There's no question that ABC's "Afterschool Specials" present young viewers with a better world than the one in which they live. Problems of all magnitudes are resolved in less than an hour. But this idealized world is far more pertinent than the counterfeit one of prime-time escapism.
And the programs have an intended effect beyond killing time between commercial breaks. They try to reassure their audience that many of life's crises are less overpowering than they may seem at the time. It could be argued that "Afterschool Specials" and commercials are the most impassioned television on the air; the people who make them have a point they want to put across.
In "Mom and Dad Can't Hear Me," at 4:30 today on Channel 7, several points are made but the central one has to do with truthfulness at the risk of peer group disapproval; 14-year-old Charlotte Meredith moves to a new town and suddenly finds herself ashamed of the fact that her parents are deaf. She betrays them with lies to keep other kids in her class from knowing about them or meeting them.
The emotional texture of this story is refreshingly substantial; those responsible include Rosanna Arquette, who plays Charlotte with flawless vulnerability, Priscilla Pointer and Stephen Elliott as the parents, Susan Myers (of "James at 15") as a friend, director Larry Elikann, and the authors of the screenplay, Irma Reichert and Daryl Warner.
Like many previous "Afterschool Specials," this one was put together by Daniel Wilson Productions. No matter how accomplished Wilson's creative team gets at doing the specials, they've yet to become compromised by slickness. Low budgets only seem to bring out ingenuity, and the sense of purpose is unmistakable. "Mom and Dad Can't Hear Me" is loud and clear.
One sour note is in order: ABC's over zealous on-air promotion department advertised this special as if it were a lurid potboiler. The promotion people are accustomed to trying to make junk sound appetizing; it's no wonder they didn't know how to handle this baby. 'Between the Wars'
A new book from broadcast historian Erik Barnouw suggests "The Sponsor" always has been and continues to be the bogeyman of television, but what amounts of a 16-week refutation of that contention begins tonight at 7:30 on Channel 9 and many other local stations throughout the country as Mobil Oil presents "Between the Wars," a series initiated and fully sponsored by the company.
"Versailles: The Lost Peace" opens the series, with host-narrator Eric Sevareid, who always comes across as an unchallengeable authority on everything, recalling the tragic seeds sewn at the peace conference that was supposed to settle World War I but only made World War II inevitable.
The era is brought to visual is through stills, film clips (researches David Thaxton reviewed 1 million feet of film in six months for the series) and such bric-a-brac as the doodles made at the peace table Secretary of State Robert Lansing.
From the ideally plaintive wail of Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" that opens the program, "Between the Wars" manages to evoke not only the facts and faces but the ephemeral melancholy mood of the time. It promises to be an exemplary series, especially for a time period usually dominated by the likes of "Names That Tune," and one in which The Sponsor can take unqualified pride.