Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Dear Lovey Hart: I Am Desperate

It's no Degrassi, but I've been working my way through the complete collection of 1970s and early- to mid-'80s After School Specials for the last couple of years, and I totally love them. If you're my age, you probably remember watching these grainy cautionary tales at 4:00 in the afternoon.

The relentless moralizing is one of my favorite things about the series, but I'm guessing that Americans of my generation remember the After School Special (and its rival, CBS' School Break Special) with a near-toxic mix of fond nostalgia and resentment. Often based on young adult novels, the highly alarmist series addressed such social issues as alcoholism, teen pregnancy, shoplifting, runaways, dyslexia, and mental illness.* (I've got "Andrea's Story: a Hitchhiking Tragedy" cued up on the DVD player as I write this.) But some of the most awesome After School Specials were slightly less sermonizing, and presented teenage characters turning into dogs, becoming millionaires, switching bodies with their dads, having wishes granted by genies, defeating their boyfriends in violin competitions, and writing anonymous advice columns for the school newspaper.

Captivating though these plots might be, spotting pre-fame celebrities is really the latent purpose of watching these [mostly badly-filmed] old Specials. Recognizing Dana Plato, Melissa Sue Anderson, Chris Knight and Eve Plumb (in the same ep!), Kirk Cameron, Robert Reed (RIP), my girl Nancy McKeon, Malcolm Jamal-Warner, and Felicity Huffman is a ridiculously happy experience, and would make a first-rate drinking game, if I were into that.

Gotta go, it's almost 4:00!

*I'm sure there was one about latch-key kids, too, since this was the '80s.


  1. Wow, Melissa Sue Anderson? Are these available on Netflix?

  2. Yes, get them from Netflix! Melissa Sue Anderson is in two eps I've seen so far: "Beat the Turtle Drum" and "My Other Mother." One that I watched today had Kirk Cameron at age 8 or so! Even my vigilant eye didn't recognize him until three scenes in.