Here we are on day four already. (No wonder April morphs into May so quickly for me these days!)
And as I’ve not faltered and had a day off yet, day four means we’ve reached the letter D in this year’s A-Z blog challenge of memorable TV shows from my youth!
Today we’re back across the pond with a little more light relief than yesterday’s post…
Today D is for…
If one delves into the back stories of stars Gary Coleman (now deceased) and Todd Bridges, Diff’rent Strokes loses all its shine as the successful sitcom it was between 1978 and 1986.
So I won’t, because I wasn’t aware of any of that when I was 7 years old and enjoying it.
What did I love about Diff’rent Strokes? Well first of all I liked the premise of the show. The fact that Mr Drummond, a wealthy white widower, takes on the care of his dead employee’s two young black orphaned sons. I knew, even at my young age, this was unusual and special, although as I didn’t understand the intricacies of racism in America at the time, or racism in general, I only considered it special because he was a man on his own caring for three kids, two of whom were not his own. This was so far removed from my ‘normal’ situation and I think I admired the fact that someone wealthy was helping poorer kids without a wife!
Being not so wealthy ourselves, I also loved the idea of the penthouse suite that they lived in and I wanted to be the daughter, Kimberley, because she always wore lovely clothes. (What I thought were lovely at any rate!) The apartment they lived in, always looked so glamorous, what with that huge sweeping ‘stone’ staircase and New York, to me at the young age I was, seemed like an exotic world away. They had a great, aspirational lifestyle. Even going to school looked exciting. They had really yummy packed lunches in brown paper bags, and were forever eating delicious looking meals cooked by their housekeeper. I guess I saw Diff’rent Strokes as complete escapism from my hum-drum terraced house living in Birmingham, a bit like adults probably viewed Dallas and Dynasty at the time!
More importantly, it was the characters and the morals woven into the episodes which I liked. Mr Drummond was someone wise to look up to and reminded me a little of my own grandfather. It didn’t matter what mischief Arnold and Willis would get into, Mr Drummond would always have patience with them and wisdom to teach them the necessary lessons of life. More than that though, the show always seemed to demonstrate massive amounts of love. He loved the boys as his own and adopted them so they were his own, and Kimberley accepted them and treated them as equal brothers. The family centred theme, and evident outpouring of real love the characters all had for each other was always important to me when watching. And Mr Drummond’s wealth didn’t matter to him, his family did, and I really liked that.
Of course, there was also the comedy aspect to the show which drew me in, not that I actually got many of the jokes. It was mainly that I loved the Arnold character and wanted him to be my younger brother. He was so cute and mischievous and hilariously funny! His sarcastic, quick wit was, for me as a youngster, brilliant. He’d get away with the kind of cheek I never would have!
As with most of my favourite TV shows, the theme tune was one of the most important things to me as a kid. If I liked a theme tune, chances were I’d like the show! And it was no different with Diff’rent Strokes. I always felt really happy when it started. The theme tune is a little bit cheesy – “they’ve got nothing but the jeans!” though it sums up the situation quickly if you were to dip into the show without having seen the first episode.
The lyrics of the theme tune also brings me to my present situation as I find myself almost like the Mr Drummond of my household; ie: in a different family situation than that which is considered the norm. As the lyrics say:
” 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.”
Now I don’t mean I have a penthouse apartment, nothing like it! I’m not a widow and I’m not rolling in money. I haven’t adopted two orphans, but I have taken on the long term care of my nephew in a single parenting role. Definitely not ‘right for some’ but definitely was right for me. And I can only hope that I show him the kind of love, and bring him up with the sort of wisdom, Mr Drummond showed Arnold and Willis back in those TV shows I devoured with joy during my own childhood.