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Clarissa Explains It All - Season One



DVD Release Date: May 17, 2005 (Paramount Home Video/Nick DVD)
MSRP: $26.99
Number of Discs: 2
Number of Episodes: 13
Running Time: 328 Min
Total Run Time of Special Features: 9 Mins. 20 Secs
Languages: English
Closed Captioned
Special Features:
• Melissa Joan Hart on MTV Cribs
• Nick Time Capsule (Promos from 91-93)


The first season of Clarissa Explains it All is now on DVD! Clarissa Explains it All was a classic Nickelodeon sitcom that ran for five seasons/three years in the early 90s. The show starred Melissa Joan Hart, pre-Sabrina, as Clarissa, the oldest child and only normal member of the Darling family. Clarissa lived a normal teenage life in a surreal family that included her younger brother/bane of existence Ferguson (Jason Zimbler), as well as her father Marshall (Joe O’Connor), an architect with a penchant for weirdly-shaped buildings, and her health-nut mother Janet (Elizabeth Hess). Along for the ride is her best friend Sam (Sean O’Neal). In the guest star-less first season, some great episodes come when Clarissa has to live through a Mom-imposed “No TV Week” (Episode 3), as well as episode 4, when Sam and Clarissa sell Christmas cards door-to-door to help pay for a used 1976 Gremlin…which would be ok, if it weren’t July. The ninth episode, Brain Drain, finds Clarissa and Ferguson on a kids game show called Brain Drain, with hilarity ensuing.


The two discs are each held in a slimcase that goes into a holding box. The front-cover has a shot of Clarissa with the show logo, on all a piece of paper. The back cover has Clarissa playing the electric guitar, along with the episode listing and special features list. The first slimcase cover is pink, with the same show logo on paper at the top, and a shot of Clarissa on her bed reading a magazine in the bottom half. 2nd Disc Cover (the blue one) has Clarissa looking annoyed at Ferguson (in foreground). Back cover of each is a listing of what’s on that disc on another sheet of paper, with a shot of Clarissa filling in the white space. The first seven episodes are on the first disc, and the other six episodes plus the Cribs and Nick Promos bonuses are on the second disc. Included inside the outer box is an insert with an ad on each side (one side for Pete and Pete, the other for Spongebob). I honestly don’t know why they didn’t follow the pattern set by Pete and Pete, and put an ad on one side, and the Nick schedule at the show’s debut (1991) on the other, but oh well. Each disc features the same art as the slimcase cover.

Menu Design and Navigation:

Menus are rather simplistic. Main menu on both discs is a rework of the main box cover shot, Episode Selection features some of the same shots used on that disc’s front cover, and there is a Special Features option as well. Really not that creative, but they serve the point well. Play All enthusiasts, take note; there IS a Play All button.

Video and Audio Quality:

The video is amazingly grainy for a show from twelve years ago. All the episodes have at least some noticeable grain. In addition, like Pete and Pete, parts of the video look problematic to the point that one almost has to wonder what conditions the original episodes were being kept in -­ there are glitches in the video that look like the video was transferred to a VHS tape and back again, particularly on the Pilot. I honestly expected better. Something else that must be talked about is that the video goes nuts on fast motion, either by the camera or if the characters move too quickly. Some scanlines look like they’re lagging behind the others, creating an almost “strip” effect. This effect is particularly noticeable on the pilot. Also, there are NO chapter stops in the episodes. Pressing the button that would normally advance chapters, at least for me, took me straight into the next episode/main menu (depending on episode and whether I chose Play All). Amazingly, for a sitcom from 1991,­ the episodes run between 25 and 26 minutes. I do believe at the time Nick had this thing about running more show, and less commercials. What a concept. Audio’s a Dolby Digital Stereo track ­ although there’s some hiss in places, overall, it’s not bad. Largely unremarkable.

Special Features:

There are only a couple special features on this release, both on disc two. As licensing would be a snap (Viacom owns Paramount, Nickelodeon, AND MTV), they’ve included the segment of MTV Cribs featuring Melissa Joan Hart. It’s just over 7 Minutes total. Also, they’ve combed the Nick vaults, and have included NINE of the various Nickelodeon bumpers used between shows and show segments from the early/mid 1990s. Included are Lockers, Uneven Bars, Funky, Dance, Pinchface, Disco Dogs, Barnyard, Bones, Opera, and Wacky Paper Chase. There’s a Play All option for the promos, however, something went wrong when programming the Play All, as Wacky Paper Chase doesn’t come up when Play All is selected (Play all only plays Lockers through Opera). Either someone was just being careless, or Wacky Paper Chase (one of my favorite Nick bumpers) was added at the last second.

Final Comments:

I thought, overall, that the set was fairly well done for a kids show from 1991 -­ except for the video problems, and the glitch with the bumpers. If Nick/Paramount plans to release any more seasons of the show, they need to fix whatever went wrong this time around with the video before releasing anything else. Also, if Nick has any additional bumpers or any other Nick promos those might be a nice addition. Clarissa never was my favorite show, but the episodes are still enjoyable, and if you’re looking for a little retro trip to the better days of Nickelodeon, you definitely want this set.

Final Numbers (out of 5 stars):

Video Quality: 3/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Special Features: 2.5/5
Menu Design/Navigation: 3.5/5
Overall: 3.5/5

-- Reviewed by Seth Thrasher on 05/10/05

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