Kevin Hart went Live in front of a studio audience on Tuesday night, channeling Gary Coleman as part of a reenactment of the classic NBC/ABC comedy Different strokes.
But before the reenactment began, original cast member Todd Bridges (aka Willis Jackson) entered the recreated Drummond penthouse set to introduce Boyz II Men, who performed the series’ iconic theme song. He also paid tribute to his late costars.
“It’s hard to believe I walked through those doors 43 years ago, when I still had hair,” Bridges said. “Now, 1978, Different strokes premiered and ran for eight seasons — which was then 169 television episodes — starring… the late Conrad Bain, Dana Plato, Charlotte Rae, and Gary Coleman. Now I know if my family were here they would be just as proud as I am here celebrating Different strokes and Facts of life.”
Tuesday’s presentation — a reenactment of the Season 1 episode “Willis’ Privacy,” in which Willis grows tired of having “Super Arnold” around him all the time — with Kevin Hart as Arnold; John Lithgow (3rd Rock of the Sun) as Phillip; Damon Wayans (My wife and children) as Willis; and Ann Dowd (The Handmaid’s Tale) as Mrs. Garrett – a role she also played during the previous reenactment of Facts of life.
Snoop Dogg, whose casting was previously unannounced, played Willis’ friend Vernon.
The legendary Norman Lear — whose Embassy Television produced the original series of Different strokes and Facts of life — served as host and executive producer, alongside Jimmy Kimmel. Lear’s production partner Brent Miller told TVLine: “It started with Jimmy [Kimmel] and his desire to have Kevin Hart play Arnold Jackson, the role of Gary Coleman…. I didn’t know at the time: is he going to want to cast? everybody old, or is he just letting the joke be Kevin? But when we started talking about it, it made sense to conform to that conceit of letting older people play kids.
Added Lear: “I enjoyed it [the table reads] like I’ve never spent a day in show business.”
the inaugural Live in front of a studio audience special aired in May 2019, and remade episodes of Everything in the family and The Jeffersons. That was followed by a second episode in December 2019, featuring a new reenactment of Everything in the family and a classic episode of Good times. A fourth installment has not yet been announced.
Rate the Different strokes portion of ABCs Live in front of a studio audience below, then leave a comment with your full review.
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