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It's hard to believe, but 2003 marks 25 years since Gary Coleman asked
Willis what he was talking about.
Norman Lear, who broke a lot of ground heretofore with All in the Family, Maude, The Jeffersons, and Good Times, continued his magic touch with Diff'rent Strokes. A 25th anniversary marathon on any given television station would be a great way to remember this show, notwithstanding that Miss Dana Plato is no longer of this earth.
This show made Gary Coleman Gary Coleman, and he truly made the show what it was.
Watching the true Hollywood story on E! about the cast of Different Strokes was heartbreaking, after all, two of the three cast members had substance abuse problems and the star, Gary Coleman, had problems with his parents that he sued them. It's sad to watch the show, I wish I didn't know Dana Plato's problems because now I see how much she wanted her life to be like Kimberly Drummond. Conrad Bain was great as the father figure of the show. Of course, he was supposed to only be acting but I think he became a paternal figure to those youngsters. We went Mrs. Edna Garrett played by the wonderful Charlotte Rae who got her own show without all the drama of Different Strokes. She escaped it. I never approved of them dissing Dixie Carter for Mary Ann Mobley. I like them both in the role as the second Mrs. Drummond. Of course, there was the guest appearances of First Lady Nancy Reagan preaching against drugs. How little did we know the truth? Gary Coleman never escaped the image of the chubby cute kid on Different Strokes. Dana Plato who is gone to a better place never did get to experience the life of Kimberly Drummond except when she was on the set. I only wish Todd and Gary best for their future. I only wished that the off-screen drama was cut down for their sakes. I feel guilty getting laughs knowing that they went home and cried or faced abuse.
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.
' Diff'rent Strokes ' is undoubtedly a sitcom classic, one of those
popular television shows that is still adored by millions of fans
the world today. Through regular reruns a whole new generation is being
introduced to the antics of the Park Avenue bunch, a bunch who so
entertainingly captivated us all during the show's initial screening
The family friendly series made a star out of Gary Coleman, forever immortalised as the loveable scamp with the chubby cheeks, Arnold Jackson, and his catchphrase "Whatchu Talkin' About?" made television history. Yet despite it's cosy sitcom settings, ' Diff'rent Strokes ' was not afraid to address sensitive issues and during it's long run expertly dealt with the likes of racial prejudice, child molestation and bullying.
Conrad Bain, a distinguished actor who had earlier appeared in tv's ' Maude ' played Trans-Allied tycoon Phillip Drummond, the kindly widower who adopted the Jackson kids from Harlem, Arnold and Willis ( Todd Bridges ), after their death of their mother Lucy who had served as his housekeeper. The kids had to adjust to living in a swank Park Avenue penthouse with a new housekeeper ( initially Charlotte Rae as Edna Garrett, spun off into her own sitcom, ' The Facts Of Life ') and a teenage sister ( Dana Plato ) - cue plenty of comical misadventures!
Bain, Coleman, Bridges and Plato were a formidable team and you cannot help but warm to their likeable characters. They were wonderfully supported by the likes of Rae, the late Nedra Volz ( so funny in the 1985 movie ' Moving Violations ' ) and Mary Jo Catlett as housekeepers Edna Garrett, Adelaide Brubaker and Pearl Gallagher.
Once ' Diff'rent Strokes ' ended the young cast were unable to escape the pressures of fame and their various scrapes with the law somewhat tarnished the show's image. The lovely Dana Plato for one sadly passed away in 1999 due to a suspected drugs overdose.
2003 will mark the 25th Anniversary of ' Diff'rent Strokes ' and I would hope that a reunion of sorts is on the cards. And wouldn't it be intriguing if Gary Coleman stepped into the shoes of an adult Arnold Jackson, perhaps as the new head of Trans-Allied in a spin-off series?
Since I wasn't around when the show originally aired, I have to catch it
whenever I can on Nick at Nite or TV Land. And since TV Land just showed a
48 hour fandemonium marathon, I was able to catch a lot of episodes.
I absolutely love this show. The plot approach is different which works out great. The writing and quick comedy is terrific and the acting is one of a kind. The writing that was given to Gary Coleman was unbelievably hysterical, and being such a young kid at that time, he handled it so well. While I like the entire cast and think that they all did a nice job, I must say that I especially like Todd Bridges. I don't know, there's just something about him that you can't help but like.
This show like all shows has its moments where the plots could use some improvement but what show would it be if it didn't have its moments? Overall, the eight seasons are filled with the better episodes.
'Diff'rent Strokes' scared me a little during the seventh and eighth seasons when they hauled in Danny Cooksey and Dixie Carter/Mary Ann Mobley to join the Drummonds. I think that it would have been better off leaving the family as it was. Then again, the boys were getting older, they lost their afros, and Kimberly started to move on. So, it's kind of a tricky situation.
I would really like to see a reunion but it would be a little hard without the sadly missed Dana Plato. All in all, this show was an above average, very funny, good family get-together show. I know I'll keep watching whenever it's on!
(P.S. - The theme song is really addicting.)
During my days as a kid,and partly through my high school years as
well,this show was just that: The brainchild of Gary Coleman. Coleman
made millions off this series,and when the show left the airwaves in
1986(and its repeats in syndication),it was totally discarded
forever,never to be heard from again,despite of what the people may say
about this show and the fate of its cast including Todd Bridges(who
played brother Willis),and the sudden death of Dana Plato(who played
big sister Kimberly),and also from Conrad Bain(who played the widower
Mr. Drummond) who was a regular on TV's Maude before coming to this
If someone would come up to you on the street,they would asked "What you talking about?" in the form of that question.
Interesting point about this show: It started off as a show called "Milk" on the NBC network before it became a series. "Diff'rent Strokes" when it premiered on November 3,1978 became one of the network's biggest hits scoring in the top ten of the Nielsens during its astounding seven year run on the Peacock Network and made Gary Coleman a huge megastar. NBC canceled this series on May 4,1985 after 170 episodes.
Also Mr. Drummond would get married in the show too during the 1984-1985 season to Maggie McKinney(played by Dixie Carter before going on to "Designing Women",which was on a rival network),and also bringing in her son Danny as Arnold's other brother(played by Danny Cooksey-who would go on to star opposite Scwarzenegger in Terminator 2,and also do voice-overs for children's shows) Also,Janet Jackson would appear as Willis' girlfriend Charlene during the 1981-1983 season(which during this time Miss Jackson did have a hit album out along with this series at that time). Shavar Ross was Arnold's best friend Dudley. When the show was canceled by NBC on May 4,1985 there were several cast changes. Mary Ann Mobley replaced Dixie Carter on the show and also gone were Pearl(Mary Jo Catlett). On September 27,1985,the show moved to ABC-TV where 19 new episodes were produced before the network finally canceled it on March 7,1986 after 189 episodes.
This was a grand series that spawned two spin-offs,the short-lived situation comedy series "Hello,Larry",and another successful series "The Facts of Life",which would go on to become NBC's longest-running and successful series from 1979-1987.
If it comes back on the air,its worth seeing.
Who would think that the main characters from a naive, tender, family
show would end up meeting such fatal fates? Well, that's another story.
"Diff'rent Strokes" is an important sticom in American pop culture and also paved the way for comedy shows with a social message inserted.
Here, the inter racial situations mixed with poverty and social clichés were the spinal cord for the plot and even in jokes. Everything was extremely well done and executed with class. Nothing was vulgar or tried directly to impose a criteria; the situations were just put for the audience to judge it whatsoever they wanted.
The jokes were sometimes naive but always witty. The humor was family oriented but after nearly 30 years, none of them is boring. Sure, society has changed a lot but some things just can't disappear.
The acting is top notch. Gary Coleman is now some sort of cult hero for displaying a physical illness and being part of a social minority but his comedic skills and histrionic abilities make him one of the most likable child stars ever. Conrad Bain was excellent as the protective, tender but strong man that took care about his house. Dana Plato was extremely sexy, hot; she's the kind of girl I wanted to marry.
Anyways, watch this sitcom in order to witness part of America's pop culture talking about television. This show will teach you many things and as a plus, it will make you chuckle most of the time.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Different Strokes (1978-1986): Starring Gary Coleman, Todd Bridges, Conrad Bain, Charlotte Rae, Dana Plato, Mary Jo Catlett, Danny Cooksey, Mary Ann Mobley, Dixie Carter I first saw Different Strokes sometime in the 80's. Being ages 1-9 in the 80's, I don't recall what year it must have been but if the show ended in 86, it must have been either 85 or 86 when the show was wrapping up. I had no idea it was on as far back as 1978. I recall enjoying the opening song, with its thought-provoking theme: "Now the World don't move with the beat of just one drum....it takes different strokes to move the world, yes it does..it takes different strokes to the move the world." During the opening credits, we see Gary Coleman and Todd Bridges looking out of a limo to the vast New York City vista of high-rise buildings.... Nolstalgia! The premise: A wealthy businessman who resides in Manhattan has adopted the children of his late maid. The mixture of black children and white parents must have been new and innovative at the time, like an interracial Brady Bunch. But it seems pretty absurd now, as so many families are interracial. The kids were cute and hilarious. Gary Coleman became a celebrity through this and all subsequent successes was due to his role as Arnold. "What you talking' bout Willis ?"... The show dared to tackle issues that had never been tackled on TV before like unprotected sex, drugs, gangs and racism. The 80's was full of shows which tackled issues like these and often contained inspirational and educational messages to parents and kids after the show was over. I think it was because the 80's was Reagan's reign and he was a strictly conservative President who launched a lot of anti-drug and celibacy programs at a time when AIDS and drugs were a huge problem. This show was well-written and often moving. Actress Charlotte Rae who played Edna Garrett the maid would later move on to "The Facts of Life" yet another popular 80's show.
There was an era on NBC where every show was lame except for the
Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson. Of all of those shows, this show
was the flagship of lame. Sub-standard writing, horrible acting and a
script built around one unfunny catch phrase: "What you talking about
Of course, over the years, there were many variations, "What you talking about Dad?", "What you talking about Kimberly?", "What you talking about Mrs. Garrett?", and then there's the ultimate creative variation, "What you talking about 'insert name of guest star of the week'?"
Secondly, has Conrad Bain ever been on a show that had any value? Then they surround him with kids who couldn't act their way out of a loosely tied Walmart bag and an old hag with a quivering voice? This is comedy? Worse yet, you can see the child actors often mouthing the lines of their costars while awaiting their canned "humorous" reply, or their eyes wandering left to right as they read their poorly written lines from a cue card.
To further the vomit aspect, they bring in friends of Arnold to add to the fun. The annoying little girl crush, the kid in a wheelchair (to posture the show as caring and all inclusive) and his pet gold fish, with which he has heart to heart talks. And as ratings fell through the floor, big name guest stars would be brought in to help salvage the shipwreck.
And of course, as expected each one would be asked, "What you talking about?"
And yet there seems to be nothing but praise for this steaming pile of canned laugh track sitcom from NBC's era of suck. More than 1 star, seriously? No wonder all the child stars of this show crashed and burned. If it was this pathetic on the surface, I can only imagine how bad things were behind the scenes.
In summary, I could eat a box of Apha-Bits and crap a better script than any episode of this show, 1 star because zero isn't an option.
Diff'rent Strokes is a show that I came to love later in life. The show heart and soul was little Gary Coleman. Although Todd Bridges and Dana Plato would have the occasional good one-liner this was Coleman's show. He was so the pimp sh*t on the show. I wonder where his charcter of Arnold would be now?
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