Clarissa Explains It All

Clarissa Explains It All Information

Clarissa Explains It All is an American teen sitcom that aired on Nickelodeon. Created by Mitchell Kriegman, it aired for five seasons for a total of 65 episodes from March 23, 1991, to December 3, 1994, and then went into reruns.

In the series, Clarissa Darling, who is played by Melissa Joan Hart, is a teen girl who addresses the audience directly to describe the things that are happening in her life, dealing with typical pre-adolescent concerns such as school, boys, pimples, wearing her first training bra and an annoying little brother. Reruns of the show have appeared intermittently on TeenNick's channel block The '90s Are All That since July 25, 2011.


The main characters in the show are Clarissa Darling, her family (consisting of her father Marshall, her mother Janet and her little brother Ferguson) and her best friend Sam living in a small suburban town in Ohio. 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 named Elvis whom she kept in a kiddie-sandbox in the left corner of her room. He lasted only the first few episodes of the first season.

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, Unfabulous, iCarly, and Victorious. Its popularity among both boys and girls also helped to debunk a myth that a children's series with a female lead would turn off boys from it, whereas only children's series with a male lead would attract both boys and girls.

The show was filmed at Nickelodeon Studios in Orlando, Florida. The final two seasons headlined the popular SNICK (Saturday Night-Nickelodeon) lineup, which was a lead-in to shows like All That, and Are You Afraid of the Dark?. Despite its seemingly innocent reputation, it pushed a few boundaries at the time for "kids television", even making subtle references to sex and teen partying, though in a lighthearted, contemporary fashion. In one episode, Clarissa accidentally shoplifts lingerie. It was one of the few Nickelodeon shows to actually say and spell out the words "hell" (last time was the Rocko's Modern Life episode "Carnival Knowledge") and "sex" on screen. The pilot of the series revolved around Clarissa's attempt to kill her brother Ferguson; although in the end it was a harmless attempt using helium balloons, it highlighted the issue of sibling rivalry.

Clarissa dealt with normal adolescent issues such as first crushes, getting a driver's license, sibling rivalry, grades at school, insecurities, and drinking, confronting the issues as an independent freethinking teenager. However, these topics were dealt with far less dramatically than they were on other similar shows at the time (such as Full House and Blossom). One such issue was bullying, which was addressed in the episode "Bully" and ended up creating one of the longest lasting story arcs on the show. In the episode, Clarissa finds out Ferguson is being picked on by school jock Clifford Spleenhurfer. Clarissa defends Ferguson, angrily confronting Clifford verbally. 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, he fell in love with her. She was shocked to discover this, and even more shocked to discover she liked him as well. They began dating soon after, and they stayed together for quite a while. The issue of whether a girl would stand up and fight a boy was also a hot topic at the time.

Unique to the show was its representation of each episode's theme by showing Clarissa tackling the episode's issue through a fictional video game.

The show's theme song was sung by singer/comedian/actress/writer Rachel Sweet. It consisted entirely of a melody sung on the syllable "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 as one. However, the pilot was shown on a few occasions on Nickelodeon after the original series had ended production. It would have revolved around Clarissa's internship at a New York City newspaper. Comedian Robert Klein costarred as its editor, Hugh Hamilton. Supporting roles were played by Marian Seldes and Lisa Gay 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 her next big television show, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, her character actually did become a journalist.


  • Clarissa Marie Darling (Melissa Joan Hart) " The titular main character of the show. She is a smart, optimistic, sarcastic, witty and realistic teenage girl. The whole series is seen through her point of view (excluding the episode "Ferguson Explains It All"). Despite her rationalism, she often tends to exaggerate any problem she's facing. She was approximately 14 years old when the series began and was an 8th grader at Thomas Tupper Junior High. By the end of the series, she was approximately 18 years old and a high school senior. She is also a believer in UFOs. She is best known for her pop culture references and various surreal dream sequences. She is pretty and popular and generally well-liked by her classmates, and her interests include photography, journalism, and listening to rock music. She also has had a revolving door of friends and boyfriends throughout the series. Though she is usually mild-mannered, she can be just as selfish and calculating as her younger brother Ferguson. She is best known for her unique fashion sense. Often colorful and mismatched, she is similar to Blossom Russo and Lisa Turtle. She speaks in a minor dialect of Valspeak which was abandoned in the later seasons. Also noteworthy of Clarissa is her love of music. In the first episode, she states that she loves John Linnell of They Might Be Giants. In addition to this, posters of them are featured prominently in her room. In a later episode, she mentions that she is a fan of Pearl Jam and is trying to duck out of a family party early that night to attend their concert. In the same episode, Marshall mentions that he is a fan of Vanilla Fudge, who is also playing at the concert. Another episode had Sam defending the band The Violent Femmes to her parents, explaining that they are neither violent nor femmes. They also made an appearance on Hart's later show, Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, using the same argument to defend them. In another episode, she mentions her Marshall's Jethro Tull bootleg collection. A line from the INXS song "Suicide Blonde" was sung by Ferguson while listening to headphones in the 1991 episode "Clarissa News Network". Highlighting the character's love of music, Hart recorded a CD, in character, titled "This is What Na-Na Means." It was released in 1994 and credited to "Clarissa and the Straightjackets."
  • Ferguson W. Darling (Jason Zimbler) (born February 13, according to the episode "Class Picture") " Clarissa's mischievous, redhead younger brother. They constantly antagonize each other. She refers to him with several epithets such as "Ferg-face", "Ferganerd" "Fergwad" or "Fergbreath." He loves money and comes up with get-rich-quick schemes. He is also a Young Republican who idolizes Dan Quayle and Ronald Reagan. He goes to school with her and is about one or two years younger than her. Despite their rivalry, they occasionally collaborate, usually to the advantage of both. Unlike her, however, he does not seem to be very popular at school.
  • Sam Anders (Sean O'Neal) " Clarissa's best friend and confidant. He is considered more optimistic and upbeat than her. He is perhaps best known for saying "What's the worst that can happen?" usually to dismiss any worst-case scenario she comes up with. He is smart, polite, nice, and enjoys surfing and skateboarding. He usually enters her second story bedroom with a ladder while a distinctive guitar tune plays every time he is about to enter. In the pilot, it is said his father is single. It is unknown what happened to his mother.
  • Janet Darling (Elizabeth Hess) " Clarissa and Ferguson's mother and Marshall's wife. She is the only person Clarissa sees as a voice of reason and thus seeks advice from her. She is a certified teacher, works at a children's museum, is an environmentalist, and an organic food enthusiast who cooks various bizarre, tasteless meals much to her family's dismay.
  • Marshall Darling (Joe O'Connor) " Clarissa and Ferguson's father and Janet's husband. He is an architect who designs unusually shaped buildings, mostly retail and tourist attractions (such as the "Fryfel Tower"). Clarissa also comes to him for advice, but he is less understanding than Janet is. Both he and Janet are former flower children from the 1960s. He usually calls Clarissa "sport", very seldom addressing her by name.

Recurring characters

  • Hillary (Sara Burkhardt) " Clarissa's other close friend at Thomas Tupper High, who appears mostly in season 2.
  • Olivia DuPris (Nicole Leach) " Another one of Clarissa's friends at Thomas Tupper High, who appears in season 4.
  • Clifford Spleenhurfer (David Eck) " He is at first a bully who harassed Ferguson in a season one episode. However, when Clarissa confronted him, he made an advance onto her which she initially rebuffed. She later misses his affections in season 2 and they begin a relationship which ends inexplicably at one point in season 4.
  • Debbie Anders (Susan Greenhill) " Sam's estranged mother who is rather unconventional (She is often on the road with a traveling women's Roller Derby team) and separated from his father. She appears in episode "Sam's Swan Song" where she tries to take custody of him and make him move to Seattle. She appears again in "A Tale of Two Moms" where she stays with the Darlings and becomes a burden.
  • Aunt Mafalda (Heather MacRae) " Clarissa's aunt whom she can't stand and tries to get rid of in episodes "Haunted House" and "Return of Mafalda".
  • The Soapersteins " The Darlings' next-door neighbors. They are rather well-mannered and genial people. They are unseen characters who are referred to constantly. Clarissa had to babysit their spoiled daughter Elsie (Michelle Trachtenberg) in episode Babysitting.
  • Elise Quackenbush (Cassidy Rae) " A pretty and perky girl who appears in episode "Sam in Love", where she was the object of his affection. Tired of his hesitation, Clarissa urges him to ask her out. They then began a good relationship, which results in them spending so much time together that they both got fed up with each other and then blame her for bringing them together in the first place.
  • Paulie Slicksinger (James Van Der Beek) " The handsome drummer who Clarissa meets at a party in episode "Alter-Ego", while she is disguised as "Jade", her punk rock-ish alter ego with a Long Island accent. Because he is so fascinated by Jade, Clarissa is reluctant to reveal herself due to fear of being rejected. In the end, she cracks under pressure and admits that Jade was an act. He is dumbfounded but is flattered that she would go through all that.


Main article: List of Clarissa Explains It All episodes

Home video releases

Throughout the early 1990s a number of VHS tapes were released though Sony Wonder each containing 2 or 3 episodes, usually centered around a certain theme such as school, dating, sibling rivalry, etc.

In May 2005, the show's first season was released on DVD as part of the Nickelodeon Rewind Collection by Nickelodeon's parent company, Paramount Pictures. The second season was scheduled to be released a few months later, but it was pulled from Paramount Pictures' release schedule shortly after the company's merger with DreamWorks. To this date, there are no plans to release the series further on DVD.

Season one is currently available on DVD, iTunes, Xbox Live, and the PlayStation Store.


Clarissa Explains It All was the second sitcom to premiere on Nickelodeon in 1991 after Hey Dude ended its run. It was one of seven new programs (three animated and four live-action) to premiere on Nickelodeon in 1991 when the network began producing more original programming. It outlived the two other live action programs; Salute Your Shorts, and Fifteen.


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 as Clarissa.

Broadcast history

The series aired in reruns on Nick from 1994 to 1999. In reruns, it appeared briefly in 2001 as part of the TEENick block. The show was referred to by the network in 2003, in order to promote reruns of Sabrina on the TEENick block and again in 2004, as part of Nick's "Before They were Stars". The show aired in reruns on The N, which is now TeenNick, from 2002 to 2003.

The series aired in reruns on Nick @ Nite Latin America from 2006 to 2009.

Clarissa Explains it All returned in reruns to TeenNick on July 25, 2011 as part of its The '90s Are All That block. The show aired at 10 PM (Pacific) 1 AM (Eastern) with the first episode having been 'The Understudy' from Season 2. TeenNick replaced the show with Rocko's Modern Life on September 5, 2011. The series returned to The '90s Are All That from September 26, 2011 to October 6, 2011, when the show was replaced with Hey Dude. The series returned to The '90s Are All That on TeenNick the night of December 31, 2011 with the airing of the series finale at a special timeslot, 11:00pm, for celebrating the end of 2011, and aired on the block again the morning of January 1, 2012 at 1:00am with the airing of the series premiere to celebrate the beginning of 2012. Clarissa aired on The '90s Are All That again, with a marathon on the night of December 30, 2012, for the block's Holiday Gift Guide marathon week special. Then, Clarissa returned yet again to The '90s Are All That with a marathon of the show every night from January 21, 2013 to January 27, 2013. Fans are allowed to vote for what they want to see on the block.

In popular culture

  • The New York synthpunk group Mindless Self Indulgence referred to the show in the song "Clarissa" from their 2000 album Frankenstein Girls Will Seem Strangely Sexy.
  • There is an indie rock band called "Clarissa Explains it all" .
  • The TV show Melissa and Joey which stars Melissa Joan Hart has a blog named "Lennox Explains It All", a nod to the show.

This webpage uses material from the Wikipedia article "Clarissa_Explains_It_All" and is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Reality TV World is not responsible for any errors or omissions the Wikipedia article may contain.



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