Editor’s Note, January 2023: Lance Kerwin passed away on January 24, 2023, at the age of 62. Lance got his start in acting by way of his mother, who worked as a booking agent, and his father, who worked as an acting coach. Kerwin, who came to prominence for his work in the Michael Landon TV movie The Loneliest Runner (1976), the NBC-TV series James at 16 (1978), and the Stephen King adaptation, Salem’s Lot (1979), left Hollywood in the late ’90s to serve the Lord as a Christian youth minister.
Thank you for the films, Lance. You were loved and you will be missed.
If you read our reviews for the ABC Afterschool Special: Hewitt’s Just Different, along with the CBS Schoolbreak Special: Portrait of a Teenage Shoplifter, and the NBC Special Treat: New York City Too Far from Tampa Blues, then you’re up to speed on the backstory of the “Big Three” network’s competition for a slice of the young adult audience during the late afternoon school days during the ’70s and ’80s. So let’s jump right into the review!
This movie that aired on February 4, 1976, is simply too special to casually mention in passing amid some of the other notable young adult flicks aired during the ABC anthology series, which we pointed out in our review of Hewitt’s Just Different.
Because during that spring, and into the summer of 1976, anytime we faced a challenge, e.g., scaling a particularly tall tree, a knee-scraping bike stunt, or a dive off the pool house, someone would inevitably say, “You can do it, Duffy Moon!”
Yeah, to hell with J.J, Rerun, The Fonz, and Gary Coleman (please tell me you know your ’70s television characters) and their tired catch phrases. We had Ike Eisenmann fueling our kiddie vernacular.
And besides: How can you pass up a young adult flick starring Jim “Thurston Howell III” Backus and Jerry Van Dyke (Luther Van Dam from ABC-TV’s long-running Coach), and Lance Kerwin? (Yes, the epic Lance Kerwin* from TV’s James at 15, the Robbie Benson-starring TV movie The Death of Richie, the Michael Landon’s biographical The Loneliest Runner, Salem’s Lot with David Soul, and Wolfgang Petersen’s Enemy Mine.)
Ike Eisenmann (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn, Escape to Witch Mountain) is the undersized sixth-grader Duffy, and he’s sick and tired of being called “shrimp” by the other boys in his class. Then, one day, he buys a mysterious, magical book, “Cosmic Awareness,” which enables him to “Think Big,” not just figuratively—but literally. And with the puff of his cheeks, he chants the self-motivational mantra “You Can Do it, Duffy Moon!” in his head and develops powers that enable him to beat life’s challenges.
As with the previously reviewed New York City Too Far from Tampa Blues, everybody check-out this book by Jean Robinson from the school library. Yeah, those were the days. Today, young adults are shilled Twilight and The Hunger Games. And we in the pre-Internet epoch got this. And we became better adults because of it. And that was the whole point of young adult fiction in the ’70s.
They just don’t write ’em like this anymore. To say this carries the B&S About Movies’ “Seal of Nostalgic Approval” is an understatement. Watch it!
“You can do it, Duffy Moon!”
Well, that concludes our fourth and final review of the afternoon anthology movie programming offered by the “Big Three” networks during the ‘70s and ‘80s. You can relive those days with this pretty cool catch-all playlist we found on You Tube that features a mix of the ABC Afterschool Break, CBS Schoolbreak Special, and NBC Special Treat young adult films. Enjoy! You can watch the full episode, here.
* Lance did five ABC Afterschool Specials in all. He also starred in 1974’s Pssst! Hammerman’s After You! and The Bridge of Adam Rush, and 1976’s P.J. and the President’s Son and Me and Dad’s New Wife. Looks like you’re surfin’ You Tube!
About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.
You can do it Duffy Moon! Still saying it now!
Yep! Absolutely. It’s fun when the youngins in the family have no idea what their elders are talking about!
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I’m 54 years old. Thanks for the memories and Ty for making the information available!