Clarissa Explains It All

Clarissa Explains It All

Sometimes your fevered imagination is correct and the characters on TV do talk back to you. It happened in every episode of the teen comedy series Clarissa Explains It All, one of Nickelodeon’s most popular kid shows in the 90s.

The titular character, Clarissa Darling, was an average teenager with average teenage problems who tackled life’s adolescent pitfalls with sassiness, then turned around and told the audience all about it. Routinely breaking the fourth wall, Clarissa explained everything from dating to homework to pimples to horrid little brothers. If Clarissa didn’t talk about it, it wasn’t worth talking about. The show was in sitcom format and featured little-known Melissa Joan Hart as Clarissa. The girl’s daily interactions with her parents, Marshall and Janet, her brother, Ferguson, and her best friend, Sam, were all fodder for Clarissa’s monologues to the camera.

It was a groundbreaking show in its own time even if it appears quite tame by today’s standards. Clarissa didn’t flinch away from words like ‘hell’ and ‘sex’ like most kids TV shows and she addressed any and all topics with frankness and humor. Also unusual was the relationship with Sam, a boy with heartthrob written all over him, which never evolved (or devolved, for that matter) into a romance. Their friendship stayed strictly platonic without being burdened by a ‘will they or won’t they’ tension even when Sam regularly climbed in through the bedroom window to pay Clarissa a visit.

Clarissa’s aplomb carried her through many difficult and embarrassing situations. The very first episode of the series, for example, dealt with plotting revenge against her little brother for showing her training bra at school. There was nowhere to go but up for this show after that opening gambit.

The series was a big success for Nickelodeon and ran from 1991 to 1994. Hart, the young star, racked up a considerable fanbase who followed her to another show, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, which was even more of a hit than Clarissa Explains It All. You can still occasionally catch Clarissa reruns on Nickelodeon, just in case you still needed something explained to you.

Did you grow up watching Clarissa Explains It All in the 90s? Did the show impart any life lessons that you’ve carried with you into your adult years? We’d love to hear your thoughts about this popular kids show in our comments section below.

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