Ladyghosts of TV Past: Daria, 1×04, “Café Disaffecto”

“Maybe we’ll start Hamlet today. That has a skull in it.”

This episode focuses on one of those relics of computers past: the Internet café. The opening scene shows the storefront of alt.lawndale.com (aw, remember when things started with “alt?”) being robbed.

alt.lawndale.com storefront

The scene cuts to Lawndale High, where Kevin is trying to convince Mac to join him in trying to skip English class and go to the weight room, because he’s sick of Shakespeare, who is “a total chick writer.” Daria approaches and she and Mac separately come to the same conclusion about why Kevin should like the Bard: because Hamlet has a skull in it.

In English class, Mr. O’Neill is (predictably) trying to get everyone to talk about their feelings in regard to the cyber café break-in. After Kevin says something predictably bone-headed, Jodi mentions that it serves a specific portion of the community, which the teacher jumps all over. He launches into a whole speech about the café connecting people to the global community, which Daria scoffs at, saying that while people are plugged in, they are ignoring everyone around them. O’Neill interprets this as a call to go back to the coffeehouses of yore, and promises to make Daria’s dreams a reality.

You mean the one where people walking down the street burst into flames?

Back at the Morgendorffer household, Daria and Jake are reading the paper at the table as Helen and Quinn breeze in saying they won’t be at dinner because of meetings (work and Fashion Club, respectively). When Helen’s meeting is canceled, she uses the opportunity to try and get Daria to join more extracurricular activities to look good on college applications. She needs to join something, or else go to music camp.

Segue to Daria volunteering for the café project. When Mr. O’Neill inquires about her change of heart, she asks if he’s ever been forced to practice “Pop Goes the Weasel” on the flute ever day for a year.

Um, no… but I once had to recite the Gettysburg Address wearing a rainbow wig and panties that said “Tuesday.” Whatever made me want to join a fraternity.

He suggests she read an essay about being a big misfit that no one likes, but Daria doesn’t think that’s a good idea, since it compares the sophomore class to barnyard animals and names names. She offers to do some fundraising and volunteers Jane to help, who only agrees because she will get to see inside people’s houses and take Poloroids of their terrible taste.

Kevin and Brittany at Mr. DeMartino's house.

Going door-to-door we see Kevin and Brittany, who end up getting lectured at Mr. DeMartino’s house, Quinn, who flirts with a guy to sell phone cards, and Daria and Jane, who refuse to sell chocolate to a hypoglycemic woman.

This is actually one of my least favorite scenes of the entire series. There had to be a way to write in Mrs. Johannsen’s scene, including her hypoglycemia and fainting, without turning it into a lengthy fat joke. The way she was out of breath when she came to the door, how she offered them extra money per candy bar, how Jane later jokes that she ate her family — that was all gross and unnecessary. For a show that spends most of its run making really thoughtful, insightful comedy, this scene is a huge disappointment.

Based off of this situation, however, Daria and Jane are being reprimanded because the woman complained they wouldn’t sell her chocolate. In order to still get credit for participating, Daria reluctantly agrees to read something she’s written at the opening. Hanging out with Jane, she realizes she’ll have to write something new.

Kevin and Brittany do a scene from Romeo and Juliet, sort of.
“Wherefore art thou, Romeo?” “I’m right here, babe.”

At the opening, we see some typical ’90s coffeehouse shenanigans: a mediocre musician, angsty poetry, Kevin and Brittany fighting. Daria closes the event with a story she’s written about Melody Powers, who, from what we hear, is in the business of killing communists. The story gets a rousing reaction.

Daria's story gets an enthusiastic response.

At breakfast the next day, we learn via Jake that the café has been closed because the event became an anti-Communist rally. The episode close with the new café being robbed of its cappuccino machine.

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[E] Liza

PhD student. Knitter. Brooklynite. Long-distance dog mom. Reluctant cat lady. Majestic unicorn whose hair changes color with the wind.

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