Clarissa Explains It All

Common Sense Media says

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.

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, this likable '90s sitcom has 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.

Parents say

Kids say

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.

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 this show'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?

TV details

Cast:Jason Zimbler, Melissa Joan Hart, Sean O'Neal
Topics:Friendship, High school
TV rating:TV-G
Available on:DVD, Streaming

This review of Clarissa Explains It All was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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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, 15 years old Written byGateswing_Guy March 13, 2013

I miss this show.

This show was so much fun! I loved Clarissa Explains It All! IT WAS SO AWESOME! It was funny and loveable. The characters were great and funny. The best part-the plots were creative and that is what made this show SOOOOOOOOOO addictive. I'm so angry that CEIA got canned.
Adult Written byAl Jackson April 15, 2012

Beyond Awesome!

I love and miss this show! I've been watching it since I was 10! It was REALLY funny and epic!


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