Friday, February 04, 2005
Next On A Very Special Pops' Bucket...
I guess I can live with the fact that there are no more Afterschool Specials. I've had some time to get used to the idea. Partially I'm disturbed at the lack of opportunity for young actors to do some really poor acting with some impossible, cornball dialogue so that we as a nation can subsequently make fun of them when they later become famous like Rob Lowe, Helen Hunt, Val Kilmer, Wil Wheaton...

It's possible "famous" was the wrong word. Anyway, it's a resource now missing. Without this wealth of material with which to publicly embarrass entertainers, Jay Leno is going to have to start actually asking people questions on The Tonight Show.

Mostly I'm sad for my kids. I think of how much I learned in my life from Afterschool Specials or from "very special" episodes of my favorite regular TV shows and I think "Wow, my mom really wasn't around much" and then I try to figure out how I managed not to burn the house down. Best not to dwell on it.

Prime-time television has completely abdicated its responsibility to raise my children for me. If they don't impart their own special kind of wisdom to my kids in between ads for laxatives and beer, who will? Do they expect me to do it? Is this suddenly communist Russia and nobody told me? They've taken the "culture" right out of consumer culture.

Not that I'd recognize a "very special" episode now if I saw one. With all the swirling hyperbole around the few shows left not dedicated to making people eat spiders or hang from their teeth from a hot air balloon in exchange for $250, show promos now suggest that every episode is in some way "very special" which, of course, means none of them are.

The worst offender is ER. If anyone still watches that show (and I'm starting to suspect it's just me, but how can I stop? They have Parminder Nagra), at the end they preview the next show. Every single one according to the breathy, quiet voice-over guy promises--promises--that next week's show is the one "you cannot miss". Now, I'm very susceptible to orders and paralyzed by authoritative voices, so I always obey (just in case... you never know), but when it's another show about how a doctor rises above the science and routine of medicine to find his/her humanity through the suffering of a "very special" patient, I've started to get suspicious. They wouldn't say "very special" unless they meant it, unless they had measured it on some kind of objective scale... would they?

Even back in the day, though, "very special" meant different things. There were lots of "very special" episodes of Blossom, but past the one about when she got her period, they were all about Blossom deciding not to have sex yet, which for a 17 year old guy watching the show was quite frustrating. If I had wanted to watch some girl hand out cases of blue balls on a daily basis, I would have... I don't know... gotten out of bed and gone to school or something.

The all-time king and undisputed champeen of "very special" shows has to be Diff'rent Strokes. As far as I can tell, Diff'rent Strokes only produced two kinds of episodes: "very special" and clip shows where the characters sat around remembering all the "very special" things they had learned over the run of the show... I mean their lives.

Vicariously through that little scamp Arnold I learned about many, many important things like racism, the dangers of drugs, honesty, friendship, racism again, respect for authority, some more things about drugs, probably racism too, drugs, racism, racism, racism and--finally and most importantly--drugs. I also learned that white people are rich and black people are poor and that while you may, as a magnanimous creepy white dude, adopt your maid's kids they will continue to be incorrigible recidivists who disregard everything you try to teach them. See, if Arnold had just listened to Mr. Drummond, there would have been no "very special" episodes to teach us valuable lessons. Arnold never would have gotten into that car with the stranger who kidnapped him and Kimberly and then made Kimberly dance with him while Arnold escaped.

From that episode I learned, as a 10 year old, not to hitchhike which--even though by then nobody had hitchhiked in 15 years--was still an important lesson to learn.

For my kids, all they have is Playhouse Disney to teach them things. All they want to talk about is getting exercise and eating vegetables and learning to read and useless shit like that. Political correctness has made scaring the living shit out of children through the medium of television completely taboo. It seems like a good idea, but when we end up with a whole generation of slutty, period-having, drug-taking racist hitchhikers, don't say I didn't warn you.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 1.6 (FCC guideline characterize this as a Public Service Announcement)


Ah, Blossom. How I miss thee. You know, I wonder why there aren't pictures of most of the actors up on their imdb site, and then I realize has to be the giant NOSES on half the cast. Best not to show pictures, I suppose.

I need a good Afterschool Special to remind me not to shoot up. But maybe after this one last hit....
How can you forget the very, very, very special episode of Diff'rent Strokes where Nancy Reagan told Arnold to just say no? Willis never listened, did he? Hell, neither did Kimberly.
Jess: Afterschool Special says it's OK to shoot up just so long as you don't drive after that.

SJ: Oh man, I even did a Google search to make sure Nancy was on DS rather than Facts of Life or Silver Spoons or something and then I forgot to put the mention in.

I also had a good joke I forgot to put in referencing Jefferson Airplane in relation to the outmoded warning against hitchhiking, but I forgot that too. I'd re-tell it now, but you kinda had to be there.
I should put the car keys down then? Oh.

Do I need to hide the body, too? That's just so much work...
Now you got me thinking about that Diff'rent Strokes episode where Gordon Jump had Arnold and Dudley (right, Dudley?) in his creepy apartment and had them take their shirts off and took pictures of them looking at porn. Ew. Ew. Ew.
Jess: I think we just left Afterschool Special and are headed straight for The Sopranos. Is there a meat market nearby?

Brian: OH HOLY JESUS, I totally forgot about that episode. I probably blocked it out. Now I remember why I could never enjoy WKRP in Cincinnati.

Of course the message of that episode: don't get child-molested.
Thank God for that VS DS eppie about the child molestation, otherwise, I would've let every old geezer feel me up. I think my fave After School Special was the one with Molly Ringwald where she and her bf decide to commit suicide and do that carbon monoxide thing in the garage. That was very valuable; now I know a painless way to go--beats slitting my wrists or gouging out my eye (reference to one of Eric's posts.)
I'm changing the subject here for my own personal questions...yeah I'm selfish.

How come in the side bar I am in the section where I never leave comments when I always do?
I'm just asking
Damn, look at all the social value of Diff'rent Strokes! While you're in the doldrums, you should devote more time to the study of this sitcom.
Steph: I also remember seeing the one about drunk driving when I realized "I can drink alcohol?" It had never occured to me, as a 9 year old, that I had the option before I turned 21. The rest, as they say, is history.

Yoli: Man, I wrote myself into a corner with that list title. The problem has been seen to (sort of).

SJ: I had some more thoughts about the ethical and philosophical depth of The Brothers Karamazov, but the farther I get from grad school (chronolgically speaking) the more 1980s sitcoms are my level.
then I try to figure out how I managed not to burn the house down.

I only assume you say that because it has been wiped from your criminal record.
Don't forget, after the very special episode of Blossom you were treated to a Joey music video. I remember lots of neon coloured spray paint graffiti and jeans that look like they were run over by a combine.
That Different Strokes episode featuring Gordon Jump sent me on the path I am on today. Read into that what you want.
Rambuncle: If memory serves, the proper legal term is "expunged". Minority has its advantages.

Brent: Fashion is a fickle bitch. But then, so is Joey Lawrence.

MPH: Oh lordy, it's going to take all kinds of chemical help for me not to read anything into that.
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