In May I attended my cousin’s wedding in Maryland. The wedding was in Annapolis, but I went a few days early to spend time in Baltimore with my best friend. It was there that he introduced me to the glory that is Comcast On Demand.
Comcast On Demand makes Cox On Demand look like a blurry channel. I mean the options on Comcast are astounding. Case in point; they had Diff’rent Strokes On Demand! Comcast has a classic television sitcom On Demand. We are living in the future!
Now the episodes were broken into two categories; “Very Special Episodes” and “Guest Stars.” We chose a two part “Very Special Episode.” The title of those episodes were “The Hitchhikers.”
Basically Arnold and Kimberly get in a jam and hitchhike home. Naturally the guy who picks them is a deviant and he kidnaps them. Seriously, if you get a chance you’ve got to check out those episodes if only for the absurdity (hitchhiking in Manhattan?)
But apparently hitchhiking was an epidemic in 1984. So much of an epidemic that it demanded a sitcom to devote a two-parter to it’s dangers. But it got us thinking; what ever happened to the “very special episode?”
Clearly there was a point in time when television was a familial experience. Conrad Bain actually recorded an intro to the episodes where he urged parents to watch the eps with their kids. And actually there was a period when networks actually catered to kids as a target audience.
Can you imagine that? That’s what “very special episodes” were. Those were episodes designed to enlighten kids on subjects that they might be unfamiliar with, be it drug use, rape or even (shudder) hitchhiking.
But now with the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon offering up 24 hours of entertainment skewed toward kids traditional “very special episodes” are pretty much extinct. Those networks don’t really care about enlightening, just entertaining.
Not only can I remember “very special episodes” but I can remember when Nickelodeon was just a 12 hours of kid stuff that switched to “Nick at Night” (which later became TV Land.)
Would I watch a sitcom that was geared toward kids? Probably not. But I think that it sucks that Gen X is the last generation that’s going to have joy of watching unintentionally hilarious “very special episodes” 20 years after they first aired. My best friend and I were weak with laughter at the numerous episodes of Diff’rent Strokes that we watched.
Sadly today’s kids just won’t have the same opportunity. Someone should do a “very special episode” about that horrible plight.