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Diff'rent Strokes for Diff'rent Folks

posted by Dave on 10/10/01

"Whachoo talkin 'bout, Wallace?"

*Thanks to B and Bethy for that one*

I remember on the night of my Senior Prom, we all ended up taking limos into NYC. As soon as we stepped out into the crisp city air, my date went up to one of the four bazillion newstands that exist in NYC and got herself a pack of cigarettes. As she lit up, she swung the pack in my direction and asked “Do ya want one?”. Now I didn’t want her to think I wasn’t “cool” (as if the purple bowtie and cumberbun I wore didn’t give that shocker away a few hours earlier)… so I said, “Yeah.. sure, why not?”. Now I had smoked cigarettes before… but it had been awhile since I had one.. and as I inhaled that sweet, sweet tar and nicotine into my lungs.. I started to cough. So I tried to recover my dignity by doing what anybody would do.. I looked at her and said, “I’ve smoked before. I mean it’s not like I’m Arnold Jackson trying cigarettes up in my room for the first time… and I’m gonna burn a hole in the sweater that Mr. Drummond bought for me.”. I then put both hands on my side like I was trying to cover up a cigarette burn and began to swivel my torso, as if Mr. D was inspecting me.

“I don’t know if you should be doing that Arnold. I heard smoking stunts your growth.”
“Hey Duds… if I wanted some asshole’s opinion, I’d bend over, fart, and listen to my own.
“Hey… me and the bike shop owner played that game!!”

I learned two things that night. (1) Very obviously, I have problems… and (2) Somehow working plots from Diff’rent Strokes episodes into everyday conversation, while fun and entertaining… is certainly not going to lead to a night of Silky Boom Boom.

Whenever anyone asks me what my favorite television show of all time is, I instinctively answer, “If I could grant you one wish, I wish you could see the way you kiss.”. To that, they usually reply, “Well Genie Man… how’s about instead of using your mystical forces, you just buy a video camera, or even a Polaroid. F’n duh”. Lyrics sung by Faith Hill. Common sense hummed by Dave Macchia.

Alright, now that I just turned the radio off, here we go. Diff’rent Strokes is definitely my favorite television show of all-time. The premise, was pretty groundbreaking for it’s time. A rich, white guy takes in the two African American children of his recently deceased housekeeper. It was a simple concept really… but it did lend itself to some outrageous situations and a lot of the time, hilarity did ensue.

Most people nowadays, tend to think of this show and it stars as sort of a joke. Between Gary Coleman’s financial problems, Todd Bridges run-ins with the law, and Dana Plato’s financial problems, run-ins with the law and subsequent death by overdose (some say it was suicide)… people overlook the fact that for their era and any era of televsion for that matter, there’s simply no better overall cast of kids on one sitcom. Gary Coleman’s comic timing for a child his age was so good, it was almost scary. Todd Bridges played the older brother role to perfection and the chemistry he and Coleman exhibited was more realistic than most real life brothers. Dana Plato played the white sister very well, without having to resort to the lame “white kid imitating black kids routine” that we see on so many sitcoms now. Word.

Now, as you can see, I truly do appreciate and respect Diff’rent Strokes… but this wouldn’t be a Whatever-Dude article if I didn’t take the opportunity to use as many pop culture references as possible, in order to poke fun at it. I mean, c’mon now… it doesn’t really take a comedic genius along the lines of Rita Rudner to take some potshots at some of the situations the crazy Jackson kids got in while “Hangin’ with Mr. D.”.

One of the things that Diff’rent Strokes was famous for was it’s “issue of the week” episodes. Yep, long before 90210 started using this type of self-contained episode…addressing the concerns of society, like bulimia, cutting… and how to fill Tori Spelling’s feedbag, wrapped neatly in a one hour package with a pretty little bow on it… Diff’rent Strokes had already done it. The only thing was, they would base a whole episode around some pretty ridiculous issues… such as Arnold getting suspended for doing that hip, new fangled breakdancing on a piece of carboard outside of school. After seeing that episode, Turbo and Ozone must have been rolling over and boogalooing in their graves.

One of my personal favorites was when Willis, in order to get a job at Arnold’s school carnival lied on his application and said that he knew CPR. Now I may have been under ten when this episode aired.. but it didn’t take the brains and sassy red glasses of Becca Thatcher to realize that something baaad was gonna happen. Well, being that Willis was already quite adept at letting Arnold sit around and steal the spotlight with his chubby cheeks and tired catchphrases… it seemed a perfect fit to have the two of them working at the dunk tank together.

You know the song by Phil Collins, "In the Air Tonight" about that guy who coulda saved that other guy from drowning but didn't, then Phil saw it all, then at a a show he found him?

Arnold did the announcing, while Willis verbally egged on customers to try and dunk him. My personal favorite was when he yelled at Mr. Drummond, “Hey Moneybags!! In the opening credits you’re doing the jumping jacks wrong! When your hands are together, you’re legs are supposed to be spread open. Dipshit. You’re doing it wrong! It’s North to drop off and South to pick up!”. Then inevitably, Arnold’s microphone broke.. and in an attempt to fix it, he managed to electrocute himself. Guess who couldn’t help him because he didn’t know CPR? You guessed it… Willis. A great lesson was learned that day, Learn CPR… however… if you yourself don’t know CPR… don’t worry about it, someone else in the area probably does… and let’s face it, unless your name is Paul and you write for Whatever-Dude… chances are you don’t want to spend a few hours sucking face with a doll named “CPR Annie” in order to learn.

Seriously though, everybody should learn CPR. Personally, I know DOW…

What is DOW?

DOW is the chemical company that makes mace. SPPPPRRRAAYYY!!! Run Hoops!!!

By the way… please go see Cassandra play at the Dew Drop Inn tonight. Here, take a flyer.

There were also many other memorable “issue of the week” episodes. For example, the time when Arnold and Sam met an epileptic mime… who even twitched silently and managed not to make a noise as she lay on the ground swallowing her own tongue. No big deal though.. cause let’s face it, what does a mime need a tongue for? LOL!!!!!!!1

You know, I never ever talk… but I just gotta say.. you’re pretty short for your age.
“Whatchoo talkin ‘bout, Twitchy?!”

Another great episode was when Mr. T was filming scenes for his new show, “T For 2”, in the Drummond’s Park Avenue penthouse. It was within this episode that Arnold’s crush got a crush of her own on the King of Jibba Jabba. Thinking that it was T’s look and not his confidence or gold chains that turned this young, foxy mama on.. Arnold decided to go get his own mohawk and leopard skin tank top. Wow, that may be the greatest sentence to ever leave my keyboard. =) Of course, Arnold’s crush thought that he looked just plain ridiculous as Little T…. and he learned the valuable lesson that Burgess Meredith learned. Don’t fuck with Mr. T… you’ll only end up dead.

Let’s enjoy this moment, kid… cause next thing you know I’ll be pitching 1-800-COLLECT.. and you’ll be a bitter old man, who’s still complaining twenty years after the fact, about your parents pissing your money away

On the opposite side of the spectrum… it took a person smaller than Arnold to teach him a lesson about not underestimating somebody just because they’re small. Of course, since there was no actor or actress smaller than Gary Coleman… the producers of the show turned to Jim Henson.. and he created:

Kathy the Bitchy Hall Monitor

Yes, not even the famous Miss Chung could contain this spitfire on wheels. Hell, they even tried to bring in Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to try and slap some sense into her… but not even that worked. So they called in the big guns. In order to convince Kathy to stop being mean, they brought in none other than:

Nancy the Preachy First Lady

Mrs. Reagan told Kathy that whenever she felt like being mean.. she should “Just say No!”.. and this worked of course.. because we all know that young people will never do anything that decrepit old people tell them they shouldn’t do. Thanks for the fascist tip Nance… but I think I’ll “Just form my own Opinions!.. about what to do with my body.

Ahhh… so many classic episodes… but the true beauty of Diff’rent Strokes was their utter mastery of the “Special Two Parter”. They could turn the vibe of the sitcom from funny to downright fucking creepy in the blink of an eye. I mean, one minute Mr. Drummond was on his way to buy the family tickets to Disneyworld.. and the next thing you know he’s in a car accident, has amnesia.. and is set to lose his company.

C’mon now.. I’d remember banging a black broad.
Ummm.. Dad. We’re adopted.

Another great one, was when the infamous duo of Eddie and Roberto showed up and started bullying Arnold and Dudley around for their lunch and a couple of bucks on a daily basis. Arnold imediately went and told his problem to Willis who decided to take justice into his own hands. Willis, under the impression that he was Sting, lowered himself from the rafters and attempted to clean house.. Unfortunately, in the real world, one guy can’t take on two of equal size… and Eddie and Roberto ended up beating Willis down, and spraypainted “N.W.O.” across his back.

Oh man.. this is gonna be even worse than “House Party 2”.

Arnold being the resourceful guy that he was, decided to nab the crooks himself… and ended up taping a tape recorder to himself and getting a confession from Eddie and Roberto. Of course, to do so, he had to shove his sweater into their faces and ask them their names a few times…I’m Eddie.. and he’s Roberto… and you’re gonna pay us to eat your lunch.… but by the time they realized why he was acting so strangely, he hightailed it out of there and the cops had the evidence they needed to put Eddie and Chavo..err.. Roberto away for a long time.

Another classic two-parter that was later on in the series was when some family randomly kidnapped Sam. Now for those of you who don’t really know the show that well… this is Sam:

I just drank a fifth of vodka… Dare me to drive?

Basically Sam (played by Danny Cooksey.. who would go on to greater fame as the one guy on Salute Your Shorts who didn’t get physically ill just by looking at Donkeylips. That guy was simply disgusting.) was the kid they brought in because Gary Coleman had officially made the transition from cute little kid.. to creepy little man. He was Mr. Drummond’s new wife Maggie’s son… and his idea of a good time was strumming his guitar and playing with his band "Stompfeets and the Rootin' Tootin' Banjo Extravaganza.". He was little. He was Southern. He was annoying as hell. Well after they switched actresses playing Maggie. (Dixie Carter had gone on to play one of those wacky Sugarbakers on “Designing a New Wardrobe For Delta Burke”)… they decided to test just how much the new actress playing Maggie, loved her son. So they had him get kidnapped by a family that consisted of: a thinner, not as gay looking Jamie from “Small Wonder”; Mrs. Walsh from “90210”; and a fatter uglier Al from “Home Improvement”.

Am I wrong?

Luckily Sam got rescued.. and he hadn’t even been molested by his new family. He got off easy compared to another character involved in a “Special Two-Parter” a few years back… Yes folks, it’s time to talk about the greatest hour of television of all-time… Dudley, Arnold…and The Bike Shop Owner!!

Great fuckin segue too.. if I don’t say so myself.

Now to anybody out there who has never seen this episode, I gotta say, as much as I’m going to sit here and rant and rave about it for a few paragraphs… mere words simply do not do it justice.

It started out quite innocently. Arnold knew that Mr. Drummond had gotten him a new bike for his upcoming birthday… but he couldn’t wait, so he hung out at the bike shop pestering the bike shop owner. So in exchange for doing a few errands, the shop owner let Arnold ride his new bike around the shop. They struck up a friendship and Arnold even ate his cake.

Since those Maytag appliances never break… how about you come back with your friend Dudley and I’ll fix his asshole with my tongue-wrench. Sound good? Have some cake.

Eventually, Arnold came in one day with his friend Dudley and the bike shop owner invited the two boys into his backroom apartment. (Haha.. I seriously didn’t mean it like that).. He ended up giving the boys a few glasses of wine and introduced them to the wonderful world of cartoons. Oh no.. not just any old cartoons. Well, let’s just say that Dudley put it best when his eyes bugged out of his head and he exclaimed, “That mouse is NEKKID!”. Nothing says fun quite like cartoon porn..

Now as if that wasn’t enough… he had the boys take their shirts off and he began snapping pictures of them while they played “King of the Jungle”. Arnold started to feel a little uneasy about the whole situation at this point so he went home and put a dozen or so pieces of gum in his mouth to cover the smell of alcohol on his breath. Dudley unfortunately decided to stay behind…

Hey Arnold and Dudley… have you ever heard of Show and Tell? Well this is my “special” version. It’s called. “I Show you my penis and old hairy nutsack.. and you don’t Tell your parents”.

As Arnold got home and walked up the stairs chewing his wadful of gum… the rest of the family noticed and upon interrogation, he revealed just what the hell had been going on. Mr. Drummond called the police and Dudley’s father… but by the time they got there it was too late. Dudley had been violated. That’s just priceless television right there.

So to end this article up… let me just say that if you were born too late and missed out on Diff’rent Strokes… try and catch the re-runs on Nick at Nite. I personally refuse to watch any of the old 80’s shows… just because nostalgia is a double edged sword. What you loved as a child can never live up to the expectations you’ve created in your mind, if you go back and try and revisit it as an adult. Nope.. all I need are my memories and my twisted imagination. But hey, that’s just me.

Dave – We’re on a thousand downers now. We’re drowsy.

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