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27 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Clarissa Explains It All

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Clarissa Explains It All debuted in 1991 and quickly became a classic. "The idea that you do something 20 years ago, and everybody still remembers it—not just remembers it fondly, but passionately, and cares about it—I just love it," says Clarissa creator Mitchell Kriegman. "It's the most satisfying thing in my career." Which is saying something when you've worked on Rocko's Modern Life, Doug, Ren & Stimpy, and Rugrats, created Bear in the Big Blue House, and written a novel about Audrey Hepburn.

We chatted with Kriegman about everything from Clarissa's style and her pet alligator, Elvis, to the show's graphics. He also opened up the Clarissa vault to give us a peek at the show bible, sketches for Clarissa's bedroom, and pages from the original pilot script for the proposed Clarissa spin-off. Way cool!

1. KRIEGMAN’S PRE-CLARISSA CAREER INFLUENCED THE SHOW.

Before he created Clarissa, Kriegman wrote for National Lampoon, The New Yorker, and Saturday Night Live. But his new show was most prominently influenced by his performance art (Clarissa wearing a straitjacket in the pilot was taken from one of his acts) and two shows that he worked on for the Comedy Network: One, a show with musician Rachel Sweet, was “sort of parody of explaining things,” Kriegman says. The other, called Higgins Boys and Gruber, starred Steve Higgins (now the voice of The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon) and his brother, Dave. The duo created wraparounds for the channel's standup clips that "were only 30 seconds to a minute long, but they had this ongoing story," Kriegman says. "They'd talk to the camera and to each other, there were short scenes instead of these long scenes, and things would jump around.”

When the network asked for ideas for shows, Kriegman proposed cutting together all of the segments into a sitcom. “I really wanted to do that show, and I pitched it to the people there, but nobody got it at the time,” Kriegman says. “But I realized that I had learned everything I wanted to know about sitcoms and how to do them in a way that was really cool.” Those influences, combined, led to Clarissa.

2. NICKELODEON ONLY HAD DONE ONE SITCOM WHEN KRIEGMAN PITCHED THE IDEA FOR CLARISSA.

Kriegman, who had a development deal at Nickelodeon, pitched his idea for a sitcom there. At that time, the network had game shows like Double Dare and Nick at Nite programming, and it had aired just one sitcomHey Dude. “Gerry Laybourne had done a ton of studies with an ad agency about the potential audience,” Kriegman says, “and she was really developing her philosophy, which had a lot to do with the network being on the side of the kid, rather than, say, on the side of the toy company. It would be really pure in its intentions—the shows had to be what kids wanted, instead of what adults wanted. It was a bit of the anti-Disney at that time.”

Laybourne gave those studies to Kriegman to analyze, and, he says, “I knew that they needed a girl. They had all this boys stuff, and they weren’t seeing girls in the modern way that girls existed.” So he did his research, reading teen magazines like Sassy and getting input from his wife, who was an editor at Seventeen magazine at the time.

Kriegman planned to make his protagonist interesting to boys, too. “As big a deal as it was at the time, it was a pretty mild idea: ‘Don’t alienate the boys,'” he says. “I don’t think there’s any giant biological barrier to a guy identifying with a girl or a girl identifying with a guy, if the issues are universal to both of them. In that sense, it’s not rocket science.” So Kriegman shied away from story lines that boys wouldn’t care about—no episodes about make-up!—and gave Clarissa a boy friend who wasn’t a boyfriend.

3. KRIEGMAN WON’T SAY WHY HE NAMED HIS HEROINE CLARISSA.

“That’s a secret that’s going to go to my grave with me,” he says. “The only thing I can say is that I intentionally picked a name that she could say that she hated.” Kriegman will say where he got the idea for Clarissa’s last name, though; it comes from the Darling family in Peter Pan.

4. MELISSA JOAN HART ALSO AUDITIONED FOR BLOSSOM.

In her book Melissa Explains It All: Tales From My Abnormally Normal Life, Hart says she'd been auditioning for a role on the NBC series Blossom—playing the titular character’s ditzy best friend, Six—at the same time she was auditioning for Clarissa. She auditioned for both roles three times, and ultimately decided that Clarissa was the right role for her.

5. ANOTHER GIRL CAME CLOSE TO PLAYING CLARISSA.

Kriegman auditioned another actress who, he says, “kind of was Clarissa, and it was a choice between Melissa and this girl. She was a little more Claire Danes-like, honestly.” He ended up choosing Hart because “she was so charming and she just lit up the screen. Because she did that, I could load her up—make [Clarissa] really quirky and different. She could make it play.”

The pilot episode also featured another actor playing Sam, Clarissa's best friend. Sean O'Neal, who eventually won the part, recounted his audition in Slimed: An Oral History of Nickelodeon's Golden Age: "I was there for a few minutes, possibly had read a scene, and then Mitchell asked me to leave the room. Before I stepped out, though, he asked me to mess up my hair. I was a nutcase when I was in school and a little bit of a class clown, so I always used to rub my heavy-duty cowlicks, which made my hair stand on end. When I left the room and messed up my hair, I came back in and Mitchell said, 'Yeah, you've got the job.'"

6. KRIEGMAN PUT TOGETHER A SHOW BIBLE.

The detailed, 52-page document included character descriptions (Clarissa is “the Ferris Bueller of girldom, but also kind of Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes,” while Sam is described as a ‘tip of the iceberg’ character … there’s always a backstory to everything he says”) as well as monologues and catchphrases; detailed breakdowns of how the fantasy sequences, video games, and graphics treatments were done (“Clarissa … instigates and controls all the video effects … Usually Clarissa says ‘OK’ just before she initiates a video effect”); guides to the music stings and sound effects; and guidelines for how Clarissa addressed the camera (“there is no fourth wall … Clarissa talks to the audience naturally and unselfconsciously as any two people talk to each other”).

Kriegman distributed the bible to the show’s writers, and they used it as a guide while writing episodes. Delightfully, it ends with tips for how the writers could submit their scripts: “If you have a modem we can arrange for you to modem your script. Please contact the staff if you have the facilities to modem in your work.” (Hey, it was 1990!)

7. SIBLING RIVALRY WAS ONE OF THE DRIVING FORCES OF THE SERIES.

In the show bible, Kriegman noted that “Although sibling rivalry may not always be the subject of an episode it is always present as part of the context. … The issue of sibling rivalry is treated simply as a fact of life … rather than something the show ever needs to apologize for, or explain away, or tack a moral on.” (He also notes that writers “get extra points for coming up with a good sibling rivalry story.”)

“I went into the show wanting to do sibling rivalry,” Kriegman says. “If you’re going to have sibling rivalry, and you have a girl—which was a given from my perspective—she has to have a really annoying younger brother. He’s got to be the opposite of her.” So he created Ferguson, the anti-Clarissa, who is described in the show bible as “the ultimate goody goody brown noser … Ferguson is the enemy and he feels the same way about Clarissa.”

Sibling rivalry had been present in many prime time sitcoms, but never really in a kids' show, when Clarissa began airing in 1991. “That was a big deal," Kriegman says, "to have her actually hate her brother and actively try to kill him—which I don’t think you could do now, by the way, but that’s what she was trying to do in the pilot.”

8. KRIEGMAN GOT THE IDEA FOR ELVIS FROM AN OLD GIRLFRIEND.

Kriegman wanted to give Clarissa a pet, but felt a regular cat or dog wouldn’t do—he wanted “some different, off-the-wall thing,” he says. He was inspired by a college girlfriend “who had a wading pool in her off-campus apartment that had tadpoles and turtles and all sorts of stuff in it. She was brilliant—she also had a miniature alpine gondola hanging across it. And I was like, ‘Wow, that is just so weird.’ And that’s where the idea for Elvis came from.”

Look carefully in later episodes of the first season, though, and you’ll see that in wide shots, Clarissa's foot-long "security alligator" looks a lot more stiff. “He didn’t last past the first season, because cutting away to Elvis became really boring,” Kriegman laughs. "He’s just sitting there. We’d have some guy take Elvis footage and we’d try to use it later, but it was just really [like]: ‘Do we really have to cut away to Elvis? He’s not the most interesting thing in this show.’ It’s amazing how much Elvis was the foremost thing in people’s minds, because Elvis existed for like six episodes or something.”

9. RACHEL SWEET WROTE THE THEME SONG.

When Kriegman needed a theme song for Clarissa, he went to his friend Rachel Sweet, who came up with the iconic theme song we all have stuck in our heads. “I did not give her any direction,” he says. “She came up with ‘na na na na na na.’ ‘Way cool’ she must have gotten from the show in some way.”

During the first season, the opening title sequence looked much different than the one you probably remember (which you can see above). “There were these jump cuts of her doing things like being a monster, being a ballerina, playing basketball,” Kriegman says. “I just changed it because she was very young—they all were—in the original sequence, and I thought I could do something a little cooler.” (You can see screen grabs from the original opening sequence here.)

10. THE SHOW REVERSED THE TYPICAL SITCOM FORMAT.

In a typical sitcom, there’s a serious A story, which comprises most of the action, and a more lighthearted B story. But Clarissa flipped the format. “The A story is fanciful and absurd and the B story is compassionate and more serious,” Kriegman writes in the show bible. “Obviously this is a comedy, not a heavy issue oriented show, so the B story never gets moral. It’s more likely to be about friendship, hate, love, doing the right thing, being fair, etc. … That’s not to say that the A story might not have something serious at its root … but the way it’s expressed is so completely absurd that the issue is never addressed with a heavy hand.” So, for example, in “School Picture,” the A story is about Clarissa wanting to wear cool clothes to school picture day, while the B story is about her mom, Janet, and her dad, Marshall, arguing about Janet’s high school boyfriend.

11. THE SET FOR CLARISSA’S BEDROOM WAS VERY ELABORATE.

Of all of the sets, Clarissa’s bedroom was the most complex: There’s a They Might Be Giants poster on the wall, a science experiment in the corner (according to the show bible, Clarissa is “watering plants with Club Soda, Perrier and Evian to see which makes them grow fastest”), a dollhouse made by her dad “out of real housing materials that she uses for all of her video equipment,” a collection of weird hats, hubcaps on the wall, and black checkered paint over the flowered pink wall paper.

“I’ll never forget when we designed her room,” Kriegman says. “The designer was very upset at first, because he wanted to design a very girly room. And I said, ‘OK, you can design her girly room,’ and so they did. It was pink. Then I said, ‘Now we’re going to take car paint and paint black checkers across the wall.’ They were in shock. I mean, there was a cameraman who said, ‘What is she, possessed by the devil?’”


Clarissa's bedroom set, drawn by Byron Taylor. "This was when they knew I was going to put in some kind of checkerboard and I think they wanted to move the color to red," Kriegman says. "The cabinet is under the window and that went away after the first season or so." Photo courtesy of Mitchell Kriegman. Click to enlarge.

The bedroom was also the most elaborate in terms of shooting possibilities. “There is a ‘wild’ closet that we can shoot from the inside of,” Kriegman writes in the show bible. “We can shoot from outside the window, outside the door, through the doll house, from under the bed, from inside the chest at the foot of her bed, anywhere. Clarissa can start a scene from any one of these points of view.”

Sets outside the home, meanwhile, were much less detailed at first. “They should have the basic walls and props to establish the setting,” Kriegman writes in the show bible, “but they can remain sketchy because it's a memory of what happened rather than a realistic recreation." The sets became more elaborately designed over time.

12. THE SHOW HAD A LOT OF GREAT WRITERS.

The team included Suzanne Collins (The Hunger Games), Becky Hartman Edwards (Parenthood, Suddenly Susan, The Larry Sanders Show), Doug Petrie (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, American Horror Story), Alexa Junge (Friends, The West Wing, United States of Tara), Peter Gaffney (Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, Recess, The Simpsons), Patricia Marx (SNL, Women Aloud, The New Yorker), Alan Goodman (The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo, Hey Dude), Neena Beber (How to Deal, Daria), Peter Mattei (Love in the Time of Money), Michael Borkow (Roseanne, Malcolm in the Middle, Friends), Glenn Eichler (The Colbert Report, Daria), and Alison Taylor (The Cheetah Girls, Lizzie McGuire).

13. AT FIRST, NETWORK EXECUTIVES THOUGHT CLARISSA WAS RUDE.

“The initial response was that she’s rude," Kriegman says. She’s talking back to her parents and she doesn’t respect them.” The network also thought that her jokes were too sarcastic. But Kriegman had come up against this kind of thing before. “That’s usually the initial response to my girl characters,” he says. “And I always say the same thing: ‘If a boy were saying this thing, and doing this thing, would you be complaining that they are being too rude, or they’re being too sarcastic or jokey with their parents?’ The answer’s no.”

Kriegman says he offered to tone down the dialogue and cut a couple of lines, but once the show gets going and people like it, and they can see that the world doesn’t end, and that suddenly they’re not being accused of undermining the morals of children, they trust you.”

14. SAM USED THE LADDER FOR A VERY GOOD REASON.

Clarissa’s best friend, Sam, rarely came in through the front door; his preferred method of getting into Clarissa’s room was a ladder. In reality, the ladder was just three rungs high, and O’Neal had to lay on his back and wait for his cue to put the ladder on the windowsill and climb in. “Honestly, the toughest part was getting up,” the actor says in Slimed!. "I had to hunch over my knees as I made my appearance."

It sounds like kind of a pain, but Kriegman wanted Sam to make his entrances through the window for a very good reason. “Do you really want him to have to ring the doorbell, and say, ‘Hi, Mrs. Darling, OK if I go visit Clarissa?’” Kriegman says. “It’s just way slow to do that.” He also liked that it was a quirky, unexplained thing. “It’s never commented on, and he just does it at all hours of the night and day,” Kriegman says. “I really wanted to do something unique. It was in keeping with a kids-first point of view.”

15. THE BULLY EPISODE WAS CONTROVERSIAL.

In one early episode, Clarissa discovers that Ferguson is being bullied by Clifford Spleenhurfer—and she stands up for Ferguson. “As much as she hates her brother, she can’t have some guy picking on him,” Kriegman says. “And so she calls out this guy.” Clifford and Clarissa set up a time to fight. (Hart actually learned how to box for the episode.)

Initially, Kriegman says, there was an outcry at the network about the episode. “At first, people were saying, ‘Well, a girl would never fight a boy,’” he says. “And that’s just so not true.” Kriegman stood his ground and found a fun way to end the episode that didn’t involve fisticuffs—Clifford declares his love for Clarissa ... in song—and the episode became one the network was proud of.

16. CLARISSA’S STYLE BEGAN TO INFLUENCE KIDS AFTER JUST A FEW EPISODES.

Clarissa’s signature style was created by Lisa Lederer, who had a magazine background. “Clarissa wasn’t really a tomboy and she wasn’t really the weird girl. She was always just herself,” Lederer says in Slimed!. “It felt like what we were doing was creating this girl in a more real way, to represent the way that girls—that people—normally dress.”

“If you went to a store to buy clothes for a girl in those days, it was all coordinated," Kriegman says. "There was a pink ribbon that went with a dress that went with a pair of shoes. She blew that out of the water. She made her own outfit from her own choices in her closet. I definitely wanted her to just dress the way she wanted to. It was about her expression.”

About a month after the show started airing, an ABC executive made apparent to Kriegman just how influential Clarissa's sartorial choices were. "The head of ABC at the time called me because I had done some pilots for him that never went anywhere," Kriegman says. "He said, 'My daughter came down the stairs dressed in eight mismatched things and leggings.' He asked her, 'What are you doing?' and she said, 'I’m dressing like Clarissa.'"

17. TYPICALLY, THE CAST AND CREW SPENT 70 HOURS ON EACH EPISODE.

Clarissa’s Orlando-based cast and crew worked in three-week blocks, with two weeks off in between, until they’d completed all the episodes in a season (usually 13 to 15). They’d typically spend six days a week, and a total of 70 hours, working on each episode. Scripts were handed out on Fridays, table reads were on Sundays, followed by rehearsals and, finally, shooting on Wednesdays. The schedule—which also included tutoring for the show’s young leads—required incredible amounts of energy. Hart writes in Melissa Explains It All that when one director tried to get them excited after a number of takes, he would tell them to “‘Shoot this one out of the cannon!’—as in, the scene—which become known as a ‘Cannon take!’ for short.”

Because of all the time they spent together, the cast and crew grew close: Crewmembers helped Hart with her school projects and threw her a graduation from “Nickelodeon High School” (they voted her “most likely to have her own series”). And they bonded outside of work, too. “Adults and kids got together Friday nights after the show was done and had the best party,” Kriegman says. “Everybody was so happy to be with each other, which is phenomenal when you work long hours in Florida in a studio like that.”

18. THE NEWSROOM-STYLE GRAPHICS WERE VERY HARD TO CREATE.

Back in the ‘90s, creating news-style graphics wasn’t as easy as it is today: Kriegman and his crew had to make Clarissa’s graphics using a special computer called the Quantel Paintbox. “We literally hired a news graphic artist, Don St. Mars, to create the graphics,” Kriegman says. “And then we had to figure out, ‘Well, these graphics can’t feel like they were created by somebody other than Clarissa.’ We had to find her handwriting and her style. And it had to be just a little bit better—actually, a lot better—than what a kid her age could do, but enough that you believed it was her.”

Clarissa’s video games, meanwhile, were designed by Tim Burns, whom Kriegman met while performing in a comedy show (Burns would later write the script for An American Werewolf in Paris). He also created Kriegman’s favorite segment, a Russian shopping channel that appears in the first season episode “No T.V.”

19. TECHNICALLY, THERE WAS NO PURPLE ALLOWED ON SET OR IN WARDROBE.

In Slimed!, the Clarissa crew recounts how Kriegman had a rule on set that no one could use purple. According to production designer Byron Taylor, when he pitched painting purple squares in Clarissa's room, "Mitchell said that there's only one criterion when you go to shop the show: No purple. ... It was a very big deal. There could be no purple in his office; there could be no purple on the show. He didn't even like it when people wore purple."

According to Kriegman, he doesn't really have a thing against purple; the rule was arbitrary, and something he did on purpose. "Clarissa is the first big show I ever ran," he says in Slimed!. "And I had this advice from an old pro in the business who said, 'The first thing you do when you go down there, come up with something arbitrary that everybody's gotta do and stick to it and never explain it.' ... I knew I had to assert myself. ... I actually had an idea about the wardrobe, which is that, because I wanted the show to appeal so fervently to girls and boys ... I wanted her to wear pink and blue. So I decided that purple would ruin that, so I just said, 'No purple in the clothes.' And in the set design I would say 'No purple.' And so then it grew, right? Inside I was laughing a little bit; it was a weird little thing. And by the way, Lisa snuck in a bunch of purple plenty of times."

20. JASON ZIMBLER IDENTIFIED WITH FERGUSON—BUT MELISSA JOAN HART DIDN'T THINK SHE WAS THAT SIMILAR TO CLARISSA.

“He was more politically nerdy than I was, I was more tech nerdy,” Zimbler told Mashable last year. “But he was unrepentantly nerdy and proud of learning, and he made being bookish cool—or cool for being uncool. I really dug that. Now, I’m still working with computers and in the past few years, my political awareness has really heightened. So, yeah, I’m totally the older version of how Ferguson would have turned out.”

Hart, meanwhile, saw key differences between herself and the character she played. "I'm not as wild as Clarissa," Hart told The New York Times in 1991. "We dress similarly, but Clarissa is into manipulating her parents. I don't. I just talk mine into things." Two years later, she told The Orlando Sentinel, "I think I'm different from Clarissa in a lot of ways. For one thing, when Clarissa meets new people, she always starts out with a bad impression. I think Clarissa's attitude is: 'Expect the worst and you'll never be disappointed.' I'm not like that." Still, there is some of Hart in Clarissa: She told Kriegman after an audition that They Might Be Giants was her favorite band, and soon, it was also Clarissa's favorite band; Hart said "obeykaybee," and eventually, Clarissa said it too; and when the writers found out that Hart played the flute, they made one episode about an upcoming flute recital. You can see Melissa explain the differences and similarities between her and her character in this behind-the-scenes video from 1993:

21. THE SHOW FEATURED A NUMBER OF NOTABLE GUEST STARS.

Among them was James Van Der Beek, who gave Hart her first on-screen kiss; the future Dawson’s Creek star played Paulie, a drummer that Clarissa—who is pretending to be a punk chick named Jade—meets at a party in the episode "Alter Ego." It was also Van der Beek’s first on-screen kiss; you can watch a clip of the episode here. (Shannon Woodward, who would later star in Raising Hope, played Missy in the same episode.) Future Buffy and Gossip Girl star Michelle Trachtenberg played Elsie Soaperstein, the brat who lives next door who Clarissa had to babysit, in a season four episode, and Heather MacRae, star of Woody Allen's Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask), played Clarissa's touchy-feely aunt, Mafalda, in two episodes.

Other notable guest stars included Sheeri Rappaport, who made her television debut playing Piper Henderson on Clarissa and currently stars in CSI; Joanna Garcia, a love interest for Ferguson, who later starred in Are You Afraid of the Dark? and Reba; and comedian Wayne Brady, who played a pizza delivery guy in the season five episode "Editor in Chief."

22. JOE O’CONNOR WAS A TOTAL PRANKSTER.

According to Zimbler, the cast had competitions to try to make each other laugh—and no one was better at making the actors break character than Joe O’Connor, who played dad Marshall Darling. “I aspired to have that power and capability,” Zimbler told Mashable. “We were once shooting a scene, and Joe and I were waiting in the wings just off set for our cue. The scene started taping, and I told him a joke just as we were about to walk onto the set. He was unable to collect himself, and just walked into the scene laughing and couldn’t keep his composure. I nailed the timing. It’s not even that great joke, but when you’re 15, 16 years old, telling an adult something that funny is a pretty great feeling.” (The joke was: “How do you get four old grandmas to say ‘f***?’ You get a fifth to say ‘BINGO!’”)

23. THERE WAS A CLARISSA ALBUM ...

In 1994, Clarissa and the Straightjackets released This is What Na-Na Means. The record was a collaboration between Rachel Sweet, Tony Battaglia, and Kriegman, with Hart on lead vocals. “We had the idea to do this grunge, garage band album,” Kriegman says. “[Rachel and Tony] did these awesome songs.”

But the final product didn’t turn out exactly how Kriegman had hoped. “It was so good that [the network executives] got worried it was too much like a real album,” he says. “So they pulled it back and cut all the mixes down to one and a half to two-minute songs, and they insisted on this goofy kiddy wraparound thing. It ruined the record. It was a good record with big guitar jams and six-minute cuts that could have broken through, I thought. It was so disheartening I actually took my name off when they released it.” You can listen to what was released above.

24. ... AND A BOARD GAME.

Players had to "[answer] questions about all kinds of interesting stuff like your friends, school, and your favorite pizza toppings!" according to the back of the box, which was, of course, written by Clarissa. The goal of the game will be easy for a Clarissa fan to guess: "Take Driver's Education, get your license and a key, and try to win a CAR. ... Look out though! There's more than one challenging family, school and social crisis you'll have to deal with along the way!" Kriegman wrote the game with Mollie Fermaglich. "I lost the last time I played," he told us.

25. THE SHOW WASN’T CANCELED BECAUSE OF BAD RATINGS.

Midway through the fourth season, Nickelodeon decided to cancel the show because Clarissa, at nearly 17, was too old for their viewers.

“In their defense, they had a rigid idea about the age range,” Kriegman says. “In those days, Nickelodeon stopped at 14 and MTV started at 15 or 16, and there was no middle ground. They didn’t cross that line, ‘cause that was MTV territory, and the attitude of MTV was way different than the attitude of Nickelodeon. The audience changes before the media changes, so [the network execs] weren’t really aware how much kids had grown in the time that we had done the show. They felt she was way too old for the network. And I just felt like she could’ve kept going, and there wasn’t really a reason to stop from any perspective. I think people would have stuck with her.”

26. THERE WAS ALMOST A SPINOFF ON CBS.

In 1995, Kriegman pitched a new show, called Clarissa, to CBS. It saw the titular character deferring her college acceptance to take an internship as a cub reporter at a New York City newspaper. She moves into the attic of her Aunt Agnes’s Chelsea apartment building, hangs out with her best friend Piper (an art student at Cooper Union College), and butts heads at work with the other new intern, a competitive guy named Filmore Young (and they totally have a will they, won’t they vibe). She’s also competing to be assistant to the newspaper’s star columnist Hugh Hamilton, who goes through as many as five assistants a month and is kind of a mess. “Each character in Clarissa is in one way or another concerned with the issue of ‘going for it’ vs ‘giving up,’” Kriegman writes in the treatment. “Clarissa sits at the center of this challenge in a positive way and Hugh Hamilton at the center of the same issue in a negative way. But all of the characters … can be organized in relation to this question.”

The show, as Kriegman envisioned it, would have many of the same elements that made Clarissa Explains It All so different, like on-screen graphics inspired by news programs and flashbacks and fantasies, but they would be “refined and streamlined,” according to the treatment. CBS gave the show the go-ahead, and Kriegman cast the show, built the sets, and wrote four drafts of the pilot, “Clarissa Invades New York"; you can read the first few pages below.


Click to enlarge.

But that was not the show that would get made. After spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, executives at CBS put the show on hiatus, then hired a new writer to take over. “The first thing they did was cut all the really cool stuff that was in the pilot—she talked to the camera, there were fantasies, just like Clarissa Explains It All,” Kriegman says. “I said, ‘Why are you cutting out all the stuff that we were famous for?’ And the executive said, ‘You know, you can do that on basic cable, but network audiences don’t put up with that post-modern crap.’ And so he took out the talking to camera, except for the very first subway thing; he took out all the graphics; he took out all the fantasies. He made it into the most mundane kind of normal sitcom.”

That left Kriegman as the executive producer on a show that looked nothing like his original vision. “I was like a zombie producer,” he says. “You’re not in charge of it anymore and just sort of walking around like a dead person. I’m still trying to get it produced and get it done, and we did the best we could, but it was something that I knew wasn’t going to work.” CBS filmed the pilot—which, typically, is a proof-of-concept for a show and not meant to go on actual TV—and started airing it “as if it was real, which then caused fans of the show to say, ‘Look at this failed pilot, must’ve been terrible,’” Kriegman says. You can check out the Clarissa pilot below.

27. KRIEGMAN HAS WRITTEN A CLARISSA NOVEL.

It's called Things I Can't Explain, and in it, Clarissa is 26 and living in New York City. “I think I’ve answered every compelling question about Clarissa,” Kriegman told Flavorwire. “Everything is dealt with: from where her [fashion] sensibility comes from to what happened to Elvis to what she’s doing now and what’s hard about her life to her relationship with Sam, obviously, and how things change in your 20s. It’s about how you can be a know-it-all when you’re a teenager and then not know so much in your 20s, and how time, the economy, and the world can be cruel to you—no matter how optimistic, positive, and smart you are. She takes some real knocks. … It’s definitely written in a way that I hope is deeply satisfying for the novel itself, but represents an opportunity to continue the story. I think she’s still a fascinating person.”

For exclusives from the upcoming novel, Things I Can't Explain, and to win a Google Hangout with the author for you and your friends, follow this link. Share your favorite Clarissa memories on Kriegman's Tumblr!

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30 Memorable Quotes from Carrie Fisher
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Just days after suffering a heart attack aboard a flight en route to Los Angeles, beloved actress, author, and screenwriter Carrie Fisher passed away at the age of 60 on December 27, 2016. Though she’ll always be most closely associated with her role as Princess Leia in Star Wars, Fisher’s life was like something out of its own Hollywood movie. Born in Beverly Hills on this day in 1956, Fisher was born into show business royalty as the daughter of singer Eddie Fisher and actress Debbie Reynolds.

In addition to her work in front of the camera, Fisher built up an impressive resume behind the scenes, too, most notably as a writer; in addition to several memoirs and semi-autobiographical novels, including Wishful Drinking, Surrender the Pink, Delusions of Grandma, The Best Awful, Postcards from the Edge, and The Princess Diarist (which was released last month), she was also an in-demand script doctor who counted Sister Act, Hook, Lethal Weapon 3, and The Wedding Singer among her credits.

Though she struggled with alcoholism, drug addiction, and mental illness, Fisher always maintained a sense of humor—as evidenced by the 30 memorable quotes below.

ON GROWING UP IN HOLLYWOOD

“I am truly a product of Hollywood in-breeding. When two celebrities mate, someone like me is the result.”

“I was born into big celebrity. It could only diminish.”

“At a certain point in my early twenties, my mother started to become worried about my obviously ever-increasing drug ingestion. So she ended up doing what any concerned parent would do. She called Cary Grant.”

“I was street smart, but unfortunately the street was Rodeo Drive.”

“If anything, my mother taught me how to sur-thrive. That's my word for it.”

ON AGING

“As you get older, the pickings get slimmer, but the people don't.”

ON INSTANT GRATIFICATION

“Instant gratification takes too long.”

ON THE LEGACY OF STAR WARS

“People are still asking me if I knew Star Wars was going to be that big of a hit. Yes, we all knew. The only one who didn't know was George.”

“Leia follows me like a vague smell.”

“I signed my likeness away. Every time I look in the mirror, I have to send Lucas a couple of bucks.”

“People see me and they squeal like tropical birds or seals stranded on the beach.”

“You're not really famous until you’re a Pez dispenser.”

ON THE FLEETING NATURE OF SUCCESS

“There is no point at which you can say, 'Well, I'm successful now. I might as well take a nap.'”

ON DEALING WITH MENTAL ILLNESS

“I'm very sane about how crazy I am.”

ON RESENTMENT

“Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die."

ON LOVE

“Someone has to stand still for you to love them. My choices are always on the run.”

“I've got to stop getting obsessed with human beings and fall in love with a chair. Chairs have everything human beings have to offer, and less, which is obviously what I need. Less emotional feedback, less warmth, less approval, less patience, and less response. The less the merrier. Chairs it is. I must furnish my heart with feelings for furniture.”

“I don’t hate hardly ever, and when I love, I love for miles and miles. A love so big it should either be outlawed or it should have a capital and its own currency.”

ON EMOTIONS

“The only thing worse than being hurt is everyone knowing that you're hurt.”

ON RELATIONSHIPS

“I envy people who have the capacity to sit with another human being and find them endlessly interesting, I would rather watch TV. Of course this becomes eventually known to the other person.”

ON HOLLYWOOD

“Acting engenders and harbors qualities that are best left way behind in adolescence.”

“You can't find any true closeness in Hollywood, because everybody does the fake closeness so well.”

“It's a man's world and show business is a man's meal, with women generously sprinkled through it like overqualified spice.”

ON FEAR

“Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.”

ON LIFE

“I don’t want life to imitate art. I want life to be art.”

“No motive is pure. No one is good or bad-but a hearty mix of both. And sometimes life actually gives to you by taking away.”

“If my life wasn't funny it would just be true, and that is unacceptable.”

“I shot through my twenties like a luminous thread through a dark needle, blazing toward my destination: Nowhere.”

“My life is like a lone, forgotten Q-Tip in the second-to-last drawer.”

ON DEATH

“You know what's funny about death? I mean other than absolutely nothing at all? You'd think we could remember finding out we weren't immortal. Sometimes I see children sobbing at airports and I think, 'Aww. They've just been told.'”

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12 Admissible Facts About Judge Judy
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Judge Judith Sheindlin was 54 years old when her namesake TV show premiered on September 16, 1996. Two years later the diminutive (5’1”) adjudicator was trouncing the powerhouse Oprah Winfrey Show in the Nielsen ratings. Today, she is one of the highest paid TV celebrities, earning $47 million per year—which she will continue to do through 2020, thanks to a new extended contract.

Fervent fans are familiar with Judge Judy’s more outrageous cases, like The Tupperware Lady and the eBay Cell Phone Scammer, but they might not know some of these fun facts about both the show and the woman behind it, who turns 75 years old today.

1. THAT GRUFF, NO-NONSENSE STYLE OF JURISPRUDENCE IS NOT AN ACT.

Judge Judy spent a little over 20 years in New York City’s family court system, where she earned a reputation early in her career for being blunt, impatient, and tough-talking. “I can’t stand stupid, and I can’t stand slow,” was one of her oft-repeated “Judyisms” at that time. She also frequently warned attorneys appearing before her: "I want first-time offenders to think of their appearance in my courtroom as the second-worst experience of their lives ... circumcision being the first." 60 Minutes filmed her in action as part of a 1993 profile, and while her hair color and eyebrows have softened since then, her impatient rants and verbal smackdowns haven’t changed a bit.

2. SHE BEGAN WEARING HER TRADEMARK LACE COLLAR AS SOON AS SHE WAS APPOINTED AS A JUDGE.

New York City Mayor Ed Koch appointed Judith Sheindlin to the bench in 1982, and to celebrate she and her husband Jerry—both civil servants at the time—took a $399 package trip to Greece for two weeks. While passing by a row of street kiosks with various locally made crafts for sale, she impulsively purchased a white lace collar from a vendor. She explained to her husband that male judges wore stiff-collared white dress shirts and colorful neckties that peeped out of the top of their robes, so that they had a nice colorful “buffer” between the austere black gown and their face. Female judges, however, had nothing but neck peeping out of their robes and the unforgiving black color revealed every minute of sleep deprivation as well as any skin tone irregularities. The white lace collar, she decided, would not only perk up her face but would also be a bit disarming for litigants—she could picture them thinking “That nice little lady with the lace collar sitting behind the bench couldn’t hurt a fly!”

3. DESPITE THOSE NEW YORK CITY SCENES ON THE COMMERCIAL BUMPERS, JUDGE JUDY IS TAPED IN CALIFORNIA.

Sheindlin spends 52 days per year taping her show. She flies to California via private jet every other Monday and hears cases on Tuesday and Wednesday (occasionally Thursday if there are production delays). One full week’s worth of shows are filmed each day. Many viewers, however, are fooled into thinking Judy is holding court in her native New York, thanks to the scenic Manhattan footage in between station breaks and the New York state flag behind her chair. That is, until something oh-so-unique to the west coast—like an earthquake—occurs on-camera. (Note that in the clip below, Judge Judy quickly ducks beneath her bench once the room begins to tremble.)

4. SHE IS BRIEFED ON THE CASES BEFORE SHE ARRIVES ON THE SET.

Judge Sheindlin does not go to the studio unprepared; producers FedEx the sworn statements and relevant information on each upcoming case to her home (Naples, Florida in the winter; Greenwich, Connecticut in the spring and summer) and she familiarizes herself with enough details to have some background, but not enough so that the case doesn’t appear “fresh” when she questions the litigants during filming.

5. THE CASES REALLY ARE REAL.

The production company has a staff of 60-plus researchers across the country who spend their days poring over lawsuits filed in local small claims courts. Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, they are able to photocopy cases that they think might make for interesting television and those copies are forwarded to the show’s producers. Any cases that make it to the next stage (about three percent) involve contacting the litigants involved and asking them if they’d like to forego their civil court hearing in exchange for a free trip to Los Angeles, an $850 appearance fee, and a per diem of $40 (as of 2012). An added incentive is that any judgments awarded are paid by the show, not by the plaintiff or defendant. The best cases, according to the executive producer, are those that involve litigants with a prior relationship—mother/daughter, father/son, boyfriend/girlfriend, etc. Such cases engage the audience because it’s an emotional tie that’s been broken (the recurring plot on many soap operas).

6. THE AUDIENCE, HOWEVER, IS NOT SO REAL.

Regular viewers will note that the same faces seem to pop up in the audience regularly. Those folks in the spectator seats are paid extras (often aspiring actors) who earn $8 per hour to sit and look attentive. Prospective audience members apply for the limited amount of seats by emailing their contact information along with a clear headshot to one of Judge Judy’s production coordinators (sorry, we cannot provide that info). If chosen, the spectator must dress appropriately (business casual or better) and arrive promptly for the 8:30 a.m. call time. Audience members must pass through metal detectors on their way in and are not allowed to bring cell phones or any electronic devices with them, and food, drinks and chewing gum are also verboten. Spectators are rearranged after each case so it’s not as obvious that it’s the same group of people, and the most attractive folks are always seated in the front row (it’s Hollywood, after all). The audience is instructed to talk animatedly amongst themselves in between each case so that Officer Byrd’s “Order in the court!” admonition has more impact. Bad behavior is grounds for immediate expulsion (in front of 10 million viewers, as Judge Judy likes to remind us).

7. JUDGE JUDY DRESSES CASUALLY FOR THE JOB.

Sheindlin has been known to publicly chastise litigants who come to her courtroom in skimpy clothing or “beach attire,” but behind that bench and under that robe she is usually sporting jeans and a tank top or T-shirt.

8. OFFICER BYRD IS A REAL BAILIFF.

Brooklyn native Petri Hawkins Byrd earned his B.Sc. degree from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in 1989 and started working in the Brooklyn Family Court system. He first worked with Judge Sheindlin when he transferred to the Manhattan Family Court. “We [the court officers] used to call her the Joan Rivers of the judicial system,” he recalled in a 2004 interview. “She was just hilarious.” Byrd relocated to San Mateo, California in 1990 to work as a Special Deputy U.S. Marshal and a few years later he read an item in Liz Smith’s gossip column about Sheindlin’s upcoming TV show. He sent his old colleague a congratulatory letter and added, “If you need a bailiff, I still look good in uniform.”

9. DESPITE HIS SOMETIMES IMPOSING COURTROOM DEMEANOR, OFFICER BYRD IS ALSO A VERY FUNNY GUY.

He is a talented impressionist, but his sense of humor almost cost him his job—or so he thought at the time. Once, back when he was working with the feisty Judge Sheindlin in New York, he donned her robe and reading glasses to entertain his co-workers with a barrage of Judyisms. Of course, as always seems to happen when one mocks the boss in the workplace, he was caught in the act.

10. THE OCCASIONAL CELEBRITY RELIES ON JUDGE JUDY’S BRAND OF JUSTICE.

Depending upon your own definition of “celebrity”, of course. Actress Roz Kelly (Pinky Tuscadero on Happy Days) appeared on the show in 1996 as the plaintiff, suing her plastic surgeon for a leaky breast implant that was impeding her acting career. One year later, former Sex Pistol John Lydon (a.k.a. Johnny Rotten) appeared as a defendant when drummer Robert Williams, who was hired to support Lydon on a solo tour, sued the singer for lost wages and an assault. Despite Lydon’s occasional bad courtroom behavior, the decision was made in his favor.

11. THE STAR ORIGINALLY DIDN’T WANT THE SHOW NAMED AFTER HER.

Sheindlin first envisioned calling her show Hot Bench, a term used frequently in the appellate court, but the producers wisely advised her that the term was meaningless to TV viewers who didn’t work in the legal system. Her next thought was Judy Justice, since she’d overheard her court officers warning deadbeat parents who were delinquent in child support payments that they were in for a load of "Judy Justice" if they weren’t prepared to cough up some money. In retrospect, Sheindlin realized the wisdom in calling the show Judge Judy: She couldn’t be easily replaced, as the various judges had been on The People’s Court. However, after 19 years on the air, she still does not refer to herself by that sobriquet; whether introducing herself to someone or advertising her show in a promotional clip, she is always either “Judge Sheindlin” or “Judge Judy Sheindlin.”

12. JUDGE SHEINDLIN INHERITED HER SENSE OF HUMOR FROM HER FATHER.

Murray Blum, Judy’s beloved father, was a dentist whose office was in the family home. In those days—before sedation dentistry was an option—a dentist’s best tool to distract nervous patients was the gift of gab, and Murray became a master storyteller out of necessity. Years of listening to her father at the dinner table and at family gatherings taught Judy how to deliver a punchline. One evening outside of a hotel in Hollywood, Sheindlin was approached by a woman who introduced herself as Lorna Berle. She told the judge that her husband Milton was a huge fan and asked if she would mind talking to him for a moment. The elderly comic slowly emerged from a limo and Judy greeted him by singing the theme song to Texaco Star Theater, her favorite TV show as a child. Milton Berle complimented her in return, saying “Kid, you’ve got great comic timing.”

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