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Diff'rent Strokes: Complete First Season

Columbia/Tri-Star // Unrated // September 14, 2004
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Antoine Johnson | posted September 13, 2004 | E-mail the Author
Diff'rent Strokes – Complete First Season

"Diff'rent Strokes" made its broadcast debut on November 3rd, 1978. Who could forget Gary Coleman's' "Arnold" and his innocent banter? The show centered around two Harlem boys (Gary Coleman and Todd Bridges as "Arnold" and "Willis" respectively); whose mother's dying wish was for her employer to take care of her boys. The benefactor is "Phillip Drummond" played by Conrad Bain, who also has a daughter of his own "Kimberly" played by the late Dana Plato.

The show revolves around "Arnold" and "Willis" trying to assimilate to an upscale lifestyle and "Mr. Drummond" trying to learn how to be a father to these boys. This is a classic "fish out of water" syndrome that worked well. These kids grew up right in front of our eyes and gave us memorable storylines – who could forget Nancy Regan's "just say no" message?

Ultimately these kids grew up and the show was cancelled in 1986. The show made a star out of Gary Coleman and he's lived under a media microscope ever since. All of the "Diff'rent Strokes" kids seemed to go downhill after the show – Coleman with his legal problems, Todd Bridges with his drug use and Dana Plato and her drug use. This like many other 80's shows however, lives on in syndication and has a huge fan following.

Episode Guide:
1. Movin' In - Wealthy widower Phillip Drummond welcomes his late housekeeper's young sons into his lavish penthouse and is surprised when he finds them trying to sneak back to Harlem.
2. The Social Worker - After Arnold eavesdrops on Mr. Drummond's conversation with a social worker, he mistakenly believes that Mr. Drummond no longer wants him and Willis around.
3. Mother's Last Visit - There's more than a generation gap between Mr. Drummond's socialite mother and his new sons, but by the time her visit ends she learns a valuable lesson from Arnold and Willis.
4. Prep School - Mr. Drummond attempts to enroll the boys into an exclusive prep school, but his good intentions turn out to be a very bad idea for everyone involved.
5. The Spanking - Mr. Drummond decides that Arnold has earned a spanking for ignoring warnings not to drop water balloons from the balcony, but Willis insists on taking matters into his own hands.
6. Goodbye Dolly - When Arnold loses his favorite doll, Homer, he makes sure that everyone suffers along with him. The only way to stop the misery is to do whatever it takes to get Homer back.
7. The Trial - The whole family becomes Arnold's judge and jury when he is put on trial for putting his pet goldfish in Mr. Drummond's hot tub while cleaning the fishbowl.
8. Retrospective (Part 1) - In the first part of this special holiday episode, the enlarged Drummond family prepares for their first Christmas together.
9. Retrospective (Part 2) - In the conclusion of this holiday two-parter, Mr. Drummond, Mrs. Garrett and the kids gather around the tree to recall the many humorous moments they have shared since Arnold and Willis moved in.
10. The Fight - Arnold weighs the pros and cons of brains vs. brawn as he prepares to face a bully, Willis thinks he should fight back with physical force, but Mr. Drummond has a more civilized solution.
11. The Club Meeting - Willis invites his friends from his old neighborhood to Park Avenue for a visit and tries to impress them with his new wealth, but learns that friendship is worth more than money and fancy things.
12. The Woman - When Mr. Drummond decides to marry an attractive widow despite the kids' disapproval, Arnold, Willis and Kimberly set out to ruin his plans for a romantic proposal.
13. No Time for Arnold - Feeling ignored, Arnold attempts to get his family's attention. Unfortunately, his plan works a little too well, and he finds himself the center of attention of the family doctor as well.
14. The Relative - When Arnold and Willis's cousin (LaWanda Page, TV's "Sanford and Son") visits and gets a load of their comfortable new lifestyle, she feels the need to get a little closer to her long lost relatives.
15. The Tutor - Mr. Drummond hires a tutor to help Willis and Arnold with their schoolwork, but the tutor doesn't turn out to be much of a teacher.
16. The New Landlord - A new landlord threatens to displace the Drummonds from their home so the kids devise a scheme that they hope will convince him to let the family keep their penthouse.
17. Willis's Privacy - Feeling a need for privacy, Willis divides the bedroom in half to keep his pesky little brother at a distance, and begins spending more time at his friend's house.
18. Mrs. Garrett's Crisis - Housekeeper Mrs. Garrett has come to an important crossroads in her life. Feeling her life as a caretaker is unfulfilling, she makes an important decision about her future.
19. The Job - In order to earn money to buy disco roller skates and to prove a point to Mr. Drummond, Willis gets a job, but his plan falls apart when he gets fired on his first day at work.
20. The Trip (Part 1) - The stars of "Diff'rent Strokes" and "Hello, Larry" team up in the first of this special two-part episode.
21. The Trip (Part 2) - The story continues in the second part of this special episode when Mr. Drummond's purchase of a Portland radio station may result in his old friend Larry Alder (Mclean Stevenson, TV's "M*A*S*H*") losing his job.
22. Getting Involved - When Arnold witnesses a crime being committed, he finds himself the new target of the robber, who wants to make sure the kid will keep quite and won't identify him.
23. Willis's Birthday - Thinking everyone's forgotten his birthday, Willis drops several unsubtle hints that seem to go unnoticed. But he gets the surprise of his life when his biggest wish comes true.
24. The Girl's School - The pushy principal at Kimberly's school meets her match in Mrs. Garrett. Molly Ringwald co-stars along with the girls of the show's spin-off series, "The Facts of Life".

The A/V is this box set is pretty much what you would expect from a series that is 25 years old. The print is dated, but doesn't look bad. The audio mix is a Dolby 2.0 mix that works for the material.

Special Features
"A Look Back at Diff'rent Strokes" featurette with all new interviews from Todd Bridges, Conrad Bain and Charlotte Rae. This featurette runs about 21 minutes. The cast and crew talk about the times during which the sitcom was created in. They also give some background to how hit producer Norman Lear pulled everyone in to create the show.
"Whatchoo Talkin' Bout?" featurette on Gary Coleman. This featurette is only about 5 minutes long. Gary Coleman doesn't actually participate in this and it could be included in the prior featurette.
Commentaries with writer Fred Rubin

Final Thoughts: If you find yourself longing for 80's TV classics this is a good one to pick up. "Diff'rent Strokes" takes to me to my youth and this is a well-done box set. I would recommend it.

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