Clarissa Explains It All TV Poster Image

Clarissa Explains It All

Fun '90s show deals thoughtfully with coming-of-age issues.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Nothing educational, per se, but there are some good lessons to be found in how Clarissa deals with the events in her life. Honesty, loyalty, and reliability are just a few of the character traits that are illustrated in the show's plot.

Positive messages

Viewers see a teen cope with everyday challenges like balancing family and social obligations, managing self-expression within parental guidelines, and dealing with a bully. The show's unique style allows Clarissa to speak directly to the audience, which makes viewers a part of the process of learning the lesson in each story.

Positive role models

Clarissa is a mature, independent, trustworthy teen who has an open relationship with her parents and a unique closeness to her best friend, who's a boy. She strives to solve her own problems but always seeks out guidance when she's in over her head. There's some sibling rivalry between her and her brother, but when push comes to shove, they support each other. Characters demonstrate compassion and integrity.

Violence & scariness
Not applicable
Sexy stuff

Some storylines center on dating and teen crushes, and there are some references to sex. Clarissa's best friend is a boy who's often seen in her bedroom, but their relationship is purely platonic. There's occasional mention of bras and lingerie.


Occasional use of "hell," and Clarissa and her brother sometimes call each other names like "fungus face" and "weasel."

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Occasional mention of smoking and drinking, but it's not shown.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that despite being fairly dated, Clarissa Explains It All is a likable '90s sitcom with a lot of appeal for today's tweens and their parents. It centers on a down-to-earth teen whose daily conundrums involve relationships with her family (including her pesky brother), the woes of dating, and the many complicated situations in which she finds herself, all of which yield positive learning experiences with wholesome morals about friendship, trust, and honesty. Clarissa draws emotional strength and a sense of identity from her tight-knit family, and her parents encourage her independence while remaining accessible if she needs advice. The show was an anomaly during its original run because it cast a close boy/girl friendship that wasn't hampered by sexual attraction, which offers parents a good opportunity to talk about social dynamics and dating with their tweens.

What's the story?

CLARISSA EXPLAINS IT ALL stars Melissa Joan Hart as Clarissa Darling, a spunky, outgoing teen who talks to viewers about anything and everything that happens in her life. As events unfold within her family and among her friends, Clarissa turns to monologues aimed at her audience to help make sense of what she's feeling and to evaluate how best to cope. The show's stories usually revolve around typical teen woes like pimples, pesky siblings, and dating, and when working out solutions on her own doesn't work, Clarissa turns to her parents, Janet (Elizabeth Hess) and Marshall (Joe O'Connor), or her best friend, Sam (Sean O'Neal), for direction.

Is it any good?


Not surprisingly, this series shows its age in the predictable areas of wardrobe and special effects, but it's not so dated that it would be an impossible sell for today's tweens. This is great news for parents, who will find Clarissa to be a breath of fresh air amid the sexy, sassy female characters who often grace the screen in many modern series. On the contrary, Clarissa's got a level head and high principles, which help guide her through coming-of-age hurdles like having a first crush, accidental shoplifting, and personal insecurities, all of which are dealt with in a thoughtful and realistic manner in Clarissa Explains It All.

Besides Clarissa's enviable relationships with her well-meaning parents and even her irritating (but loyal) little brother, Ferguson (Jason Zimbler), her friendship with Sam raises some interesting points that are important to talk over with your tweens in light of today's sexually mature culture. Be sure to use the opportunity to discuss the fine line between friendship and romantic involvement as well as how your family's rules apply to tweens' freedoms and responsibilities when they're socializing with their peers.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about Clarissa Explains It All 's messages. What lesson(s) did Clarissa learn related to this story? Could you relate to what she was going through? How might you have handled the situation differently?

  • Tweens: What is your reaction to Clarissa and Sam's relationship? Do you think it's possible for boys and girls to be just friends? How does the dynamic between them change as they get older? Do you think there's pressure for relationships to become romantic? What outside factors affect your impression of dating?

  • Tweens: Who are some of your role models? How do their actions and values help shape your own? How do they help you work through struggles in your life? Do you often ask for their help or guidance?

  • How do the characters in Clarissa Explains It All demonstrate compassion and integrity? Why are those important character strengths?

TV details

Premiere date:March 23, 1991
Cast:Jason Zimbler, Melissa Joan Hart, Sean O'Neal
Topics:Friendship, High school
Character strengths:Compassion, Integrity
TV rating:TV-G
Available on:DVD, Streaming

This review of Clarissa Explains It All was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Great handpicked alternatives

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Teen, 15 years old Written byMitchell Charleston May 11, 2013

This sitcom was a masterpiece.

Clarissa Explains It All was funny and creative. It was perfect from the acting to the humor. Nothing was wrong with it. 5 stars for sure.
Teen, 13 years old Written byDisneymovielover77 May 5, 2015
CEIA is a fun show to watch!!! It's too bad this one got canceled but it's still a fun show to watch!! This show centers on Clarissa and it's a coming of age show. They have humor and there is cleverness into it. They certainly don't make shows like they used to. I started to watch some of the classic 90's shows and movies that were on Disney Channel and Nickelodeon. This one was recommended so I gave it a spin and I LOVED it!!! I'm sure many young kids to teenagers can relate to this show. It has a lot of things that make it a great show such as 1 Positive messages ( friendship,etc.) 2 Clever dialogue 3 Good humor ( without any innuendo which is good) 4 Coming of age storylines 5 Every preteen or teen can relate to this show even I can relate to it and Clarissa is a good role model for girls. 6 Good role models 7 Nothing innapropiate There's some name calling among Clarissa and her little brother Ferguson Ever since I saw the first episode of this wonderful show I was hooked, it's pretty addicting. Clarissa is a fun show to watch if you like shows like this and Lizzie McGuire along with some other shows of the 90s then you'll really like this show!!! :)
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Adult Written byChuck Reid March 21, 2012

Cool Sitcom.

This show rocked! It was very funny and unpredicable! I used to watch it when it was still on Nick in the Early 90s.I used to watch it all the time when is was 10 in 1995.Til I watched it too much,for most of the part.Then I just started watching it ocassionally.But I still loved it.They did a lot of cool things with the shows logo.Like,when Clarissa pushed a "Furgeson Explains It All" logo and replaced it with a "Clarissa Explains It All" logo.The plots are pretty good as well.I loved the theme song.I can still sing it.Its THAT catchy! This show gets 5/5.