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Different Strokes (S1)
DVD disk
10.18.2004 By: The Shootin Surgeon
Different Strokes (S1) order
Director:
Various

Actors:
Conrad Bain
Gary Coleman
Todd Bridges

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
A couple of young black kids from Harlem (Coleman & Bridges) move in with a rich widowed white man (Bain) in Manhattan and get started on what would become one of television's most famous sitcoms, mixing laughter with just the right touch of social commentary.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
What's there to say about this show that hasn't been said already? Twenty-five years later, people still go around spouting out "Whatchoo talkin' bout?" to each other, Gary Coleman, Todd Bridges and Dana Plato became poster children for the potential pitfalls of kiddy stardom and the syndication rounds are still churning out the reruns. One of the most unfortunate parts of what happened to the three kids after this series went off the air is that it's managed to somehow obscure what was, in fact a very, very good sitcom. With the charismatic Conrad Bain holding the show together as Mr. Drummond, a wealthy Park Avenue socialite and what was probably the most famous child-actor of all time in Gary Coleman, Diff'rent Strokes redefined family television in the late seventies and went on to inspire pretty much half the shows in the eighties but still, you can bring Webster on any day of the week and twice on Sunday and he'll never topple Coleman off his throne.

With impeccable timing and a master's touch, Coleman, eight years old at the time, mastered the art of the one-line quip as Arnold gave all who were watching the lasting impression of a three-foot tall black kid talking like a fifty-year old Jewish man. His brother Willis, played by the more toned down Todd Bridges, was the yin to his yang, sometimes becoming a bit annoying and seemingly ungrateful to Mr. Drummond for his new lease on life. And yes, at one point I admit I wanted to kill him, but Bridges provided a perfect foil for Coleman and you could genuinely feel a bond between the two. The family was filled in by Charlotte Rae as the hilarious, wisecracking housekeeper Mrs. Garrett in Season one, and by the late Dana Plato as Kimberly, Mr. Drummond's natural daughter. Kimberly's character was a welcome addition as she showed up once in a while, gave it a female presence and usually provided either some of the required cuteness to the show or leveled Willis with a line. In a nutshell, Diff'rent Strokes was, and to many still is, a landmark in terms of evaluating other forms of entertainment. Every time I sit and watch something on TV nowadays, even if it's good, I'll find myself sighing and thinking back to the old days of Arnold, Willis and Mr. Drummond. Does that make me a huge loser? Yes... yes, it does, but it makes me a huge loser who was lucky enough to be around when this show was lighting up the small screen!
THE EXTRAS
The extras begin with several Audio Commentaries with Writer Fred Rubin who gives us his two bits on a bunch of episodes. It's alright because he does give a lot of info on the show, but it would have been nice to hear one of the starts reminisce a bit.

A couple of featurettes are also mixed in. The first one, "A Look Back at Diff'rent Strokes" (20 mins) features Bridges, Bain and Rea, along with some of the writers and creators discussing the beginning of the series, how they came aboard and what the set was like. It's fairly interesting and it's nice to see that Bain and Rae still look as good as they did way back then. The second featurette, "Watchoo Talkin' Bout?" (5 mins) focuses solely on Gary Coleman and his famous catch phrase. Unfortunately, Coleman doesn't make any appearances anywhere.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
A fantastic series that delivers even without a bunch of extras being slapped in there. It's definitely worth a look and if you have any memories of seeing the show as a kid or even an adult, then the decision to send the dough to add this to your shelf is an absolute no-brainer.
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