growing up

Clarissa Creator Says That Clarissa Grows Up to Be Like Hannah From Girls

Photo: Everett Collection, HBO

Mitchell Kriegman has revitalized his character Clarissa Darling from the 1991 Nickelodeon sitcom Clarissa Explains It All in his new novel, Things I Can’t Explain. Clarissa is in her 20s, living in New York, and not such a know-it-all. But wait! If the book is released in 2015, doesn’t that mean Clarissa should be — counts on fingers and toes — 38? “I don’t give a shit about math,” Kriegman tells Indiewire. “If you did her in her thirties, that’s a big jump, it would be crazy. Melissa [Joan Hart] was about 17 and the character was about 16 or 17, so you want to see her in her twenties next. You don’t want to skip her twenties.” In his world, Clarissa is an aspiring journalist with, yes, a sex life. Does that remind you of anyone? “She lives in a Lena Dunham world,” he said. “She’s not Lena Dunham — [but] there’s a little Lena Dunham homage in there somewhere because I know Lena loved Clarissa.”

Does the book still include the time when Clarissa went to college in the CBS pilot from 1995? It does, but that didn’t stop Kriegman from airing his grievances over what went down. That failed pilot eventually aired on Nickelodeon even though Kriegman didn’t think it would. “I got totally screwed on that pilot,” he said. “They took it away from me, basically, and I never expected it to see the light of day.” He says CBS ended up gutting the entire thing and then discarding it. “It’s quite normal in Hollywood. It’s as if you’re supposed to plunge your baby in hot oil and see if it survives. If it doesn’t survive, they say, I don’t really think he was capable of thriving, you know?” he said. “I had to endure decades of, There was a network pilot that didn’t work I watched it and it sucked. Well of course it sucked! I thought it sucked! They took it away. Because everyone added it to the zeitgeist, I felt that I couldn’t utterly ignore it.” So, yes, you could watch Clarissa Explains It All, then watch the failed pilot, and then read the book, and it’ll all hold up. Except for the math, but math is hard.

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