"The Quiz Kids are Alright"
by Acrobat

Summary: When Ms. Li sells Lawndale out again, this time to game-show recruiters, Daria accidentally lands a spot on "Quiz Kids 2000".

(Bell rings. Lawndale High, Mr. DeMartino's class.)

DeMartino: And WHAT, class, can we learn from the PERSECUTION of the Salem witch trials? Brittany!

Brittany: Umm...I don't understand. Was it always Halloween back in the Middle Ages?

DeMartino: (starting out calm) Brittany, I'm not going to DIGNIFY that response with an EXPLANATION. (Before he can launch into another tirade, Ms. Li pops her head in the door.)

Ms. Li: I hope I'm not interrupting anything?

DeMartino: You're not interrupting any LEARNING PROCESS, not in THIS class.

Ms. Li: (practically ignoring him) Oh, good. (She comes in with a bored-looking man in a suit and proceeds to take over the classroom. DeMartino leaves the room.) Class, I have a very exciting announcement today! We have in our school a recruiter for the world-famous game show "Quiz Kids 2000". You will voluntarily take a test to see if you are qualified to be a contestant, appearing on national television and showing the world the true greatness of Llllllawndale Hiiiiigh!

Daria: Oh, come on. Didn't she learn her lesson with those Amazon Modeling people?

Jane: She's a predator. She smells publicity and goes into a feeding frenzy.

Recruiter: (sounding rehearsed) Good day, class. The test you will be taking today is multiple-choice, and should only take about twenty minutes to complete. Your answers will be processed, and your school's contestant for the show will be chosen randomly from the best scores. Are there any questions? (Daria raises her hand.)

Daria: Why is it called "Quiz Kids 2000"? It's been on for twenty years.

Recruiter: Test-marketing. It sounded smart. (rushing ahead with the spiel) Now if you'll take one of these and pass the rest back, we can get started. Please use a #2 pencil and fill in the circles completely. Good luck. (The class gets the tests. Some make designs with the answer bubbles, a few try pathetically hard to think of the right answers. Daria looks at it for a minute, shrugs, and starts filling things in.)

(Music: the intro of "Today", the Smashing Pumpkins. Bell rings. Lawndale High, Mr. O'Neill's class, the next day.)

O'Neill: And so you see, class, the important thing is not winning or losing, but knowing that we all had the potential to win! (Daria raises her hand again. Mr. O'Neill checks the seating chart.) Daria?

Daria: But we don't even know if the so-called winner from Lawndale will get anywhere on the show. They might get out there and bomb completely.

O'Neill: (nervously) Well...

Daria: Besides, is this really a good use of the taxpayers' time?

O'Neill: Um...You'll have to ask your economics teacher about that. I think. (The loudspeaker gives out a faint whine of feedback, distracting Mr. O'Neill from further un-upbeat thoughts.)

Ms. Li's Voice: Attention, students and faculty of Llllllllawndale Hiiiiigh! I have a very special announcement today. The recruitment team from "Quiz Kids 2000" has chosen the student who will win an all-expenses-paid trip to their television studio in order to compete for prizes, money, and, most importantly, the recognition of Lllllllawndale Hiiiiigh! In related news, WLDL, Channel 9 News, is now in Lawndale to document this exciting event!

Daria: The local news is getting ambitious. Must be sweeps week.

Jane: Sure. Forget the picketers, screw the rainforest--let's cover high-school trivia contests! That's the *real* news!

Ms. Li's Voice: And the winning student is... (rustle of an envelope being opened; Ms. Li's voice quickly loses most of its enthusiasm.) ...Daria Morgendorffer. (The whole room is stunned.)

(Music: the golden oldie "Cannonball", the Breeders. Daria and Jane are at Daria's locker when Jodie walks by.)

Jodie: Daria! I heard about the game show thing.

Daria: Oh, that. I'm hoping it was all a bad dream I had after falling asleep in Mr. O'Neill's class. I'll wake up any second now. (pauses) Damn.

Jodie: Have you run into the reporters yet? They're roaming all over the school looking for you.

Daria: No. Thanks for the tip. Jane, have them forward my mail to the end stall in the first-floor restroom until this all blows over.

Jane: No problem. But I wouldn't recommend sliding food under the door. I don't think the floors have been cleaned since 1972.

Daria: So, Jodie, how come you're not in the middle of this media circus, too?

Jodie: I answered "C" for everything. I have too many other things to do, and besides, I don't believe in competitions that reward memorizing superficial factoids instead of real learning. But good luck anyway. (She continues on her way.)

Daria: Um...thanks.

Jane: Off to the restroom?

Daria: I only have one more class. I think I'm going to risk it.

Jane: You're a brave soul. See ya after class.

Daria: I'll have my people call your people.

Jane: Funny. (They head off for class.)

(Music: "History of a Boring Town", Less than Jake. Later that day, in the Morgendorffer living room. Jake is watching TV; Daria wanders in and takes a seat on the couch.)

News Announcer: A hometown girl with a chance for fame and fortune! Next on 5-o'clock News Lite! (Quinn bounces in just in time to hear the end of the teaser. Daria hides her face in her hands for a second.)

Quinn: Hey, is that the news?? I *have* to see this. (She rushes to the couch.)

Jake: Quinn? Are you feeling all right?

Daria: (dismally) Just watch, Dad. It will all become clear in time. (They all wait; Quinn looks interested, Daria resigned, Jake confused.)

Commercial Voiceover: Killer mountain goats, on a rampage! Tomorrow, on Sick Sad World!

News Announcer: And welcome back to News Lite. Today we bring you the first installment in a thrilling and heartwarming series. One of Lawndale's own, a sophomore at Lawndale High, has been chosen to appear on the world-famous game show "Quiz Kids 2000". (Daria winces.)

Jake: Someone you know, kiddo?

Daria: You could say that.

News Announcer: What kind of school produces such shining stars? What is the town's reaction to this local hero? Our own Marilyn Whitetower traveled to Lawndale High today to find the answers to these questions. (The tape rolls. An impossibly chipper fluff-reporter stands in front of some Lawndale lockers.)

Marilyn: Lawndale High. A seemingly average American high school. And yet out of this average school could come the brightest stars of tomorrow. (Helen plows into the room, on her way to somewhere.)

Helen: Can't stay too long, dinner meeting with those idiots in the DA's office... (She trails off as she notices what's on TV.) Is that your school, girls?

Daria: Sure, Mom, sit down for a minute. Can't see why I should be spared any embarrassment.

Helen: What are you talking about?... (Intrigued, she sits down anyway, next to Jake. They turn their attention back to the news. Marilyn the reporter is interviewing a random Lawndale student.)

Marilyn: (reading from a notecard) In what year did the Spanish-American war start?

Student 1: We fought a war against Spanish people? Wow...and I'm takin' Spanish, too. I think. (Cut to Marilyn interviewing another random student)

Marilyn: (from a notecard) What process do plants use to convert light and water into energy?

Student 2: Uh...photosynthesis.

Marilyn: And there you have it. Lawndale High. Where the intellectuals of tomorrow get their start. But what do the other students of Lawndale think of their school suddenly being revealed as a bustling center of brainpower? And who *is* the student of the day here at Lawndale? Who *is* Daria Morgendorffer?

Daria: I don't know. Who is she? (Her parents stare at her.) What?

Marilyn: Tune in tomorrow to News Lite at 5 o'clock! (Jake clicks off the TV. Silence in the Morgendorffer living room.)

Helen: And how *was* school today, Daria?

Daria: Oh...fine. Boring classes. Irritating people. And I kind of got picked to go on some stupid game show. Same old. (More shocked silence.) What?!?

(Music: "Freak of the Week", Marvelous 3. Jane's room, later that week.)

News Announcer: And now, last in our series about the local heroine, Daria Morgendorffer...

Daria: Oh, God, turn that thing off.

Jane: No, I wanna see if they put me on the air. C'mon. It's the last one. The big cliffhanger. "Who *is* Daria Morgendorffer?"

Daria: If you don't stop that, their next story can be "Who *was* Jane Lane?"

Marilyn: (on tape, back in Lawndale High) Last in our series: Who *is* Daria Morgendorffer?

Daria: Can't they find a better stupid tagline than that?

Jane: It's the local news! You're lucky they could string *that* sentence together.

Marilyn: Lawndale High has rallied its best school spirit around its future Quiz Kid. (shot of football-style banners in a hall, reading "Go Daria Morgandorrfer", misspelled, and "Lawndale's Favorite Quiz Kid".) Let's get some of the opinions of the Lawndale students themselves. (Cut to Marilyn interviewing the Fashion Club.)

Marilyn: These are some average Lawndale students. Bright. Promising. What do you think about the Quiz Kid excitement here at Lawndale?

Sandi: (grabbing the microphone) I'm Sandi Griffin, president of the Fashion Club. And I think that people have more important things to do than be smart and stuff. (Marilyn takes the microphone back hastily and moves it to the next student in line, who happens to be Quinn.)

Marilyn: And your name is?

Quinn: Um...Quinn. (She mumbles something else.)

Marilyn: Excuse me?

Quinn: I said, (quickly) Quinn Morgendorffer.

Marilyn: Oh! Any relation to--

Quinn: No, just a freak coincidence. Accent on "freak."

Marilyn: (laughs politely and hollowly) And what's your opinion on all of this, Quinn?

Quinn: I...(She hesitates.) I agree with Sandi.

Daria: Wow, now *this* is news.

Marilyn: (again standing by a locker backdrop) The best and brightest of an already bright school ...let's see how the girl of the hour is holding up. (Cut to Marilyn interviewing Daria and Jane.)

Marilyn: I'm here with future Quiz Kid Daria Morgendorffer and her friend, fellow Lawndale student Jane Lane. Daria, what are your thoughts about the upcoming competition? Think you can handle the-- (Jane grabs the microphone before Marilyn can finish the question.)

Jane: I'd like to say a few words. (getting louder and louder as she goes on) We, the students of Lawndale, can make a difference in this cesspool of a world. Free the prisoners! Save the whales! Stop the government before the black helicopters descend to rain down terror on us all! It's not too late! The aliens! We can stop them! We can-- (Cut to Marilyn in front of the lockers again.)

Marilyn: Lawndale students. Bright. Visionary. The leaders of tomorrow. That's all the time we have today on News Lite. Tune in tomorrow for the thrilling, heartwarming story of a kindergarten class and their very special-- (Daria swipes the remote and turns the TV off.)

Jane: They cut out the part when she turned really pale and called for security! Man, that was the best part!

Daria: I'm glad to see *someone's* enjoying this.

Jane: Come on, Daria, it's not that bad.

Daria: No, it's not, it's just annoying. And ironic, I guess. The school didn't care whether I lived or died until they heard I could get them some publicity. Now I'm their favorite student. They don't care who goes on that stupid show, as long as they get to hear "Lawndale High" on national TV.

Jane: I think it's Ms. Li's evil influence. It's trickling down.

Daria: Who knows?...I guess it is kind of fun to watch them make fools of themselves. I don't care one way or another about the game show. It'd be nice to get some money out of it, but I'm not crazy about being on TV. And yet the *rest* of the school's drooling all over it. It might almost be funny if it weren't such a waste of everyone's time.

Jane: You are going, right?

Daria: I haven't decided yet.

Jane: I think you should go. Just for the fun of it. The trip is all-expenses-paid, it's not your loss. Have a little fun with it. Stay at a hotel for free and offer room service at all hours of the night. Make up gibberish languages and confuse the clerks. Go out on the balcony and drop lamps onto the sidewalk to scare the living crap out of tourists. Pretend to sleepwalk into people's rooms.

Daria: You're an expert at this, aren't you?

Jane: (shrugs) Our parents used to take us along once in a while. They learned better reeeeeeal fast.

Daria: Maybe I will go.

Jane: Hey, if worst comes to worst, you'll have something interesting to tell your therapist 20 years from now.

Daria: *And* I'll have the tape to prove it. (She clicks on "Sick Sad World.")

(The Morgendorffer living room. Quinn is just clicking off the news.)

Sandi: Fashion Club, let's take a vote. Does the camera really add ten pounds?

Quinn: Seven.

Tiffany: Eight.

Stacy: Six and a half.

Staci: I say seven and three-quarters. (shoots a look at Quinn) Of course, it depends on the person.

Quinn: This whole thing is so unfair. I can't believe that Daria--I mean, that geeky girl--gets to be on TV! I mean, if anyone deserved to get that kind of exposure, it would be *me.* Except I wouldn't go on something nerdy like "Quiz Kids 2000."

Sandi: Well, maybe you *should* get on TV, Quinn. I mean *you're* so *deserving* and all. Not like us *normal* people.

Quinn: Oh, Sandi, of course I meant *all* of us, don't be silly! (beginning to be inspired) The world should see that Lawndale isn't just some geek town, it has real people. (Faint patriotic music in the background.) Important people. *Stylish* people. People with more important things in their heads like what year some stupid war happened or whatever. Real Lawndale people don't care about art or history or any of that brainy stuff anyway. We care about the important things. Like finding the perfect shade of nail polish or staying just far enough ahead of the fashion curve. That's what real Lawndale people believe in. I think we should show the world that *we're* what Lawndale is all about! (She leaps up from the couch; the rest of the Fashion Club is unmoved, literally and figuratively. There is a rather awkward pause.)

Tiffany: are we going to do that? (Sandi, not even paying attention, hits the clicker. It lands on "Fashionvision." The Fashion Club turns to look at each other. There is a glimmer of craftiness in their eyes.)

Quinn: We can't let anyone think our school is a geek school. Our reputation will be ruined. We'll have to lie about our ages *and* our schools. So...

Sandi: ...We show them the true power of the Fashion Club. (She holds her perfectly manicured hand out toward Quinn. Quinn looks at her a little suspiciously, sees she's serious, and sticks her hand out too. They shake hands determinedly.) We have work to do.

(A few weeks later. Music: the creepy alien-synth intro of "Planet Claire", the B-52's. A generic-looking lounge with fake plants and puffy couches. Daria warily eyes the other two contestants, one of each gender. They are both jumpy, spacey, and wear preppy dress clothes. One is muttering to himself. Daria sighs and picks up a magazine from the coffee table. Before long a stage manager with a headset and a clipboard bursts in.)

Stage Manager: All right, people, ten minutes till we start taping. Once again, the rules are: (barely consulting clipboard) No talking while the tape is rolling, except to answer the questions or banter with the host. No chewing gum or candy or anything else that could make you choke; we don't want to stop taping if we can possibly help it, and this is *not* "Medical Emergencies Caught on Tape." Don't talk back to the host. Don't make faces at the other contestants. Don't throw fits if you lose, although just in case, we'll zoom right off the losers as soon as the winner is announced. No swearing, no laughing, no unnecessary displays of emotion. And *please* don't wave to the camera. Just pretend it's not there. (checks clipboard) Okay, that should do it. Let's have a great game. (The stage manager holds open the door as the three contestants leave. Daria pauses just before she goes through.)

Daria: Great to see someone who really enjoys their job.

Stage Manager: If you did this five days a week for six years, trust me, you'd love it too.

Daria: I see your point. (She goes out after the other contestants.)

(Cut to the Fashion Club, back in Lawndale. Music: "Every Morning", Sugar Ray. The FC is in Sandi's room, which has been transformed into their headquarters. Tiffany and Stacy are holding up outfits in the background, keeping some and tossing some aside. Quinn and Sandi are huddled over a spread of papers on the bed.)

Sandi: So we have the building booked, the photographer from the paper's coming, but we still don't have the news.

Quinn: I still think we should have a cause or something.

Sandi: Why? Fashion *is* a cause.

Quinn: It'll get us more publicity. People love that save-the-world stuff. All we have to do is keep the stage decorations all tree-y and tell people we're giving some of the profits to some fund or something. They'll eat it up.

Sandi: Hmmm. I guess it won't hurt to try.

Quinn: Desperate times call for desperate measures, Sandi. This is the whole *town* we're fighting for.

Sandi: All right. This had better work, Quinn. (She picks up the phone and starts to dial.)

(Cut to the game-show set. Daria and the nervous preppies are deep into the game. Daria is ahead by a wide margin. She buzzes in as the others dither, trying to think.)

Daria: What is Neptune?

Host: Right.

(Cut to Lawndale High. The Fashion Clubbers are supervising the decoration of the auditorium, turning it into a surprisingly impressive forest set-slash-runway. A huge banner over it reads "Saving the Planet with Style!")

Sandi: (shouting into a phone) Well maybe the *other* networks have better things to put on their news broadcasts than your dumb fires and robberies and stuff! Maybe I'll call *them!* (She punches the "off" button.) Quinn, if this doesn't work out...

Quinn: Oh, it will. (glaring darkly into the distance) It *has* to. (Cut to the station. Daria has shifted over to the returning champion's seat, facing two new faintly nerdy preppies.)

Daria: (buzzing in) What is the Spanish-American War?

Host: Right! Pick again. (cut to Daria and two more contestants)

Daria: (buzzing in) Who is... (Something rings from offstage.)

Stage Manager: Cut, dammit! Who brought a cell phone into the studio? (Everyone looks, and finds Helen in the audience, deep in conversation. She holds up a hand to signal them that she's busy. Daria shakes her head and sighs.)

(Cut to the Fashion Club in the Morgendorffer living room. Quinn is channel-surfing, and lands on "Quiz Kids 2000".)

Announcer: Welcome to the first semifinal round of Quiz Kids 2000! Let's welcome our contestants: (the camera swings to the first contestant) A junior from Black Lake, Nevada, Laurie Gurtzman! (The camera swings to Daria, the second contestant.) A sophomore from... (Quinn sniffs scornfully and changes the channel.)

(Music: "Celebrity Skin", Hole. Daria and Helen are standing backstage.)

Daria: Mom, you don't think this a waste of time, do you?

Helen: Of course not, honey. Not if you're enjoying yourself.

Daria: I guess I am. It's not that hard, and I'm having fun watching these other kids crumble. They all act like it's the end of the world. Sad, really.

Helen: Well, that's not exactly what I had in mind…

Daria: (droning sarcastically) And of course there's the feeling of accomplishment and self-worth that comes from doing a job well. (Helen looks at her suspiciously.) Okay, and I think this is bringing out the killer competitive instinct a little, too.

Helen: I knew you had it in you, Daria. (The stage manager enters.)

Stage Manager: Ma'am? All spectators have to go out to the auditorium now.

Helen: Knock 'em dead, honey. (She hugs Daria for a second and leaves where the stage manager points.)

Stage Manager: Greenroom, please. Fifteen minutes to showtime.

Daria: I know the drill by now.

(Daria enters the greenroom, takes a seat, and sizes up the other two contestants. The first is yet another preppie, frantically reading a thick volume; more books lie around him in messy piles. The second is Luhrman, the usher from the infamous Chambers-Danielson wedding.)

Daria: Don't I know you?...Yeah, you were at my cousin's wedding.

Luhrman: So we meet again. What are the odds? (They shake hands.) You missed quite a spectacle.

Daria: I know. But I got to see the aftermath at the next Thanksgiving dinner, so it all evens out. (There is a long pause.)

Luhrman: So, how'd you end up in this wonder of modern television?

Daria: Some stupid contest at my school. How about you?

Luhrman: I'm not sure. I think this may be a punishment, like community service, in a way. But I can't figure out what I could have done this wrong.

Third Contestant: Shhhh! I haven't gotten through the history of opera yet!

Luhrman: Far be it for us to interrupt you, sir. Please continue. Of course, you can always abandon the whole thing as a symbol of all that's gone wrong with the world. Useless knowledge, pointless greed, and forced competition between people who usually wouldn't care less what each other are doing. (shrugs) Then again, you might like that kind of thing. (Daria smiles. The stage manager pops back in.)

Stage Manager: Ten minutes. You've heard the rules several times already, so I'll spare us all. Let's move out, people. (The contestants stand up as the stage manager leaves. The third contestant reluctantly puts down his book and glares at Daria and Luhrman.)

Third Contestant: You're goin' down, both of you!

Daria: If you insist. (The third contestant frowns for a second, confused, then whirls around and stalks out of the greenroom.) Do you ever get the feeling that everyone cares way too much about all of this?

Luhrman: Except maybe the stage manager. (The stage manager pops back in.) Speak of the devil.

Stage Manager: Come on, move it!

Daria: Well, Luhrman, may the best trivia geek win. (They shake hands again and follow the stage manager out.)

(The Quiz Kids 2000 stage. Music: some cheesy game-show theme.)

Announcer: Welcome to the final round of Quiz Kids 2000! Let's welcome our contestants: A sophomore from Lawndale, Maryland, Daria Morgendorffer. A senior from Leeville, Maryland, Luhrman Luhrman. (Daria, surprised, gives Luhrman a strange look.)

Luhrman: (shrugs philosophically; aside to Daria) Such is life.

Announcer: And a junior from Mars, Pennsylvania--

Daria: (aside to Luhrman) I knew it.

Announcer: --Brian Reczycyski.

Host: We're glad to have you all on Quiz Kids 2000! Let's start the first round, shall we? (Cut between the answers, similar to before.)

Brian: (eagerly) What is the Battle of Chickamauga?

Luhrman: Who is John Glenn?

Daria: What is "Being and Nothingness"?

Host: Right!

Brian: What is…the Treaty of Utrecht?

Host: No. Sorry. (Brian pounds the podium with a rather childish whine of disappointment.)

Daria: Who is Prospero? (Brian shoots her an evil look.)

Luhrman: What is paranoid schizophrenia?

Daria: (aside to Luhrman, with a look at Brian) Indeed.

Host: That's the end of Round One! A great round, everybody! Looks like Luhrman is in the lead with 800 dollars, followed by Daria with 750 and Brian with 700. It's a close game. Anything could happen in Round Two, right after this! (Theme music swells.)

Stage Manager: Cut! Fifteen-minute break, kids. (Brian whips by the other two with a killer glare as he leaves. Daria and Luhrman follow. Once they reach the greenroom, though, Brian--hunched over the books again--stares at them so coldly that they leave. They end up outside the greenroom, about where Daria and Helen were speaking before.)

Daria: (musing) Somehow this isn't as fun as it could have been.

Luhrman: If I'd had any faith in showbusiness, I would have lost it long before this point.

Daria: This is one of the most boring things I've ever been put through. And considering my life, that's saying a lot.

Luhrman: I'm past boredom now. Our language doesn't have words for this mental state.

Daria: (thoughtfully) Someone told me before I left that these contents just trade shallow rewards for memorizing meaningless facts. And I'm starting to see her point.

Luhrman: Of course. You parrot back some names and dates, you get useless prizes. That's their racket. I think I have enough ostentatious watches to last me the rest of my natural lifespan.

Daria: I'll trade you for the underwater camera and the trip to Ocean City.

Luhrman: Sorry. The watches are easier to sell.

Daria: Shoot. Maybe I can trade them to Brian. I get rid of the camera, he gets to win.

Luhrman: I think he'd take the trip, too, if you let him win.

Daria: I think that guy would sell his *soul* to win. (pause) You know, I bet we could get out of this.

Luhrman: Do tell.

Daria: Easy. Just follow me.

(Daria scouts around for a second, then sneaks away from the greenroom and out a side door, with Luhrman following. They end up in a hallway, and open the next door, labeled "Studio C." A roar of cheering and general chaos blasts from the door.)

Daria: That's promising. (Daria and Luhrman sneak in the door and find themselves in the audience of a talk show. They find seats just in time to dodge a chair in flight.) Now this is more like it.

Talk-Show Guest's Voice: You (bleep)in' (bleep)! I'll kick your (bleep)in' (bleep)!

Luhrman: The decline of Western civilization...

Daria: ...and we don't even have to show up on camera.

Luhrman: Good job.

Daria: Thanks. (A fake potted plant flies past, and they both smile just a little.)

(A screen shows the Lawndale News Lite at 5.)

News Announcer: In other news, local high-schooler Daria Morgendorffer advanced to the final round of the game show "Quiz Kids 2000", before disappearing in the middle of taping. Elsewhere this week, Lawndale High students put on a lavish fashion show to benefit the environment. And now here's Marilyn Whitetower with this week's thrilling and heartwarming story. A blushing bride, her dashing husband, and their two adorable poodles—the cutest wedding party of the year! Marilyn? (The screen goes black as if being clicked off.)

(The End. Credit song: "Special", Garbage, near the end.)