheap and easy shot, of course, but it does get bonus points for referencing the Gennifer Flowers scandal as well.

Jim Carrey vs. Mariah Carey

I assume these two were judged fit opponents on the basis of their shared surname alone. As you can judge from the above video, the voices weren't always spot on but the show managed to capture the stars' most irritating mannerisms and tics. In the case of Jim Carrey, it didn't take much to expose these irritating mannerisms. The talking-through-the-butt gag is pretty straightforward. In a surprise twist, however, Mariah high-notes Jim to death. Didn't see that one coming.

Jerry Seinfeld vs. Tim Allen

Our premiere ended with a clash of the sitcom titans, pitting Jerry Seinfeld against Tim Allen. Neither of them shows an especially impressive command of deathmatch prowess, so the rest of the Seinfeld gang swoops in to finish the job. On Jerry, that is. Canceling the show obviously really got to these clay facsimiles of his costars.

The show was moderated by fictitious announcers Johnny Gomez and Nick Diamond, whose deadpan commentary almost made these ridiculous scenarios seem plausible. You know, if they weren't claymation. Mills Lane reprised his real-life role as boxing referee in the show, shouting his signature "Let's Get it On!" at the outset of each show. Creator Eric Fogel and team worked to make the play-by-plays as realistic as possible, save for actual subject matter. Shows contained a pregame show, postgame shows, interviews, and even press conferences.

It's certainly not a show to be taken seriously, though I imagine many parent watchdog groups were quick to voice their discontent. The brutal, consequence-free violence wasn't exactly appropriate for young viewers, but then again neither is alleged "real life" professional wrestling. True, it probably hurts less to beam someone with a folding chair than a blowtorch, but the premise wasn't all that difference. At least in this version, we know it's fake. I don't know how figured it out, but the clay mation tipped me off.

By the way, if you were wondering who won in the Britney vs. Christina showdown, you're in luck. Here's your chance to find out. Spoiler alert: it was inconclusive. They got pretty tangled up there in the Ponytail of Death.

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