Clarissa Explains It All

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Not to be confused with Clarissa, a 1991 British TV series
Clarissa Explains It All
Clarissa Explains It All Logo.png
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
Willa Bassen
Opening theme Rachel Sweet
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 5[1]
No. of episodes 65[2] (List of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Mitchell Kriegman
Marjorie Cohn
Brown Johnson
Geoffrey Darby
Andy Bamberger
Location(s) Universal Studios
Orlando, Florida
Camera setup Multi-camera setup
Running time 22 minutes
Production company(s) Thunder Pictures
Original channel Nickelodeon
Picture format NTSC
Audio format Stereo
Original run March 23, 1991 (1991-03-23)[1][3] – December 3, 1994 (1994-12-03)[1][4]

Clarissa Explains It All is an American teen sitcom that aired on Nickelodeon.[5][6] Created by Mitchell Kriegman, it aired for five seasons for a total of 65 episodes[1] from March 23, 1991,[3] to December 3, 1994,[4] and then went into reruns.

In the series, Clarissa Darling, who is played by Melissa Joan Hart,[7][8][9][10] 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.[11][12]


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 also had a pet baby caiman named Elvis whom she kept in a kiddie-sandbox, who would appear sporadically in early episodes. Clarissa 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, Zoey 101, 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.[13]

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?. Clarissa dealt with normal adolescent issues such as first crushes, getting a driver's license, and preparing for college and working. 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). For instance, in one episode Clarissa watches television nonstop for an entire weekend (as part of a research project) and begins to think she is going crazy after she tires; an obvious commentary on the "MTV generation" of the time. In another episode, Clarissa accidentally shoplifts lingerie, and the terms "hell" and "sex drive" were occasionally uttered during the show's run. Additionally a running gag highlighted Clarissa's sibling rivalry with her brother Ferguson, and their attempts to harm or even kill each other.

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, Clarissa is a smart, sarcastic and realistic teenage girl. 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 a 9th grader at Thomas Tupper Junior High. Clarissa is pretty and popular and generally well-liked by her classmates. Her interests include photography, journalism, and 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 mismatched.
  • Ferguson W. Darling (Jason Zimbler) (born February 13, according to the episode "Class Picture") – Clarissa's younger brother, a mischievous redhead who has their mother's maiden name for his first name. He and Clarissa 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, though the Season 3 episode "Sam's Swan Song" reveals that his mother is a roller derby queen.
  • Janet Ferguson-Darling (Elizabeth Hess[7]) – The mother of the family. 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) – The father of the family. 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[edit]

  • Hillary O'Keefe (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 Canadian 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.
The Complete First Season on DVD


Home video releases[edit]

Throughout the early 1990s a number of VHS tapes were released through 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.[14] 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,[14] 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.[15] Melissa won three competitive Young Artist Awards during the show's original run,[16][17][18] as well as receiving the association's honorary Former Child Star Award in 2013 for her role as Clarissa.[19]

Broadcast history[edit]

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.[11][12] 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.

In popular culture[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Clarissa Explains It All at
  2. ^ "Clarissa To Explain It All For Final Time". Orlando Sentinel. December 17, 1993. Retrieved 2010-09-03. 
  3. ^ a b Television section, New York Times, March 17, 1991, and March 23, 1991.
  4. ^ a b TV Week guide, September 29 – October 5, 1994, Bryan-College Station Eagle.
  5. ^ Lipton, Laura (March 17, 1991). "Nickelodeon gets inside the head of a 13-year-old named Clarissa Darling". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-09-03. 
  6. ^ Witchel, Alex (August 25, 1991). "UP & COMING: Melissa Joan Hart; The Melissa Inside Clarissa Explains It All for Us". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-10. 
  7. ^ a b Hinman, Catherine (June 22, 1991). "Clarissa She's 14, Hip And Hot The Spunky Tv Teen Has Captivated Viewers And Put Orlando-based Nickelodeon Studios On The Sitcom Map.". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 2010-09-03. 
  8. ^ Minor, Debra K. (February 12, 1991). "New Nickelodeon Show To Be Produced Here". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 2010-09-03. 
  9. ^ Shrieves, Linda (January 3, 1993). "Melissa Explains Clarissa". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 2010-09-02. 
  10. ^ Clarissa Explains It All Cast and Crew
  11. ^ a b Smiley, Brett (March 10, 2011). "Nick At Nite For Twentysomethings On The Way". Retrieved 2011-05-22. 
  12. ^ a b Rice, Lynette (March 10, 2011). "TeenNick goes retro with '90s programming -- EXCLUSIVE". Retrieved 2011-05-22. 
  13. ^ Holbert, Ginny (September 29, 1994). "Clarissa's Grown Up And Gone // Nickelodeon Sends Off Its Star After 3 Years". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2011-03-10. 
  14. ^ a b "Clarissa Explains It All - Season One (1991)". 
  15. ^ Awards for Clarissa Explains it All at
  16. ^ "13th Annual Youth in Film Awards". Retrieved April 25, 2013. 
  17. ^ "14th Annual Youth in Film Awards". Retrieved April 25, 2013. 
  18. ^ "16th Annual Youth in Film Awards". Retrieved April 25, 2013. 
  19. ^ "34th Annual Young Artist Awards". Retrieved April 25, 2013. 
  20. ^

External links[edit]