Saturday, June 20, 2009


I was watching the re-run of Different Strokes after many years.

When I first watched this sitcom around 1992-93 (or maybe later, I don’t remember), TV was still evolving and every show was exciting to watch. There was a plethora of shows that I would watch with my young son…Small Wonder, I dream of Genie, Bewitched, Silver Spoons... At home, we still speak the language used in the shows; we were that into those early days’ shows.
This sitcom starred Gary Coleman as Arnold Jackson and Todd Bridges as his older brother, Willis. They played two African-American children from a poor Harlem neighborhood whose deceased mother previously worked for a rich white widower, Philip Drummond (Conrad Bain), who eventually adopted them. They lived in a penthouse with Mr. Drummond and his daughter Kimberly (Dana Plato).
One of the themes that predominantly ran through the sitcom was a voice that spoke against discrimination of color which was perhaps a prominent issue those days. These lines which sum up the theme in the sitcom continue to fascinate me:

Now, the world don't move to the beat of just one drum,
What might be right for you may not be right for some…
Everybody's got a special kind of story
Everybody finds a way to shine,
It don't matter that you got not a lot
So what,
They'll have theirs, and you'll have yours, and I'll have mine.
And together we'll be fine....

The sitcom taught people to respect one another and live in harmony. Excellent parenting skills exhibited by Philips Drummond also found resonance in people who watched it — the way he handled the three kids, respecting their feelings — loving but not over indulgent, firm but not overbearing, giving each child his due.

Nostalgia swept over me as I watched, “What are you talking about?” mouthed by Arnold Jackson.
I wish (like in those days) I had stopped at this. But the compelling urge to ‘Google’ everything spoiled the fun for me.
First, I was quite surprised to know that the show was made in the late 70s & early 80s! That would make the 3 kids my age now! They aren’t even close to being the cute kids or the gawky teenagers that I had imagined them to be!
And this was only the beginning of a series of disappointments! What the Internet further revealed to me was more dismaying.
Both Todd Bridges and Gary Coleman’s various misdemeanors have led to their being arrested on several occasions. Todd Bridges also has a history of drug abuse.
Dana Plato’s story is even worse. An early pregnancy and drugs were rumored to be the reason for easing her character out of the show. She died presumably of a drug overdose when she was just 34!
All the three could never ever live up to the success of Different Strokes.
Somewhere the magic is gone with the harsh realities of what happened to these child stars when they got rich and famous too early in life; when the values they mouth in the sitcoms don’t percolate to their real lives; when peer pressure led to a failed life.
For 8 long years the effusive environment created in the Drummond household infused optimism in the people watching it. Yet, it is ironical that the very people who helped others to live failed so miserably in their own.

Picture 1 taken from
Picture 2 taken from