1 9 7 2 – 1 9 9 7 (USA)
60 minute episodes
Premiering on 4 October 1972, ABC After School Specials were sixty-minute specials for young people, both dramatic and documentary, and were broadcast on occasional weekday afternoons between 1972 to 1997.
The specials began in animated form but soon became live-action stand-alone TV movies that explored the angst and problems that real kids experienced.
Episodes provided a regular dose of drama to pre-teens and teens during the school year in the hours after school and before dinner, delivering messages on everything from proper nutrition to the dangers of drugs and alcohol.
These movies gave many budding young actors the spotlight, and names such as Jodi Foster, Rob Lowe and Jennifer Jason Leigh got their start on the Afterschool Specials.
Noteworthy pieces included ‘The Wave’, in which a high school teacher teaches his students about social conformity using Third Reich propaganda tactics; ‘Winning and Losing’, about a senate race, and the animated literature classic, ‘Cyrano de Bergerac’.
Other titles included ‘My Dad lives in a Downtown Hotel’ (with Beau Bridges), ‘The Magical Mystery Trip Through Little Red’s Head’, ‘Pssst! Hammerman’s After You!’, ‘It Must Be Love, ‘Cause I Feel So Dumb’, ‘Dinky Hocker’, ‘New York City Too Far From Tampa Blues’, ‘Reading, Writing and Reefer’, ‘Have You Ever Been Ashamed Of Your Parents?’, ‘The Day The Senior Class Got Married’, ‘High School Narc’, ‘The Day My Kid Went Punk’, ‘Daddy Can’t Read’, ‘The Secret Life Of TK Dearing’, ‘Me & Dad’s New Wife’ and ‘Mighty Moose & The Quarterback Kid’.
Some specials boasted celebrity involvement such as teen idol Scott Baio going on a drug-fueled binge in ‘Stoned’ and an alcoholic bender in ‘The Boy Who Drank Too Much’, and Oprah Winfrey, who hosted an after-afterschool special panel discussion following the airing of ‘I Hate the Way I Look’.
NBC countered with its Special Treat from 1975 to 1986. CBS also had its Schoolbreak Special from 1980 to 1996.
Many of the After School Special episodes are preserved for eternity on DVD, although today’s kids might be too busy giggling at the strange clothing and hairstyles to truly appreciate the important messages they sought to share.