The ABC Afterschool Special was like everything else that’s good for you. Some kids eat their vegetables with a smile, others eat them in tiny bites with huge swallows of water in between. Ditto with Afterschool Specials. For some, they were heaven-sent, offering an understanding shoulder, a kind word, a little empathy for the confused kid in all of us. For others, they were, well, kind of hokey. It was all a matter of taste.
In the beginning (1972), there was a cartoon: Hanna-Barbera’s “Last of the Curlews.” And the kids saw the cartoon, and the cartoon was good. Not just “good” in the “we liked it” sense, but also in the “hey, there’s a lesson in this for you” sense. In this case, the lesson was on ecology (a race of birds slowly going extinct), and a cartoon parable was simply the pleasantest method of delivery. And thus, the Afterschool Special was born.
Over a span of decades, the Afterschool Special would cover nearly every type of lesson conceivable, from the science of the human body (Timer’s starring role in “The Incredible, Indelible, Magical, Physical Mystery Trip”) to history (illustrating the Nazis’ rise to power through a teacher’s object lesson in “The Wave”) to literature (Hanna-Barbera’s animated “Cyrano”) to politics (“Winning and Losing,” a documentary covering the 1974 Senate race in South Dakota) to the ever-popular social issue.
It was in this latter area—the social drama—that produced the Afterschool Specials that most of us remember. Sometimes, the titles let you know up-front what you were in for: “The Boy Who Drank Too Much,” “Please Don’t Hit Me Mom,” “Me & Dad’s New Wife,” “Just a Regular Kid: An AIDS Story,” “My Dad Can’t Be Crazy… Can He?,” and the ever-popular “Stoned,” starring Scott Baio. These were the Afterschool Specials that everybody talked about (and/or made fun of) at school the next day. Some specials even made it into the school curriculum, popped into the VCR any time an overworked teacher either liked the message or needed a break.
At the start of the 1990’s, the Afterschool Special started to get Oprah-ized, as the megapopular daytime host moderated specials like “Shades of a Single Protein” (focusing on racial issues) and “I Hate the Way I Look” (self-explanatory). With or without Oprah, the ABC Afterschool Special continued its attempts to expand the social consciousness of young TV viewers until the late 90’s, when it went the way of the Curlews.
USA / ABC / Broadcast 4 October 1972 – 1997
Clochemerle (BBC-2 1972, Cyril Cusack, Roy Dotrice)
Period sitcom, based on a novel by Gabriel Chevallier that was adapted by Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, that saw the French villagers of Clochemerle kick up a fuss over plans to install a new toilet.
CYRIL CUSACK as Major Piechut
ROY DOTRICE as Ponosse
KENNETH GRIFFITH as Ernest Tafardel
WENDY HILLER as Justine Putet
HUGH GRIFFITH as Alexandre Bourdillat
BERNARD BRESSLAW as Nicholas the Beadle
MADELINE SMITH as Hortase Girodet
GEORGINA MOON as Rose Biraque
PETER USTINOV as Narrator
Writers: Ray Galton, Alan Simpson
Novel: Gabriel Chevallier
Producer: Michael Mills
Network and Production Companies: BBC Two – Bavaria
Duration: 9×30 minute episodes
Aired From: 18 February – 14 April 1972 Fridays at 10.05pm
Clairvoyant, The (BBC-2 1986, Roy Kinnear, Sandra Dickinson)
In Roy Clarke penned sitcom The Clairvoyant used car salesman Arnold Bristow is knocked down in a car accident and suddenly finds himself with psychic powers – or so he believes. There was a pilot broadcast 27 Nov 1984.
ROY KINNEAR as Arnold Bristow
SANDRA DICKINSON as Lily
HUGH LLOYD as Burma
SHAUN CURRY as Newton
GLYNIS BROOKS as Dawn
CARMEL CRYAN as Carmen
Writer: Roy Clarke
Producer and Director: Alan J.W. Bell
Network and Production Companies: BBC-2
Duration: 6×30 minute episodes
Aired From: Pilot – 27 November 1984 and Series – 15 May – 19 June 1986
Christmas Princess (UP 2017, Nicole Munoz, Zak Santiago)
Christmas Princess is the true story of Donaly Marquez who, through a childhood of neglect and abuse, achieved her dream of becoming a rose bowl princess. An inspirational story of resilience, strength and finding a family to call your own.
Nicole Muñoz as Donaly Marquez
Rosa Blasi as Sara
Zak Santiago as Ignacio Marquez
Olivia Steele Falconer as Emily Marquez
Jaedon Siewert as Abraham Marquez
Lina Renna as Young Donaly
Paloma Kwiatkowski as Chloe
Ty Wood as Trent
Pendo Muema as Monique
Kalyn Miles as Maria
Kaaren de Zilva as Roberta
Garfield Wilson as Dr. Miller
Clay St. Thomas as Judge #1
Patti Allan as Judge #2
Natalie von Rotsburg as Judge #3
Director: Allan Harmon
Writer: Tracy Andreen
Network and Production Companies: UP
Duration: 1×120 minute episode
Aired From: Sunday 10 December 2017
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