The screen fizzles for a moment, then the very best title graphics a high school TV show can afford flash onto the screen. Lion Tales - The Lawndale High School news program.
An amateurish voice comes on. "And here's your host - Tori Jericho."
The graphics from Photoshop Hell vanish, replaced with a smug-looking blonde girl. She flashes her perfect teeth. "Hi everyone, and welcome to Lion Tales - your number one source for all the hot gossip around..."
"And news," says a nervous voice from behind the camera.
She frowns. "Okay. And news. Happy now, geek?"
No answer. Tori flashes those amazing teeth again.
"Spring's leaving the air, and summer's coming, and you know what that means. Sandals are back in style." She laughs. "And not just that. It's prom season. When the most eligible men of Lawndale High, and all the popular, attractive girls get to strut their stuff."
A pause. "And all the geeky ones get to go too, but let's not talk about them."
The camera pulls back to reveal that Tori is standing in front of Lawndale High. The students are merrily going about their usual business. Those that don't go merrily about their business go miserably, but the end result is much the same. A few practical jokers wave at the camera, but no-one dares to make any obscene gestures. Tori's not a person you want to piss off.
"Proms are a very important part of every high school student's life," says Tori, with an air of gravity. "It's important they go well. It's also important that if you are allowed to take one of the most popular girls in the school, you get an adequately sized limousine, and don't turn up in your parent's car. That sort of thing could lead to you having a large amount of trouble in securing dates for the rest of your schooling life." This last part is delivered with a large hint of venom.
Tori beams again, and changes the subject. "Of course, this year, the prom should be quite an event, what with the famous Fashion Club going, and what a coincidence, here they are now."
Sandi Griffin, and the rest of the Fashion Club walk into frame. Sandi, naturally, tries to take center stage. Tori subtly maneuvers back into her spot.
"So, Sandi," says Tori, a generous helping of fake cheer in her voice. "Who will you be taking this year?"
Sandi flicks her hair for the camera. Naturally, it flows in just the right, photogenic way. "Well, you know, Tori, I have so much choice."
"Oh yes," sighs Tori. "I know the feeling. Of course, it's probably not as bad for you, but I still sympathize."
"Well, actually," begins Sandi, a touch of annoyance in her voice, "I think I do have..."
"Of course," says Tori soothingly. She turns to Tiffany, Sandi's eyes burning daggers in her back. "Tiffany, dear, how about you?"
Tiffany blinks. "How about me what?" This of course, takes quite a while to say.
"The prom," says Sandi, still glaring hot melting death at Tori.
"When's that?" asks Tiffany, looking rather confused. Or that might be her normal look. It really is hard to tell.
Tori's smile fades a bit, and she turns from Tiffany to Stacy. Stacy looks like she would rather that this hadn't happened. "Stacy? Who are you taking?"
"Um...er..." Stacy looks petrified. After a few moments of searching for an answer, she bursts into tears. "No-one's asked me yet! I don't know who I'm going with! Oh god, no-one's ever going to love me!" She runs off, bawling at the top of her voice.
The rest of the Fashion Club and Tori look at each other, not knowing quite what to say next. Tiffany suddenly perks up.
"Oh...the prom! I remember now..."
Tori looks at the camera and makes a cut-throat gesture. The screen goes black. When it comes back on, the Fashion Club is gone, and Tori is checking her makeup.
"I'm just saying," says the voice from behind the camera, "it wouldn't kill us to kind of script the show a little bit more. This kind of crap happens all the time."
Tori flips her compact down. "Excuse me. I'm the anchor, remember? You're just the producer-slash-cameraman. When I say we do it a certain way, we do it. Okay?"
"Okay," mutters the voice. In a more whispered tone, it says; "Your Dad might have bought you this gig, but it looks like he sure didn't buy you any talent."
Tori looks at the camera again. "I heard that," she mutters. "Geek." Then it's back to all-business. Back to the gleaming white teeth. "Let's see what everyone else is doing for the prom, shall we?"
Into the frame saunters Charles Ruttheimer III. He grins laviciously at Tori.
"Well, hello, my sweet. And what is the topic today?"
Tori shoos him back to the edge of the frame. "Upchuck, normally I'd tell you to get lost, but your father did donate most of our equipment, so I'm contractually obliged to interview you for at least a minute or two."
"Glad to hear it," purrs Upchuck.
"So Up...Charles, what are you doing for the prom?"
"I have my plans," says Upchuck.
"Really," says Tori with an air of surprise. "I'd no idea they let you bring sex dolls to the prom now."
"Shut up!" hisses the voice from behind the camera. Tori puts her hand over her mouth. Upchuck growls.
"Rrrr! Feisty!" Then he's gone.
Tori shakes her head. "This is the worst show we've ever done."
Two girls approach. One is short, with a green jacket and long brown hair. The other is taller, with black hair, and a red jacket. Tori knows who they are, of course. The black haired one, waves and makes a semi-serious attempt to get on camera, and interviewed. Tori is having none of it, of course, and maneuvers herself to keep them as much out of frame as possible. Daria and Jane (for it is they) are highly amused by her gesticulations, and eventually Jane manages to get into frame.
"Want to interview us?" she asks eagerly. A little too eagerly.
"No," says Tori defiantly. "This is a prom show, and everyone knows that you two aren't going."
"I might be," says Jane. "You never know."
"You don't even have a boyfriend."
"I do," says Daria. "Maybe I could even upstage you."
Jane frowns, and turns to her. "I thought we'd agreed not to go. You know, solidarity and all that."
Daria shrugs. "I was only joking. I'm probably not going."
Daria frowns. "What's the problem, Jane?"
"No problem," says Jane unconvincingly.
Tori becomes aware that this is quickly turning into the Daria and Jane show, and shoos them off camera, while they are still giving each other odd looks. Were anyone that knew them well watching this, they might think that trouble was afoot. Luckily, no-one that knows them that well would be caught dead watching Lion Tales. They vanish into the distance.
Tori looks after them, and mutters something that Standards and Practices would definitely not approve of.
Two more figures pass by the edge of the frame. Tori quickly intercepts them. It's Mack Mackenzie and Kevin Thompson.
"Lawndale's star quarterback, and her honored team captain," says Tori. "Care to spare a few minutes for Lion Tales?"
Mack opens his mouth to speak. Kevin cuts him off. "Sure! Hey, Mack Daddy, which is my best side?"
"I think it's my backside!" Kevin grins wildly. "Get it? Pretty clever, huh?"
Mack covers his face. Tori ignores him, and puts the microphone up to Mack's face.
"So, Mack, what are you doing for the prom?" She smiles. "Of course, you'll be taking Jodie Landon, won't you?"
Mack nods. "Yeah."
"Of course. Lawndale High's longest running, and most secure couple. Why, everyone can practically set their watches by you two, you're so reliable."
"Mmm," says Mack.
Kevin butts in. "Hey! Me and Britt have been a couple for just as long!"
"I said secure," says Tori. "Kevin, you two aren't really the most faithful couple, are you?"
"What?!" Kevin looks panicked. "How do you know?"
"The after prom party last year, Kevin. You sent the entire time trying to chat me up. In front of everyone."
"I didn't!" Kevin looks thoughtful. "Oh wait. Yeah, that was me."
Mack sighs heavily. "Kevin, I have to go. I'm meeting Jodie in a few minutes."
Tori nudges past Kevin. "So, Mack. How you feel about your chances for being prom king and queen? I mean, you have been homecoming king and queen, like every year."
Mack smiles wryly. "Knowing this school, I'd say my chances are rather good."
"Dude!" Kevin butts in again. "Me and Brittany are so going to be king and queen, man!"
Mack grins at him. "Ten bucks says you aren't."
Tori ignores this. "So, tell me about your plans? Any previews of the dress you're going to get her, or your ride?"
Mack's smile freezes. "You'll just have to wait till the prom, like everyone else."
Tori shrugs. "Okay. Of course, with Jodie's parents, I'm sure they're expecting the very best."
"Of course," says Mack stiffly. "Excuse me." Kevin and him walk out of frame.
Tori turns back to the camera. "Well, that's all the time we have on Lion Tales today. Join us tomorrow when..."
"We'll have a better show plan?" suggests the camera voice.
"Shut up geek," hisses Tori, and the credits roll. Another spellbinding episode.