Flashback~Forget About it-Friday

I watched a lot of television when I was a kid. Many of the shows, (Maude, All in the Family and Soap, are a few that come to mind), contained decidedly adult themes. A few were directed at kids my age, or those who were slightly older. These are the ones I want to remember today.

Flashback~Forget About it-Friday– 1970s-1980s tween/teen oriented programing.

James at 16 ran from 1977-1978. Though I was only ten at the time and obviously a girl, I still enjoyed this series and related to the main character.

Here’s a brief synopsis of the show from Wikipedia:

James Hunter (Lance Kerwin) was the son of a college professor (Linden Chiles) who moved his family across the country to take a teaching job, transplanting James from Oregon to Boston, Massachusetts. James, who had Walter Mitty-like dreams and dabbled in photography, had a hard time fitting into his new surroundings.

The White Shadow. Again, a show that centered around adolescent males, but one I really liked. I had a huge crush on Timothy Van Patten’s character which made the watching even more pleasurable, but the story lines were real reason I tuned in.

Here’s a plot summary for the White Shadow which ran on CBS from 1978-1981.

After retiring from pro basketball due to several knee injuries, journeyman player Ken Reeves is hired by his best friend Jim Willis to become head coach at Carver High School in South Central Los Angeles. When he takes over he turns the school from losers into winners not only on the court, but off it as well as he becomes involved in his players lives as not only a coach, but a mentor as well.

Timothy Van Patten is under the “H” and “A” in this photo. He really was cute. Should have been included in the post I wrote on my childhood crushes.)

My credibility is going to take a hit with this next selection, but hey, I watched from the very first episode all the way through the George Clooney years, and Natalie losing her virginity, so I was an early adopter and loyal viewer. One with questionable taste, clearly, but that’s beside the point. Yes, I watched The Facts of Life and I bet at some point all of you did too! This series ran forever–starting in 1979 and ending almost a decade later in 1988. I probably stopped watching the Facts of Life in the mid ’80s, I was in college after all, but I might have tuned in for the series finale…

I also enjoyed my share of After School Specials and made for TV movies. I can’t think of any of the former that stand out in my mind, but there is one made for TV movie from this period that I have never forgotten. Sooner or Later starred Rex Smith and featured his hit single “You Take My Breath Away.” Boy do I feel sad for you if you are too young to remember this piece of cinematic artistry. Sooner or Later was juicy. Judy Blume book kind of juicy.

Here’s the plot summary:

When 13-year-old Jessie falls for 17-year-old musician Michael, there is a strong mutual attraction. In order to win him, she adopts an alternate life — pretends to go to a Catholic high school, pretends to be older, dissembles to her Jewish family. When the elaborate deception fails, Jessie tells Michael the truth. He’s shocked, angry and hurt, and must decide whether to pursue her or not.


He was 17 (though Rex Smith was probably in his 20’s) and she was 13! I was 12!! This was good stuff.

Today’s tweens and teens have the casts of Gossip Girl, The Real World and The Vampire Diaries as fictional peers, while I had the kids from Square Pegs , Head of the Class and A Different World. I think Generation X had better options when it came to teen oriented television–but that’s just me, what do you think? I’d also love to know (if you can remember) what were you watching when you were a teen/tween?

You can thank me for this later… (he was 17!).


10 responses

    • Sneaking TV–such a good and harmless sport! I remember lying with my ear pressed to my bedroom floor trying to listen to M*A*S*H*. My family’s television room was directly below my bedroom and everyone else (my brother and parents) were watching but I was supposed to be in bed. That was my earliest memory of sneaking TV.

  1. Wow, you really know how to call them JfLJ. James at 15 – especially the pilot movie – was one of my favorite TV experiences of all time. I can still remember the sleeping bag scene with Melissa Sue Anderson (major teenage crush)! I would have killed for a DVR (had a known what they were) back then to capture that movie. The fact that his sister was Kim Richards in the series- perhaps the cutest child star of all time (although she had moved beyond cute later in Tuff Turf) – didn’t hurt either.

    With that said, I thought J@15 did an excellent job of looking at teenagers problems from a realistic standpoint, and while it was not necessarily “cutting edge,” it was extremely well done. Lance Kerwin was pretty much the go-to guy to play the “sensitive male youth” part in the late 70’s and early 80’s. I think he played that same type in TV movies with Robbie Benson and with Scott Baio. Not to mention he killed vampires with David Soul (Don’t Give Up On Me, Baby) in my favorite Stephen King TV movie. I think I read that he had some problems with drugs, but supposedly kicked his habit a while ago.

    I enjoyed the White Shadow and watched it regularly and occasionally caught the Facts of Life on. And while I can remember a number of the After School Specials, I have absolutely NO memory of Rex Smith and Sooner or Later. It must have appealed to girls more than boys at the time.

    • Were you referring to Salem’s Lot when you mentioned David Soul, Stephen King and vampires? I was going to include Salem’s Lot in this post but thought it was getting too long, so it landed on the cutting room floor. Let it be known: Salem’s Lot scared me like no other made for TV movie has ever scared me before or since.

      NO memory of Rex Smith? Really?

      • Yes, Salem’s Lot. This is probably my favorite King novel (although The Stand is right up there) along with the best King film adaptation (although I wouldn’t argue with anyone who championed The Dead Zone). Why they felt the need to remake this in 2004 is beyond me. I read all King’s books as a youngster and still think they hold up well. You can’t read “the Passage” – a recent summer bestseller – without noting the influence of King.

        And while the Nosferatu like master vampire of the ‘Lot was quite frightening (much like the Master in first season Buffy – played by Mark Metcalf, who I actually met at his restaurant in Mequoin, WI), the young boy that floated up to Mark Petrie’s bedroom in the fog was absolutely terrifying!

        With that said, the most terrifying creature I have ever seen in a King film – tv or big-screen – is Tim Curry’s Pennywise the Clown from It. Yes, I was an adult when I saw that TV movie, and yes I actually had nightmares afterwards. I hate clowns and he is far and away the most evil looking clown there is.

  2. WOW! Memory Lane! The White Shadow (forgot about that!!). I was a Travolta fan – remember The Boy in the Plastic Bubble? Boy, am I getting old! Love checking out your site, Jennnifer. 🙂 s

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