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Tv Review : 'Afterschool Special' Opener Tackles Aids

September 09, 1987|BILL STEIGERWALD

For all those teen-agers who have been asleep for three years and still don't know the elementary facts about AIDS, ABC-TV offers "Just a Regular Kid: An AIDS Story" (today at 3 p.m. on Channels 7, 3, 10 and 42).

Opening the new season for the network's "Afterschool Special" series, the story is about Kevin, a bright, lovable, sensitive yet carefree and cool 16-year-old who contracts AIDS from a blood transfusion.

Transfusions are a rare way to contract acquired immune deficiency syndrome in the real world, but they remain one of the least objectionable ways to get a sympathetic AIDS victim on TV without dragging in all kinds of morally ambiguous subjects such as homosexuality and intravenous drug use, which still account for about 90% of all AIDS patients but are barely alluded to in this drama.

Scriptwriter/director Victoria Hochberg focuses on the relationship between Kevin (well-played by Christian Hoff) and his buddy Paul (Wally Ward), who desperately wants to get elected to the school senate. Hochberg has created a pair of uncliched, likable and basically believable teens.

Unfortunately, Kevin and Paul are stuck in a story where realism and nuance are too often sacrificed to the important goals at hand--educating kids about AIDS and encouraging them to be more tolerant of its sufferers.

Kevin gets AIDS and wants to stay in school. Of course, the student body finds out and turns ugly and panic-stupid en masse . At first, Paul puts personal ambition before friendship but, after learning the real facts about AIDS, he redeems himself.

The AIDS information comes cursorily and suitably sanitized from Kevin's doctor, rigidly played by Jessica Walter. Florence Henderson and Ronny Cox portray Kevin's parents. Except for the general advice to teens to abstain from sex, "Just a Regular Kid" is morally neutral and will offend only the hopelessly oversensitive. As a TV drama, it's not bad. But it'll probably prove more satisfying to the parents of the afterschool crowd, not their children, who, despite all the good intentions of Diana Kerew Productions, are more likely to drift away to their rooms to watch MTV.

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