The film is a modern update of the novel Emma by Jane Austen, the film tells the story of Cher Horowitz (played in what was a breakthrough role by actor Alicia Silverstone), a valley girl who, although happy in her somewhat self-centered world of shopping and fashion, longs to prove herself as an intellectual and do-gooder. She, along with her best friend Dionne Marie Davenport (Stacey Dash) decide to give a personality make-over to a "tragically unhip" new girl, Tai Fraiser (Brittany Murphy). Things backfire, though, when Tai's popularity begins to surpass Cher's, and she has to question what is most important in the life of a wealthy, gorgeous teenage girl.
The film was co-written by (and co-starred) comedienne Julie Brown and co-starred actors Donald Faison as Dionne's boyfriend Murray Lawrence Duvall, Elisa Donovan as Cher's rival Amber Princess Mariens, Paul Rudd as Cher's "ex-stepbrother" Josh Lucas, Wallace Shawn as Cher's debate teacher Mr. Alphonse Hall, and Twink Caplan as Cher's mousy history teacher Ms. Geist. Caplan also helped produce the film.
The film was groundbreaking for a variety of reasons. Much of the teen-slang used in the film was researched by Heckerling during the four years in which she wrote the script. The success of the film caused much of this slang to carry over into real-life usage and it is still a major part of American slang at present date. The film can be attributed to causing the widespread use of the word "whatever" as a derogatory dismissal; an accompanying gesture forming the letter 'w' with one's fingers also crossed over from the film.
Additionally it is one of the few times when the majority of the cast of teenage characters was portrayed by actual teenagers, with the exception of Dash who was 28 at the time of filming.
The movie had a 40-day filming schedule. Producers sat in on classes at Beverly Hills High School to get a feel for the student culture. Many scenes were filmed in Costa Mesa and Beverly Hills with most neighborhood scenes filmed in Scottsdale, Arizona.
The movie was turned into a TV show with Rachel Blanchard playing the role of Cher. Rumor has it that the movie was originally conceived as a TV show before being made as a motion picture first. Stacey Dash, Donald Faison, Elisa Donovan, Wallace Shawn, and Twink Caplan all reprised their roles for the television series, which ran on ABC from 1996 to 1997 and on UPN from 1997 to 1999. The theme song for the TV series, "Ordinary Girl", was performed by China Forbes.
Clueless the TV series is often not regarded as highly as the movie. Some fans of the movie believed that Rachel Blanchard, although carrying a slight resemblance to Alicia Silverstone, was not as charismatic or charming as Silverstone. Reportedly, Silverstone was asked to reprise her role before she turned it down in order to focus on her blossoming film career. Silverstone though would eventually move into the world of series television with a starring role on the short-lived NBC series Miss Match.
The show was often chastised for its frequent usage of the tried and true very special episode formula. Among the topics that were dealt with were:
- Teenage pregnancy
- Drunk driving
- Safe sex
- Students living in a neighborhood outside of the school district.
There were also several inconsistancies between the movie and the TV series. For instance, the name of the high school in the movie was Beverly Hills High while on the TV series it was called Bronson Alcott High. And while it was presumed or implied in the movie that Dionne and Murray had been sexually active, on the TV series Dionne suddenly became a virgin again.
When Doug Sheehan replaced Micheal Lerner as Cher's father Mel at the start of the second season, Mel had grown sigificantly more mellow and humane than the character that Dan Hedaya portrayed in the movie. Also, the idea of having Josh (played on the TV series by David Lascher) serve as a love interest for Cher (as it was played out in the movie) was pretty much non-existent on the TV series. Josh along with Ms. Geist and Mr. Hall were written out of the series by the time the show moved to UPN.
Julie Brown's character in the movie was named Coach Millie Stoeger while her name on the TV series was Coach Millie Deemer. In addition, Sean Holland's character in the movie was named Lawrence while his name on the TV series was Sean Holliday. Ironically, Holland, who had a very small part in the movie, got more exposure on the TV series than Tai (played on the TV series by Heather Gottlieb). Tai only appeared three episodes during the duration of the series despite her pivotal part in the movie.
Incidentally, a couple of the episodes from the first season were aired out of order. The first episode to be broadcast was As If a Girl's Reach Should Exceed Her Grasp on September 20, 1996. The actual pilot episode, Don't Stand So Close to Me aired on November 1, 1996.
Amy Heckerling herself wrote and directed several episodes from the first season. In addition, several stars from the movie guest starred on the TV series albeit in the form of different characters. The Clueless movie cast members who guest starred on the TV series include:
- Breckin Meyer, who played Travis in the movie and Harrison on the TV series (Do We with Bad Haircuts Not Feel?). Coincidentally, Meyer and Rachel Blanchard would go on to play boyfriend and girlfriend in the 2000 movie Road Trip.
- Paul Rudd, who played Josh in the movie and Sonny on the TV series (I Got You Babe).
- Brittany Murphy, who played Tai in the movie and Jasmine on the TV series (Driving Me Crazy).
- Luscious Jackson, who performed the catchy dance song "Here" for the Clueless movie soundtrack and guest starred on the Clueless TV series episode Sharing Cher to perform the song "Naked Eye."
After the series was cancelled by ABC, the reruns of the episodes (on their Friday night TGIF line-up) proved to be ratings winners for ABC. However it was too late for ABC to get the series back and they prevented UPN from broadcasting the series until their contract ran out in late September. Clueless finished #46 in the ratings with 13.3 million viewers. Only Sabrina, the Teenage Witch (a show for which Elisa Donovan and David Lascher would eventually become regulars on) had higher ratings for Friday. Reportedly, the star of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, Melissa Joan Hart, was considered for the part of Cher on the Clueless TV series.
The writing and style of the first season on ABC has been considered to being more relaxed, confident, and slow paced, while the UPN version of the show had a quicker, sassy, off-the-cusp, and celebrity-reference filled style. UPN cancelled the show after the third season (1998-1999) reportedly because of increasingly dwindling viewership. By the last season, they had about 30% of the viewers left who were still watching the show when it began on ABC in 1996.
Cast From The Film
- Alicia Silverstone (Cher Horowitz)
- Paul Rudd (Josh Lucas)
- Brittany Murphy (Tai Fraiser)
- Stacey Dash (Dionne Marie Davenport)
- Donald Faison (Murray Lawrence Duvall)
- Dan Hedaya (Mel Horowitz)
- Breckin Meyer (Travis Birkenstock)
- Justin Walker (Christian Stovitz)
- Wallace Shawn (Mr. Alphonse Hall)
- Jeremy Sisto (Elton Tiscia)
- Twink Caplan (Miss Geist)
- Elisa Donovan (Amber Mariens)
- Julie Brown (Coach Millie Stoegers)
- Sean Holland (Lawrence)
- Clueless at the Internet Movie Database
- Comparing Emma and Clueless - Bored of Studies
- Emma/Clueless Offering - Bored of Studies