The ABC Family television network announced some startling news last week. The network, which has been named ABC Family since 2001, decided to cancel Melissa & Joey which is one of the highest rated programs for the cable station. The series stars real life friends Melissa Joan Hart and Joey Lawrence as a newly married couple named Mel and Joe raising Mel’s niece and nephew as well as Joe’s daughter from a previous relationship. It was confirmed that the series will conclude at the end of its summer run in 2015 after airing 104 episodes. Melissa Joan Hart is no stranger to the world of successful television shows. She began her career at the young age of four and has been acting ever since for the last 34 years. Melissa Joan Hart has even starred in two other successful television programs prior to Melissa & Joey. Here is a look at her amazing career that has spanned over four different decades.
Clarissa Explains It All (1991-1994), Nickelodeon
Melissa Joan Hart had starred in over 20 television commercials before she was five years old. She would also make several television appearances. Then in 1991, she won the role of a teenage girl that tells viewers about the things going on in her life. The series named Clarissa Explains It All was the first to depict a female lead on the Nickelodeon network and would pave the way for other series like The Secret World of Alex Mack. The series would run for four seasons and follow Clarissa’s life all the way through graduation. Some topics that the series discussed included getting a pimple and wearing a bra for the first time. The series was even nominated for an Emmy Award in the category of Outstanding Children’s Program. Hart was nominated for a Young Artist Award four times and took home the award three of those times. The series would conclude after five 13-episode seasons.
Clarissa Explains It All was so popular for the network that CBS planned to create a spin-off of the series. The show was going to be called Clarissa and follow the character as she ventured off to college. Hart would once again be playing the titular character. The pilot was shot in 1995 but was never picked up as a series. However, the pilot was shown on Nickelodeon as a television movie and featured Clarissa working as an intern at a New York City newspaper. Had the series made it into production, Hart may not have been able to star in her next big television project.
Sabrina, the Teenage Witch (1996-2003), ABC and WB
Once Clarissa Explained it All ended, Melissa Joan Hart would star in the 1995 TV movie Family Reunion: A Relative Nightmare alongside Step by Step‘s Jason Marsden. The following year, Hart would film the television movie Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, which was based off of the comic strip. The movie proved to be popular enough for ABC to turn it into a television series. Hart would continue to play the role of Sabrina Spellman, and Michelle Beaudoin would continue to play Sabrina’s friend, though she left the series at the conclusion of the first season.
The series did experience many other cast changes; however, Hart stayed with the series during its entire seven-season run. Once the series concluded it fourth season, ABC decided to cancel the comedy, which was once a popular staple in its TGIF lineup. The series would find a new home on The WB. In order to give the show a more grown up feel since Sabrina was now in college, the character of Harvey was written out of the show but would return in season five. Elisa Donovan from Clueless and Soleil Moon Frye from Punky Brewster joined the series as Sabrina’s roommates.
Melissa Joan Hart would would end up directing six episodes of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, including the season six finale. She would also work on the animated series, voicing the characters of Aunt Hilda and Aunt Zelda, while Hart’s younger sister Emily would voice the character of Sabrina. The animated series would only last for 65 episodes. Sabrina, the Teenage Witch would air for seven seasons and have a total 163 episodes. Melissa Joan Hart would receive several Kid’s Choice Award nominations for her work on the series and would win in 1998. Hart would win two more Young Artist Awards in 1997 and 1998 to add to the collection of the ones she won for her work on Clarissa Explains It All.
Melissa & Joey (2010-2015), ABC Family
There was a seven year stretch in between Sabrina, the Teenage Witch and Melissa Joan Hart’s next television project. However, the actress still kept busy. She starred in several television movies, including Holiday in Handcuffs with Mario Lopez and My Fake Fiancee with her Melissa & Joey co-star Joey Lawrence. Both Hart and Lawrence serve as executive producers on Melissa & Joey and have directed several episodes. The series has been ranked as the top cable telecast during its 8 p.m. timeslot in the 12-34, 18-34, and 18-49 demographics. Viewership has declined during the fourth season, which is why ABC Family decided to not renew the series for a fifth season, so they could focus on re-branding the channel to appeal to a older female demographic.
At first, the series strongly focused on Hart’s character Mel trying to balance her life as a local city councilwoman while raising her niece and nephew, as her sister fulfills a prison sentence. She hires Lawrence’s character Joe as a nanny to help take care of the kids after he loses his high paying job because of Mel’s brother-in-law’s scheming. The story was a modern day take on the successful 1980’s sitcom Who’s the Boss, which starred Tony Danza and Judith Light. The series would change focus and depict Mel’s life at home and her relationship with Joe.
The series has been nominated for three People’s Choice Awards and would take home the prize in 2015. The cast just finished filming the final episode, which is slated to air later this year.
What is your favorite television project that Melissa Joan Hart has starred in during her successful career? Let us know in the comments section below.
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