Television TV

Diff'rent Strokes

Certain things can make or break a TV show, and a memorable catchphrase is one thing that guarantees success. There was One Foot In The Grave's "I don't beleeeeeeeve it!", Only Fools And Horses' "Lovely jubbly", The Generation Game's "Nice to see you, to see you nice", Blue Peter's "Here's one I made earlier"…. and let's not forget Diff'rent Strokes': "Wodju talkin' about, Willis?"

But as fun as it was to go round saying the catchphrase, Diff'rent Strokes wasn't only about that. Set in a new York Park Avenue apartment, the show centred around Philip Drummond (played by Conrad Bain of Maude fame), an uber-rich, white, widowed businessman, who has taken into his home two "challenging" young black boys from Harlem, called Willis and Arnold. The boys were actually the sons of Drummond's housekeeper who had died after working herself into the ground trying to earn enough money to look after her boys. Just before she died, she asked Drummond to look after her sons. Of course, realising just how mean he'd been to the woman when she lived, by paying her a mere pittance, Drummond relished the chance to make amends and teach Willis and Arnold some of life's most valuable moral lessons. This meant that a number of the episodes confronted serious issues, including issues of race, drug use and child molestation.

The star of the show was of course Arnold (played by Gary Coleman, who suffered from stunted growth after kidney problems when he was a child), the miniature marvel who had a comedic way of popping out his eyes and his bottom lip to deliver the line: "Wodju talkin' about, Willis?"

Unfortunately, as with many child stars, Gary Coleman didn't take his newfound stardom very well, and was heavily typecast because of his size. In the end, he walked away from TV to become, bizarrely, a security guard. Meanwhile, Todd Bridges, who played Willis, found himself going from courthouse to courthouse in America on a number of drugs and weapon charges.

Diff'rent Strokes aired in 1978 until 1985, ending when Drummond's overprivileged daughter Kimberley (played by Dana Plato) went off to live in Paris and Drummond had married Maggie, an aerobics instructor. Amidst the 189 episodes viewed by TV audiences, some big names made cameos, including David Hasselhoff, Janet Jackson (who played Willis' girlfriend, Charlene) and even Nancy Reagan (who appeared in the show's special anti-drugs episode).

But if after all this, you still don't know "what we're talkin' about" (see what we did there?), YouTube it!

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Do You Remember Diff'rent Strokes?

Do You Remember Diff'rent Strokes?