The pre-internet age was surely something. We didn't know everything instantly and not everything was as common knowledge as it is in the present age. Luckily, ABC's Afterschool Specials came along to inform the masses of these dangers, such as: cocaine use, steroid use, date-rape, unexpected pregnancy, and the inherent dangers of hitch-hiking. However, the term "after school special" encompasses a specific type of story and not just the ABC-specific titles. Now this may sound silly (most of them are), but they are forever embedded into our pop-culture even to this day.
Their relevance today is not because of the specials themselves, but because of the actors involved with them — young actors who would grow up to play Batman, star in award-winning sitcoms, win Oscars, and Scott Baio.
It's no secret the actors and actresses do a various number of different, sometimes embarrassing roles, early in their careers. They are however, extremely entertaining to watch. So without further ado, let's check out these stars in the shit-heaps that are Afterschool Specials.
8. Ben Affleck
Before the internet exploded with white hot rage about Ben Affleck being cast as the new Batman, even before he made out with Jason Lee in Chasing Amy, he was appearing in after school specials. Affleck is actually a two-time after school special alumni. He appeared ABC's Wanted: The Perfect Guy in 1986 as a doting son who was trying to help his mother have a more fulfilled life.
Then, he cranked up the rage in A Body to Die For: The Aaron Henry Story. This was a part of HBO's Lifestories: A Family In Crisis series that, of course, ranks up there with The Sopranos and The Wire.
Look at all that 'roid rage! He hit his poor girlfriend, wrecked his room, and he can't even take a nap on the floor peacefully after doing all those steroids. The great thing about the messages in after school specials is that they are overwhelmingly polarizing. Granted, these are mostly bad things, but Batfleck just went to town on everything in sight!
Want more on the Batfleck? Check out:
- Ben Affleck Reveals That The Batman 'Isn't Happening Yet'
- What We Know About The Solo Batman Movie So Far
- From Controversial Casting To Overwhelming Approval: Ben Affleck's Journey As Batman
As we know now, Ben Affleck grew up to be a great actor and one of the best directors in the business. Although, who cares when you can see him do steroids and hulk-out as many times as you want? We love you Ben, but you can't outrun your past (unless you take steroids to help you run faster).
7. Drew Barrymore
Drew Barrymore stars in this semi-autobiographical look at addiction and how it can effect people no matter what age. This is actually very relevant topic, even today. It follows a group of young teenagers who are in treatment for an assortment of different abuse issues. Unfortunately, this CBS Schoolbreak Special is extremely difficult to dig up on the interwebs. Nevertheless, it does still exist somewhere out in the ether and one day it will come out of the shadows for the world to see. It is also of note that Corey Feldman is also in this episode and is far less embarrassing than his recent exploits.
Want to read about Corey Feldman's recent antics? Check out:
- Corey Feldman 'Petrified To Go Out' After 'Public Shaming' Of His Unusual Rock Act
- Corey Feldman Blocks Out The Haters, Might 'Go 4 It' Again On The Today Show
6. Rob Lowe
Rob Lowe has been charming the pants off of America for decades. Fittingly enough, in his after school special he charmed the pants right off his high school girlfriend. Being extremely handsome does appear to have some slight drawbacks, as Lowe becomes a father in the episode "Schoolboy Father."
Luckily, this entire episode is on Youtube, you can jump to the video here. You can finally learn if Lowe can handle all of his responsibilities and still be a kid at the same time. Although it is fun to imagine that this is a prequel to St. Elmo's Fire. Alas it is not, but they can't stop someone from writing that fan-fiction!
5. Joaquin Phoenix
We get to see an very young Joaquin Phoenix and his older brother, the late River Phoenix, starring in a harrowing tale of a young boy with dyslexia in the episode titled "Backwards: The Riddle of Dyslexia."
Joaquin and River are absolutely adorable little kids. Joaquin has come a long way since 1984 and has grown into one of the finest actors working today. This shows a little glimmer of his talent, even if he is only 10 years old in this.
4. Sean Astin
Hobbit in training Sean Astin stars in this violent tale with his real-life mother Patty Duke. The aptly named "Please Don't Hit Me, Mom" tackles the hard-hitting subject of child abuse (or at least, child shaking).
This devolves into a Snickers commercial pretty quickly. A very "hangry" Patty Duke has been starving herself to lose weight. This all comes to a head when she shakes the shit out of poor little Sean Astin and almost stuffs him into their Lazy Susan cabinet. Sean won't be down for long though, because as we all know, Goonies never say "die"!
3. Helen Hunt
Ladies and gentlemen, we must talk about something very serious: PCP. Let's look at Mad About You and Twister star Helen Hunt. She was just a young, idealistic girl who just wants to impress a cute boy with amazing hair.
What happened to her? Well in this drug-fueled made for TV movie, Desperate Lives, she tries PCP and then jumps out of a third-story window. She survives the fall, which is actually pretty impressive. So kids, the moral of this story is: Drugs can help you survive falls from great heights.
2. & 1. Val Kilmer And Michelle Pfeiffer
Drunk driving has been a problem since the invention of the automobile. It would seem fitting to have two future movie stars: Val Kilmer and Michelle Pfeiffer, in that film. The gist of this after school special is: Future Batman and Catwoman drink a little too much and — as the title of the TV movie tells us — they have had One Too Many.
As riveting as this looks, It surely pales in comparison to Real Genius or Top Gun, which were Kilmer's films to follow. Interestingly enough, Michelle Pfeiffer was already an established actress, as this came out after Grease 2, Scarface, and Ladyhawke. Needless to say, this TV movie did not go down in history as either of their finest works.
Well, that's all folks. There are a lot of after school specials that aired over the years. They have sadly died out, but thanks to never-ending nostalgia and YouTube, they shall live on eternal. We will always remember what they have taught us: drugs are bad, don't drink and drive, if you do PCP stay away from windows, stay away from Patty Duke if she hasn't eaten, don't piss off Ben Affleck, and try not to get pregnant by a 16-year-old Rob Lowe.
Laughable, isn't it? Almost as funny as this reimagining of The Walking Dead as a '90s sitcom:
Sound Off! Who was your favorite Afterschool Special actor? What would be your Afterschool Special theme? Let it be known in the comments below.