Parents' Guide to

Diff'rent Strokes

By Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 10+

Classic series with a sense of humor tackles racial issues.

TV NBC, ABC Comedy 1978
Diff'rent Strokes Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.

Community Reviews

age 10+

Based on 4 parent reviews

age 7+

You Haven't Seen This? Whatchoo Talkin' Bout?

The last few years have seen a resurgence of classic sitcoms on various TV stations, including Diff'rent Strokes. I was introduced to this while channel-surfing as a teen and am glad to see it back. Phil Drummond is a loving dad, though he struggles with how best to raise his adopted sons Willis and Arnold. Fortunately, he has plenty of backup from daughter Kimberly and a string of housekeepers throughout the season, including the illustrious Charlotte Rae as Mrs. Garrett. The family tackles classic sitcom plots and reaffirms their love for each other often. This show was set in the '70s and '80s, so a lot of episodes are issue-driven, tackling problems and changes relevant to the time. These include racial tension, disability and accessibility, school policies, drugs, and pornography. The tough ones are handled with much more discretion than you'd see today, but some plots are still not suitable for young children. Some of the episodes dealing with race get mildly violent or contain threats thereof. A couple of episodes show kidnappings, and child sexual exploitation is alluded to once. One episode shows Kimberly struggling with bulimia. Parents may raise eyebrows at some values dissonance. For example, spanking is considered acceptable. Drummond and other adults regularly drink and justify their behavior while telling teens not to indulge. Gender roles are still very traditional, as is child-rearing. For instance, in one episode, a small boy is scolded and shamed for wetting his bed. But if your family is prepared to discuss these, and wants a mostly clean laugh, come on up to the Drummonds' apartment.

This title has:

Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
1 person found this helpful.
age 9+

Good, some language

This is hilarious and is great for kids. Some language to watch out for: a few uses of “hell,” and one of “jackass.” Otherwise, good for kids

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (4):
Kids say (3):

The comedy series touches upon some of the issues surrounding race in America in the 1970s, including class distinctions and interracial adoptions. Later seasons of the show also address some other strong subjects, including pedophilia, sexual assault, eating disorders, and drugs. Some of the humor used to have these conversations, including some now famous one liners uttered by Coleman's character, isn't very politically correct by today's standards. But these jokes shed some light on how American society was coping with these issues at the time.

Classic television fans will surely enjoy it, but part of the attraction might also stem from the notoriety of its three young cast members, all of whom have been major sources of tabloid fodder over the last several decades. Nonetheless, the overall series has made a notable contribution to American television. It's also pretty funny, too.

TV Details

Did we miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.

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