Diff'rent Strokes

TV review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
Diff'rent Strokes TV Poster Image
Classic series with a sense of humor tackles racial issues.

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 8+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Positive messages are embedded into each show, as the family explores the complexities of being kids and teens, and of being an interracial and non-traditional family.  Some of the race-related humor is not politically correct according to today’s social values.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Mr. Drummond is a single  father committed to raising his daughter and the Jackson boys. Willis watches out for his younger brother; Kimberly considers the boys to be her brothers. (The three young cast members are infamous for their controversial personal lives.)


Contains occasional references to hitting, kicking, and punching people out.  Also contains references to stealing. One episode deals with child kidnapping.


Contains some very mild sexual innuendo. Pedophilia and sexual assault are discussed in a specific episode.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Contains subtle references to smoking pot. Former First Lady Nancy Reagan appears in an episode promoting her “Just Say No” to drugs campaign. Drinking is occasionally visible.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this classic comedy series addresses racial issues, including interracial adoption and racism. Occasional episodes also address pedophilia, sexual assault, drugs, and bulimia. Some of the humor may not be considered politically correct by today’s standards. The child actors who starred in this show eventually encountered criminal or drug-related problems.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byCommonSenseChristian May 8, 2015

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-su... Continue reading
Adult Written byLowe's man August 3, 2014

Drummond, Drummond, Drummond! Ranks right up there with THE BRADY BUNCH!

While the subject matter on some episodes is more mature than what you'll ever see on THE BRADY BUNCH, it's good that DIFF'RENT STROKES tackled s... Continue reading
Kid, 9 years old March 4, 2018

Pretty good

It’s an okay show watch but not the best.
Teen, 16 years old Written bymovielover1234 October 9, 2017

Whata talking about Willis

Great for the entire family

What's the story?

DIFF’RENT STROKES (1978-1985) is a groundbreaking classic comedy series that approaches racial issues with a sense of humor. When widower Phillip Drummond’s (Conrad Bain) long-time housekeeper dies, he assumes guardianship of her two sons, Willis and Arnold Jackson (Todd Bridges and Gary Coleman respectively), and raises them as his own. As the African-American boys adjust to their new life in a Manhattan penthouse apartment with a white family who includes older sister Kimberly (Dana Plato), and eccentric housekeeper Mrs. Garrett (Charlotte Rae), the family must face some of the challenges that come with raising two boys, as well as being an interracial family in a primarily white community. Life is never dull in the Drummond household, but together they show everyone that there are different strokes for different folks.

Is it any good?

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.  

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about classic TV shows. What makes a television show a classic? Why do some of these series remain popular despite containing dated material and/or themes and humor that may not be politically correct according to today’s social values?

  • Should child actors and/or young celebrities be viewed as role models? If so, what are some of the consequences when a child actor grows up and gets into trouble and/or leads a difficult life?

  • What are some of the issues surrounding race and interracial families in America today? The adoption of non-white children by celebs like Madonna, Sandra Bullock, and Angelina Jolie have been prominently discussed in the media. What are some of the issues surrounding these adoptions? Do you think their children’s race made their adoptions noteworthy? How do you think the media would have talked about these events 30 years ago?

TV details

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