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Clarissa Explains It All
Ceia.gif
The opening title screen
Format Teen sitcom
Created by Mitchell Kriegman
Starring Melissa Joan Hart
Jason Zimbler
Elizabeth Hess
Joe O'Connor
Sean O'Neal
Narrated by Melissa Joan Hart
Theme music composer Rachel Sweet,
Anthony Battaglia
and Willa Bassen
Opening theme Rachel Sweet
Country of origin United States
No. of seasons 4
No. of episodes 65 (List of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s) Mitchell Kriegman
Marjorie Cohn
Brown Johnson
Geoffrey Darby
Andy Bamberger
Location(s) Nickelodeon Studios, Orlando, Florida
Camera setup Multi-camera setup
Running time 30 minutes
Production company(s) Thunder Pictures
Broadcast
Original channel Nickelodeon
Picture format NTSC
Audio format Stereo
Original run March 23, 1991 (1991-03-23)[1] – October 1, 1994 (1994-10-01)[2]

Clarissa Explains It All is an American situation comedy television series from Nickelodeon starring Melissa Joan Hart. It was created by Mitchell Kriegman, it encompassed 65 episodes shown during four seasons. The teen sitcom ran from March 23, 1991,[1] to October 1, 1994,[2] and then went into reruns. In the series, Clarissa Darling, a teen girl, breaks the fourth wall and describes the things that are happening in her life (dealing with typical preadolescent concerns such as school, boys, pimples and an annoying little brother) to her television audience. It was originally rated TV-Y and was later changed to TV-Y7 in later reruns.

Contents

Plot and background

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 which she kept in a kiddie-sandbox in the left corner of her room. Elvis 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, The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo, The Amanda Show, Taina, and more recently Unfabulous, Zoey 101, iCarly, True Jackson, VP, and Victorious.

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-Nickelodeon) 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. It also was singular in its literary references and willingness to feature Clarissa as an independent free thinking teen. 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. The pilot of the series revolved around Clarissa's attempt to kill her brother Ferguson, a theme never again repeated in kids' television[citation needed]. Although in the end it was a harmless attempt using helium balloons it highlighted the issue of sibling rivalry.

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 they were on other similar shows at the time (such as 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 defends her brother, 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, 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 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. It was cited in the trades at the time as one of the ten shows that "made" cable television.[citation needed]

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 singer/comedian/actress/writer 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 as a series. 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 as well as roles 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, Hart's character actually did become a journalist.

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 with no explanation.

Awards

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.[3]

Cast

Guest players on the show, although relatively infrequent, included future stars Michelle Trachtenberg, James Van Der Beek, Jon Yapo and Megyn Price.

Main Characters

Clarissa Darling – the main character. Clarissa is a smart, sarcastic and realistic teenage girl. Depsite her rationalism she often tends to exaggerate any problem she's facing. She was approximately 14-years-old when the series began and was a 9th grader at Thomas Tupper Junior High. Clarissa is pretty and popular and generally well-liked by her classmates and her interests include photography, journalism, rock music. Though she is usually mild-mannered she can be just as selfish and calculating as her younger brother Ferguson. Clarissa is best known for her unique teenybopper fashion sense, often colorful and mixmatched which is similar to Mayim Bialik's Blossom Russo. She also spoke in a minor dialect of Valspeak. Clarissa was portrayed by Melissa Joan Hart.

Ferguson W. Darling: Clarissa's mischievous, redhead younger brother. He and Clarissa constantly antagonize each other. Clarissa refers to him with several epithets such as "Ferg-face" or "Fergeek". He loves money and comes up with get-rich-quick schemes. He is also a Young Republican who idolises Dan Quayle and Ronald Reagan. Ferguson goes to school with Clarissa and is about one or two years younger than her, making him at least 12 and in the seventh grade. Despite their rivalry, he and Clarissa collaborate once in a while, usually to both each other's advantage. Ferguson was portrayed by Jason Zimbler. Unlike Clarissa however he does not seem to be very popular at school.

Sam Anders: Clarissa's best friend and confidant. Sam is considered more optimistic and upbeat than Clarissa. He is perhaps best known for saying "What's the worst that can happen?" usually to dismiss any worst-case scenario Clarissa comes up with. Sam is smart, polite, nice and enjoys surfing and skateboarding. He often enters Clarissa's second story bedroom with a ladder. A distinctive tune plays every time he is about to enter Clarissa's room. Sam was portrayed by Sean O'Neal.

Janet Darling: Clarissa and Ferguson's mother and Marshall's wife. She is only person Clarissa sees as a voice of reason and thus seeks advice from her. She works at a children's museum and is an environmentalist and organic food enthusiast who cooks various bizarre, tasteless meals much to her family's dismay. Janet was portrayed by Elizabeth Hess.

Marshall Darling: Clarissa and Ferguson's father and Janet's husband. He is an architect who designs 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. Marshall was portrayed by Joe O'Connor. Both he and Janet are former flower children from the 1960s.

Recurring characters

Hillary (Sarah Burkhardt) : Hillary was Clarissa's other close friend at Thomas Tupper High, who appears in mostly season 2.

Olivia (Nicole Leach) : Another one of Clarissa's friends at Thomas Tupper High, who appears in season 3.

Clifford Spleenhurfer (David Eck): Clifford was at first a bully who harassed Ferguson in a season one episode, but when Clarissa confronted him, he made an advance onto her which she at first rebuffed, though she later missed his affections in season 2 and they began a relationship which ended at one point in season 3 though not explained.

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 is separated from Sam's father, she appears in episode "Sam's Swan Song" where she tries to take custody of Sam and making him live with her in a mobile home . She appears again in "A Tale of Two Moms" where she stays with the Darlings and becomes a burden.

Aunt Malfalda (Heather Mac Rae): Aunt Malfalda is Clarissa's aunt whom she can't stand and tries to get rid of her in episodes "Haunted House" and "Return of Malfalda".

The Soapersteins: the family that lives next door to the Darlings, 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): Elise is a pretty and perky girl who appears in "Sam in Love", where she was the object of Sam's affection. Tired of Sam's hesitation, Clarissa urges him to ask her out which they 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 Clarissa for bringing them together in the first place.

Paulie Slicksinger (James Van Der Beek): Paulie is a 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 Jersey accent. Because he is so fascinated by Jade, Clarissa is reluctant to reveal herself due to fear of being rejected. At the end, Clarissa cracks under pressure and admits that Jade was an act but Paulie is dumbfounded but is flattered that she would go through all that

The Complete First Season on DVD

Episodes

Clarissa and music

In the first episode, Clarissa states that she loves John Linnell of the band They Might Be Giants. In addition to this, posters of the band are featured prominently in Clarissa's room. In a later episode, Clarissa 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 of the series had Sam defending the band The Violent Femmes to Clarissa's parents, explaining that they are neither violent nor femmes. The band also made an appearance on Hart's later show, Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, using the same argument to defend the band. In another episode, Clarissa mentions her father'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". The band Mindless Self Indulgence wrote a song entitled "Clarissa" that is loosely based around the show. It appears on their album Frankenstein Girls Will Seem Strangely Sexy, in addition the band The Number Twelve Looks Like You has a song titled "Clarissa Explains Cuntainment," based on the title of the program.

Broadcast History

The series reran on Nick from 1994 to 1999 and then taken off permanently, it appeared briefly in 2001 as part of TEENick block. The show was referred to by the network in 2003, in order to promote reruns of Sabrina on TEENick and again in 2004, as part of Nick's "Before They were Stars". It reran on The N from 2002 to 2003 and hasn't been on TV since. It was rumored that the new network TeenNick would pick up reruns in 2010 by no announcement has been made so far. Episodes are available to veiw online on YouTube but most of them are from season one, it is rare to find any episode from season 2 to 5 due to the fact they haven't been released on DVD. Episodes from season one can be downloaded on Playstation Network.

References

  1. ^ a b Television section, New York Times, March 17, 1991, and March 23, 1991.
  2. ^ a b TV Week guide, September 29 – October 5, 1994, Bryan-College Station Eagle.
  3. ^ Awards for Clarissa Explains it All at IMDB.com

External links


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Clarissa Explains It All (1991-1994) was a American situation comedy television series from Nickelodeon starring a then unknown Melissa Joan Hart. In the series, Clarissa, a teenager, breaks the fourth wall and describes the things that are happening in her life (dealing with typical teen concerns such as school, pimples and an aggravating little brother) to her television audience.

Characters: Clarissa, Sam (Clarissa's best friend who visits by climbing a ladder into her window), Ferguson (Also known as "Ferg-Face", Clarissa's little brother), and Elvis (Clarissa's pet alligator, kept in a wading pool in her room)

Episode Unknown

  • Clarissa (to the Audience): "The more I think about it, the more I think I should think about it some more."

External links

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