Diff’rent Strokes, 1978
Diff’rent Strokes was a hugely successful American Sitcom that was also very popular in the UK, where it went out on a Tuesday afternoon at the end of ITV’s Children’s programming.
Between 1978 and 1986 the show ran for one hundred and eighty nine episodes over eight series. As well as being popular both sides of the pond the show made stars out of child actors Gary Coleman, Todd Bridges and Dana Plato.
The series was originally devised jointly to serve as a vehicle for Maude (US sitcom) co-star Conrad Bain and child actor Gary Coleman, who had caught producers’ attentions after appearing in a number of TV commercials.
An early outline for the series, featured the characters created for Bain and Coleman, but as the idea progressed Bain’s character was given a daughter and a housekeeper was added to the line-up.
In that early outline the show had a working title: 45 Minutes from Harlem. The title eventually became Diff’rent Strokes, inspired by the quote “Different strokes for different folks” made famous by legendary boxer Muhammad Ali in 1966 (Ali makes a guest appearance in season 2)
Whilst the series made stars of it’s child actors, unfortunately the lives of the young stars were later plagued by legal troubles and drug addiction, with Plato and Coleman suffering early deaths.
Two Afro-American boys from Harlem Willis and his younger brother Arnold find themselves taken in by a rich former employer of their deceased Mother.
Phillip Drummond is himself a widower and lives with his housekeeper and daughter Kimberley, in a Penthouse at 697 Park Avenue, New York City.
Early episodes addressed typical issues in a family. However as the series progressed, whilst sticking to more light-hearted sit-com themes in most episodes, some episodes gained special recognition for focusing more serious topics including: drug abuse, alcoholism, hitchhiking, child abuse, and crime, among other issues.
Phillip Drummond – Conrad Bain
Kimberley Drummond – Dana Plato
Willis Jackson – Todd Bridges
Arnold Jackson – Gary Coleman
NBC (1978 – 85, USA)
ABC (1985 – 86, USA)
ITV (All series UK)
Created By: Jeff Harris and Bernie Kukoff
Written By: Ben Starr, Budd Grossman, Howard Leeds and Martin Cohan
Originally Transmitted 1978 – 1986 UK and USA