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Diff'rent Strokes (1978–1986)

TV Series  |  TV-PG  |   |  Comedy, Drama, Family
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The misadventures of a wealthy Manhattan family who adopted the children of their late African American housekeeper from Harlem.

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1986   1985   1984   1983   1982   1981   … See all »
2 wins & 31 nominations. See more awards »
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Complete series cast summary:
 Philip Drummond / ... (181 episodes, 1978-1986)
 Arnold Jackson (179 episodes, 1978-1986)
 Willis Jackson (169 episodes, 1978-1986)
 Kimberly Drummond (140 episodes, 1978-1986)


Phillip Drummond, a widowed Manhattan millionaire and president of the mega-firm Trans Allied Inc., adopts two orphaned black brothers from Harlem, 8-year-old Arnold and 12-year-old Willis. Drummond had made a promise to their dying mother, his housekeeper that he would care for the boys after she passes on; their father had died years earlier. The boys, whom Drummond always introduced as his two sons, went from rags to riches literally overnight. At first, Willis was rather skeptical of their newfound wealth, but eventually, both he and Arnold felt right at home in their newfound surroundings. Also part of the family were Drummond's beautiful daughter, 13-year-old Kimberly; and his current housekeeper, Edna Garrett. As the years passed, Mrs. Garrett left to become housemother at the Eastland School for Girls; she was replaced by the cantankerous Adelaide Brubaker and still later, charming Pearl Gallagher. Arnold's friends, Dudley and Robbie (and later, Charlie); Willis' girlfriend, ... Written by Brian Rathjen <briguy_52732@yahoo.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Comedy | Drama | Family


TV-PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

3 November 1978 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

45 Minutes from Harlem  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (189 episodes)

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Willis Jackson's favorite NFL team is the Dallas Cowboys. Arnold Jackson referred to them as the cowgirls. See more »


Philip Drummond: I'd better send for the limosine. Mother gets very impatient if she's kept waiting. I was born 3 days late. She didn't speak to me for a year.
See more »


Referenced in Psych: The Amazing Psych-Man & Tap Man, Issue No. 2 (2011) See more »


Diff'rent Strokes
(Theme Song)
Written by Alan Thicke, Al Burton and Gloria Loring
Performed by Alan Thicke
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Diff'rent Strokes Was An 80s US Sitcom Classic
23 August 2007 | by (London, England, UK) – See all my reviews

Diff'rent Strokes was and still is regarded by many as not just one of the most successful sitcoms in TV history but one of the very few, which succeeded due to the multi-racial cast of Conrad Bain as Philip/Mr Drummond, Dana Plato as Kimberley, Todd Bridges as Willis, and the lovable scamp, Gary Coleman as Arnold Jackson. The performances given by the main leads in Diff'rent Strokes was great, particularly Conrad's as the strict but fair, Mr Drummond. Mrs Edna Garrett played by Charlotte Rae was funny, charming and witty and a great addition to the cast. But the star of the show was Coleman as Arnold and his famous catchphrase 'whatcha talking'about Willis?'.

Even though it was a sitcom, the show wasn't afraid of tackling and addressing social and controversial issues such as child molestation, racism, bulimia, class division and sex for example. The writing was funny but also sharp, witty and clever. Arnold has arguably the best and funnier lines out of all the characters, although Philip isn't that far off either.

He was one of the reasons why Diff'rent Strokes was such a huge success story, as Coleman's comic timing was almost spot-on. The cutesy factor that accompanies his cheeky and somewhat mischievous persona as Arnold was a huge incentive on his part.

There have been many sitcoms past and present, which centred around youngsters as the main protagonists, but whilst most of them have tried they have failed, mainly because one of the reasons for this is that those shows do not possess a central character as humorous, as versatile as Arnold and of whom has a personality of which viewers can fall in love with straight away.

Diff'rent Strokes didn't have just one but three child characters in Kimberly, Willis and Arnold. The concept was original and addressed the issue of child adoption in a straight-to-the-point manner but at the same time combine laughs with clean cut jokes, good gags and great humour. It's such a shame though that the notoriety of the show, in regards to the child performers was always brought up; likewise Coleman's own brushes with the law and surprising fall from grace, Todd's battle with drugs, and the rather unfortunate and well documented demise of Dana and her subsequent death during the late 90s, slightly tarnished the mainstream success, as well as history of Diff'rent Strokes. Next year in 2008, it will be the 30th anniversary of Diff'rent Strokes, since its debut in 1978.

All in all though, this was a great little sitcom, starring a little guy with a big heart played by Coleman which was destined to be a big hit, which it was and one that captured millions of audiences hearts, worldwide.

11 of 13 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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