THE ABC AFTERSCHOOL SPECIAL aired weekday afternoons. It was indeed “special” as it wasn’t a regular series. If you were lucky, you’d turn on the TV and there would be one.
Many of these specials were based on books and got you to read the original source material (A TV show that got you to read?? Outrage!!). In many cases, they would even be tied in to school curriculum (propaganda!!!).
My favorite of these AFTERSCHOOL SPECIALS was “The Hand Me Down Kid”, based on a novel by Francine Pascal (who would later write the SWEET VALLEY HIGH series). It aired October 19, 1983. And, it was even tied in with our reading class.
This episode starred Tracey Gold. Before GROWING PAINS (which debuted the next year), she was then best known as Mariette Hartley’s daughter on the Bill Bixby sitcom GOOD NIGHT BEANTOWN (a show I watched), or the sister of Missy Gold from BENSON.
Ari (Gold) is the younger sister of Liz (Cheryl Arutt). The title comes from the fact that she receives all of her older sisters “hand me downs”. Liz gets a new bike. Ari borrows it, without permission, and it gets stolen. She then has to track it down.
The cast also included Terry O’Quinn (THE STEPFATHER, LOST) as Ari’s dad, Martha Plimpton in a small role as one of the school’s “mean girls”, and Corey Parker.
One interesting thing about it, Tracey’s best friend in it is played by an actress named Elizabeth Ward. Ward was originally cast in Tracey’s part of Carol Seaver on GROWING PAINS. A pilot was shot and then it was recast with Gold.
This aired in the early days of VCRs, back when blank tapes cost $10. I started watching it, and had to leave for a soccer game. So, I had my younger sister tape the second half of it.
That tape, since it was one of the few we had, became one of our most watched tapes. We would watch that second half of “The Hand Me Down Kid” just about every day. It has gotten to the point that I can still recite lines from memory without having seen it in decades.
Since it isn’t on YouTube, how about a reenactment of the finale?
Some spoilers, but it isn’t as if this is going to make it to DVD anytime soon.
Ari and Liz have been arguing. Liz had given Ari her old robe. Ari was able to fix it up to look nice, and Liz now wants it back, since she didn’t think it could be repaired. They go back and forth arguing (“Give me back my robe this instant!” “No!”) Ari won’t give it back to her.
Here is the finale
LIZ: You brat!! You stink!!! (actual lines of dialogue, folks)It then cut to the gumball machine AFTERSCHOOL SPECIAL bumper before showing the credits, and the announcer talking about that weeks episode of WEBSTER.
Liz goes storming from the room. Ari is with her mom.
ARI: I thought this was all going to be over. I thought we were going to be sisters.
MOM: Give it time, honey. Nothing changes over night.
At this point, this very sad piano music comes on the soundtrack. Music that has haunted me for 25 years. Single piano notes playing this slow little song.
Liz walks into the room. Slowly. With her head down.
LIZ: Ummm, Ari? Do you think I could....borrow...my robe sometime?
ARI: Yeah...sure! You can...borrow...my robe sometime.
Two piano notes
If I said I saw this 100 times, I probably am not exaggerating. Like I said, it was one of the few tapes we had.
In the past few years, a few DVDs have been released of AFTERSCHOOL SPECIALS episodes but this hasn’t been in those sets. It was never released on VHS. I was surprised to discover that a 16mm copy was on Ebay.
Today, afternoon TV is dominated by talk shows, or court shows. There is nothing like them anymore.