Clarissa Explains it All
Clarissa Explains It All is an American teen sitcom created by Mitchell Kriegman for Nickelodeon. In the series, Clarissa Darling, played by Melissa Joan Hart, is a teenager 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.
Clarissa Explains It All aired for five seasons and a total of 65 episodes from March 23, 1991 to October 1, 1994, later going into reruns. Reruns of the show have appeared intermittently on TeenNick’s channel block The ’90s Are All That (now The Splat) since July 25, 2011.
In 2015, Mitchell Kriegman (the show’s creator) released a novel, Things I Can’t Explain, which serves as a sequel to the series. In the novel, Clarissa is now in her late 20s and trying to navigate life as an adult.
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 alligator 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, The Amanda Show and The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo. 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.
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. 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[editorializing] commentary on the “MTV generation” of the time.[original research?] In another episode, Clarissa accidentally shoplifts lingerie, and the terms “hell” and “sex drive” were occasionally uttered during the show’s run. 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!”