Clarissa Explains It All was an American family television series from Nickelodeon starring a then-unknown Melissa Joan Hart. Sixty-five episodes were shown during the five seasons. The teen sitcom ran from March 1, 1991, to December 3, 1994, and then went into reruns.
In the series, Clarissa, an adolescent girl, breaks the fourth wall and describes the things that are happening in her life (dealing with typical adolescent concerns such as school, pimples and an aggravating little brother) to her television audience.
Plot and background
The main characters in the show are Clarissa Darling, her family (consisting of her father Marshall, her mother Janet and her brother Ferguson Darling) and her best friend Sam. Clarissa and Sam's relationship was a novelty on television at the time, due to few television series allowing a girl and a boy to be merely friends without romance blossoming. (One episode featured the idea of their having a romance, but ultimately ended without their getting together.) Clarissa also had a pet baby Caiman (Alligatoidae) named Elvis (after Sonny Crockett's pet alligator on Miami Vice), which she kept in a kiddie-sandbox in the left corner of her room.
The show was credited with becoming the first Nickelodeon series to feature a female lead, which led the network to create other shows such as The Secret World of Alex Mack, The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo, The Amanda Show, Taina, Unfabulous, Zoey 101, and iCarly.
The show was filmed at Nickelodeon Studios in Orlando (Florida). It was an enormous success, generating some of the highest ratings for a cable production, remarkable given its status as a "kids" TV show. The final two seasons of the show headlined the popular SNICK (Saturday Night-Nick) lineup, which was a lead-in to shows like All That, and Are You Afraid of the Dark? Despite its seemingly innocent reputation, in hindsight Clarissa probably pushed a few boundaries at the time, even making subtle references to sex and teen partying, though in a light-hearted, contemporary fashion. In one episode in the series, Clarissa accidentally shoplifts lingerie. It was also one of the few Nickelodeon shows to actually say and spell out the words "hell" and "sex" on screen.
Like many other teen and kid shows of the day, "Clarissa" dealt with normal issues facing kids, such as first crushes, getting a drivers license (Clarissa's very vocal dream), sibling rivalry, grades at school, insecurities, and drinking. However, these topics were dealt with far less dramatically than then were on other similar shows at the time (like Full House and Blossom.) One such topic covered on the show was bullying, which was addressed, and ended up creating one of the longest lasting story arcs on the show. In the episode "Bully", Clarissa finds out her brother is being picked on by school jock Clifford Spleenhurfer. Clarissa ends up sticking up for her brother, angrily confronting Clifford and telling him off. This produced unforeseen results to everyone involved; Clarissa most of all. She became the first person to stand up to Clifford and, as a result, Clifford fell in love with her. Clarissa was shocked to discover this, and even more shocked to discover she liked him as well. They began dating soon after, and stayed together for quite a while.
In 1994, Melissa Joan Hart recorded a narration piece in-character to Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf performed by the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Carnival of the Animals and The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra were also recorded with Melissa Joan Hart's narration. It was released on CD in 1994 by Sony Wonder and Nickelodeon.
Unique to the program was its representation of each episode's theme by showing Clarissa tackling the issue of the episode through a fictional computer game.
The show's unique theme tune was sung by comedian/actress Rachel Sweet. The song consisted entirely of "Na, na, na-na-na, na-na-na-na, na-na", punctuated with the occasional "Way cool!" or "All right! All right!", and underscored by rhythmic instrumentation, ending with a resounding "Just do it!".
A pilot for a follow-up series, Clarissa Now, was shot for CBS in 1995, but was not picked up. However, the pilot was shown on a few occasions on Nickelodeon after the original series had ended production. The series would have revolved around Clarissa's internship at a New York City newspaper. Comedian Robert Klein co-starred as the newspaper's crusty editor, Hugh Hamilton. In 2002 Hart said that she would not be interested in a cast reunion project; "No. Shirley Temple taught me one thing. And that was once you finish a career, you move on."
In May 2005, the show's first season was released on DVD as part of the Nickelodeon Rewind Collection by Paramount Home Entertainment. The second season was scheduled to be released a few months later, but has been postponed indefinitely.
In 1994, the series was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Children's Program. In addition, Melissa Joan Hart, Sean O'Neal, and Jason Zimbler also received multiple Young Artist Award nominations. Melissa won three for her role of Clarissa.
Home video releases
- → Main article: Clarissa Explains It All videography
- Melissa Joan Hart – Clarissa Darling
- Jason Zimbler – Ferguson Darling
- Elizabeth Hess – Janet Darling
- Joe O'Connor – Marshall Darling
- Sean O'Neal – Sam Anders
- Created by Mitchell Kriegman
- Editor: Rick Fernandes
- Graphics: Don St. Mars
- Construction Coordinator: Ed McMillian
- The show's unique theme tune was sung by comedian/actress Rachel Sweet. The song consisted entirely of "Na, na, na-na-na, na-na-na-na, na-na", punctuated with the occasional "Hey, cool!" or "All right! All right!", and underscored by rhythmic instrumentation.
- As a sign of affection, Marshall will usually call Clarissa "sport".
- A guitar lick was played throughout the series whenever Sam would come through Clarissa's window. The audience would first only hear a thump or see the top of a ladder appear underneath the window sill, following with Clarissa saying, "Hey, Sam!", before the lick was played.
- In the second-season premiere of Nick Arcade, Melissa Joan Hart and Jason Zimbler (as the red team) took on Elizabeth Hess and Joe O'Connor (as the yellow team) in a special charity episode. While Hess and O'Connor won, every one of the players were invited to go into the video zone to battle the game wizard of the day, "Merlock".
- As the show was broadcast in the early nineties, Clarissa has expressed a taste for grunge music. Her favorite bands include Violent Femmes.
- In one episode, Clarissa reveals that her favorite band is Pearl Jam.
|1992-1994||Clarissa Explains It All • Roundhouse • The Ren & Stimpy Show • Are You Afraid of the Dark?|
|1994-1996||The Secret World of Alex Mack • All That • Space Cases • Kenan and Kel• The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo • KaBlam!|
|1997-1999||Rugrats • The Journey of Allen Strange • Animorphs • Cousin Skeeter|
|1999-2002||SpongeBob SquarePants • The Amanda Show • 100 Deeds for Eddie McDowd • The Nick Cannon Show • Taina|