What Are Friends For?
Original Air Date: March 19th, 1980
Original Air Date: October 5th, 1980
I think I am addicted.
The ABC Afterschool Special has some kind of crack appeal. Truly. I could watch them for hours on end, but due to the scarceness of such wonderful visual treats, I have to ration off my episodes. I was doing pretty good with the last two I reviewed, Two Loves for Jenny & Did You Hear What Happened to Andrea (better titled, Did You See How Cute Moosie Drier turned Out), you know, riding on the high of those lone two episodes. Then one Miss Jenny Day, she of the fantastic Modern Girls website and all around pop cultured gal recommended I try one called What Are Friends For and before you knew it, Schoolboy Father was filtering across the airwaves. These are the types of things that make for a great lazy afternoon!
What Are Friends For is one of those true oddities. It’s a poignant drama that relates the end of a child’s friendship to the woes of what kids deal with when their parents divorce. But it’s also got Dana Hill, who plays the neighborhood pathological liar ruling the five finger discount and dipping dolls in red water in a bizarre voodoo ritual! Never intending to be a horror film, What Are Friends For is one of the most disturbed episodes in the pantheon of the world of Afterschool Specials. There has to be some kind of award for that – if not, I’m creating one! I’ll call it The Dana Hill is One Crazy Awesome MoFo Memorial Award. Dana was such a huge part of the 80s canvas and remains a treat to watch. Her diabetes kept her looking like a child, but her overtly adult attitude usually insured she’d be the most memorable character in whatever she was appearing in. She’s creepy in this special and an odd contrast to the young Melora Hardin who plays the buddy. Melora went on to a great career (I mean, she’s in Lifetime movies for crissakes!) and I had no idea she was a child actress - Probably because you never hear about the ones who didn’t screw up.
Anyway, I digress. What Are Friends For revolves around Amy Warren (Hardin) who has relocated to California after her parents divorce. She gets chummy with her neighbor, Michelle Mudd (Hill) - You just know with a name like that, you’re talking Coo Coo for Coco Puffs time! - or rather Michelle kind of abrasively forces Amy to hang out with her, threatening her own death when Amy doesn’t. Michelle’s parents are divorced too and based on that, they seem to have enough common ground to maintain some kind of friendship, but whenever Amy gets a hankering to hang with some more “normal” girls, Michelle gets all schitzo. Somebody needs attention, no?
I have to admit, the filmmakers had to practically hit me over the head to get me to understand the subtleties of their friendship, but What Are Friends For is an affecting tale of how we move in and out of each other’s lives, and how we learn to accept it. I swear, I never thought a little girl in KISS makeup would have such a profound effect on me, but there you go.
The second episode on the disc is called Schoolboy Father and stars Rob Lowe before he was Rob Lowe. He’s pretty good as Charles Elderberry in this tale about a semi-responsible teen who makes the mistake of being totally irresponsible with Daisy Dallenger (Dana Plato) one night at camp and getting her pregnant. Whoops! Daisy never told Charles and so hears about it via a birth announcement in the local paper. Whoops #2. He visits Daisy who throws a big hissy (this girl is all about the hissy!) and tells her he wants to marry her. She obviously thinks that is the worst idea she’s ever heard… well, until he tells her he’s going to take care of the baby when he finds out she’s putting him up for adoption. Thusly, Charles life as a teenage is severely altered. I mean, he can’t go to a party! Gasp!
Despite my churlish synopsis, Schoolboy Father is delicately handled and rather moving. They don’t give Charles any shortcuts and you really get as irritated as he does with his plight. And it’s all kind of sad. I mean, he meant well and all… It’s an interesting point of view. When we’re so inundated with terms like Deadbeat Dad, here’s a movie that shows the man isn’t a deadbeat, he’s just simply not capable of taking care of a kid. It was a total Kleenex moment.
So for now, my Afterschool obsession is satiated, but for how long? Don't you love the drama?