Third season roundup time.
It was certainly an improvement over season two, but I don't think
it quite lived up to season one. The quality was all over the place,
from excellent ("Lane Miserables" and "Jane's Addition") to atrocious
("Depth Takes a Holiday") with pretty much every point in-between.
Still, on the whole there were more good than not, and we did see
some interesting character developments this year.
The big one, aside from Daria, is Jane, as we get a couple episodes
that focus heavily on her and her family, as well as another couple
that use her fairly heavily. Of course, I can't talk about Jane without
mentioning Tom, but it's harder to make an in-season judgment there
knowing how fourth season turns out. Still, Jane acts very impetuously
several times this season, from taking over the school dance to going
out with a guy she just met. She's also shown the incredible focus
she can put on a subject ("Two days, no sleep"). For most things this
will help her, but she's going to need to do some multitasking to
handle two relationships, especially with someone like Daria.
Quinn and the Fashion Club are mostly unchanged, although Tiffany
seems to be going through a personal wormhole or something. Quinn
and Sandi's undeclared war is pretty much the same as it was, although
Quinn is slowly gaining ground. Tiffany is a willing follower, but
Stacy seems to have occasional flashes of individuality, though they
are soon crushed.
Jake's finally had his first heart attack, which briefly, very briefly,
gave Helen some renewed interest in him. Jake probably isn't as stupid
and clueless as he makes out to be, but on the surface he's still
as childish and vague as ever. His heart attack doesn't seem to have
much, if any, lasting impact on him or the rest of the family. He
and Trent seem to be getting along, however.
Helen hasn't really changed much, although her interfering busybody
aspect has come to the front once or twice. She's more in touch with
her kids, but not nearly as much as she was at the end of second season,
which is slightly odd as they haven't changed all that much. We do
see her taking out some of her mothering desires on Trent; perhaps
she's not as focused on her career as she seems, or as she was. She
might be developing more of a desire to be Mom rather than Attorney
now that it's almost too late to do it with her own family.
Trent's band seems to be getting along well finally. He's had a number
of paying gigs, a commercial jingle, and some important audition.
He had a brief fling with digital music, and it remains to be seen
if this will effect his music over the long-term. Speaking of the
band, I'm starting to get the impression that they've been loosely
based on The Electric Mayhem. Jesse and Zoot are just too similar,
and Max certainly shares some Animal qualities. We just need Trent
to start talking like Dr. Tooth...
Most of the other characters remain themselves. Kevin and Brittany
are in real danger of forming the ignorance equivalent of a black
hole. If not for the influence of their coaches, there's little doubt
they'd still be stuck in junior high... at best. The teachers haven't
really changed, although we did find out about Mr. DeMartino's gambling
problem. Andrea is still the perennial background character, but Charles
gets some pretty good screen time. He just needs to get over his hormones
and he could be an interesting guy. Jodie and Mack are as underused
as ever, and most of their lines could have been delivered by anyone.
The big exception is Jodie's advice to Brittany in "Daria Dance Party,"
which is about the only actual look at her character we get this season.
Which leaves Tom and Daria. We've only seen him for a little of one
episode so far, so there's not that much to go on, but he does seem
to be a nice addition. His car is quite like Trent's, down to color
and falling-apartness, which is perhaps meant to be some foreshadowing.
He seems bright, has a sense of humor, and can handle quite a bit
of abuse, giving us the first definitely good male character, and
ending one of my biggest complaints with the show. Males will certainly
be bashed from now on, but having one good guy in a show like this
is enough to change the tone.
Daria's been getting increasingly close to Jane, over all the seasons.
Her comment to Jane about being seen in enough humiliating situations
was a good highlight of this. Jane's also the one Daria first goes
to with any problem, although since her only other real choice is
her mother, that's not at all surprising. Daria actually seems to
have spent most of the season simply enduring. She didn't do much
of her old turn-the-tables tricks, and nothing to the extent she did
during season one. She seems incredibly sick of Lawndale, and if not
for her going out with Jane to Mystik Spiral gigs or for pizza I don't
think she'd be going out at all. High-school seems to be wearing her
down, and if her multimedia project is any indication she can't wait
to get out to college. A question that's been brought up but not really
answered is what she plans to do after college. We can go back to
"Write Where it Hurts" and see that she'd like to be a columnist,
but looking at this season she doesn't really show any future plans.
If she was really interested in being a columnist, you'd think she'd
have gone after some sort of newspaper job (not delivery, of course),
perhaps as part of a mentorship or apprenticeship program. If Lawndale's
got an interpretive dance team, they've probably got those too. If
nothing else, she could do proofreading (and have been quickly fired
for being too free with the red pencil; showing up a pampered star
Of course, much of her noteworthy behavior happened during "Jane's
Addition". Her friendship with Jane means a lot to her. From all indications,
it's the single most important thing in her life right now. She interacts
with Jane much more than even her family, she really doesn't like
high school, and she doesn't seem that fond of Lawndale in general.
Her writing has been largely downplayed, most likely because it simply
doesn't make for easy TV scenes, but really hasn't been mentioned
enough to make it the major focus of her life. (Her reading, on the
other hand, is constantly referenced directly and indirectly. Reading
is a lot more of a passive pursuit than either writing and painting,
however, and Daria has been taking a more passive/reactive role in
the episodes, so this has likely been done on purpose.) This all makes
her reaction to Jane hooking up with Tom a lot more understandable,
especially if we add that she doesn't seem to have had a major, close
friendship like this one before.
Let's take a look at the first scene in the pizza place in "Jane's
Addition." Jane had left in the middle of a night out with Daria,
going with a guy she had literally just met. For the next two weeks
she and Daria spend almost no time together outside of school, until
finally Tom has other plans. Then, in the middle of her first real
night with her friend for the last couple weeks, Tom shows up when
he isn't supposed to. And then Jane invites him to join them... This
has got to be really painful for Daria, and I don't really think Jane
realizes for most of the episode just what this means to Daria. Jane
inviting Daria to join her and Tom at the end is about as close to
a peace offering as she gets this episode, but that's obviously not
the end of the argument.
This season runs into the same problem season two did; too few episodes
written by the core writers (Glenn Eichler and Ann Bernstein). Simply
dropping the Sam and Chris duo would help quality a lot, but I don't
really expect it to happen.
What I'd like to see from next season, apart from the Daria-Jane-Tom
relationship, is some work on the other characters. Jodie would top
the list, but really any of the lesser characters or running subplots
(like the Fashion Club) fight could use some real development. This
show definitely has promise, and is a large step above most US cartoons
for the most part, but it also isn't living up to that promise very
often. Some more quality control on the scripts, more work directly
from Glenn and Ann, and this show could easily become the best thing
on US television.