Daria: The Complete Animated Series (Paramount) – Though she began life as a foil for Beavis and Butthead, Daria Morgendorffer soon spun-off into her own animated MTV series and staked out her own unique identity. Unlike the giggling morons that became short-lived pop culture icons, Daria is a smart and sardonic girl whose dry wit comes out in a running commentary on the stifling conformity of her culture. Think of her as a teenage Janeane Garofalo stuck in a Twilight Zone of vapid, stupid high school students, where her deadpan sarcasm falls on deaf ears, except for Jane, her bohemian best friend and partner in sarcasm. While it never reached the popularity of Beavis and Butthead, it’s a smarter, sharper show, an actual satire of high school culture with characters who actually evolve, even the disaffected Daria, who seriously damages her friendship with Jane when she “steals” Jane’s boyfriend. The strains of betrayal and broken trust can be felt long after they have supposedly put it behind them.
The series debuts on DVD in revised form. As the show’s creator Glenn Eichler confesses up front, most of the original music was replaced due to licensing costs (which is what kept it off DVD for so long). Fan may balk, but it’s the trade-off to that finally makes it available: all five seasons of the show. The 8 discs, collected in a double-wide case with hinged trays, include all 65 original episodes plus the two made-for-TV Daria movies: Is it Fall Yet? (2000), which finds them flailing through summer vacation, and Is It College Yet? (2002), which finally brought Daria and friends to graduation. Also features the pilot “Sealed With a Kick,” Daria Day intros, Top Ten Video Countdown hosted by Daria and Jane and cast and crew interview among the supplements.
Raising the Bar: The Complete Second Season (Lionsgate) – Steven Bochco’s made-for-TNT legal series ends its rather brief run this season, which is too bad but not really a surprise. Set in the world of professional young defense attorneys and prosecutors who go head-to-head in the courtrooms and then swap war stories over drinks in the evenings, it managed a good balance of idealism, ambition and competitiveness in the legal world, but for all its attempts at controversy it never really broke out of the pack and branded itself with a distinctive identity. After The Practice and Boston Legal, not to mention his own L.A. Law and decades of legal dramas before and after, there isn’t much new ground for Bochco to break. Mark-Paul Gosselaar anchors the show as the passionate public defender whose advocacy borders on self-righteousness but it was the mix of motivations that made it interesting. And I am sorry that it ended before we got a chance to witness the potential blowback from the legal compromises pulled by Jane Kaczmarek’s ambitious judge in the final episodes. 15 episodes of the second and final season on four discs in a standard case with hinged trays, plus deleted scenes.
thirtysomething: The Complete Third Season (Shout! Factory) – Patricia Wettig won her first Emmy Award (for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series) in the third season of the paradigm-shifting TV series of the eighties, as her character battled cancer and helped repair her failing marriage with Elliot (Tim Busfield). That’s along with the births, reconnections and passages into new levels of responsibility, and a great season-ending struggle over control of the ad agency, a bit of corporate espionage that doesn’t play out in ways that Michael (Ken Olin) or Elliot expect. It just shows once again that David Clennon really is the show’s secret weapon. But the rest of the cast is pretty good too: Mel Harris, Polly Draper, Peter Horton and Melanie Mayron. 24 episodes on six discs in a box set of thinpak cases, with an introduction by Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz and commentary on seven episodes by members of the cast and creative staff.
Also new this week: Larry McMurtry’s Streets Of Laredo (Vivendi) and Larry McMurtry’s Dead Man’s Walk (Vivendi), the sequel and prequel (respectively) to Lonesome Dove, are back on DVD from Vivendi, the ABC Family mini-series Fallen (Image), the Spike TV series Deadliest Warrior: Season One and the new animated feature Kung Fu Magoo (Classic Media).
For more DVD releases, see my picks for the week at my blog and my DVD column at MSN.