Back in the 90’s, one of my favorite TV shows was Clarissa Explains It All. Clarissa Explains It All was a show on Nickelodeon that straddled the line between being a children’s show and a show for teenagers. Thanks to great writing and an amazing performance by Melissa Joan Hart, Clarissa Explains It All was quirky, fun, and never talked down to its audience. It also had one of my favorite openings to any TV show ever.
A few years back, I was doing some research on Clarissa Explains It All and that’s when I learned about a failed pilot for a spin-off series on ABC that was made in 1995, shortly after the cancellation of Clarissa Explains It All. The idea for the pilot was that it would pick up after Clarissa moved to New York to become a journalist and would follow her attempt to make it in the Big Apple. Similar to the original show, the show was made to straddle the line between two demographics, this time the teenagers who watched the original show and young adults who might enjoy the slightly more mature storylines.
The pilot was not picked up, and for good reason: it wasn’t very good. You can see for yourself here as it’s been streaming on YouTube for years.
I liked the concept and I would have loved more Clarissa stories, but it just didn’t achieve what it set out to do. Luckily, a few years later, Melissa Joan Hart would find herself in another show that set out to reach the same audience and it was massively successful. That show would be Sabrina the Teenage Witch.
Something else I learned during my deep dive of Clarissa Explains It All was that the creator of the show Mitchell Kriegman, wrote a follow up novel that catches up with Clarissa in her late twenties titled Things I Can’t Explain. It seemed so random and so unknown, I knew I had to read it. So I bought a copy, and it’s been sitting for years as I proceeded to read all sorts of other books and not it.
A few weeks back, my friend Michael wrote a review on his blog about Clarissa Now, the unsold pilot. I was thrilled to see his post on Clarissa, since I had never heard of anyone who even knew that the unsold pilot existed. We exchanged a few messages regarding the book, Things I Can’t Explain and decided to have a little online book club. This is the first post of the book club. We agreed to read the first two chapters and just post our thoughts and commentary. Unless you are reading along, I’m sure some of the future posts will be incredibly dull and hard to relate to, but this seemed like a fun and easy way for us to interact and so here we are.
Chapters One and Two:
I haven’t read anything about Things I Can’t Explain since I first heard of it, so I went in completely open and with no expectations. I was surprised to find the novel taking place in Clarissa’s late twenties and even more surprised to see it included Clarissa Now as canon! I had to stop reading and do an IMDB search to verify that the editor she wrote for was indeed named Hugh Hamilton and it really made me smile to see that much care and love be put into this novel. So far, it seems like a love letter to the fans.
I think it’s great to have the book written in the first person and every line so far has seemed perfect for the character. I read it in Melissa Joan Hart’s voice and it feels like a perfect extension of the show. I love how she hasn’t lost her quirkiness and included lists and definitions of small observations in her life.
The Map of Coffee Comfort and the Micro Relationships List were two of the highlights for me.
I like how they are going with the fish out of water (small town Ohio girl in the Big City) story and I’m interesting in seeing how Clarissa navigates relationships at her current age. I’m also hoping for more random commentary on various things she encounters such as the subway in the first chapter.
So far, I’m digging it.