Clarissa Explains It All: Season 1 (1991)

DVD Cover (Nickelodeon)
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Overall Rating 71%
Overall Rating
Ranked #3,909
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Clarissa Darling is a teen girl dealing with typical pre-adolescent concerns such as school, boys, pimples, wearing her first training bra and an annoying little brother Ferguson. --TMDb
Review by Chad
Added: January 29, 2009
After sitting through Room 6 last night and seeing Christine Taylor of Nickelodeon's Hey Dude for the first time in ages, I thought that I'd take a trip down memory lane and review a season or two of that charming little teen-oriented show. Unfortunately, it still hasn't found a home on DVD, so I figured that I'd pick up Are You Afraid of the Dark?, another one of the shows that I loved during my childhood years. Shockingly, that one is also unavailable on DVD unless you dive into the world of expensive and low-quality bootlegs, so I decided to settle on the one show that has been printed to plastic: Clarissa Explains It All.

I can't say that this was one of my favorite shows on SNICK (bonus points if you remember what that stands for), but I did have fond memories of the show and the leading lady, a sassy little lass who would quickly become one of my first boyhood crushes. It may sound creepy writing that here since she was only fourteen at the time, but hey, she was older than me by a couple of years when I was drooling over her. Anywho, I decided to go ahead and pop the only available season into my player to see if it held up after all these years, and the results were surprising.

For the youngin's in the audience, the show revolved around your typical family from down the block. Clarissa Darling (Melissa Joan Hart) is the star of the show here, and she lives at home with eccentric mother Janet (Elizabeth Hess), her out-of-touch father Marshall (Joe O'Connor), and of course, her annoying brat of a brother Ferguson (Jason Zimbler). Her "best bud" Sam (Sean O'Neal) shows up at least once per episode to add to the plot at hand, and instead of knocking on the door like a civilized person, he opts to instead climb a ladder directly into Clarissa's bedroom (I'm going to bet that that made for some awkward moments in this little universe). Oh, and she has a pet alligator named Elvis, and she is just dying to finally get behind the wheel of her very own car.

These are your characters throughout each of the thirteen episodes on this disc (though a few other one-time characters show up from time to time), and the plot for these episodes revolves around your typical teenage topics: the yearly school picture, bullies, overbearing relatives, and yes, getting rid of the younger sibling once and for all. In keeping with the title of the show, Clarissa frequently breaks the fourth wall to talk directly to those of us watching at home: sometimes she'll explain her plans to us, other times, she merely offers her observations about the events that are taking place. That's really about it for the show: it's a simple affair with plot devices that had been done countless times before, but it used these storylines in such a charming way that audiences couldn't help but fall in love with her and her family.

So, how did it hold up? Newer audiences may turn their noses up at the way that the show has aged, and truthfully, I can't say that I would blame them. For starters, the pop culture references pay homage to people and events that are all but forgotten - hell, I grew up during this era and even I couldn't remember the occasional event that they were nodding at. I think it's safe to say that most will catch the Madonna references, but do you remember Martika and Nelson well enough to catch the jokes? There's also the fashion sense of the main characters that looked hip and fresh back in the show's prime, but today, the "the eighties are over but the nineties hasn't really begun" look is as dated as can be. It's a silly thing to gripe about, but I couldn't help but notice it time and time again when Clarissa or Sam popped up in these wild, colorful outfits that today's kids would come right out and laugh at.

Both of these things bugged me, but really, you can't hold them against the show itself: I'm sure that the cutting-edge programming that we enjoy today will seem silly to the next generation, so you can't fault it for appealing to the audience of its time. One other thing that I noticed that won't gel with today's audiences is how edgy some of this material was. Now, you're obviously not going to see gratuitous nudity and extreme violence, but there is some material in here that simply wouldn't fly in today's kiddie shows. Mild profanity ("hell", "piss") is used by the leading characters, Clarissa's training bra and and her desire for lingerie comes into play, and yes, even the topic of sex comes up. I couldn't believe how much they were able to get away with in a show that catered to preteens, but this may explain why the show was such a hit; kids could identify with the characters on their screen, even if they were involved with something as silly as attempting to murder a younger brother or cover up a broken vase with claims of ghosts.

Again, this was never one of my favorite shows, but I'm surprised at how much I enjoyed it as an adult. It's certainly not a television classic, but those of you who grew up during this era will definitely find a lot to love about it. I do have to say that it's a damned shame that the other four seasons are "indefinitely postponed" and will likely never find a modern audience outside of bootleggers and downloaders, but at least we got one season to add to our shelves. 8/10.
bluemeanie #1: bluemeanie - added 01/29/2009, 10:33 AM
I grew up on this show and still love it. I wish I had a pet alligator named Elvis. 10/10.
Optimus Prime #2: Optimus Prime - added 01/29/2009, 11:50 AM
Ferguson! What a nerd? Remember the halloween episode. Spooky as fuck. And how creepy would it be to have someone come over whenever they like through a window with a ladder? Really creepy. 9/10

Thanks for reviewing this by the way. Should do more of the old Nickelodeon ones if you ever feel like it.
Edd #3: Edd - added 01/29/2009, 01:11 PM
All those video games were fucking awesome. They need to do Dude Ranch after this. 10/10
bluemeanie #4: bluemeanie - added 01/29/2009, 03:04 PM
Sorry to be such a stickler, but it was called HEY DUDE. I actually have the entire series on VHS, but am DYING for a DVD release. It's like that show has just disappeared forever.
Nirrad #5: Nirrad - added 01/29/2009, 03:34 PM
Wow, this is a random review...haha. As for Hey Dude, is that the show that on the ranch? If so, that show is god awful. You Can't Do That On Television is where its at.
Crispy #6: Crispy - added 01/29/2009, 03:46 PM
Yeah, I was never big on Hey Dude. Fuck YCDToT. Doesn't hold a candle to Are You Afraid of the Dark?. Roundhouse was pretty good too. As for Snick, wasn't it Saturday Night Nick
Nirrad #7: Nirrad - added 01/29/2009, 03:51 PM
Yeah, I used to watch Snick at my friends house. He never had cable or anything, but he a giant yellow satellite dish that punked a few american channels. I was able to watch Darkwing Duck, Rug Rats and Rocos Modern Life because of this. I never had the station that aired some of these cartoons.
Optimus Prime #8: Optimus Prime - added 01/29/2009, 04:12 PM
Remember Stick Stickley? Cheapest mascot ever.
Crispy #9: Crispy - added 01/29/2009, 04:31 PM
LMAO, the popsicle stick. I had forgotten that mother fucker.
Strait Killa #10: Strait Killa - added 01/29/2009, 04:57 PM
i'm waiting for a salute your shorts dvd release. and by the way, Face was the cheapest mascot ever, from nick jr. way back
Crispy #11: Crispy - added 01/29/2009, 05:11 PM
Pfft. Face had to pay for animators, Stickly probably ran them less than a buck to put together.
Farley #12: Farley - added 01/30/2009, 01:04 AM
Yeah son SNICk was the shit.
Mojokc #13: Mojokc - added 02/09/2009, 11:12 AM
OMG chad I totally remember me and you watching this show at Bruce's. Damn that was a looooong time ago. As for snick yeah I remember that. My memories a little cloudy in my..."older" years but I remember us also watching the shit out of Ren and Stimpy around the same time as Clarissa. So sue me for not being geek enough to remembering the exact show line ups and times from that time period but I seem to remember them being fairly close together. Another great show from that relative time period I believe was Pete and Pete but I could be wrong on that one.
grain of sand #14: grain of sand - added 02/11/2009, 04:23 AM
I'm so glad someone brought up Stick Stickley, cheapest but best mascot in the history of all things.
pbg #15: pbg - added 09/02/2009, 05:49 AM
damn orange couches....
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