The year was 1991, and if you were a kid between the ages of 10 and 17, you were probably watching Clarissa Explains It All. As one of the first wave of Nickelodeon-branded sitcoms, Clarissa was a lot like the network she belonged to: kooky, flashily dressed, and, in hindsight, way ahead of her time. The show, which went on for five glorious seasons, revolved around Melissa Joan Hart’s Clarissa, a highly loveable, refreshingly sarcastic, and slightly overreactive young teen as she navigated through life’s major problems (i.e. blind dates, driving, and an incorrigible younger brother).
This Friday, Clarissa’s creator (and Santa Barbara Independent contributing writer) Mitchell Kriegman heads to Isla Vista Theater as part of the Magic Lantern film series, where he’ll screen clips from the show, field audience questions, and talk about the ins and outs of creating a sitcom.
Last week, we sat down with Kriegman to discuss the event, as well as Clarissa’s fabled origin story.
“I wanted to take all the crazy ideas that I couldn’t do at Saturday Night Live and I couldn’t do at the Comedy Channel and put it in the mouth of a girl who was charming and sweet and wonderful,” Kriegman laughed as he recounted the show’s conceptual vision. “I was convinced she would be able to get away with way more than me.”
He was right. But Clarissa also did a lot more — like set the foundation for female-led, young-adult programming — which is why Kriegman feels now is such a great time to revisit the show and its impact.
“There are big questions about Clarissa and diversity that are worth answering and discussions to be had about how important diversity was in those beginning days of Nickelodeon — and how important it still is today,” he said. “The controversy around Clarissa creates another opportunity to talk about all the issues that she started talking about back in the ’90s.”
Kriegman appears at Isla Vista Theater to discuss Clarissa and sign copies of his new book, Being Audrey Hepburn, on Friday, November 7, at 7 p.m. Admission is $5. Visit facebook.com/magiclanternfilmsiv for info.