Little Known Fact: Thanks to this show, Judge Patrick Naugle's middle name is Abraham.
Our reviews of Diff'rent Strokes: The Complete First Season (published September 22nd, 2004), Diff'rent Strokes: The Complete Second Season (published February 22nd, 2006), and Diff'rent Strokes: The Complete Fourth Season (published November 1st, 2012) are also available.
Whatchoo talkin' about, Verdict?
It's the further adventures of everyone's favorite upper crust, multi-cultural family unit, The Drummond clan! Diff'rent Strokes: The Complete Third Season follows Arnold Jackson (Gary Coleman) as he wisecracks his way through life and into the hearts of everyone he meets. Along for the ride: his big brother Willis (Todd Bridges); cute-as-a-button sister Kimberly (the late Dana Plato); and his patient, rich, ever-loving father, Mr. Drummond (Conrad Bain). From learning a hard lesson when he buys a faulty toy train and helping his father find a new wife, to becoming a hostage in a bank robbery, it's just another 22 episode season of zany misadventures for the Drummonds…
• "The Bank Job: Part 1"
There are few pieces of pop culture which instantly transport me back to my childhood. When I hear Phil Collins "Groovy Kind of Love," I'm thirteen again, missing my chance to ask Jamie Schultz to dance. Whenever I see Re-Animator, I'm a sixteen year old discovering that horror movies can be freaking awesome! And when it comes to the classic '80s sitcom Diff'rent Strokes, I'm back in my parent's basement with a bowl of Fruit Loops and a huge grin plastered on my face.
I have the sneaking suspicion fondness for Diff'rent Strokes will stem from your memories of the show. Those who grew up on the antics of Arnold and company will most surely enjoy revisiting this third season. The plots are as cliché-ridden as ever and not especially unique, each possessing the complexity of a McDonald's Happy Meal. Nothing monumental happens this season and everything is played for laughs…except for the occasional tug on the viewer's heartstrings. Housekeeper Adelaide (Nedra Volz, Lust in the Dust) has a date with an older gentleman! Arnold talks to his fish! Mr. Drummond dishes out sage advice! And that's about as deep as the show gets.
Most of the episodes revolve around Arnold either, a) getting into trouble, or b) learning how to help others. In the episode "Small Claims Court," Arnold learns to stand up for himself against a crooked toy train dealer. During "The Magician," Arnold learns he's good at something, but gets himself in trouble when he wanders out on a ledge and puts himself—and his family—in grave danger. Along the way, Willis spends his time acting cool and falling in love with Charlene (Janet Jackson), while Kimberly learns the power of make-up and dating a MUCH older man (much to everyone's chagrin). All the while, Mr. Drummond lords over his children with sage advice and loving kindness, rarely making any parental mistakes. Seriously, has there ever been a better father than Mr. D?
One of the wonderful things about Diff'rent Strokes is that you can pop in any episode and know exactly where you are. If you missed the previous season, you'll still know what's going on with the Drummonds, without a need for a recap. The show wasn't built around growing the characters or making them three dimensional.
The kids are as good as any child stars and Gary Coleman is adorable. What a shame that all three young stars found not only troubled lives but a terrible fate; two of three are now gone. Dana Plato would die of a drug overdose in May of 1999 and Gary Coleman suffered a fall in 2010, hit his head, and subsequently passed away. Only Todd Bridges—after decades of drug abuse and run-ins with the law—would clean up his life (as of this writing). Thankfully, their legacy lives on in the hallowed halls of TV canned laughter.
Each episode of Diff'rent Strokes: The Complete Third Season is presented in standard definition 1.33:1 full frame and the visual fidelity is adequate. These transfers don't appear to have been digitally re-mastered or given much in the way of loving consideration. The serviceable audio is presented in Dolby 2.0 Mono where the dialogue is clearly distinguishable from the music and ambient environment. No alternate language tracks or subtitles are available. And there are no bonus features.
Not Guilty. Standard '80s sitcom fare and a fun nostalgic throwback.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
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