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Clarissa Explains It All ran from 1991 until 1994 on Nickelodeon.

Sunny sitcom centering around Clarissa Darling ( Melissa Joan Hart), an uncommonly, glib, energetic high-school student. Each episode opened with Clarissa in her bright suburban bedroom talking to the camera about one of life's little mysteries-friends, love, boys, parents, and so on. Then a story along those lines would unfold. Ferguson ( Jason zimbler), was her scheming dweeb of a younger brother, Janet ( Elizabeth Hess), her understanding Mom, and Marshall ( Joe O'Connor), her somewhat goofy Dad, an architect. Sam ( Sean O'Neal), was her oldest friend and confidant, who routinely arrived by climbing up a ladder and through her bedroom window unannounced. Lots of friends passed through ( Clarissa was a popular girl), each helping illustrate another story about growing up.

In the final episode, Clarissa looking very mature, graduated from High School and accepted an offer to become a cub reporter/intern for The New York Daily Post before going to college. Sam after being rejected by almost every institution of higher education in the U.S. was accepted as the first male student at all-girl Bibbington College in Maine. Heaven!!!!!!!

A Review from The New York Times

Review/Television; The Quintessential 'Pre-Woman'

Published: July 9, 1991

Recipe for sitcom aimed at young audiences: hip pubescents, dumb parents, cool fashions. Among the better recent examples is "Clarissa Explains It All," which can be seen on Nickelodeon at 12:30 and 6:30 P.M. on Sundays. Apparently someone once dubbed the show a "cultural revolution." Perhaps that's because the show was created and is produced by Mitchell Kriegman, a former video artist. But except for some fairly standard electronic graphics, largely confined to the opening credits, "Clarissa Explains It All" is not very revolutionary.

Played chirpily by Melissa Joan Hart, 14-year-old Clarissa embodies the cliches of Primal Teen. She is very much into junk food, cute rock stars and accessories. Her health-conscious mom fusses over yucky concoctions such as cauliflower ice cream. Dad is largely a fringe character who seems to spend most of his time in a state of helpless agitation. Then there is younger brother Ferguson, called Ferg Face, the bane of Clarissa's rather pampered life. In sum, Clarissa "conveys the essence of teen life through the eyes and words of a modern pre-woman," as Nickelodeon puts it.

The series is being given a special showcase on "Nick at Nite" tomorrow evening with two back-to-back half-hour episodes. The first, at 8, is a repeat. Clarissa unexpectedly finds herself coming to the aid of her brother, who is being threatened by the school bully. But doing a 180, "a total flip of the really radical kind," the bully ends up pining for Clarissa. The second episode finds Clarissa desperately trying to prove that the impossible Ferguson is not really a child genius. It ends on a television quiz show with the losers being dumped into slime.

In the familiar "Thirtysomething" manner, most episodes contain brief fantasy sequences. And Clarissa occasionally talks directly to the camera. In tomorrow's new installment, for instance, she offers wry tips on how to look smart: wear dorky glasses and carry thick books, preferably written by people with names you can't pronounce. Meanwhile, Mom is muttering something about lima-bean ice cream.

And then there is the matter of wardrobe. Clarissa's is extraordinary. Each show has several costume changes, not including the opening-credits fashion show that includes everything from frilly tutu to simmering black leather. This is obviously one modern pre-woman who has already mastered the art of shopping on what seems to be a whopping budget, even in terms of comfortable middle class. No wonder Dad frets a lot. But pushing style and fashion has become a standard gimmick in programming for younger audiences, openly pursued in formats ranging from MTV music videos (tomorrow night at 8, MTV broadcasts its quarterly clothes-conscious special called "House of Style") to teen-ager-oriented series like Fox's "Beverly Hills 90210." Forget those thick books; concentrate on your look.

"Clarissa" has some nice touches. Its central character is female, hardly to be taken for granted in the male-dominated world of programming for younger audiences. And Clarissa's best friend is a boy named Sam, and he is just that -- a friend. Boys and girls can connect, it seems, without having to entertain thoughts of romance. Nothing very revolutionary, granted, but reasonably promising. Clarissa Explains It All Created and produced by Mitchell Kriegman; theme song written and performed by Rachel Sweet; produced by Thunder Pictures in association with Nickelodeon. Wednesday at 8 P.M. on Nickelodeon. Clarissa . . . Melissa Joan Hart Sam . . . Sean O'Neal Janet . . . Elizabeth Hess Marshall . . . Joe O'Conner Ferguson . . . Jason Zimbler

An Article from The New York Times

UP & COMING: Melissa Joan Hart; The Melissa Inside Clarissa Explains It All for Us

Published: August 25, 1991

A 14-year-old girl is the smartest person in the world. She is wiser than her parents and cooler than her siblings. She knows everything about dressing, and even more about music. And no one keeps closer track of her family's most mortifying habits, everything from Dad's burping to Mom's public appearances in curlers. Parents!

This is why "Clarissa Explains It All for You," Nickelodeon's sitcom about just such a 14-year-old girl and her family, provides not only entertainment but a public service for a country full of Clarissas who must suffer the nightly indignity of setting the dinner table instead of club-hopping with Madonna. The show airs on Sundays at 12:30 and 6:30 P.M.

What makes "Clarissa" different is that the lead character, played by 15-year-old Melissa Joan Hart, breaks the rules of traditional sitcoms. She will turn to the camera, say, during one of her mom's tirades, roll her eyes, and start her own commentary. And when her mother insists the family play charades, Clarissa is so embarrassed that she covers the camera to hide the bunch of losers she is forced to live with.

It comes as no surprise that Melissa is just as cool as Clarissa. At 15, she's a show-biz veteran, having shot her first commercial at age 4. She appeared with William Hurt in "Beside Herself" Off Broadway two years ago, and has performed on "Saturday Night Live" and "The Equalizer."

She arrives at the offices of Nickelodeon after a tutoring session for a Regents exam. Talking about school makes her weary. She would rather describe the Violet Femmes concert she'd been to the night before, though the part about being chaperoned is a bore.

It's a good thing she had one. Because Melissa is already grown-up beautiful, with big blue eyes and thick black brows a la Mariel Hemingway. And despite her funky patchwork dress and unmatched earrings, she's enough of a little girl -- or as the show's press releases unfortunately call her, a "pre-woman" -- to worry about at a heavy metal concert.

"I'm not as wild as Clarissa," she says. "We dress similarly, but Clarissa is into manipulating her parents. I don't. I just talk mine into things." She lives in Manhattan with her three sisters and a brother, all of whom "are in the business." She says her mother is "a stage mother who manages all of us" and her father is an "entrepreneur in shellfish."

Why does Melissa think her show is catching on? "I always say its main point is 'don't give in to peer pressure,' " she says. " 'Live your own life.' Clarissa doesn't care what anyone else thinks, and kids like that. Her energy and openness are really appealing." She says that girls who come to audition at Nickelodeon now all dress like Clarissa. Doesn't that miss the point about individuality? She shrugs. "You just shouldn't worry about what other people think," she repeats.

She seems to take her own advice. Her self-confidence is a definite anomaly among "pre-women." Does she ever relate to Clarissa's persistent embarrassment? Yes, she says instantly, recalling a surprise birthday party given for her in April. Elizabeth Hess, who plays her mother, gave her a bustier. "When I saw what it was, I shoved it back in the box. I mean, to get underwear in front of all those people!"

She also remembers a time at the Hard Rock Cafe "when a girl got up on the next table and started to vogue and my mom got up on our table and started to dance, too." She covers her face. "Oh, my God."

You don't have to be Clarissa to see her point.

Correction: September 29, 1991, Sunday

An article in Arts & Leisure on Aug. 25 about the actress Melissa Joan Hart misidentified the Nickelodeon television series in which she stars. It is "Clarissa Explains It All." A reader's letter pointing out the error was misplaced for several weeks.

To watch some clips from Clarissa Explains It All go to

For a Website dedicated to Clarissa Explains it All go to

To watch the opening credits go to
Date: Sun March 26, 2017 � Filesize: 56.9kb, 139.6kbDimensions: 663 x 999 �
Keywords: Melissa Joan Hart (Links Updated 7/24/18)


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