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5 Shows like Daria: High School Sucks

James Thomas itcherI think few people enjoyed high school, and those who say they did really good at blocking out bad memories. Everyone is awkward, no one wants to be there, and people keep telling you “these are the best years of your life”. TV shows like ‘Daria’ use a hefty dose of irony and a helping of teen angst to face down the false front that the world is sunny and fantastic. If you like shows that mock the world in a realistic and honest way, check out ‘Freaks and Geeks,’ ‘Unsupervised’, and ‘Clone High.’ ~ James Thomas

Welcome to Lawndale

Daria is a teenager smart enough to know that there is more to life than being cool, being a cheerleader, or being able to memorize facts for standardized tests. She lives in the town of Lawndale, a cookie­-cutter American town built around a mall, high school football, and a suburban nightmare.

While the people in the town smile and wonder how they got so lucky to live in the “best” place on earth Daria comments on just how pointless their lives are in comparison to the reality everyone seems desperate to avoid.


Shows Similar to ‘Daria’…

‘Freaks and Geeks’ (NBC, 1999­-2000)

This show is not animated, but it has the smart and snarky tone of TV shows like ‘Daria’ and a reputation for birthing the careers of the hottest actors in TV and film. ‘Freaks and Geeks’ is perfect for fans of offbeat; high school comedy and kids too nerdy to notice they are cool in their own right.

It’s the story of two charming, awkward siblings, Lindsay and Sam Weir who are both dumped into William McKinley High School a den of cliques, scum, and the most desperately bored teens in all of Detroit. The good part of Detroit, not the shooty part. To make the ennui a bit more bearable, the siblings find friends amongst two distinct groups with Lindsay picking the slacker–pothead freaks and Sam selecting the awkward and amiable geeks.

Similarity Match: 95%
If the show ‘Daria’ had a cooler little brother with more friends it would be ‘Freaks and Geeks’ both shows deal with teen angst, but unlike ‘Daria’, this show deals with finding your place in a world you can’t stand.

‘Unsupervised’ (FX, 2012)

If you want a show that is as weird as ‘Bevis and Butt­Head’ with as much snark and heart as shows like ‘Daria’, then ‘Unsupervised’ is perfect for you. This show centers on two less evil (yet just as dumb) versions of Beavis and Butthead, named Gary and Joel. At the weird age of 14 these two boys raise themselves as they navigate their way through their first year of high school on nothing but cockeyed optimism and a terrible sense of rhythm.

Gary’s father apparently went out for cigarettes and found another family, having not been seen for a massive chunk of the boy’s life, leaving him in the cannabis wreaking hands of his stepmother. Then there is the hyperactive Joel with parents who are so old I think they fart dust from the 40’s.

Similarity Match: 90%
This show reaches back into the origins of ‘Daria’ when she was just a bit player in the lives of two sociopaths, by creating two boys who are strange, but nice if you can get past the smell.

‘Clone High’ (MTV, 2002-­2003)

As one part mad scientist sci-fi nightmare and one part teen drama, ‘Clone High’ elevates what the animated high school drama could be by couching it in a big bundle of weirdness. Set in the infamous Clone High, a front for the work of the mad doctor contracted, by the military, to clone the greatest minds and personalities the world has ever known.

The main character is named Abe and is the clone of Abraham Lincoln, and consequently a brainy, tall and awkward kid who keeps trying to free the clones of MLK and Malcolm X from nothing… so far. His friend is Gandhi, who has an over active sex drive and sudden painful bouts of enlightenment.

His main adversary is the massive douchebag clone of John F. Kennedy who is dating Abe’s crush Cleo (AKA Cleopatra), and pining after Abe is the noble clone of Joan of Arc (it’s funny because it rhymes).

Similarity Match: 90%
‘Clone High’ deals with some of the same sort of awkwardness as series similar to ‘Daria’ but it takes a strange sci-fi turn that is appealing.


If You Like ‘Daria’, You Will Like…

The next two shows are oddball animated stories set in worlds that are close to our own. Regarding tone they are very much like ‘Daria’. However, one is a science fiction psychodrama, and the other is a spy thriller.

‘The Head’ (MTV, 1994-­1996)

When ‘Daria’ was released, it was at the beginning of the weird animation age on MTV. Before ‘Daria’ there was ‘Liquid Television’ which gave us the strange brilliance that is ‘The Head’, the story of an adventurer/alien hunter with a cranium the size of Kansas and more neurosis and social anxiety than a house full of mathletes.

Jim “The Head” is our hero, who goes to a trade school and has a purple alien named Roy taking up residence near his frontal lobe. Roy has a strange and almost sinister sense of humor, and mission to save the world from Gork. Gork is a megalomaniacal alien looking to take over the world. Together with his girlfriend, Jim and a group of “human anomalies” help Roy stop the impending alien invasion.

‘The Head’ comes from the same off­-beat animation incubator as ‘Daria’, and it has the same sort of subversive sense of humor.

‘Archer’ (FX, 2010­)

‘Archer’ is an animated show that is built around the same smart and often self­referential comedy you see in TV series like ‘Daria’. Set in a freelance intelligence agency made up of awkward, deadly, and self-­important spies.

Headed by the murderously vain spymaster Mallory Archer, who is to motherhood what a praying mantis is to relationship counseling, ISIS has a long list of bodies, failed, and nominally successful missions under their belts thanks to the work of Sterling Mallory Archer. As the boss’ son, he is literally getting away with murder, working as a top assassin, along with being a functional alcohol and prolific man whore.

The only truly competent spy in ISIS is Lana Kane, a master martial artist with a bit of an inferiority complex and twin tech nines who happens to be Sterling ex–girlfriend. The other members of the ISIS team include a sex attic, a pyromaniac, an insane billionaire and a clone of Hitler whose first name is “Doctor”.

Have a look at this article if you want to watch some great TV shows like ‘Archer’.

‘Archer’ brings the same sort of biting satire to the world of James Bond that ‘Daria’ does to high school but with lots more murder.


Jaded Fun

‘Daria’ looks at high school and life with brutal honesty and still manages to be fun.

What else do you think would benefit from satire?

Let me know in the comments down below.

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