NBC Special Treat: New York City Too Far from Tampa Blues (1979)

After ABC-TV found late-afternoon, weekday rating success with their Afterschool Special, NBC quickly followed with their weekday Special Treat anthology series that debuted in October 1975 and ran for eleven seasons until its 1986 cancellation.

While not as popular ABC’s trailblazer or CBS-TV’s Schoolbreak Special knockoff, Special Treat had its share of standout episodes.

Sunshine’s on the Way (November 1980; You Tube) starred Amy Wright (The Amityville Horror ’79) as a musician and nursing home volunteer who tries to boost the spirits of a legendary jazz musician portrayed by Scatman Crothers (The Shining).

Another was December 1975’s The Day After Tomorrow, aka Into Infinity, which concerned the interstellar mission of the Altares. Produced by Gerry Anderson between the first and second seasons of Space: 1999, it starred Brian Blessed (Flash Gordon) and Nick Tate from that show, along with Ed Bishop from Anderson’s UFO. (Trailers on You Tube/You Tube.)

But it’s this musical entry from November 1979 during the fifth season, based on the book by award-winning young adult author T. Ernesto Bethancourt, that’s best remembered by the wee-rockers.

Alex Paez (as an adult, he returned to acting to star on ABC-TV’s NYPD Blue and CBS-TV’s CSI: Miami) stars as Tom, a 14-year-old Puerto Rican kid who moves from Florida to Brooklyn with his family. He finds solace—to the dismay of his hardworking father—in an acoustic guitar he was taught to play by his Uncle Jack. Along with a 12-year-old bongo-playing Italian kid, Aurelio, they become the “Irish” Griffith Brothers. With costumes made by Tom’s mother based on Greg Guiffria’s Angel, they win the local church talent show with their original composition “New York City Too Far from Tampa Blues.”

Everybody checked-out the book from the school library (Kirkus Reviews)—and everybody watched the movie. Then we all went out and bought our first Angel albums. And we were drawing griffins in pastels-on-velvet in art class alongside our portraits of Eddie, Iron Maiden’s mascot. Pair that with our Black Sabbath and Nazareth tee-shirts and long hair . . . to say “Mr. Hand” was a bit concerned is an understatement.

Of course, the full movie is on 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.

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