When I watch a movie, there are two of me in the same seat. There’s that regular movie-going guy who likes blood and boobs and things that explode, the kind of movies we call POPCORN MOVIES. But there’s another fellow who accompanies him. This guy likes some of the same things as his friend, but he is a seeker and connoisseur of SERIOUS CINEMA. This guy doesn’t just want to see a movie, he wants it to change his life. CINEMA: Hi. You know me as Cinema. You can’t see me right now, but, if you could, you would see that I am standing here with a Mohawk, a ripped shirt, and a terrible attitude. Go ahead, get that image in your mind. POPCORN: And, like, I’m here too and shit. CINEMA: Wait, did you shave your head for real? POPCORN: Yeah, dude. CINEMA: And that’s a real safety pin in your nose? POPCORN: Yup. Hurt like a bitch too. CINEMA: So, what about your job? I mean, aren’t they going to have a problem with this? POPCORN: Probably, but jobs are kinda overrated. Punk rock, dude. CINEMA: Yeah, I suppose you can always bag groceries somewhere else. POPCORN: Dude. CINEMA: So we are dressed like this is in homage to the film we are honoring today, which isn’t really a film at all. As a matter of fact, it never appeared anywhere other than on television. The year was 1987, and it was called “The Day My Kid Went Punk.” This little beauty was first seen in the sixteenth season of the ABC AFTERSCHOOL SPECIAL. POPCORN: Yeah, it was, like, a very special episode. CINEMA: Well, I wouldn’t say it was all that special. As a matter of fact, if I had to choose from the over two hundred afterschool specials that were produced among the three major networks of the time, this one might rank somewhere in the bottom twenty as far as relevance, emotional impact, or storytelling are concerned. But there are extenuating circumstances involved in this particular choice today – POPCORN: Somebody lost a bet. CINEMA: A very ridiculous and pointless wager, to be sure. However, I will take a deep breath, stand tall, and assure myself that this particular choice – while not mine – is at least a fair representation of youth programming on television circa 1987. POPCORN: Yeah, it’s like an afterschool special right here. Remember, kids, gambling is bad. CINEMA: The afterschool special first appeared in the early 1970s, a decade which many historians have described as a crucial turning point in American culture. It was a time of political upheaval, pet rocks, and mood rings. Unemployment and inflation were high – POPCORN: – but so were a lot of people – CINEMA: It was a time of bean-bag chairs, adhesive daisies, the happy face, and the giant console TV. It was the era of women’s lib, OUR BODIES, OURSELVES, and the mantra was to be open about our problems. It was the time of Judy Blume – POPCORN: – and her books about tampons – CINEMA: – and it was the time when young adult literature really started to take hold, in the stories of Isabella Tave, Betsy Byar, Jean Merrill, Joan Oppenheimer, Constance Greene, Barbara Cohen, and Mildred Ames. It was in this spirit – and, frequently, from these sources – that we started to get the first programs directed at the burgeoning new youth market. POPCORN: Dude, it’s like the parents were gone. Like, it was up to TV to raise all the kids. CINEMA: When we see all the fools populating the tabloids, so-called reality television, and even politics these days, it’s easy to believe that we, as a nation, have learned everything we know from forty-five-minute programs – POPCORN: – brought to you by Proctor & Gamble – CINEMA: Wednesday afternoons were a world of teenage pregnancies, drunken parents, stoned kids, racism, death, stuttering, illiteracy, and rampant sexuality – POPCORN: Yeah, dude, and that was just at my house. CINEMA: The very first Afterschool Special aired on ABC in 1972. It was from Hanna-Barbera, an animated story warning about animal extinction, called “The Last of the Curlews” – POPCORN: What’s a curlew? CINEMA: Extinct, apparently. Since no one knows what a curlew is, these warnings were not premature. NBC was fairly quick to follow, starting their own version of the afterschool special – called SPECIAL TREAT – by 1975, while CBS finally relented with SCHOOLBREAK SPECIAL in 1980. No matter which station they appeared on, however, the afterschool specials were like Lifetime Movies for tweens and teens, but with a lot more Scott Baio – POPCORN: Lot more Baio. CINEMA: We mean, a lot more. He was a teen whose terrible home life leads him to alcohol in “The Boy Who Drinks Too Much,” or a teen with a perfect home-life and perfect grades who nevertheless starts smoking marijuana in “Stoned” – POPCORN: Chachi loves reefer. CINEMA: – or an Olympic hopeful teen who drinks too much in “All the Kids Do It” – POPCORN: The dude was all over these things. CINEMA: Some of the same young actors appeared in numerous episodes. Cynthia Nixon, for example, was the girl that Robbie Rist – POPCORN: Cousin Oliver! CINEMA: – had a crush on in 1978’s “Seven Wishes of a Rich Kid,” but, in a 1983 special, she was the one who had the crush – POPCORN: Like, on some soap opera dude or something. CINEMA: Then there was Rob Stone, one of the kids from MR. BELVEDERE. He co-starred in one where a teenager must come to grips with the sudden death of his friend, and then in another one where a family must come to grips with the sudden death of their daughter. POPCORN: Pretty sure I saw Rob Lowe in one-a these things. CINEMA: You did, if you saw “Schoolboy Father.” Recurring actors, familiar to most TV viewers of the time, included Joey Lawrence, Lance Kerwin, Dana Plato, Tracey Gold, Richard Masur, Marion Ross, Lisa Bonet, Tempest Bledsoe, Trini Alvarado, Melissa Sue Anderson, Eve Plumb, Willie Aames, Nancy McKeon, and Kirk Cameron – POPCORN: Dude, Lisa Bonet? CINEMA: Uh-huh. But there’s a huge – POPCORN: Bonet. CINEMA: – list of movie actors, and others – POPCORN: Bone, aye? CINEMA: – who also made appearances in the afternoon. Jodie Foster got her start there, as did both Arquette sisters – POPCORN: The dude who knocked up John Connor’s mom was in one. CINEMA: If you mean Michael Biehn, then yes, he appeared in “The Terrible Secret” – POPCORN: And there was Nancy from Elm Street – CINEMA: Heather Langenkamp? The year after her cinematic debut in NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, she appeared in “Can A Guy Say No?” on ABC and also on the CBS special “Have You Tried Talking To Patty?” POPCORN: But the chick who played Tina – CINEMA: Amanda Wyss. POPCORN: – was in one first. Her mom, like, drank a little or something. CINEMA: Future or then-current cinematic actors appearing in the afternoon included Danny Aiello, Dee Wallace, Helen Slater, Meg Ryan, Kristy McNichol, James Earl Jones, Zach Galligan, Lance Guest, Matthew Modine, James LeGros, Felicity Huffman – POPCORN: That Kiedis dude from the Red Hot Chili Peppers was in there. CINEMA: – as were Davy Jones, Carole King, and Michael Jackson – POPCORN: Adam Sandler was a drug pusher. CINEMA: If you were paying attention, you also would have seen Sean Astin, M. Emmet Walsh, Clarence Williams III, Michael Dorn, Terry O’Quinn, Michael York, Sherilyn Fenn, Vince Vaughn, Marisa Tomei, Helen Hunt, Jennifer Grey, River and Joaquin Phoenix, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Val Kilmer, Michelle Pfeiffer, and . . . POPCORN: Come on, dude. You gotta say it. CINEMA: . . . and Ben Affleck. POPCORN: Told you Affleck was in an afterschool special. Maybe next time you’ll listen to me. CINEMA: Uh-huh. So most of these were pretty benign. Have you ever wondered what it’d be like to become a dog – I don’t mean the kind who cheats on his girlfriend, but an actual canine? – no, me neither. You had all kinds of stories here about crushes, getting teased, going steady, but sometimes things would turn a bit darker in the afternoon – POPCORN: Dude, what would it be like to be a dog? CINEMA: Very few of these episodes were subtle. They were more like opera with acne. POPCORN: Yeah, but with all these kids stoned, obsessed with, like, ballet, or terminally ill, you really gotta punch ’em in the face to get their attention. Punk rock, dude. CINEMA: Yeah, I’m getting there. As the shows progressed on each of the networks, they began to develop even more ridiculous titles to more easily sum up what each episode was about. You know, things like “My Dad Can’t Be Crazy, Can He?”, “What If I’m Gay?”, “Please Don’t Hit Me, Mom” – POPCORN: “Mom’s Gonna Die, But At Least Rob Lowe Is My Boyfriend”. CINEMA: Most of these were like a bag of potato chips: no matter what they say, you know they’re not really any good for you . . . but you can’t help but to keep shoving them into your face. However, one of them was called “The Wave”, about a high school teacher whose classroom project scarily illustrates the fascist power of Nazi Germany. It was actually very, very good. That’s the one that would have been my choice – POPCORN: Too bad, dude. Me and Ben Affleck are gonna do this one. CINEMA: Yeah, yeah. So . . . many of these are available in some form or another, through video, streaming, or sometimes on YouTube. That’s where I found “The Day My Kid Went Punk,” and, let me tell you, it’s everything that you think it would be. POPCORN: Chuckles galore, dude. CINEMA: There are lots of familiar faces here. The kid in question was played by Jay Underwood, who some of you might recognize from THE BOY WHO COULD FLY. I heartily recommend tracking that one down – POPCORN: But, like, bring a hankie. CINEMA: Bernie Kopell is here as the father, but fans of bad television will know him as Doc from THE LOVE BOAT. The kid’s mother is played by Christina Belford, a veteran television actress with appearances in numerous shows, including WONDER WOMAN, THE INCREDIBLE HULK, MAGNUM P.I., DYNASTY, FAMILY TIES – POPCORN: She was the mom on SILVER SPOONS. CINEMA: Oh yeah, she was. Huh. She also had a small role in CHRISTINE, and a larger one in the 1986 film THE LADIES CLUB, where she took the law into her own hands and started castrating captured rapists – POPCORN: But here she just wants to castrate her son. CINEMA: She’s in the final stages of her doctorate, working toward a career as a psychology professor. Her thesis project is a seminar called “Punk Syndrome: How Parents Can Avoid It.” In the kind of dramatic coincidence that only happens in movies and television, her youngest son is about to become the thing she fears most. POPCORN: So it starts with some orchestra doin’ Classical music. Parents and old people are, like, spotting in their shorts. The audience looks like they all voted for Reagan, if you know what I’m sayin’. CINEMA: Yeah, I would agree that the greatest fear in their world is probably drugs, people of color, and punk rock. POPCORN: Terry – that’s the dude’s name – he’s all super-white. Sawin’ away on that violin. I think he’s wearing, like, a cardigan and stuff. But he’s already talkin’ to Dad about getting an earring and playin’ a little devil-music . . . so, you know, there’s hope. Then we see why. There’s this chick named Lisa – CINEMA: There’s always a girl. POPCORN: He tries slidin’ up on her, but she looks at him like the dweeb he is. She starts smoochin’ on some dude in leather. Dad’s like, why’s she going out with that creep? But Terry, he’s like, oh yeah, I wanna be that creep. Cut to, like, the airport. Dude’s on his way to some kinda summer job – CINEMA: He’s going to be working daycare in a hotel. POPCORN: But he spies some totally bangin’ punk chicks at the airport. By punk, I mean they got, like, ripped jeans and shit. So he sees these hot topic babes and forgets all about Lisa. They shoot his ass down too, of course. But he slips into the bathroom, and boom – CINEMA: Boom. POPCORN: Some contact lenses, makeup, a little haircut and some color – CINEMA: Don’t forget about the BDSM outfit that he just randomly has in his carry-on. POPCORN: Yeah, ten minutes into the show and the dude’s, like, all punked out. Walks outta that bathroom lookin’ just like . . . CINEMA: Adam Ant. POPCORN: Yeah, I’m pretty sure his mom could kick his ass. CINEMA: After his little sister kicked it first. POPCORN: Then Sid Not-So-Vicious goes to meet his new boss at the hotel, and it’s that governor dude from BENSON. If you’re thinkin’ the old guy’s gonna flip out, you’re wrong. CINEMA: He was pretty mellow. POPCORN: He’s all, like, if his parents can deal with him all year, then we can deal with him for the summer. But Lenny Kravitz’ mom is there too – you know, from THE JEFFERSONS – CINEMA: Roxie Roker. POPCORN: Yeah, she’s some kinda assistant or something. Lenny musta not started rockin’ yet, cuz she don’t like this kid or his music at all. Something about Ziggy Ziggy Sputnik. But then the dude picks up a guitar – CINEMA: That’s just kind of randomly there. POPCORN: – and starts strummin’ out some kinda Muppet rock for the little kids – CINEMA: Even the Electric Mayhem wouldn’t have this guy. POPCORN: But everybody’s lovin’ the dude now. He goes to audition for this, like, supposed punk band. Gets that shit immediately. CINEMA: Because they immediately see that he’s as safe and bland as they are. POPCORN: Maybe, dude. But Josh Freese was in that band, for real. CINEMA: Oh, well, that certainly changes things. Now I fear and respect them. Who the hell is Josh Freese? POPCORN: Dude, he’s, like, a major drummer, songwriter. All around bad-ass and cool dude. Worked with Nine Inch Nails, Guns n’ Roses, Weezer, Sublime, Perfect Circle. Permanent member of the Vandals. Played on, like, four hundred records. And he’s in Terry’s band, man. CINEMA: Well, they still suck. POPCORN: Heh-heh, yeah they do. Nothing like the band in that CHiPs episode. ‘Member that? CINEMA: The Battle of the Bands? God, I wish I didn’t know that. POPCORN: Yeah, dude. They were called Pain. The lead singer was, like, Thrasher. He was played by the crazy cop dude from DEVIL’S REJECTS – CINEMA: William Forsythe. POPCORN: Ponch was all about singin’ ‘Celebration’. But these dudes were, like “take a piece of concrete and stick it in my face – I like to play with razor blades – I hate the human race . . .” CINEMA: Why was Erik Estrada still hanging on to disco in 1982? POPCORN: “Kick me when I’m down – come up and rip my shirt – my dad will buy another one, especially if I’m hurt . . .” CINEMA: Lyrics by Larry Mollin, music by Alan Silvestri. Why the hell do I know this? POPCORN: “Cuz I dig pain – the feelin’ in my brain – the scratchin’! – the bashin’! – the clawin’! – the thrashin!’ – the givin’! – the gettin’! – and the total blood lettin’! – drive me insane, cuz I dig pain . . .” CINEMA: Somehow, I find myself liking this song. Even with you singing it. POPCORN: Way more punk than anything Terry does, dude. Classic punkers The Infidels covered it later, and so did the hardcore band Useless Pieces of Shit. CINEMA: Maybe Quincy was right. POPCORN: Your dog, Quincy? What, that peeing on stumps is good? CINEMA: No, I’m talking about Quincy the medical examiner. You know, Jack Klugman, huge series that lasted almost ten years, late 70s into the 80s. In the last season, there was an episode called “Next Stop, Nowhere” that dealt with the so-called punk menace. POPCORN: You mean the punk menace that had been over for, like, five years? CINEMA: Pretty much, yeah. While slamdancing to a punk band called Mayhem, someone gets an ice-pick in the back. So they bring in Quincy to clear everything up, solve the case, and give us a little sermon about kids today. POPCORN: Were they real punks? CINEMA: More real than your boy Terry. The lead singer, Fly Fester, was at least played by someone who actually played music. His name was Rick Dano. I’m pretty sure he was in a band with Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols. POPCORN: So what was Quincy preachin’ about? CINEMA: He claimed that punk music was a gateway drug to violence and crime. He said, “I believe that the music I heard is a killer. It’s a killer of hope. It’s a killer of spirit.” He suggested that we should only listen to music that makes us love instead, and then started hoofing it to some Tommy Dorsey. POPCORN: Jeez, what an old bastard. CINEMA: So how the hell do you know about thirty unknown bands, Josh Freese, and that Christine Belford was the mom on SILVER SPOONS, but can’t keep a job and have never heard the phrase ‘Quincy punks’? POPCORN: I dunno, dude. I just pay attention to the important shit. CINEMA: There was one kind of sweet scene in “The Day My Kid Went Punk.” It was the part where the little girl with the leg braces is told that she can’t ride the horses. I’m not sure what kind of hotel has their own stable – POPCORN: The same kind that has some lady givin’ a seminar on not letting your kid go punk after they hire her punk kid. CINEMA: – but Terry leans down to this girl, with his new, even more undead look, and tells her that it’s okay to be different. POPCORN: Kids, man. They always love friendly punk rockers. CINEMA: However, it does lead to my biggest complaint about this episode. The little girl’s mom was thoroughly bitchy and elitist about this kid just two scenes ago – POPCORN: “I was told this hotel had class. Obviously, I was mistaken.” CINEMA: – and now, because of one interaction, she’s completely changed her opinion. She’s practically ready to form her own band by the end of the hour. This episode does that quite a bit, introducing disapproving characters just so they can change their minds about ten minutes later. For a show that claims to have anything to do with punk rock, there is hardly any true friction here. POPCORN: Dude, it’s not punk like Fear or the Germs, it’s more like Green Day. Or maybe if, like, Pat Boone went punk. Safe enough to change parents minds . . . and that could be, like, sneaky punk. CINEMA: You know, I might have changed my mind about this episode. But just a little. I suppose they can’t all be SID AND NANCY. Spoiler alert for a 29-year old TV movie: everything turns out okay. POPCORN: I dunno. Maybe that Quincy dude was right, man. CINEMA: About what? POPCORN: The music in this thing is really shitty. It’s killin’ my soul, man. But it did teach me a very important message, like most of those afterschool specials did. CINEMA: What did you learn? POPCORN: If you wanna get attention, get laid, and shut all the old people up . . . punk rock, dude. Get a job for the man Go on and break down if you can Tell the judge you don’t like his face there’s no garbage like the human race Give up! I don’t know why you try Give up! You know you’re gonna die Give up! It’s all just a joke Give up! I wanna see you choke CHOKE! CHOKE! – Mayhem, (from QUINCY: “Next Stop, Nowhere”, December 1, 1982) Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.