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After School Specials 1978-79


TITLE: AFTER SCHOOL SPECIALS - 1978-79


Info:

DVD Release Date: January 11, 2005 (BCI Eclipse)
Color (1 special is in black & white)
MSRP: $12.98
Number of Discs: 2
Number of Specials: 4
Running Time: Approx. 180 minutes
Total Run Time of Special Features: approx. 1 minute per disc
Languages, Subtitles, Closed Captioning: English - no closed captioning
Special features: Bonus Photo Galleries.


Introduction:

Noted as one of the most popular television series of the 70s and 80s, the “After School Specials” produced by Martin Tahse, which originally aired on ABC from approximately 1972-1998, are now available for the first time ever on DVD. A hit during its run in the opulent disco era, the “After School Specials” became a favorite of parents and youth alike tackling issues that still affect today’s family such as substance abuse, eating disorders, teen pregnancy and sexual behavior, racism, divorce and child abuse, just to name some. Martin Tahse is the most prolific and successful producer of After School Specials. His 26 productions have won numerous awards and prizes including 18 Emmys, three Blue Ribbons in the American Film Fesitval, the Peabody Award, and First, Second, and Third Prize in the Chicago Film Festival in the same year - an honor which has never since been matched.


Specials Included:

A total of six DVD sets have been announced. The first two (1974-76 and 1976-77) were released on October 12th, 2004. This review covers Set #3 with specials from 1978-79. Set #4, which was also released on January 11th, features specials from 1979-80. Two more upcoming sets will be available in the spring of 2005 and will cover 1981-82 and 1982-86. Each set contains four specials. The four specials on Set #3 include:

It's A Mile From Here to Glory - Early MacLaren (Steve Shaw), a young man isolated from his widowed father (James G. Richardson), joins the running team at school and turns out to be a champ as a long distance runner. His father is interested in his son's accomplishments, but is consumed with trying to keep the farm together. Early forges ahead with an all-consuming desire to win, but when he is an accident, his despair is overwhelming. It isn't until a knowledgable but tough therapist (Anne Gee Byrd) enters his life that Early is at last willing to even attempt to get out of his bed. His efforts to regain his skills and run again win the attention, at last, of his father and the two finally recognize the best in each other. The final scenes are tout and tense, certain to win the hearts of everyone. This special originally aired on 05/03/78 and runs 45 minutes, 32 seconds. It was adapted from the novel by Robert C. Lee. The lesson from watching this special is that there is no "I" in team. There was a lot of nice outdoor photography in this one. Look for Anne Gee Byrd in some of the other After School Specials, as she was a regular. It was sad to read on the internet that Steve Shaw died in a road accident in 1990. The father, James G. Richardson, also died in an accident in 1983.

Thank You, Jackie Robinson (aka A Home Run for Love) - In this Emmy Award-winning special, Sammy (Ronnie Scribner) has one love in his life, the Brookyln Dodgers. The year is 1947 and Jackie Robinson has made baseball history by joining the infamous Dodgers team. When Sammy's mother hires a new cook, who is also an avid Dodger fan, named Davey (Charles Lampkin), he gives Sammy a chance of a lifetime: to see the Dodgers play at Ebbetts Field. Their relationship grows, and when Davey suffers a heart attack, Sammy wants to give Davey the ultimate gift, a baseball signed by Jackie Robinson himself. This special originally aired on 10/11/78 and runs approximately 44 minutes, 53 seconds. It was based on the young adult novel by Barbara Cohen. This special earned an Emmy for outstanding editing, and it was well deserved. As a baseball fan, I really enjoyed it. It was shot and aired in black & white. They recreated the period with authentic cars, props, and clothing. A number of vintage baseball clips were used and the announcer on the radio is the legendary Red Barber. There were a number of notable guest stars including Desperate Housewives' Felicity Huffman in what was probably her first tv role ever (she's credited as Flicka Huffman), as well as recognizable character actresses Edie McClurg and Anne Ramsey.

My Other Mother - Alex (Melissa Sue Anderson) is nearly eighteen and is living with loving foster parents Lila and Tom (Marion Ross and Bruce Kirby), who want to adopt her. Shortly after the papers are filed, Alex receives a phone call from her birth mother (Lee Kessler) - a woman she has not heard from in ten years - who tells Alex she wants to see her, claim her, and take her back to Chicago. Torn between her two mothers, Alex finds help in a tough but understanding judge (Virginia Capers) who encourages her to stand up for herself - to fight for what she wants, even though somebody might get hurt. This special originally aired on 09/26/79 and runs approximately 43 minutes, 32 seconds. It was based on the young adult novel, "Which Mother is Mine?" by Joan Oppenheimer. This special features an outstanding cast and acting. Melissa Sue Anderson is known for playing Mary on Little House on the Prairie. You know Marion Ross as Mrs. C. on Happy Days, but she has hundreds of other roles. She shows her dramatic side here. This special won two Emmys - for best direction of a dramatic special and best actress (Melissa Sue Anderson) in a dramatic special.

Gaucho - Gaucho (Panchito Gomez) and his family emigrate to New York from Puerto Rico for a better life, but Gaucho has always counted on his older brother, Angel (Richard Beauchamp), to take him and his mother back to their native Puerto Rico - which he thinks is his mother's desire. When Gaucho's hopes of returning to Puerto Rico seem out of reach, Gaucho takes matters into his own hands by signing up as a runner for a small-time hood in the Spanish Harlem barrio - until there is one too many runs. This special originally aired on 10/25/78 and runs approximately 46 minutes, 26 seconds. It was based on the novel by Gloria Gonzalez. Look for some cool, classic 1970's hockey posters in Gaucho's room. I think composer Glenn Paxton's music in this special really adds to the Spanish Harlem setting. It was shot on location in Spanish Harlem in Manhattan.


Packaging:

The first two sets had packaging that was designed to look like Trapper Keeper Style notebooks. They tried something a little different on this 3rd set, and although it was a nice idea, it was not as clever as their first offerings. The packaging is green and is designed to look like a school locker. You flip open the front cover, and there is a photo of a young Felicity Huffman (from probably her first tv role) in a locker along with some quotes from various publications on the After School Specials on one side, while the other side gives some pretty detailed summaries of each of the 4 specials along with quotes from different news publications. The back of the packaging features four small photos and gives some more details on the specials including what novel it was based on, the original airdate, approximate running time, and the cast and crew listing.

There is a single-wide slim case that houses the two dvds. The slim case box has a cover that looks like a text book with covering. Remember how you used to use old grocery bags to cover your text books? That's how they designed it. The front of the case features four photos of the cast members of the specials. The back of the box gives some details on producer Martin Tahse's many awards. The discs are green in color like the outer packaging and each have two photos on them from the specials along with the After School Specials logo and the episode titles.


Menu Design and Navigation:

A neat 3-D animated sequence opens the dvd menus. These are the same sequences and kinds of menus as used on the first two sets. It goes from a camera's point of view. First, you see a door opening and then the camera goes down a hallway with some video clips playing on the school's walls and finally out an exit door. The 3-D sequence runs about 16 seconds and features a musical ditty in the bakground. The main menus continue the school theme with a lined paper backround with music playing and various video clips from the specials are played. There is a 'Chapters' submenu with four chapter stops per episode. Various sounds are played such as a paper being torn, pencil writing, eraser, and photocopier when you choose different options on the menus.


Video and Audio Quality:

The video and audio quality is fairly decent. They probably weren't remastered, but they used the best possible copies available. While you may say they don't look to be dvd quality, it didn't affect my enjoyment of viewing these specials. There are a few tape/film glitches in some scenes and some grain in others, but it's not too bad. The audio is in mono and is standard from the 70's. There are two options to play them - Dolby Digital Stereo or Dolby Digital 5.1.


Special Features:

Bonus photo galleries that are on each disc are the only extras included. There is about a minute on each disc of music playing while various screenshots from the specials are shown one after another. Perhaps, on some future releases, they can include some interviews with Martin Tahse or episode commentaries. Another idea could be a 'where are they now?' feature. Although there were many recognizable stars, there are some that you wonder if they ever continued acting, and it would be interesting to know what they are doing now.


Final Comments:

Overall, this is a very nicely produced set. If you were a fan of the first two releases, you will enjoy this volume as well. The packaging is not as cool, but I think the four specials on this set were fun to watch especially Thank You, Jackie Robinson. As a big Happy Days fan, it was nice to see Marion Ross in a role that I had never seen before. I don't know if their original advertising and promotional material included Felicity Huffman, but I'm sure with the popularity of Desperate Housewives they thought she could be a big draw. I could hardly recognize her in the role in the special. I remember watching some After School Specials back in high school in health class. The storylines are timeless and still carry an important message. I'm sure they are still shown in schools, and I'm surprised some new ones and haven't been produced in a number of years. These sets are very affordable, you can probably find them for less than $10 a set. If you can't find them at a local store, you can easily order them online from Amazon.com. Look for volumes 5 and 6 in the spring of 2005 with guest stars such as Rob Lowe, Bonnie Bartlett, Jason Hervey, Michelle Greene, James LeGros, and Malcolm-Jamal Warner.


Final Numbers (out of 5 stars):

Video Quality: 4.2/5
Audio Quality: 4.2/5
Special Features: 3/5
Menu Design/Navigation: 5/5
Overall: 4.0/5

-- Reviewed by Todd Fuller on 01/20/05

To purchase the 1978-79 DVD, click below and help support SitcomsOnline.com:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B0006N2E0A/ref=nosim/happydaysonline4-20

Other After School Specials available on DVD:

1974-76 (Volume 1)
1976-77 (Volume 2)
1979-80 (Volume 4)
1981-82 (Volume 5)
1982-86 (Volume 6)


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