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Posted at 4:50 a.m. EST Wednesday, January 26, 2000

SAP-FREE CLARISSA' IS A TREAT

TV / Nickelodeon sitcom scuttles stupidity in favor of wittiness and truly honest affection. DATE: Thursday, June 20, 1991

BY MIKE DUFFY
Knight-Ridder Newspapers

The typical, dopey family sitcom has a message obsession. Twenty minutes of goofball laugh track-saturated behavior that hits the wet moment,' the sentimental scene when a tear is shed, someone gets hugged or says he's sorry.

I can't stand that,' says Producer Mitchell Kriegman. Even Murphy Brown does it. You have these attractive personalities and then you have to have this sappy apology for everything they did before. The Simpsons don't do that.'

Neither does Clarissa Explains It All, Kriegman's clever, new-look family comedy series that airs at 6:30 p.m. Sundays on cable's Nickelodeon.

Called a hip, post-Pee-wee sitcom' by People magazine, Clarissa takes a witty look at a 14-year-old's life from her own down-to-earth, common-sense perspective.

Kriegman, 39, is a one-time video artist who has made short films for SaturDAY, Night Live and walked the cutting edge on PBS' Alive from Off Center. Now he's playfully shaking up TV convention with his newest creation.

I grew up on TV,' he said. And for a long time, I've felt ready to go beyond TV 101. The bottom line for me is that sitcoms have always been theatrical. They need to make the transition into TV.'

With Clarissa Explains It All, that means an engaging mix of live action, computer animation and special effects. A video game is used to push the story along. Kriegman picks up the pace with shorter scenes, some only 30 seconds.

Clarissa Darling, described as the only abnormal child of two perfectly normal parents,' is played with intelligent, low-key charm by 15-year-old
-1Melissa Joan Hart.

Clarissa is bedeviled by a younger brother and good-naturedly endures the sometimes befuddled ways of her well-meaning parents.

Clarissa is the sort of teen-ager you rarely see on ordinary TV. She's natural and unaffected. She isn't hyped up on in-your-face, cuter-than-thou wisecracks.

Clarissa talks to you in a personal way,' said Kriegman. Besides, the more normal she is, the more eccentric I can make her.'

Honest affection wins over goopy sitcom sentimentality.

Wet moments, get lost.

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