ABC Afterschool Special
In the 70s, not all families felt comfortable talking about controversial topics that are commonplace today. Perhaps there was an alcoholic teen, an abusive parent or other issues in the home and it was hard for kids to get the advice they needed. ABC stepped up with a series called the ABC Afterschool Special to tackle these issues, offering guidance to many a troubled kid.
Debuting in 1972, the ABC Afterschool Special started with animated episodes, but eventually moved into the live-action arena, offering documentaries that covered everything from illiteracy to teenage pregnancy. The first program was a cartoon called Last of the Curfews (self explanitory), followed by Santiago’s Ark which tackled the subject of slavery.
By the end of season one, the show’s animated days began to dwindle following the airing of Alexander, a story about an elderly clown starring Red Buttons and Jodie Foster. A few animated episodes aired each season afterward, but the series began to rely more and more on real actors.
Most of the live-action episodes featured recognizable stars. Along with Jodie Foster (who appeared multiple times), kids were treated to appearances by Beau Bridges, Danny Aiello, Rob Lowe, Scott Baio, Kristie McNichol, Gordon Jump, Alex Karras and Rossana Arquette to name but a few. Episodes were an hour-long and usually aired at 4:30pm eastern time.
The ABC Afterschool Special ran for an astounding 25 years, winning 51 Daytime Emmy Awards along the way. The show was so successful that the other networks followed suit with their own educational docudramas, such as NBC Special Treat and the CBS Schoolbreak special. Neither of those shows achieved the popularity or the longevity of the ABC series, however, which is still fondly remembered to this day by its many young fans.
And for those of you feeling nostalgic, you’ll be happy to know that the entire series was released on DVD in 2005, allowing you to relive all of the corny scenarios, the tear-jerking moments, and the teen stars of yesteryear.
Do you have a favorite episode of the ABC Afterschool Special that you fondly remember? Did you make this series a regular part of your childhood afternoon viewing? I’d love to hear all of your recollections in the comments section below, as I pay tribute to this endearing show that helped a number of children during its extensive run.