DARIAOriginal medium: TV animation
Seen on: MTV
First appeared: 1993
Creators: Glenn Eichler and Susie Lewis Lynn
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When the Parent Action Groups, which controlled animated television throughout the 1970s and '80s, mandating shows like Care Bears and The Get Along Gang, lost much of their influence in the '90s, there was naturally a reaction to their message of sweetness and cooperation. Beetlejuice responded with gross-out
humor. Ren & Stimpy had that, plus over-the-top violent action. Beavis & Butthead had nihilistic misbehavior. And when the latter became a hit on MTV, it spawned Daria, which showed a similar nihilistic attitude, but toned down on the stupidity and antisocial action.
Daria Morgendorffer started in 1993 as one of the boys' occasionally-seen classmates, whose sarcasm mixed with high intelligence formed a counterpart to the protagonists' dimwitted juvenile rebellion. She delivered her sarcastic lines in a dull monotone that the adults in her life tended to interpret as a symptom of low self-esteem. But as she explained in the first episode of her own show (which appeared on MTV on March 3, 1997), that wasn't her problem. Actually, she had low esteem for everyone else.
As with most TV shows spun off from established shows, the first thing was to change her surroundings, so the presence of the former stars couldn't overshadow her. In fact, no Beavis & Butthead characters ever appeared in Daria, with the exception of Daria herself. The series began with her family's move to Lawndale, a typical American suburb of indeterminate location, and her enrollment in Lawndale High School. She was 16 years old at the time, but unlike most cartoon characters (for example, Timmy in Fairly OddParents has been on the air about as long as he is old; and Bart in The Simpsons, who is the same age as Timmy, more than twice that), aged as the series progressed.
The Beavis & Butthead show was winding down when Daria started — in fact, some critics were saying it had become a self-parody, tho it had parody aspects at the very beginning. But new production on it did cease that same year. Before it ended, MTV approached story editor Glenn Eichler, hoping for something to replace it. Eichler (whose other animation credits include VVH1's Hey Joel, Nickelodeon's Rugrats and MTV's The Maxx) brought in staffer Susie Lewis Lynn as co-creator of the new series.
Daria's voice was supplied by Tracy Grandstaff, who is mostly known for this one role. Daria's best friend, the equally sarcastic and similarly bright Jane Lane, was Wendy Hoopes. who was also heard on Teletoon's The Wrong Coast. Tom Sloane, the boyfriend Daria and Jane clashed over, was Russell Hankin, another who lacked other voice credits. Daria's mother, Helen, and father, Jake, were voiced by Hoopes and Julián Rebolledo (Pokémon), respectively. This cast played the same parts in two TV movies, Is It Fall Yet (2000) and Is It College Yet? (2002); and two video games, Daria's Sick, Sad Life (1999) and Daria's Inferno (2000).
As a growing, aging character, Daria went through the usual stages of development undergone by an American high school student, even while serving as a cynical observer on suburban life. Daria was an outsider to the typical teenage obsession with fashions and other elements of pop culture, but a full participant in the growing-up process. She had the usual self-doubts, crushes on boys, academic and personal development, etc. She ended up graduating high school at age 18.
Daria had five seasons on MTV, of 13 episodes each. She ended her original broadcast career with the feature-length Is It College Yet? After her series ended in 2002, it was re-run on Noggin, a Nickelodeon-like cable TV station for children, but with some of the stronger lines excised. That ended in 2006, and the show is currently dormant.