It's a much more realistic ending than the countless, neat teen-pregnancy plot lines of Beverly Hills 90210, 7th Heaven, and The OC, all of which borrow heavily from the mold that Tahse created. But these teens are worldly miniature adults. Even when they mess up, the consequences of their coke habits and eating disorders only seem to last an episode or two. When Tahse's run of After School Specials ended in the late '80s, talk-show hosts such as Oprah, Rikki Lake, and Jerry Springer began to air their own highly sensational accounts of adolescence in the same after-school time slots, instantly making After School Specials seem naive and retro.
Decades later, they do feel dated but they still seem relevant. Fitting in, peer pressure, drugs, family drama—those are problems for teenagers regardless of era. More often than not, teens in After School Specials made bad decisions, but they were treated as an essential part of growing up. Underlying all of Tahse's shows is an appealing faith that everything would eventually work out, both for his protagonists and viewers at home. So, when Seth Cohen worries that he's stuck in an After School Special, he could actually do a lot worse.