Movie Mom

Movie Mom

‘Awesomely Lame’ After-School Specials of the 70’s

posted by Nell Minow

I admit to lingering affection for the cheesy after-school specials of the 1970’s. They started on ABC in 1972 and were known for their flimsy production values, cardboard characters, awkward efforts at social relevance, and stilted acting. ABC owned the “after-school special” title, but it is now applied to any issue-oriented, low-budget show directed at teenagers.

The Huffington Post has a list of their so-bad-they’re-sorta-good after-school-special favorites. One thing I love about these films is the chance to see the early work of future Oscar winners like Helen Hunt and Ben Affleck (both featured in the HuffPo’s clips) and Jodie Foster. You can also see future “Sex and the City” Miranda Cynthia Nixon and “Moon’s” Sam Rockwell along with 80’s TV stars Kristy McNichol, Mayim Bialik, and Kirk Cameron. And I love the innocence and sincerity of the films in crusading against such threats and disturbances as sexism, racism, divorce, loss, disability, teen pregnancy, and many, many forms of substance abuse. Wikipedia has a full list of all of the ABC productions.


  • monkie

    Oh, the horror! LOL
    I think this may have been a memory best left repressed…

  • Wendy

    I will unabashedly admit I loved these in all their cheesy glory!

  • Nell Minow

    Thanks, Wendy and Monkie! As I said, I love these movies!

  • Alicia

    Hi, Nell. I’m not sure if it was an afterschool special or simply a kids-oriented TV movie, but do you remember the awesome TV Christmas movie “JT”? It was about a lonely African-American teenage boy in the inner city who adopts a stray cat. I can’t even think about it without tearing up.

  • Nell Minow

    I do remember “J.T.,” Alicia! It was a terrific movie, starring Kevin Hooks and Theresa Merritt — and was written by Jane Wagner, who is the writing and life partner of Lily Tomlin. Thanks so much for reminding me of it.

  • Leigh

    Very disturbing. I think watching these would MAKE me do drugs… 😉

  • Nell Minow

    Leigh, these shows are trippy enough themselves so that watching them might make you feel like you already have!

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