ABC Afterschool Special is an American television anthology series that aired on ABC from October 14, 1972, to July 1, 1997, usually in the late afternoon on weekdays. Most episodes were dramatically presented situations, often controversial, of interest to children and teenagers. Several episodes were either in animated form or presented as documentaries. Topics included illiteracy, substance abuse and teenage pregnancy. The series won 51 Daytime Emmy Awards during its 25-year run.
In 2004 and 2005, BCI Eclipse and Sunset Home Visual Entertainment issued six DVD collections of episodes from the series that had been produced by Martin Tahse, each collection containing four episodes. A boxed set, in the shape of a school bus, was also released containing all of the DVD releases, with a detailed information booklet of all the specials on the set and including an extra DVD of two specials that had previously not been released on DVD. The DVDs are currently out of print.
The Incredible, Indelible, Magical Physical, Mystery Trip
Animated special about two youngsters who are miniaturized and travel through their uncle's body to understand more about his health. Features the first appearance of Timer, a character later featured in ABC's Time for Timer shorts.
11-year-old Sharon Lee (Jodie Foster) encounters opposition when she joins her brother's Little League baseball team, which happens to be all male. (1972 was when girls were first allowed on Little League teams.) Co-starring Steve Gustafson; based on Isabella Taves's book Not Bad For a Girl.
October 3, 1973
My Dad Lives in a Downtown Hotel
Joseph Grant, Jr. (Ike Eisenmann) is shocked when his parents announce their decision to separate. Beau Bridges portrays Joe, Sr.
Siblings Jenna, Toby, and Louisa McPhail (Kristy McNichol, Poindexter Yothers, and Karen Obediear) discover a wounded deer and nurse it back to health. Co-starring Gordon Jump; Yothers is the brother of Corey and Tina.
October 22, 1975
The Shaman's Last Raid
Despite his failing health, a Native American medicine man is determined to teach his great-grandchildren the traditions of the Apache nation. Based on Betty Baker's novel; starring Dehl Berti.
Teenage Carrie Wasserman (Susan Lawrence) takes up writing an advice column for her school newspaper. Based on Ellen Conford's novel. Co-starring Al Eisenmann as Carrie's brother Jeff.
May 19, 1976
Season Five (1976–77)
In this adaptation of Joan Oppenheimer's novel, teenager Francesca James (Carol Jones) deals with her alcoholic mother Lillian (Melendy Britt) by joining the support groupAlateen. Co-starring Jody Britt (Melendy's real-life daughter).
In this adaptation of Betsy Byars's novel, three orphans (one portrayed by Kristy McNichol) from different backgrounds find themselves living with the same foster parents, while all three wait to be adopted.
When 14-year-old Melissa Harrington (Victoria Paige Meyerink) wins the lottery, she thinks she'll never need to worry about money—or anything else—again. Unfortunately, fate has other plans.
March 1, 1978
The Rag Tag Champs
A 14-year-old baseball player and his manager-uncle are at odds over their different interpretations of the philosophy "Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing". Starring Larry B. Scott.
March 22, 1978
Mom and Dad Can't Hear Me
Teenage Charlie Meredith (Rosanna Arquette) is used to acting as the ears of her deaf parents, but she's ashamed when she introduces her peers to them; because of their reactions, the elder Merediths come off as being out-of-touch.
April 5, 1978
It's a Mile From Here To Glory
After a high school track star is crippled by a near-fatal accident, he must learn to depend on others for day-to-day living. Anthony Kiedis has a role as Jimmy. Based on Robert C. Lee's novel.
May 5, 1978
Season Seven (1978–79)
One of a Kind
A free-spirited woman realizes her daughter is no longer a child and experiments with giving her more independence. However, the girl is puzzled by this sudden lack of attention and feels like her mom is pushing her away.
A young New York boy knows his mother misses her Puerto Rican homeland. Accordingly, he becomes an errand boy for a small-time hood, in order to earn enough money that she can move back to the Caribbean. Based on Gloria Gonzalez's novel; co-starring Danny De La Paz.
Arthur Allan Seidelman directed this adaptation of Joan Oppenheimer's novel My Other Mother. 16-year-old Alexandria (Melissa Sue Anderson) is stunned when her biological mother arrives to take her away from her adoptive parents. Co-starring Marion Ross and Woody Eney.
September 26, 1979
A Movie Star's Daughter
When shy teenager Dena (Trini Alvarado) enrolls in a new school, she doesn't make friends easily until they discover that her father is famous actor Hal McKain (Frank Converse). Overnight, she becomes the most popular student in school—but this brings its own problems.
October 10, 1979
A Special Gift
Arthur Allan Seidelman directed this adaptation of Marcia L. Simon's novel. Needing a new challenge, a 14-year-old basketball star takes up ballet. Then he worries about what friends and family will think of his decision. Co-starring real-life brothers Al and Ike Eisenmann.
October 24, 1979
The Late Great Me! Story of a Teenage Alcoholic
A 15-year-old girl takes up drinking to impress a boy; instead, she soon develops a serious problem. Based on Sandra Scoppettone's novel The Late Great Me.
November 14, 1979
The Heartbreak Winner: One Girl's Struggle For Olympic Gold
Bruce Malmuth directed this adaptation of Michael Bonadies's novel The Gold Test. Ambitious teenage figure skater Maggie MacDonald (Melissa Sherman) learns what champions are truly made of when she meets a paraplegic youngster.
A widower (Danny Aiello) with two daughters marries a widow with one daughter, creating a stepfamily.
September 24, 1980
When high school senior Charles Elderberry (Rob Lowe) discovers that his summer girlfriend has given birth to his child, he decides to fight for custody. Co-starring Dana Plato, Sharon Spelman, and Nancy McKeon.
October 15, 1980
Holly Gagnier stars as 16-year-old Ginny Coker, who's determined to become a world-class athlete.
Teenager Lisl Gilbert (Karlene Crockett) must find the inner strength to deal with her mother Jean's (Rosemary Forsyth) impending death from cancer. Co-starring Rob Lowe.
February 11, 1981
Run, Don't Walk
A teenage girl does not know how to deal with being in a wheelchair, after an accident leaves her paralyzed. Then she befriends a boy in the same situation, and the future suddenly looks brighter for both of them. Starring Toni Kalem, Scott Baio, Dee Wallace, and Hal Williams.
A teenage girl is convinced that her mother does not understand the younger generation. Mysteriously, she is sent back in time and meets her mother as a teenager. Based on the novel by Francine Pascal.
March 18, 1981
Season Ten (1981–82)
She Drinks a Little
16-year-old Cindy Scott (Amanda Wyss) and her younger brother Brett gradually wise up to their single mother Miriam's (Bonnie Bartlett) drinking problem. Cindy wonders if she should join Alateen for help. Arthur Allan Seidelman directed this adaptation of Anne Snyder's novel First Step.
September 23, 1981
An aspiring teen folk singer (Trini Alvarado) is torn whether to continue her singing or to accept an educational scholarship. Co-starring Lee Curreri.
October 14, 1981
A streetwise teenager from inner-city Los Angeles (Karin Argoud) is sent to live in the suburbs with her father's new family. Based on Barbara Morgenroth's novel Will the Real Renie Lake Please Stand Up?. Laurence Lau also appears.
Amanda Plummer portrays a 15-year-old who's stunned to discover that her "deceased" father is very much alive, and that's just the beginning of the story. Co-starring Barbara Feldon and Danny Aiello; based on Hila Colman's novel Tell Me No Lies.
February 10, 1982
Daddy, I'm Their Mama Now
A 12-year-old girl assumes responsibility for her two younger brothers (one of them portrayed by Jason Hervey), after their mom passes away. Based on Betsy Byars's novel The Night Swimmers.
Depressed 17-year-old high-schooler Amy Watson (Helen Slater) is visited by aspiring guardian angel Oliver after wishing she had never been born. As with George Bailey and Clarence in It's a Wonderful Life, Oliver shows Amy how important she is to the people in her life, particularly her divorced mom, her paternal grandfather (David Huddleston), and her best friend (who's a lot more troubled than Amy realizes). The twist is that Oliver himself committed suicide and, as a punishment, was forced to roam the world for years afterward, witnessing the repercussions of his action. Now senior angel Gabriel (James Earl Jones) is giving Oliver a chance to redeem himself by making sure Amy doesn't make Oliver's mistake. Also starring Matthew Modine and Meg Ryan.
September 22, 1982
Between Two Loves
Teen violinist is torn between her musical career and her boyfriend. Co-starring Robert Reed.
October 27, 1982
A Very Delicate Matter
Teenage girl is shocked when a former boyfriend tells her he has gonorrhea. Not only does she get tested, she must tell her current boyfriend to get tested as well. Co-starring Zach Galligan.
High school teacher decides to conduct a social experiment, asking his students to take part. What they don't know is that the experiment is on mind control. (Previously broadcast on ABC in October 1981 as a standalone special.)
Anson Williams co-wrote and directed this tale of two terminally ill boys who hit it off in a hospital ward. One makes the ultimate sacrifice to give the other a fighting chance at life. Co-starring Betty Thomas and Jeff Cohen.
A 22-year-old police officer (Michael E. Knight) poses as a student to sniff out the drug supplier for an inner-city high school.
December 4, 1985
Can a Guy Say No?
A 17-year-old student learns how deceiving looks can be when he befriends the prettiest girl in school and discovers that her beauty compensates for unhappiness and low self-esteem...or does it? Starring Steve Antin, Heather Langenkamp, Christa Denton, Khrystyne Haje, and Beau Bridges.
Tired of being bullied at school, a boy starts drawing a master scientist. He begins to imagine what it would be like, as the scientist, standing up to the bullies at school. Directed by James Scott and starring Adolph Caesar.
March 19, 1986
Season Fifteen (1986–87)
A Desperate Exit
When his best friend commits suicide, a stunned teenager is left with one unanswered question: Why? Based on Eve Bunting's novel Face at the Edge of the World; co-starring Malcolm-Jamal Warner and Rob Stone.
September 19, 1986
Wanted: The Perfect Guy
Sensing that his widowed mom Ellie (Madeline Kahn) is lonely and looking for companionship, 13-year-old Danny Coleman (Ben Affleck) places a personal ad for "The Perfect Guy". Co-starring Keith Szarabajka.
October 1, 1986
Actor Kevin Hooks directed this tale of a college-bound 18-year-old (Corey Parker) whose life is turned upside-down when his 16-year-old girlfriend announces that she is pregnant.
October 22, 1986
The Gift of Amazing Grace
A teenager (Tempestt Bledsoe) is frustrated about being the only member of her gospel-singing family who cannot carry a tune. When she writes a song about her problems, she discovers that she's got musical talent after all, just not where she or anybody else suspected. Co-starring Della Reese.
Hard-working 16-year-old Julia (Katherine Kamhi) does not realize that her mother Eleanor (Beth Howland), who alternately harasses and ignores Julia and dotes on lazy younger daughter Katie (Ita DeMarco), is being emotionally and verbally abusive. But when Julia gets the lead in a school play directed by popular Randy (Ian Ziering), she realizes she's every bit as worthy of Eleanor's support and encouragement as is her pampered sister.
Four girls on their high-school swim team are inseparable until two of them experiment with cocaine and get hooked. Tammy Lauren portrays one of the addicts; also starring Katharine Ross and Allison Smith.
Teenager Patty Adams (Ellie Cornell) is in total denial about her mother Carolyn's (Joanna Pettet) drinking problem, which is glaringly evident to everybody else.
March 16, 1989
Three girls steal the answers to their final exam. When the headmistress finds out, she gives those responsible one day to confess before she expels and/or prosecutes everybody with any connection—no matter how remote—to the theft/cover-up.
March 30, 1989
Torn Between Two Fathers
Actor Richard Masur directed this tale of a divorced couple's teenage daughter who wages a custody battle of her own: After her natural mother dies in an accident, she sues her biological father for the right to live with her disabled stepdad.
Teenager Eric Nelson (Keith Coogan) urges his town to farm without the use of pesticides, but many of these farmers are resistant to change.
November 30, 1989
All That Glitters
Several high school students (including Marc Price) learn about ethics versus seductive power when they start a cookie company as their class project. Co-starring William H. Macy.
January 25, 1990
Over the Limit
High-schooler Matt Thompson (Keith Coogan) must decide whether to come forward with the truth about a tragic drunk-driving accident. Co-starring Sam Rockwell.
February 22, 1990
The Perfect Date
A 16-year-old student is sure that his upcoming date with the school prom queen will be perfect. But the way the evening unfolds is far from perfect. Co-starring Will Smith, Art LaFleur, and Charles Hallahan.
Having never used illegal drugs in his life, model teenager Will Hatch (Christopher Daniel Barnes)—a competitive swimmer who works as delivery boy for a medical clinic—is shocked when he tests positive for amphetamines (actually, it was medication for swimmer's ear). He's even more shocked when "speed" is found in his locker, which school security forcibly searches—in his absence—over the test results. Also shocked are his mom (Alley Mills) and his girlfriend Carla (Lisa Dean Ryan), who believe in his innocence; and swim-team coach Stanley Daniels (Chris Rich) and Will's high-school principal (Art LaFleur), who do not. Stan is also Carla's father and Mrs. Hatch's fiancé; he even turns against his own daughter when she's expelled for refusing to take the same drug test as Will. Adam Sandler has a cameo as a pusher.
October 18, 1990
After getting stood up for the prom a high-school girl sues her date.
December 6, 1990
The Less-Than-Perfect Daughter
A demanding woman and her daughter knock heads when the daughter (Robyn Lively), aspiring to be less reliant on her family, moves in with a troubled friend (Andrea Elson). Robyn's real-life father Ernie Lively portrays her character's dad. Co-starring Renee O'Connor.
Two high-school journalists write a story about a teen HIV support group and are stunned by some of the stories they hear.
September 18, 1991
Summer Stories: The Mall – Part 1
Three-part series about high-school graduates contemplating their futures while working at the mall. In "First Impressions", a girl has mixed sentiments about meeting her birth mother for the first time.
March 19, 1992
Summer Stories: The Mall – Part 2
In "Second Chances", a girl struggles with mixed feelings about her widowed mother's upcoming remarriage.
April 2, 1992
Summer Stories: The Mall – Part 3
In "Temptations" the gang prepares to go their separate ways as summer winds down. Meanwhile, a recovering teenage alcoholic struggles to stay sober when an old drinking buddy shows up. Co-starring Todd Graff.
April 16, 1992
Season Twenty-One (1992–93)
Surviving a Break-up
Oprah Winfrey moderates a panel of teens, celebrities and experts to discuss surviving the end of a relationship.
October 1, 1992
Shades of a Single Protein
Oprah Winfrey moderates a panel of teens discussing race relations in America.
January 28, 1993
Learning Not to Hurt
Roz Abrams hosts a special report on youth violence and later moderates a panel discussion.
March 18, 1993
Two teenage girls, one black and one white, become friends while working on a mural to honor a black classmate killed by random gunfire.
April 15, 1993
Season Twenty-Two (1993–94)
16-year-old Christie (Holly Shaw) turns to a support group when her boyfriend begins to physically abuse her.
September 16, 1993
Julia Morrow-Wheeler (Jacklyn Zeman) struggles with her daughter Samantha (Kellie Martin) wanting to leave the nest...and her father Frank's (Don Murray) reluctance to enter a retirement home. Co-starring Michael Cutt.
December 9, 1993
I Hate the Way I Look
Oprah Winfrey moderates a panel of teens, celebrities and experts to discuss the obsession teens have with their appearance.
March 21, 1994
A pregnant 16-year-old girl examines her choices over what to do with her unborn baby amidst interviews with teens, parents, educators, counselors, social workers, and doctors that amplify the issues.
June 2, 1994
Season Twenty-Three (1994–95)
Boys Will Be Boys: the Ali Cooper Story
Not to be confused with the same-named TV series, this chronicles the ordeal of a high-school marching band-member (Ami Dolenz) who becomes the victim of sexual harassment by several male classmates, including some close friends of her elder brother Steve (David "Viper" Lipper of Full House fame). Fortunately, he takes her side. Ali and her family decide upon suing the school after Principal Pritchard (Steven Gilborn) cites the title excuse instead of doing anything to protect her. Directed by Joan Van Ark, who also portrays Ali and Steve's mom; Larry Wilcox plays their dad. Also starring Jeremy Jordan and Danny Cooksey.
September 15, 1994
Teenage girl desperately wants to be popular. One day an angel grants her that wish by giving her a new image every day. Soon she wishes she could just be herself.
Teenage girl struggles with her mother's illness from breast cancer.
April 6, 1995
Long Road Home
Teenager Hank Atkins (Micah Dyer) does not know what to think of his dad John's (Jameson Parker) new wife Amanda (Kristen Cloke), who's young enough to be his daughter. Then Hank takes a long road trip alone with Amanda.
May 25, 1994
Season Twenty-Four (1995–96)
A teenager is shown how being involved with booze will shape his life: ultimately, he will become a bombed-out derelict (Gerald McRaney).
After the senseless death of his twin brother, a teen drug pusher decides to seek revenge against all who have wronged him in the neighborhood.
January 24, 1996
Soccer mom Nancy Gallagher (Jane Kaczmarek) feels like a hypocrite when lecturing her kids Jason and Carly (Will Friedle, Lacey Chabert) about the importance of finishing one's education, since she's a high-school dropout. She decides to practice what she's been preaching by sharing classes with Jason. Co-starring Kevin Connolly.
March 14, 1996
Teenage girl Alica (Elise Neal) reunites with her father for the first time in 10 years and yearns to reunite her family despite their opposition. Featuring Lauryn Hill as Alicia's friend Malika.
April 18, 1996
Through Thick & Thin
Twin sisters, one slim and one overweight, magically switch personalities, giving them a new appreciation of each other.
June 11, 1996
Season Twenty-Five (1996–97)
Too Soon for Jeff
In this adaptation of Marilyn Reynolds' novel, a high school senior's (Freddie Prinze, Jr.) future plans change abruptly when he learns that his girlfriend is pregnant. Co-starring Ed Begley, Jr., Breck Wilson, and Jessica Alba.
The American Broadcasting Company coined the term after school special in 1972 with a series of made-for-television movies, usually dealing with controversial or socially relevant issues, that were generally broadcast in the late afternoon and meant to be viewed by school-age children, particularly teenagers. The specials were generally broadcast four to six times during the school year, pre-empting local programming that would usually follow the network schedule in the late afternoon hours.
CBS distributed its own productions as the CBS Afternoon Playhouse (later known as CBS Schoolbreak Special). It also had a program called Famous Classic Tales, which aired Australian cartoons that were adapted from literature books (similar to Family Classic Tales). NBC had afterschool programs under the umbrella title Special Treat. ABC had the ABC Afterschool Special; similar programs included The ABC Saturday Superstar Movie and the ABC Weekend Special.
The Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing For A Children's Series is an Emmy award honoring direction in children's television programming. Since 1979, direction in children's series and specials competed in the same category. However, by the nineties, separate categories were created for the two mediums.
The Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Performer in Children's Programming is an Emmy award given to performers in television programming aimed towards children. During the 1970s and 1980s, guest performers in dramatic specials and regular performers on children's series competed in the same category. However, starting in 1989, separate categories for performances in children's series and performances in children's specials were created and used until after 2007 when all categories related to Children's Specials were dropped.The youngest Emmy nominee, Jodelle Ferland, was nominated in this category in 2001 at the age of six. The youngest Emmy winner, Bindi Irwin, won the award in 2008 at the age of nine.
The Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing For A Children's Series is an Emmy award honoring writing in children's television programming. Since the award's inception, writing in children's series and specials competed in the same category. However, starting in 1985, separate categories were created for series and specials.
Mom's on Strike is a television film starring Faith Ford and Tim Matheson. It premiered on ABC Family in 2002. It was directed by James Keach and written by Nancey Silvers. It is a remake and expansion of a 1984 episode of ABC Afterschool Special also titled "Mom's on Strike".
My Mom's Having a Baby is an American television teen comedy/documentary that aired as an ABC Afterschool Special on February 16, 1977. The program would be historic as it was the first television program of its kind in the United States to showcase the pregnancy process and conception to young people, using a combination of animation and live action. The program was a co-production between Dick Clark Productions and DePatie-Freleng Enterprises.
The Color of Friendship is a 1981 film shown as part of the ABC Afterschool Special series. It is about the friendship between two 13-year-old boys, one black and one white, in a small town that has just started integrating its schools.
The Wave is a made-for-TV movie directed by Alex Grasshoff, based on The Third Wave experiment put on by teacher Ron Jones in order to explain to his students how the German populace could accept the actions of the Nazi regime during the Second World War. Though later featured as an episode of the ABC Afterschool Special series, this show debuted October 4, 1981, almost two years before being featured in the series.
It starred Bruce Davison as the teacher Ben Ross, a character based on Jones.
A novelization of the film The Wave, was released in the same year. Ron Jones' writings and Johnny Dawkins' screenplay were also basis of the 2008 German film Die Welle.
The Woman Who Willed a Miracle (1983), is an ABC Afterschool Special starring Cloris Leachman, M. Emmet Walsh, Leif Green and Rosemary Murphy.
Dick Clark was the executive producer under the auspices of his company, Dick Clark Productions. It was produced by Preston Fischer, Sharron Miller, and Joanne Curley-Kerner, and was directed by Sharron Miller and written by Arthur Heinemann. It tells the extraordinary true story of Leslie Lemke, a blind, cognitively impaired boy with cerebral palsy who was raised from infancy by a foster mother who stubbornly refused to let him die. Because of her love and dedication, he not only survived but was discovered to be a musical savant.
The New York Times called it one of the most famous of all Afterschool specials.
Where Do Teenagers Come From? was an American television teen comedy/documentary that aired as an ABC Afterschool Special on March 5, 1980. The live action/animation program was produced by DePatie-Freleng Enterprises and was a sequel to the 1977 program My Mom's Having a Baby. The special was notable for its signature song "Growing Up," written by Doug Goodwin.
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