The ABC Weekend Special introduced kids to literature through live-action and animated retellings of popular children’s stories. Originally a monthly special, the show moved to a weekly run in the fall of 1977, and appeared off and on until 1997.
Culling from its own ABC Short Story Special and ABC Afterschool Special programs, the anthology show added new material from nearly every animation company around, including Hanna-Barbera, Ruby-Spears, Marvel, DIC, Film Roman, and more.
Michael Young served as the original host, replaced after two seasons by Willie Tyler and his puppet, Lester. The pair lasted until 1984, when they were ousted by Cap’n O.G. Readmore. Initials notwithstanding, the Cap’n was not an “Original Gangsta,” but rather an animated cat in a navy uniform.
With over twenty years on the air, it would be impossible to list the many stories The ABC Weekend Special has brought to young viewers. Among the more popular: The Red Room Riddle, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, The Trouble With Miss Switch and The Return of Miss Switch, The Puppy’s Further Adventures (which later became its own series), the Little Lulu series, Runaway Ralph (starring a young Fred Savage), Liberty and the Littles (with ABC Saturday morning stars The Littles), The Secret World of Og, The Legend of Lochnagar (written and narrated by Prince Charles), and The Magic Pearl.
Airing early in the afternoon, The ABC Weekend Special may never have had the ratings and toy tie-ins of its morning competitors, but it taught kids an important lesson in an entertaining way. In the words of Cap’n O.G. himself:
“Read a book with me and you will see
That reading… is where it’s at!”
USA / ABC / Broadcast 29 January 1977 – 30 August 1997
Michael Young (79-81) as Host
Willie Tyler and Lester (81-84) as Hosts
Frank Welker as Cap’n O.G. Readmore
Neil Ross as Cap’n O.G. Readmore
Kevin Richardson as Cap’n O.G. Readmore