5 February 2005 | cadfile
Part of the cultural fabric of America
Sometimes a TV show passes into the cultural fabric of the country. The ABC Afterschool Special is one of those shows.
It aired for more than 20 years providing a monthly dose of drama to pre-teens and teens during the school year in the hours after school before dinner. The specials were TV movies that explored the angst and problems that real kids experienced. They were little morality plays that while not being preachy, showed that actions have consequences.
Some of the known young stars of the times appeared including some who are stars now. For many it was one of their first jobs in the industry and for others it was their way of contributing to the community.
Stars included Ben Affleck, Heather Langenkamp, Jane Kaczmarek, Brandon Cruz, Christopher Knight, Melissa Sue Anderson, Kristy McNichol, and Scott Baio, and my favorite Lance Kerwin.
My favorite was Lance Kerwin. He appeared in several of the specials including "Pssst! Hammerman's After You!" and "The Boy Who Drank Too Much" with Scott Baio. Those two shows are my favorite. Baio also was in several specials.
The series came to an end as Oprah Winfrey took over the time slot on many stations in the early 90's. A local station would keep more of the advertising money by airing syndicated programs like Winfrey's talk show, reruns of old TV shows, or the tabloid shows like Judge Judy. Just like the toy companies killed the Saturday morning cartoons, money became more important than the community. Whenever I get overcome with the dreck on between 4 and 6 PM I wax nostalgic for those specials.
The specials also added to our cultural lexicon. Whenever someone is getting overly dramatic or sentimental how often to hear a response like "This isn't an Afterschool Special." Some the specials have been collected on DVD but I would like to see the specials come back. The ABC Afterschool Special holds a special place in my heart along with Schoolhouse Rock and American Bandstand.