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Diff'rent Strokes
Image
Genre
Sitcom
Number of Episodes
189
First aired
November 3, 1978
Last aired
May 4, 1986
Created by
Jeff Harris
Bernie Kukoff

Diff'rent Strokes is an American television sitcom that aired on Syndication from November 3, 1978, to May 4, 1985 and on Syndication from September 27, 1985, to March 7, 1986.

The show was produced by Tandem Productions from 1978 to 1985, and Embassy Television from 1985-1986. It also spawned a spin-off series, "The Facts of Life."

PlotEdit

The series centered on Willis and Arnold Jackson, two African-American boys from Harlem, New York who are taken in by Phillip Drummond, a rich Park Avenue white businessman & widower & his daughter, Kimberly, for whom the boys' deceased mother had previously worked for.

CastEdit

Main Cast

  • Gary Coleman as Arnold Jackson
  • Todd Bridges as Willis Jackson
  • Conrad Bain as Phillip Drummond
  • Dana Plato as Kimberly Drummond
  • Charlotte Rae as Edna Garrett (1978-1979)
  • Nedra Volz as Adelaide Brubaker (1980-1984)
  • Mary Jo Catlett as Pearl Gallagher (1982-1986)
  • Dixie Carter as Maggie McKinney Drummond #1 (1984-1985)
  • Mary Ann Mobley as Maggie McKinney Drummond #2 (1985-1986)
  • Danny Cooksey as Sam McKinney (1984-1986)

Recurring Cast

  • Janet Jackson as Charlene DuPrey (1980–1984)
  • Dody Goodman as Aunt Sophia (1981–1984)
  • Shavar Ross as Dudley Johnson (1980–1986)
  • Le Tari as Ted Ramsey (1980–1984)
  • Rosalind Chao as Miss Chung (1981–1983)
  • Steven Mond as Robbie Jason (1980–1985)
  • Nikki Swasey as Lisa Hayes (1982–1986)
  • Jason Hervey as Charlie (1985–1986)

ProductionEdit

The series was originally devised jointly to serve as a vehicle for "Maude" co-star Conrad Bain (after "Maude" had abruptly finished production in 1978), and child actor Gary Coleman, who had caught producers' attentions after appearing in a number of commercials.

An early rough outline for the series (which featured the characters created for Bain and Coleman) had the proposed title "45 Minutes from Harlem." As the show's pitch was developed, Coleman's character gained an older brother, and the daughter of Bain's character and a housekeeper was added to the line-up.

The show's title was eventually retitled as "Diff'rent Strokes" inspired by the quote, "Different strokes for different folks" which was popularized by boxer Muhammad Ali in 1966.

Charlotte Rae (who portrayed the role of the Drummond family's housekeeper, Edna Garrett) appeared in every first season episode and is present for most of the second season, but is absent in several episodes late on in the season before leaving to star in her own spin-off series, "The Facts of Life" set at Kimberly's private school (however, Kimberly herself did not become a regular character in that series, although the two shows had a number of cross-overs).

Following Rae's departure from the show, Nedra Volz was added to the cast as new housekeeper Adelaide Brubaker in the third season. Although Volz was not added to the show's opening credits (instead always being credited with the guest cast on the closing credits), she appeared as a frequent semi-regular character.

In the fifth season, Mary Jo Catlett portrayed Pearl Gallagher (the last of the three maids) and joined the cast as a series regular where she appeared in almost every episode until the final season.

Midway through Season six, Dana Plato became pregnant and she approached the producers of the show to include her pregnancy.

Initially they agreed to add it, but later decided not to add the pregnancy with Plato's publicized brushes with substance abuse contributing to this decision which resulted in her dismissal from the series.

Plato's character, Kimberly, was written out of the story lines with the explanation that she moved to Paris to study for a couple of years. Plato did not appear as a regular cast member in the final two seasons of the series, but she made several guest appearances.

At the same time, the ratings for "Diff'rent Strokes" were beginning to fall, so new characters were added to open up future storylines.

Dixie Carter and Danny Cooksey portrayed recently divorced television aerobics instructor Margaret "Maggie" McKinney, and her son, Sam McKinney.

Carter was introduced midway into the sixth season; after she left for California, Drummond and the family took off after her, during a two-part trip in February 1984, a storyline which also introduced Sam. Phillip proposed to Maggie, and they got married.

In the seventh season, Dixie Carter and Danny Cooksey were added to the opening credits (with Carter getting special "and" billing, last in the order), and many new areas and ideas were explored in the storylines, as viewers now got to see Philip as a happily married man. Dana Plato was no longer appearing as a main cast member, because of her pregnancy in real life.

Since there was a new fresh-faced kid in the house with Sam, Arnold now had his own little sidekick and was happy to be a "big brother" for a change. With Willis being dropped into the background slightly, this new brotherly duo took center stage for many storylines.

During the season, Todd Bridges was continuing the show as a main cast member, but he developed absences in several episodes.

Additionally, stories focusing on Arnold's school life (featured occasionally in many previous seasons) were delved into much more.

The ratings did not improve to NBC's hopes. Dixie Carter departed at the end of the seventh season and was replaced with Mary Ann Mobley in the eighth season.

In the spring of 1985, NBC canceled "Diff'rent Strokes" due to poor ratings, but ABC picked up the series for an eighth season, and aired it on Friday nights.

During this season, Mary Ann Mobley replaced Dixie Carter as Maggie McKinney Drummond. Mobley (who had previously played an unrelated, one-off love interest of Drummond's in the second-season episode "Teacher's Pet") was considered for Maggie when the role was created, but was not initially chosen in part due to age disparity between her and Conrad Bain.

After 19 episodes aired, ABC canceled the series and aired its final episode on March 7, 1986.

The show returned to ABC's schedule in June for three months of summer reruns, which ended on August 30, 1986. The final season ranked 76th out of 106 shows, and averaged an 11.5 household rating.

Post "Diff'rent Strokes"Edit

Following the cancellation of "Diff'rent Strokes", Gary Coleman, Todd Bridges and Dana Plato encountered difficulty in obtaining acting jobs.

All three experienced various legal problems while Bridges and Plato also struggled with drug addictions, all of which were documented in the press.

The press and fans of the series blamed the cast's personal problems and faltering careers on what was eventually dubbed the "curse of Diff'rent Strokes" by various tabloids.[11]

Gary ColemanEdit

Three years after the series ended, Gary Coleman sued his parents and his former manager over misappropriation of his trust fund. Although he was awarded over $1,000,000 in the decision, he ended up filing for bankruptcy in 1999.

In 1998, he was charged with assault after he punched a woman while working as a security guard at a shopping mall.

In 2001, Coleman (still working as a security guard) was videotaped trying to stop a vehicle from entering the mall. The driver ridiculed him and released the tape to be broadcast on numerous television shows.

In 2007, Coleman was cited for disorderly conduct in Provo, Utah, for having a "heated discussion" with a woman.

On May 26, 2010, Coleman (who had battled health problems since childhood caused by congenital kidney disease) was admitted to Utah Valley Regional Medical Center in Provo after falling and hitting his head after suffering a seizure.

He was then placed on life support after suffering an intracranial hemorrhage and died on May 28, 2010, from complications of his injury at the age of 42.

Dana PlatoEdit

In the show's sixth season, Dana Plato became pregnant and her character was written out of the series (she would go on to make guest appearances for the final two seasons).

In 1984, she married the father of her child, musician Lanny Lambert, but they divorced in 1990. Due to financial difficulties and her growing addiction to drugs & alcohol, Plato relinquished custody of her son, Tyler, to her ex-husband.

In an attempt to boost her faltering career, Plato posed for Playboy in June 1989, but her appearance in the magazine did not help her land any acting jobs.

By 1990, she was living in Las Vegas. Despite having made $25,000 an episode while on the series, she was often broke and was working as a cashier at a dry cleaning store.

In February of 1991, she was arrested after robbing a Las Vegas video store armed with a pellet gun. She was arrested the following year for forging prescriptions for Valium.

In 1998, Plato appeared in a softcore pornographic film entitled "Different Strokes: The Story of Jack & Jill... and Jill" which was intended to capitalize on her "Diff'rent Stroke"s fame.

After her arrests, Plato publicly admitted that she struggled with an addiction to drugs and alcohol.

On May 8, 1999, she died from a drug overdose at the age of 34; her death was ruled a suicide. Sadly on May 6, 2010 (two days before the 11th anniversary of his mother's death), her son, Tyler committed suicide via a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

Todd BridgesEdit

After the series ended, Todd Bridges developed an addiction to cocaine.

In February 1988, he was arrested and charged with the attempted murder of a drug dealer at a crack house in South Central Los Angeles. He was acquitted in November of 1989.

Bridges was also arrested on a concealed weapon charge and possession of cocaine, and in 1994, he was arrested after allegedly ramming someone's car after an argument.

After years of battling his drug addiction, Bridges became sober in the early 1990s. He now travels across the United States, touring schools and discussing the dangers of drug use. These days, he has continued acting in films and television.

With Dana Plato's death in 1999 and Gary Coleman's death in 2010, Bridges became the sole survivor of the show's original child actors. He became the show's last surviving original cast member after the death of Charlotte Rae in 2018.

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