It’s hard to imagine that a Beavis And Butt-Head spin-off would yield one of TV’s most complex teen heroines, but that’s precisely what MTV delivered with Daria. The bespectacled teen made her first appearance as a wry observer to the moronic shenanigans of that titular duo, but creator Mike Judge had no involvement in the development of the series. Instead, MTV tapped his Beavis And Butt-Head staffers Glenn Eichler and Susie Lewis as executive producers, who produced this unaired pilot.
Although it was just a rough draft, that animated short introduced the whole Morgendorffer clan as well as some of the popular kids who would make life difficult and/or amusing for our protagonist. It also featured Daria’s best friend, Jane Lane, a laid-back artist with a killer angled bob and an older brother whom Daria would crush on for years. But there was no mention of the Burger World employees, a tradition that the series would maintain over its five-year run, though the premiere did reference the Morgendorffers’ hometown of Highland.
Daria got a fresh start with the series premiere on March 3, 1997, which saw the lead character and her sister, Quinn, on their first day in a new high school. Quinn is accepted, even beckoned, on sight, while Daria keeps her distance. That aversion turns out to be mutual, as most of her fellow students don’t know what to make of the girl who seems to have sprung from a Cake song. Daria was clever and outspoken and not very interested in most of the usual high-school activities. Things weren’t much better among the faculty, who were clueless or bitter, and led by a corrupt administrator.
The acerbic teen preferred to quip from a vantage point with Jane, but she usually found herself roped into interacting with her classmates and teachers, who let her down most of the time. She wasn’t the only one who was being judged—the jocks, cheerleaders, nerds, and educators were all held up to Daria’s exacting standards, and usually found wanting. The illusion that the character is a misanthrope persists to this day, but while Daria was certainly principled and even downright judgmental, she was also invested in her life in Lawndale. She found her soul mate in Jane, a boyfriend in Tom (who was also Jane’s ex-boyfriend), and, over time, a confidante in her sister. And though she couldn’t be bothered to care about a homecoming game or dance, she did have real goals for her life. Daria was never in any danger of becoming a Pollyanna, obviously, but the best episodes saw her briefly letting down her defenses and getting involved in what was going on around her. When she failed to wriggle out of a family gathering or a school paintball outing, she found not only fodder for insults but also another reason to not give up on humanity just yet.http://www.avclub.com/article/10-episod ... amn-242155