Clarissa Explains It All (Nickelodeon, 1991-1994)
This is another American sitcom aimed at children that eventually came to this country. Clarissa Explains It All was originally shown on Nickelodeon, and it starred Melissa Joan Hart as Clarissa Darling, a girl in her early-teens. Now this was that age where Clarissa was beginning to learn about things in life including boys and spots, and she wanted to tell us all about it.
Most episodes begin with Clarissa breaking the fourth wall and directly addressing the viewers about what was currently on her mind. This would also occasionally be accompanied by some bizarre cutaway scenes. Clarissa also had a fondness for computer games, and we would see how she was getting on at Thomas Tupper Junior High School, it really was chaos.
We also meet Clarissa’s family, her mother Janet who was a teacher, her father Marshall who was an architect, and her younger brother Ferguson. He was something of a swot, and there was a lot of sibling rivalry between the pair of them, meaning that they spent a lot of time squabbling. All of these situations helped to shape Clarissa’s increasingly worldly-wise outlook on life.
The only other main character was Sam, who often entered Clarissa’s bedroom through the window, which was always accompanied by a piece of music, and the greeting “hey, Sam”. Now I always thought that he was going out with Clarissa, but it seems that he was just a good friend, because she was very well-behaved. Oh, and did they do an episode where Clarissa developed a punk alter-ego and a boy at school fell for her? Of course they did!
Indeed, although Clarissa had to deal with various things as her life changed, she seemed to be much more level-headed and less angst-ridden than most other TV characters (a more traumatic portrayal of what the teenage years can be like could be found in other sitcoms around at the same time including Married… With Children). An episode where she tried to bake a cake as a surprise for her parents’ wedding anniversary was just about as difficult as it ever got for her.
Clarissa Explains It All did well for Nickelodeon, and there were 65 episodes in five series. It wasn’t shown in the UK until 1994, by which point it had already ended in America, and it was originally shown as part of the Saturday Morning show Live & Kicking, before it moved to the main CBBC afternoon slot, where it would be repeated regularly until 1999. The show also had a distinctive “na-na-na” theme song (provided by Rachel Sweet) that it was difficult to get out of your head.
As far as 90s American sitcoms go, I don’t remember enjoying it as much as Out Of This World, but it still contained some good moments. I’m fairly sure that it wasn’t been released on DVD in this country though. Hart of course would later star in Sabrina The Teenage Witch, another successful long-running children’s sitcom (I’ll review that one soon too).