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Behind the Camera: The Unauthorized Story of 'Diff'rent Strokes' (2006)

TV-14 | | Drama | TV Movie 4 September 2006
The story of the popular situation comedy and its ill fated child stars.


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Willie Coleman (as Bruce Young)
Sue Coleman
Verda Bridges ...
Kay Plato
Howard Leeds
Dion Mial (as Rainbow Sun Francks)
Dana Plato - 17 to 34 years (as Brittney Irvin)
Vic Perillo
Winston Rekert ...
Todd Bridges - 17 to 37 years (as Shedrack Anderson)


As NBC's hit sitcom "Diff'rent Strokes" proves a long-running hit for a network desperately in need of one, its young stars: Gary Coleman, Todd Bridges, and Dana Plato face all sorts of trouble off-camera. Gary battles with his parents over the management of his salary, Todd runs into trouble with the law countless times, and Dana's career after the show meets with despair and tragedy. Written by Attmay

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Release Date:

4 September 2006 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A História não Autorizada de Minha Família é uma Bagunça  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


In the establishing shot of the NBC offices in Burbank in 1978, a banner with the ad slogan "Proud as a Peacock" can be seen. The network did not use that slogan until 1979. See more »


References St. Elsewhere (1982) See more »

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User Reviews

A made for TV film that skims over everything
5 September 2006 | by (Los Angeles, CA) – See all my reviews

"Different Strokes" was one of those programs marketed to my generation

  • as was "Facts of Life", "The New Mickey Mouse Club", "Webster" (The

Different Stokes rip-off) et al. This was a popular show for NBC in its first 4 seasons...and unless you lived in a cave, you couldn't escape hearing about the young cast. Kimberly, played by Dana Plato was the cute, wealthy white girl who had to grow to love her new 'brothers'; Willis, played by Todd Bridges was the street wise charge; and Arnold...well Arnold was the cute little moppet played by Gary Coleman -- and whether you watched the show or not, you knew Gary. He had "child star quality" all over him. I knew all of this, even not being a fan of the program - but I read teen magazines, read newspapers and looked at the news.

As a child viewer, I felt that Dana Plato was going to get a lot of TV and movie work. As a child viewer, I felt that Gary Coleman would be over exposed in just a few years. As a child viewer, I felt that Todd Bridges (whom I saw before Different Strokes in other TV works) was going to leave the business, go to college and become a Television Executive. That's what I thought, as a child viewer. Boy, was I wrong, and this TV rendition touches on many aspects without going into too much depth on any of them.

The one positive thing I have to give this rendition of the instances that happened, was that what they showed seemed to be through the view of Todd Bridges and Gary Coleman. No matter what anyone writes or says, whatever feelings and emotions happened outside of each of their views, they didn't get into in depth. But you know that each has a separate tale to tell that could easily become 3 or 4 separate films each with their own heart-wrenching perspective.

Gary Coleman's apparent rise to what should have been his stardom was thwarted by almost all who came into his life. Gary had health problems which were not attended to properly. Gary wanted to grow up, and the show wouldn't allow for him to. Gary needed star making vehicles but did not have any creative minds closely advising him to choose the right vehicles. And his parents - some parents are not meant to be personal managers. Parents need to be parents to WATCH the personal managers, and above all else care for the health and welfare of the child. Tragic.

Todd Bridges was a talented, in demand child actor prior to "Different Strokes". With the weekly series, Todd should have had more work. Todd should have had business managers to look over the accountants and then had someone to look over the business manager. And then someone to even look over that. Tragic.

Dana Plato was definitely on the radar of filmmakers and TV executives but at every turn, something went awry with Dana. Missed auditions for whatever reason, extra-curricular activities that did pour onto the show, and just Dana trying to find herself as many young women in that business tried to do. Without some real type of love, care, discipline
  • in the grueling schedules a weekly series can put on you, Dana turned

into the most tragic of the three child/teen stars. Tragic.

This TV movie skims all of this just to give you a slight overview of all of the problems on the set, with the stars and at the NBC Executive levels itself at that time. When I was watching this TV rendition of "Different Strokes", I remembered one of the most interesting lines that came to me when moved out to California: "Never become the PPresident of a network. It's a thankless job, the job never lasts and you're forgotten as soon as you leave." This is sad - you do get to see a "skim" of what was up with Fred Silverman who created a boatload of programming for NBC, a skim of the talented late Brandon Tardikoff and a skim of the execs over at ABC and their pursuit over the advertising dollar and programming shows to a mass audience. This film didn't go as deep as it was at the time.

At points this TV movie was not sure where it wanted to go but it ended up at the overall view of Todd and Gary. They tried to hook it together by having the real Todd and Gary give their own insights between story but it wasn't enough. And Gary still comes across as very, very bitter. But - can you blame him? Another thing I did get was in watching this I wished I had a "way back machine" to be able to tell each of these actors what was in store for them so they could put the breaks on and change their courses before it was too late.

I'm sure they wished the same thing too.

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