Twenty (Nineteen) Questions with
Glenn Eichler

KW = Kara Wild
GE = You know who

KW: Does Jake have any siblings?

GE: I think he was supposed to have an older sister.

KW: What was Jake's father's real name, and was he ever in the army (a widespread a fandom myth)?

GE: I don't know his real name - you can make up your own. I believe he was supposed to have been in the military - he would have been a member of "The Greatest Generation," i.e. draftable during World War II, and they were ALL in the military.

KW: How many years did Jake spend at military school?

GE: Oh, let's say... sixth grade until he was cashiered in tenth grade for being "unsoldierly."

KW: Is Jake Jewish?

GE: No, he just has a Teutonic-sounding surname. We really didn't want to peg characters to specific religions on the show - we were trying to satirize American social behavior in general.

KW: What were the ages of Helen and her sisters in "I Don't" (when Daria was 16)?

GE: Helen's about 45-46, Amy's about 40, Rita's about 48-49.

KW: Mom Barksdale is alive, but what year did Dad Barksdale die?

GE: Dunno. I guess when Helen was about 30.

KW: Did Helen grow up wealthy (another fandom myth)?

GE: No.

KW: What does Amy do for a living?

GE: Magazine writer? How does that sound?

KW: Did Helen's family live in a Southern state, like Virginia? (Some have pointed out that "Barksdale" is a well-known Southern name, fueling speculation that Helen's family was descended from the famous Southern general, etc., etc., etc. Yes, we know they're cartoons.)

GE: I always thought of the Barksdales as coming from someplace like Virginia that is southern but also cosmopolitan, i.e. not "Deep South" like Alabama. There's no specific connection to General Barksdale. I thought the Morgendorffers lived in a mid-Atlantic suburb, outside somewhere like Baltimore. They could have lived in Pennsylvania near the Main Line, though.

KW: How many months apart in age are Daria and Quinn?

GE: I used to know this... I think they're about 14 months apart, putting them one school year apart. But I'm sure we cheated that whenever it was convenient.

KW: What year did Daria graduate? (While the movie was aired in January 2002, some believe she really graduated in 2000.)

GE: I don't really like to attach specific dates to events in this cartoon world - you need some elasticity to do any kind of TV series, animated or live action. If I assign specific dates to events, the only purpose it serves is to get people upset about "violating canon," and I'm not sure what good that does anyone.

KW: Are there any "lost" episodes that never made it to air? Meaning episodes that sounded like really great ideas that you may have started to to develop, but ultimately wound up junking them because they didn't fit the season story arc, or whatnot?

GE: No, the schedule and budget didn't allow us that luxury. Once we committed to an episode idea, that was it.

KW: Your favorite and least favorite episodes.

GE: I can't really answer this one without watching them again. I have vague notions that I might not like this episode or that, but some of them I can't even remember. I don't want to name favorites and unfavorites off the top of my head.

KW: Anything you wish you could have done, or would have done differently?

GE: I guess not. It might have been nice to have an actual writing staff, instead of just myself and freelancers (with Peggy Nicoll joining up full-time later), but on the other hand, a bigger staff might have diluted the show's singular perspective. It would certainly have been nice to be able to pay established professional actors instead of literally having to troll the High School of Performing Arts for first-timers, but I have no complaints about the cast we eventually assembled. It would have been nice if a percentage of the viewers hadn't gotten so wrapped up in the "romance" (or non-romance) storylines that they missed out on other things we were trying to do, but that's their right as the audience. So all in all, I'm pretty pleased with the way the series turned out.

KW: What is Daria and Quinn's respective eye color (if they had real eye color and not black dots for eyes)?

GE: Brown and blue, I think. Didn't we do a close-up on Daria's eye in the contact lens episode?

KW: What would life at the Morgendorffer home be like once Daria left for college? Obviously less sarcastic, but would Helen get on Quinn's case more? Would there be more arguments (since both Helen and Quinn are high-strung)? Would Jake be lonely for someone to read the paper with?

GE: I imagine Quinn would find herself the unhappy recipient of more parental attention from Helen. Helen and Jake would probably go into a deep funk over Daria's departure and what it means to their own impending decrepitude. Jake would try to bond with Quinn and nearly give himself a stroke. Long silences would settle over the house. The days would drag and drag. Then Daria would come home for Columbus Day weekend and everything would be fine.

I'm KIDDING. Reduce the intensity of everything above by 3/4.

KW: Will Helen ever be made partner at her law firm, or are Eric and the senior partners just stringing her along?

GE: Yes, she will make partner, but she'll have to threaten to sue them for gender discrimination to get it. Eric won't speak to her for a year afterward. It will be the best year of her career.

KW: Were the Season 5 episodes aired out of order? (Some fans have worked out a chronology and are convinced that "Fizz Ed" and "Sappy Anniversary" should have aired later in the season, to match up with events that occurred in "Dye! Dye! My Darling" and "Is It Fall Yet?", while "Prize Fighters" should have aired earlier.)

GE: No, they were not. It might have made more sense to air them in the order you suggest, but they were aired in the order they were produced. I hope that gives you an indication as to how little planning of "season arcs" there actually was. Still puzzled by the fans' hostility to "Fizz Ed," BTW.

KW: And the "essay" question:

Why Tom?

Explanation: The majority of fans never seemed to warm to him, and not because they all wanted Daria to get together with Trent. For my part, I was bothered by the way he never seemed to suffer any real consequences for cheating on Jane with Daria (whereas Daria faced the near break-up of her friendship), and that in spite of his flaws, he was portrayed as wiser than Daria in many episodes. He seemed to have a lot of qualities that could make him a good character -- smart, sardonic, etc. -- but the way in which he got together with Daria, and the fact that he never seemed genuinely sorry for hurting Jane, increased the odds that fan opinion would be tilted against him from the beginning.

Did you intend for him to be such a controversial character, or did you have more positive intentions for him?

GE: Tom was created because we were going into our fourth year (if I remember correctly) and I thought it was really pushing credibility for Daria to have only had one or two dates during her whole high school career - I thought it was time in the evolution of her personality for a boyfriend to enter the picture. And of course it would provide us with some fresh storylines, always welcome after 39 episodes.

We had him start life as Jane's boyfriend for two reasons. First, Daria is not the type of person a high school boy would ask out after first meeting her - she's too formidable. In order for a boy to be attracted to someone as sarcastic and aloof as Daria, and vice versa, the two of them would have to grow on each other - in other words, he would need to spend a fair amount of time in her company BEFORE they started dating. So if he were going out with Jane, that would put them in close, frequent proximity.

The second reason he began as Jane's boyfriend was that I thought the situation would allow us to explore and test Daria and Jane's friendship. That may have backfired, because a percentage of the viewers thought that Jane would never have forgiven Daria in real life. Maybe that's true. But maybe it's not. They're fictional characters. George Harrison forgave Eric Clapton, right?

We made Tom rich because I thought it would add an interesting element of conflict to Daria and Tom's relationship. I didn't see a lot on TV about the real differences between the wealthy and the middle class - in fact, I didn't see any realistic portraits of privileged people at all (and I still don't). We made him wise because we really wanted him to be good to and for Daria. We tried to make him sympathetic, but again, perhaps the "betrayal" of Jane was too much for the majority of viewers. You know, sometimes a person as impulsive as Jane gets into a relationship that's not right, and it ends. That doesn't make Tom a monster. You have to consider that Tom and Jane would have broken up even if Daria hadn't been in the picture - they just weren't right for each other. And Jane wants to date a lot of guys at art college!

Speaking of "not right for each other," I'd just like to state for the record here that as cool and fun as Trent was, any viewer who really thought that Daria and Trent could make a go of a relationship was just not watching the show we were making. Other than physical attraction and the fact that both of them were decent at the core, Daria and Trent could not have had less in common.

March 16, 2005

Essential DARIA DVD music