Series: Clarissa Explains It All
This may be the greatest show ever recorded.
"If you're so smart explain THIS, Clarissa!"
♪ Na na na na-na!
One of the earliest original sitcoms on Nickelodeon
, about a teenage girl named Clarissa Darling, her geeky, conniving, conservative brother Ferguson, and her wacky hippie parents. Usually featured Clarissa commenting on the plot directly to the camera, imitating a newscaster.
Despite its seemingly innocent reputation, in retrospect, Clarissa
probably got some crap past the radar
, as the show had a habit of making subtle references to sex and teen partying, albeit in a light-hearted, contemporary fashion. Also one of the few shows on the channel that could skate by with using and at times spelling out words like "hell" and "sex" onscreen.
Also noteworthy for being one of the first shows to feature a female lead and be gender-neutral. Before this show, the only shows with a female lead (as few as they were) were intended for girls only. It also helped to tear down a long standing belief that shows with female leads wouldn't be able to gain a significant male audience.
The show ran from 1991 to 1994, ending just before the introduction of cartoon programming that would come to dominate the channel in The Nineties
. Is also notable for being one of the roles Melissa Joan Hart is known for besides being a witch
In July 2011, it became one of the four inaugural shows of TeenNick
's "The '90s Are All That
This series provides examples of:
- Amazingly Embarrassing Parents
- Annoying Younger Sibling: You have to ask?
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: "There are lots of things worse than having your mom teach at your school, like flossing with barbed wire, swimming through shark-infested waters, or having Ferguson for a brother."
- Aside Comment: How she Explains It All.
- Babysitting Episode: One episode had Clarissa baby sitting "Little Elsie", an absolute monster of a child, who makes it a point to make Clarissa's life a living hell. Clarissa manages to beat her by goading her into bragging about everything she's gotten away with and recording it.
- Balloonacy: Clarissa attempts to do away with Ferguson by hooking him up to a straitjacket attached to balloons(!). Hapless Sam falls victim to the trap instead.
- Better as Friends: Sam develops a crush on Clarissa at one point, and she reluctantly agrees to go on a date with him. It turns out that, as close as they are, they have absolutely zero chemistry and agree that they are... well, this trope.
- Big Eater: Clifford. Eating an entire pizza just makes him hungrier.
- Black Best Friend: Olivia, though she doesn't appear as frequently as Sam.
- Butt Monkey: Sam.
- Cannot Tell a Joke: Ferguson was generally a straight-laced, snobby know it all. Later in the series, he spent an entire episode practicing the delivery of a cliche joke (A homeless man walks up to me on the street and says he hasn't had a bite in...) for some event that he was participating in. The humor came not from the joke itself, but from the ludicrous attempts at telling it, which eventually started including ridiculous stresses on random words of the punchline, a la "I bit him. I bit him. I bit him."
- Chain Letter: Marshall got one.
- Cigarette of Anxiety: Clarissa has a dream sequence where she finds her mother smoking like a chimney. The mother explains that she used to smoke and had quit, but that recent stress had caused her to pick up the habit again.
- Cloudcuckoolander: One episode, Clarissa has serious problems training to become "normal". It Runs in the Family, even her mentor is Not So Above It All.
- Conflict Ball: The source of some of the drama being the unjustified parental veto.
- Consolation World Record: In one episode.
- Cool Bike: One episode revolves around her wanting to ride a motorcycle.
- Cool Pet: Clarissa has a pet alligator named "Elvis".
- Cool Teacher: Mr. Futtstein. Clarissa often quotes his words of wisdom, and one of his assignments was watching television for 24 hours straight to figure out how to improve it.
- A Day in the Limelight: "Ferguson Explains it All".
- Dogged Nice Guy: Well, closer to Dogged Jerk with a Heart of Gold, but the Clarissa/Clifford dynamic starts off by following this to the letter, with Clarissa being irritated by his relentless serenading (you read that right) her until he stops, at which point she realizes she misses him.
- Drop-In Character: Hi Sam! *dissonant guitar chord*
- Enter Stage Window: It's debatable whether Sam's even aware the Darlings' house has a door. At one point he was downstairs in the kitchen, and instead of leaving through the back door he climbed out through that window!
- Evil Redhead: Ferguson.
- First Gray Hair: In one episode, Clarissa's mother panics about getting older after discovering that she has a gray hair. Clarissa's dad, however, is quick to point out to her that she only had a gray hair, having just plucked it out before both characters entered the scene.
- Full Name Ultimatum
- Game Show Appearance
- Getting Crap Past the Radar:
- A surprising amount of it. (see above for more info)
- For starters, one episode had Clarissa go lingerie shopping at the mall, and accidentally bring one of the bustiers home with her.
- Granola Girl: Clarissa's mom.
- Guy Next Door: Sam
- Homage: One episode has Clarissa befriending Eve, the new girl in school; she practically worships Clarissa, begins copying her style, and later steals her ideas for the school newspaper column.
- Hostile Show Takeover: "Ferguson Explains It All".
- I Just Want to Be You: Eve in the episode "Hero Worship".
- Imagine Spot: At least Once an Episode, often more.
- Insufferable Genius: Ferguson
- Intrepid Reporter: The one featured on the show has an odd tendency to sleep standing up.
- Laugh Track
- Leitmotif: Now full-on Memetic Mutation.
- Lethal Chef: Janet, as she both is a health food nut and likes to experiment in the kitchen.
- Love at First Punch: Clifford falls for Clarissa because she's the first girl to ever try and stand up to him. However, they don't actually fight, which is definitely a good thing as it's made abundantly clear the results would not have been pretty.
- Loves My Alter Ego: Clarissa once attended a costume party while dressing and acting like a punk named "Jade", and caught the attention of an older boy.
- No Fourth Wall
- No Sparks: The reason Clarissa and Sam decide they're Better as Friends.
- Of Corsets Sexy: Clarissa tries on a bustier and accidentally leaves the store wearing it under her clothes. May count as She Is All Grown Up.
- Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Sometimes we see Clarissa come up with a solution and only hear what happened after she carried it out.
- Pac Man Fever: Clarissa would, Once an Episode, make a game venting her frustrations at her current dilemma. They looked a bit like what games would appear as at the time; but nowadays they would be more appropriate for flash.
- Pet's Homage Name: In one episode, Ferguson finds a lost cat that he names William F. Buckley.
- Phrase Catcher: "Hi, Sam." twang
- Platonic Life Partners: Clarissa and Sam.
- Precocious Crush: Clarissa develops a temporary one on the local television weatherman.
- Rear Window Investigation: The episode where Clarissa and Sam try dating features a B-plot with Ferguson investigating a possible murder the neighbor appeared to commit.
- Shaped Like What It Sells: Marshall Darling is an architect who seems to specialize in these.
- Spin-Off: After the series ended, Nickelodeon aired the pilot for a failed spin-off called "Clarissa Now" which focused on Clarissa getting a job in New York. It even featured an urbanized version of the "Na Na" theme song. It failed to catch on with younger viewers due to the fact that it was originally produced as a prime-time sitcom for CBS complete with an all-adult cast that included comedian Robert Klein and Lisa Gay Hamilton (of "The Practice").
- There Was a Door: Sam. Repeatedly.
- Thirty Minutes or It's Free: Since their mom is a health-food nut, Clarissa and Ferguson once took advantage of being allowed to order pizza by timing the delivery boy down to seconds, and then re-ordering more when he was inevitably late.
- Time To Move
- Title Sequence Replacement: The first season episodes originally opened with Clarissa trying on different costumes her family and Sam handed her.
- Trapped in TV Land
- Un Duet: Clarissa performs one in front of Sam when her partner backs out.
- Unintentional Period Piece