Archived Ramblings



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 writer, say).
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.


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