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After School Specials 1981-82



DVD Release Date: May 24, 2005 (BCI Eclipse)
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.


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 now been released. The first two (1974-76 and 1976-77) were released on October 12th, 2004. Volumes 3 and 4 were released on January 11, 2005. This review covers Volume 5, with specials from 1981-82. Volume 6, which was also released on May 24th, features specials from 1982-86. Each set contains 4 specials. The four specials on Volume 5 include:

A Matter of Time - Lisl Gilbert (Karlene Crockett) doesn't know where to turn when her mother (Rosemary Forsyth) is diagnosed with cancer, and it seems her death is only a matter of time. Lisl struggles to understand her mother's fears and anxiety regarding her illness, life, and her family's love. With a father (Wayne Heffley) who cannot articulate his grief to his family, Lisl finds comfort and support in an insightful counselor (Kate Zentall) and comes to know and love her mother more than ever. In affect, Lisl also manages to discover herself, as she puts the entire experience in her diary, practicing for the day when she will become a famous writer, which she believes will also be only a matter of time. This special originally aired on 02/11/81 and runs approximately 45 minutes, 24 seconds. It was based on the young adult novel by Roni Schotter. This special won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Dramatic Special. Karlene Crockett and Rosemary Forsyth give great performances. Karlene would go on to appear on Dallas from 1979-83. She was also in another After School Special, "Two Loves for Jenny," which is on Volume 6. Rob Lowe makes his second After School Special appearance. He had been in "Schoolboy Father" in a leading role the year before.

First Step (aka She Drinks a Little) - Cindy (Amanda Wyss) and her younger brother (Elliot Jaffe) have been living with the dangers and embarrassment of their alcoholic mother (Bonnie Bartlett) for many years. When Cindy wins the lead in the school play, her mother, who always wanted to be in the theater, is so filled with joy, she stops drinking for four weeks and finds a job. Cindy honestly believes her mother has made a change for the better. Then, during the curtain call on opening night of Cindy's play, her mother staggers onto the stage, embarrassing Cindy in front of the entire school audience. Devastated, Cindy attends Alateen mettings for teens who are living with alcholic parents. What Cindy learns at the meetings helps her to understand her mother and the disease that controls her life. This special originally aired on 09/26/81 and runs approximately 45 minutes, 35 seconds. It is based on the novel by Anne Snyder. Paul W. Cooper won an Emmy for Best Writing, and Arthur Allan Sidelman won for Best Direction. This was a very emotional and well-acted special - the best of the four specials on this set. Bonnie Bartlett would go on to win two Emmys for her role as Ellen Craig on St. Elsewhere. I think it would be important for other teens that have the same problems in their family to watch.

Tough Girl - Renie Lake (Karin Argoud) lives in a city with her divorced waitress mother (Sally Kemp) and her mother's most recent boyfriend. After Renie and a friend get busted by the cops, an understanding judge commits her to her father's care. So, Renie moves to the suburbs, but cannot cope with her stepmother, spoiled stepsister, and her feelings of being unwanted. One night, Renie decides to run away, but she finds a puppy who has been injured, she takes the puppy in her arms to the first house she sees. There she finds a college student, Jan (Gregory Koppel), a hopeful veterinarian who is deaf. Jan and Renie become fast friends, finding comfort in each other. When Renie's punk boyfriend arrives to take her back to the city, Jan helps her make the right decision. This special originally aired on 10/28/81 and runs approximately 44 minutes, 49 seconds. It was based on the young adult novel, "will The Real Renie Lake Please Stand Up?", by Barbara Morgenroth. Karin Argoud does a fine job in the role. She would go on to appear as Sonja Harper on Mama's Family. Also of note is the great peformance of veteran character actress Bibi Besch as Marlene Lake. Harris Kal, who played Bobby on Happy Days from 1980-1984, also makes an appearance.

The Night Swimmers (aka Daddy, I'm Their Mama Now) - Shorty (Trey Wilson) hits the country western charts with his song which memorializes the death of his wife, "My Honey Went to Heaven in a DC-3." He spends so much time on his singing career that his teenage daughter, Retta (Mallie Jackson) is forced to abandon her own life and play mother to her two, resentful younger brothers, Roy Acuff (Jason Hervey) and Johnny Cash (Jason Lively). The three unsupervised children have some fun sneaking into a neighbor's pool at midnight to have a secret swim, until one night when the fun abruptly ends. It takes the assistance of Shorty's new girlfriend, Brendelle (Betty Beaird), to open his eyes to his family's problems. This special originally aired on 03/03/82 and runs approximately 45 minutes, 19 seconds. It was based on the young adult novel by Betsy Byars. You probably recognize Jason Lively as Rusty Griswold in National Lampoon's European Vacation. Jason Hervey would go on to appear as Wayne Arnold on The Wonder Years. If you are a fan of country music, this special is for you.


Previous After School Specials have had creative packaging designed as Trapper Keeper style notebooks and school lockers. The school theme is continued with this volume. The packaging is designed to look like a yearbook. The cover, which features a photo of Rob Lowe and Karlene Crockett, opens up like a book revealing some black and white photos as part of a Class of '81-82 Honor Roll. Rob Lowe, Jason Hervey, and Bonnie Bartless are among those pictured. On the other side, there are some color photos from the four specials. There is a standard keepcase that holds the two discs found in the middle cardboard case of the package. The back of the package has four small photos with some more information on the specials including the cast and original air dates. Inside the back flap, there are more detailed summaries of the specials along with some quotes from various newspapers.

There is a single-wide keepcase that houses the two DVDs. The front has the logo and some quotes from various newspapers on the specials. The back has four small, black & white photos and lists the specials by disc. The discs are blue and black in color and have the After School Specials logo on them, with a background of people holding diplomas in the air.

Menu Design and Navigation:

The menus are very similar to the previous releases. A neat 3-D animated sequence opens the dvd menus. These are the same sequences and kinds of menus as used on the last 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. The menus and packaging are the best overall features of the sets.

Video and Audio Quality:

These specials likely didn't receive any remastering. The quality is about the same as you would find on a VHS tape, but these won't deteriorate any more. I wouldn't let the quality affect your viewing of these specials. There is a lot of grain and some occasional video glitches, but I've seen many more poor quality tapes. I think a lot of the video problems have to do with the low budgets of the specials, and these really couldn't be improved that much even if they received some restoration. 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. I've always enjoyed hearing the music score in these specials. The music added a lot to the feel of them.

Special Features:

Bonus photo galleries that are on each disc are the only extras included once again. There is about 51 seconds on each disc, with various screenshots from the specials, that are shown while background music is playing. The images aren't that great quality. It would have been better to see some high quality behind-the-scenes type or publicity photos. Some commentaries by Martin Tahse or an interview with him would have been enjoyable.

I'm not sure if it ever aired, but in a packet I received there was a VH1 "When After School Specials Ruled The World" program which was scheduled to air in May 2005. It was to feature key talent and the producer from BCI's releases of the After School Specials.

Final Comments:

These specials provide a lot of nostalgia. It is fun to see some actors before they became household names. The packaging and menus are very creative. Unfortunately, the video and audio quality is really not up to that same excellence. I wouldn't let that affect your viewing that much. While the hairstyles and clothing may be a bit dated, these specials still have important messages that still resonate today. 24 of Martin Tahse's 26 produced After School Specials have been released so far.

Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)

Video Quality: 3.0/5
Audio Quality: 3.5/5
Special Features: 1/5
Menu Design/Navigation: 4.5/5
Overall: 3.5/5

-- Reviewed by Todd Fuller on 05/26/05

To purchase the 1981-82 DVD, click below and help support

Other After School Specials available on DVD:

1974-76 (Volume 1)
1976-77 (Volume 2)
1978-79 (Volume 3)
1979-80 (Volume 4)
1982-86 (Volume 6)

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