Diff'rent Strokes was a popular sitcom that ran from 1978 to 1986 on NBC. In this show, Phillip Drummond (played by Conrad Bain), a rich, widowed CEO, adopts two orphaned boys from Harlem (Arnold and Willis), after promising their dying mother he would watch after them. Arnold Jackson was played by Gary Coleman, Willis Jackson by Todd Bridges. Other major characters were Phillip’s biological daughter, Kimberly (played by Dana Plato), and the housekeeper, Edna Garrett (played by Charlotte Rae). The show Facts of Life, a spin-off of Diff’rent Strokes, continued to follow the life of Edna, as she took the position of dormitory house mother at a private all-girls school. Although the show was a sitcom, it often dealt with some very serious issues, including child sex abuse, rape, drug use, poverty, and racism.
It is worth noting that the three children in the show had severe personal issues after the series was over. Gary Coleman went broke, was arrested a number of times, and ended up passing away in 2010 after he hit his head during a seizure. Dana Plato, who became addicted to drugs, ultimately posed for Playboy to raise cash. She died in 1994, at the age of 34, of a drug over dose. Todd Bridges, who also had run ins with the law as a drug addict, finally cleaned up his act in the 1990’s, and is currently teaching others about the dangers of drug use (go, Todd!).