The Boob Tube #33: After School Specials

Television of the seventies and eighties was littered with drunk dads, pregnant teens, alcoholic stepmothers, mentally handicapped brothers, anorexic sisters, and pedophile neighbors...... and all just in time for kids to watch after school.

The mantra of the seventies was to be open about our problems, and no problem was ever too unsettling for the kiddies.  It was for their benefit to hear about drug abuse, rape, child molestation, and shitty parenting.  In fact, it was so important, it was on every Wednesday afternoon.

And guess what? If you hadn't had your fill of troubling messed up lives - prime time had you covered.  On Family Ties, Malory gets molested by her teacher and on Diff'rent Strokes, Arnold and his friend get molested by Gordon Jump, the friendly neighborhood bicycle repairman.  And let us not ever forget the mother of them all - the infamous Too Close for Comfort rape.

Whether or not the inundation with dysfunction did us all any good is up for debate.  I have my opinions on the matter, but let's suffice it to say I am very skeptical.

These were the 70s-80s equivalent of those "guidance" films they used to show in schools during the 50s-60s.  You know the ones I'm talking about - "Are You Popular?" and "Perversion for Profit".  I have my doubts that these were particularly effective either.

I should mention that many of them were fairly benign.  They taught lessons about "going steady", getting teased, junior high crushes, etc.  But every so often things got dark.

Anyway, here's some ads I've collected.  Put an After School Special memory in a comment.  I'd love to read it.

I know a lot of you are retrophiles like myself and would be interested to see the entire TV Guide page for some of these - just to check out what was playing on the ole boob tube back in the day. Here ya go.


  1. I remember that the Weekly Readers we received in school would have abridged versions of the After School Special scripts. The teacher would assign parts and we would read them aloud in class. I had a very serious English teacher who spoke like William F. Buckley, and you could tell he was not into this at all. I remember him telling us, "And now class, we are going to learn about the negative effects of peer pressure from the riveting TV script, 'Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack!'"

  2. Vaguely remember one about two Japanese children, one very obese (oddly enough, I vividly recall the character's name was Koo-mat-soo (sp)). I really only remember the end where the other kid is grateful to the obese one for something-or-other that he "learns something about himself" as all these shows are wont to do.

    1. I did some web-searching and found the movie was called "Skinny & Fatty", form 1958. It was shown as part of CBS Children's Film Festival, hosted by Kukla, Fran & Ollie. Reason I recall it is that it is a very powerful, warm film about friendship.

      It's on youtube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L2JJVVnCl6Q&feature=related


  3. HOW COULD YOU ALL FORGET THAT CLASSIC "my mom's having a baby"???!!!

  4. I use to watch those specials. I still recall some of them.

  5. I liked the ABC Weekend Specials much more than the Afterschool Specials. The Weekend Specials were usually an adaption of a best-selling children's book and usually didn't have a moral, just a good story. In addition to The Girl with E.S.P shown above, favorites include The Red Room Riddle, The Ghost of Thomas Kempe, The Joke's on Mr. Little (starring Richard "More News with Les Nessman" Sanders), The Haunted Mansion and The Adventures of the Two-minute Werewolf.

  6. I'm pretty sure "Hear Me Cry" was made in response to the ISD I attended (Plano, TX) where we had a large number of suicides in the early 80s. 60 Minutes or one of those other news special programs did a bit on it and we got infamous. Really sad stuff and it was depressing to have your hometown known for such tragedy.

  7. In the early 1990s, one of the pay channels, HBO or Showtime, ran some of these.
    I remembered "Blind Sunday" vividly to this day.
    Thanks for the memories.

  8. I remember them being a big deal to try and watch, but I can't recall a single one.

  9. "I remember that the Weekly Readers we received in school would have abridged versions of the After School Special scripts. The teacher would assign parts and we would read them aloud in class."

    Neal, was that READ Magazine? I was in junior high 1980-83. Our English (sorry, Language Arts) classes subscribed to READ. I remember "Stoned", "The Wave", "My Mother Was Never a Kid" and several others. Teachers usually picked me for the lead roles because I got into character and read with expression. I remember actually watching "PJ and the President's Son" and "Seven Wishes of a Rich Kid."

    These specials meant well, but kids have always hated message movies. We read the scripts and watched the movies, and still smoked, drank, shoplifted, made racist jokes and got pregnant.

  10. OMG, who could forget a young Helen Hunt in Desperate Lives !


  11. Booze and pot...no wonder Scott Baio is supporting Trump