ABC Afterschool Special: Blind Sunday (1976)

You’re a young acting hopeful, in the business since 1965, who has worked alongside Tommy Kirk and a young Ron Howard in Burt I. Gordon’s Village of the Giants, and alongside Bob Hope in Eight on the Lam. Then you hit pay dirt, the dream of every actor: a steady acting gig. You just booked a starring role as Jan Brady on TV’s The Brady Bunch . . . then Sherwood Schwartz — who made a bundle in TV syndication with all of his ’60s and ’70s series, but “legally” wasn’t obligated to share the bounty because there were no residuals clauses back in the day — decides he wants a cast of “all blonde girls.”

But as you mature into a young adult, you end up in — of all things — The Brotherhood of Satan, a movie we love so much in the B&S About Movies offices, we reviewed it three times. Then you’re cast as the female lead in one of the ’70s most iconic and influential horror films of all time: William Freidkin’s The Exorcist*. And one of the actresses that also auditioned and was seriously considered as Regan MacNeil was Anissa Jones — and you worked alongside Buffy on a couple of episodes of TV’s Family Affair. And your parents — as did Denise Nickerson’s, who portrayed Violet Beauregarde in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, and was in the running — made you drop out of the project because of the troubling, controversial subject matter.

Eventually Sherwood Schwartz tosses you a bone to work on the show he fired you from — over hair issues, mind you (there was no Clairol or wigs, Woody?) — with a guest-starring role as the homely-to-hot Molly Webber in “My Fair Opponent,” a 1972 episode of The Brady Bunch. And, at the mercy of channel surfing the retro-channels Cozi or Antenna TV, you can still be seen in the still-in-reruns Adam 12, Green Acres, and Emergency! — sans residuals, natch.

Actress Debi Storm as Molly in The Brady Bunch.

Meanwhile, Leigh McCloskey (later of Hamburger: The Motion Picture) is climbing his way up the network TV ladder with roles on The Streets of San Francisco (that’s sadly absent from reruns) and the miniseries ratings juggernaut that was Rich Man, Poor Man (1976; that starred Peter Strauss of The Jericho Mile), while on his way to star with the very actress that got Debi Storm’s job in The Brady Bunch — Eve Plumb — in another ’70s ratings juggernaut: Dawn: Portrait of a Teenage Runaway. Then, Leigh gets a leading man gig in the post-Exorcist marketplace with Dario Argento’s Inferno. (Do we need to mention that Karl Malden (Meteor) from Streets also worked for Dario in his early Giallo, Cat o’ Nine Tales?)

And the six degrees of Debi Storm stops here, since she did not work with Maestro Argento or Karl Malden, but it does bring us to this lost TV movie for the young adult crowd** starring Leigh McCloskey and Debi Storm. The poster says it all: In an effort to understand his blind girlfriend, a teenage boy decides to spend an entire Sunday blindfolded. It’s simple. It’s heartfelt. And a great lesson is learned. And teen love in the ’70s was a beautiful thing, indeed. And is that my teenage crush Cindy Eilbacher from The Death of Richie and Bad Ronald alongside a pre-L.A. Law Corbin Bernsen (The Dentist, Major League) as a lifeguard?

Director Larry Elikann, who did 18 ABC Afterschool Specials and 5 CBS Playhouses (that became Schoolbreak), also gave us a slew of network TV movies, including the The Big One: The Great Los Angeles Earthquake (1990). So if you’re in the market for a disaster flick starring ’80s TV mom Maggie Seaver and TV dad Jack Arnold, then that’s your movie.

I remember Blind Sunday — as with most of these young adult network TV movies (via reruns into the mid-80s) — as if it was yesterday (thanks to my McCloskey fandom*˟). But wouldn’t you know it: with all of the various network teen flicks uploaded, there’s not a copy of Blind Sunday to share. But we did find this nifty You Tube playlist of other ABC Afterschool Specials to enjoy. Ah, but get this! We also found a clip from 2014 of Debi singing at a Brady Bunch convention . . . and she’s BLONDE!

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies and publish music reviews and short stories on Medium.

* Speaking of The Exorcist: We explore its everlasting influence with our “Exploring: Ten Possession Movies (and more) that Aren’t The Exorcist” featurette.

** Be sure to visit our reviews of these ’70s “Big Three” network daytime TV movies for young adults:

ABC Afterschool Special: The Amazing Cosmic Awareness of Duffy Moon
ABC Afterschool Special: Hewitt’s Just Different
CBS Schoolbreak Special: Portrait of a Teenage Shoplifter
NBC Special Treat: New York City to Far From Tampa Bay Blues

Then, when we got a little bit older, we watched “after dark” troubled-teen TV movies:

Angel Dusted
The Death of Richie
The Killing of Randy Webster
Police Story: A Chance to Live

*˟ No, I really am. Come on, you have to remember Leigh’s work in The Bermuda Depths, Fraternity Vacation, Just One of the Guys, Dirty Laundry, Cameron’s Closet, Double Revenge, and Lucky Stiffs.

The ’90s Alt-Rock We Miss MTV’s 120 Minutes Sidebar: If Eve Plumb didn’t get the job on the Brady Bunch . . . would this ’90s alt-rock band have called themselves Debi’s Storm? No, they didn’t do “Don’t Crash the Car Tonight” — that was another “female food” band, Mary’s Danish. No, they didn’t do “Love Crushing” — that was Fetchin’ Bones.

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