Most people use the phrase “the one that got away” to describe a long lost love from years ago. For me, the one that got away has always been Daria Morgendorffer. From 1997 to 2002, Daria — a Beavis and Butt-Head spin-off series about decadence of 90s teen culture and the few, the proud, who quietly and apathetically defied it — entered the homes of MTV fans nationwide. The show gathered somewhat of a cult following before disappearing altogether, save for some censored syndication on The N. Due to music licensing issues, which I’ll get to after the jump, a DVD release of the series has been postponed time and again for the better part of a decade. Today, finally, the complete series of Daria has been released on DVD, and having plowed through the eight discs myself, I can say fans have plenty to rejoice about and a little to bemoan as well. Follow the jump to see whether or not this box set deserves a place on your shelf.
The first thing worth noting is that this set is very complete. It includes all five seasons of the series, the two made-for-TV movies Is It Fall Yet? and Is It College Yet?, and a number of extras including a cast and crew interview featurette, the pilot “Sealed With a Kick” animatic, and the music video for Mystik Spiral’s “Freakin’ Friends” which premiered on MTV with the release of the first movie. It’s these touches that make this collection really remarkable. The set even includes a few weirder bonuses, like the “Daria Days” introductions to select episodes, selections from the time Daria and Jane hosted MTV’s Top Ten Animated Video Countdown (but not the videos themselves), and even the pilot script for a proposed-but-unproduced Mystik Spiral spin-off series. I’ll be honest, some of these latter features feel a little bizarre and out of context, but I certainly appreciate the thought.
However, there are a few things I don’t appreciate; first a small complaint, and second a big one. My first issue with the set is its packaging. In an effort to save money, the box set comes in a revolving, plastic carousel of cheap disc holders that not only seem prone to scratch one of the collection’s eight discs at any moment, but look and feel so tenuously held together that they could break at any moment. I understand the cost concerns here, but I, for one, would have been willing to pay just a little more for real packaging. As for the second complaint, I turn to series creator Glenn Eichler to explain:
“So let’s answer the big question right away: 99 percent of the music has been changed, because the cost of licensing the many music bites we used would have made it impossible to release the collection (and for many years did). So no, these aren’t the shows as aired, but more like one of those astronauts in a Twilight Zone episode who returns from space and his wife can’t figure out what’s changed about him, until it slowly dawns on her that instead of a cool song from 1997 playing when he walks in the room, it’s some tune she’s never heard. Yeah it’s just like that. To put it bluntly, replacing the music had to be done. Does that mean this box set is compromised? Season 1 Daria would have said, ‘Yes.’ Season 5 Daria would have said, ‘Shut up and pass the remote.’”
Honestly, it’s not exactly the same without the grungy, emotion-filled 90s rock, but it is still Daria. The show is just as funny, just as insightful, and just as relevant today as it was ten years ago. If you liked the show when it was on the air, buying the box set is a great way to bring Daria back into your life. If you didn’t watch the show when it was on the air, now’s a good chance to check it out, even if that just means renting it on Netflix. I know, for myself and for a number of friends who were fans back in the day, this set is an invaluable addition to the DVD collection, with or without recognizable music transitions.
Some of us are just happy to bring “the one that got away” back home.