Way back in the olden days, like 1984, parents expected kids to figure out life for themselves. It was pre-Oprah so nobody talked meaningfully about the pain and confusion of anything, much less growing up. Middle-class parents naively thought schools were safe and drugs and bullying and teen sex were problems only bad families faced.
It also was the era of latch-key children and endless hours in front of the TV, a one-two punch producers at ABC took full advantage of. And so, the much loved, groan-inducing ABC After School Specials were born.
Los Angeles-area radio host Madeleine Brand talked to TV writer Mark Jordan Legan about the weekly TV shows which, get this, won a ton of Emmy’s for afternoon television and ran into the 1990s. The 90s!
A 26-episode DVD box set is available on Amazon.com. Your hard-to-shop-for mid-30s to 40-something partner? She’ll love this. Look at the cute school bus box (and, yes!, that’s Melissa Sue Anderson in one of the windows).
From Amazon, here’s the product description:
The 18th Emergency – 1974 Summer Of The Swans – 1974 The Skating Rink – 1975 Dear Lovey Hart: I Am Desperate – 1976 Francesca Baby – 1976 Beat the Turtle Drum – 1977 The Pinballs – 1977 Trouble River – 1977 It’s A Mile From Here To Glory – 1978 Thank You Jackie Robinson – 1978 Gaucho – 1978 My Other Mother – 1979 A Special Gift – 1979 The Gold Test – 1980 What Are Friends For? – 1980 Schoolboy Father – 1980 A Matter Of Time – 1981 First Step – 1981 Tough Girl – 1981 The Night Swimmers – 1982 Two Loves For Jenny – 1982 Did You Hear What Happened To Andrea? – 1983 The Dog Days Of Arthur Cane – 1984 Ace Hits The Big Time – 1985 Face At The Edge Of the World – 1986 Picking Up The Pieces – 1989
There’s alcoholic moms, gang violence (set to music!), divorce, remarriage, teen pregnancy, racism and drug use. You know, just like childhood!
Of course, these are listed under children’s TV but I’m not sure today’s kid — with all that hovering and helicoptering and parental involvement and protection — is really ready for gritty reality and awkward, heartfelt scenes with their shocking lack of nuance and subtlety. Anyway, weren’t these screenplays of tough lessons less of a preventative measure and more of a gateway to eating disorders, experimenting with drugs, teen sex?
Here’s a clip of bullying, 80s-style. Viewer discretion is advised.
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