Diff’rent Strokes—Season 3

diffrent strokes season 3 dvd boxset review episode guide
7.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 7/10

Throwback fun

Dated social issues, standard sitcom

duffrent strokes season 3 episode 2 the bank job part 2 arnold conductor outfit gary coleman

Diff’rent Strokes is back! …and Arnold is still playing the cute little kid

Willis (Todd Bridges) and Arnold (Gary Coleman) are living the high life with their adopted father Mr. Drummond (Conrad Bain), their sister Kimberly (Dana Plato), and their housekeeper Adelaide (Nedra Volz), but it isn’t always easy.  Sometimes a day could turn into a hostage situation at a bank, the bussing debate, an adventure on a ledge high above the city streets, and first love, and sometimes it could just be a scheme for money off a hot horse.  Mr. Drummond faces amnesia and a discovery that his ancestors’ past could hurt his new family.  It is just another day on Park Avenue.

Diff’rent Strokes—Season 3 is an American sitcom.  The show aired from November 12, 1980 to May 13, 1981 on NBC.

Diff’rent Strokes was a classic for me growing up.  It was appointment TV, and as a little kid, I felt I knew Arnold, Willis, and Kimberly.  The show was ridiculous, but it was relatable.  Despite having insane events happen every week, Diff’rent Strokes—Season 3 is still “believable” in the sense of they are all just kids doing kids things.

diffrent strokes season 3 episode 12 roots arnold african outfit

Diff’rent Strokes…not afraid to tackle the tough issues

The plots are standard sitcom plots, but Diff’rent Strokes always mixed comedy with morality issues.  Generally, Arnold/Willis/Kimberly have a problem which generally puts them in conflict with Mr. Drummond.  Mr. Drummond gives them advice and they disobey the advice…but they learn their lesson in the end (and generally Mr. Drummond realizes he also needs to change with the times).  It is sappy and wholesome, but it is also often dated.  There are still a lot of plots circling around race confusion by people, but the storylines are getting further and further from simple mix-up about Willis and Arnold having a white father.

The season also features a backdoor pilot episode.  In “Almost American”, the night school is the focus with Maureen McNamara as the teacher of a group of immigrants.  It isn’t a very good episode and also features Ernie Hudson in a small role.  The story eventually shifts back to the Drummonds, but it is rather tangential.  Rosalind Chao (who is featured as a character in the episode) returns to Diff’rent Strokes later as Arnold’s teacher.

The cast generally plateaus.  All the actors feel like they are very script driven with lines that have built in gaps for the laughs.  Arnold’s “what you talkin’ ‘bout, Willis?” was already popular and forced into as many stories as possible.  The acting isn’t very good, but it doesn’t get any better or worse.  Nedra Volz just isn’t as involved as Charlotte Rae in the stories.  The series features a number of guest-stars including Denise Nicholas, Dody Goodman, Lisa Whelchel, Mindy Cohn, and Ed “Too Tall” Jones.  The season also introduces Janet Jackson as Willis’s love interest Charlene.

diffrent strokes season 3 episode 16 the magician ledge arnold gary coleman

Because every sitcom needs characters stuck on a ledge…

Though I always wanted to live in the penthouse, Diff’rent Strokes is pretty basic looking.  It is the standard three camera set-up on a limited number of sets.  The show occasionally goes outside the penthouse, but I wish that it occasionally involved New York more.  It also has the classic bad-matte backdrops for episodes like “The Magician” where Arnold gets stuck on a ledge.

Diff’rent Strokes—Season 3 calms down a bit on the one-trick pony of Willis and Arnold being adopted Black children of Mr. Drummond, but it still is pretty outdated and out-of-touch.  The stories and episodes are basic sitcom fodder and not very innovative.  If you grew up with Diff’rent Strokes, you will probably enjoy revisiting it, but it isn’t a show that will impress new viewers.

Diff’rent Strokes—Season 3 Complete Episode Guide:

diffrent strokes season 3 episode 1 the bank job part 1 willis arnold gary coleman todd bridges

“The Bank Job—Part 1”

3.1       The Bank Job—Part 1 Airdate:  11/12/80

Arnold (Gary Coleman) is trying to woo Tootie (Kim Fields) when she stops by for a visit.  A trip to the bank has him and Willis (Todd Bridges) hostages of a couple of bank robbers.

diffrent strokes season 3 episode 2 the bank job part 2 michael cavanaugh jesse d goins

“The Bank Job—Part 2”

3.2       The Bank Job—Part 2 Airdate:  11/12/80

Woody (Michael Cavanaugh) and Thomas (Jesse D. Goins) find they are trapped in the bank by the police and Kimberly (Dana Plato) and Tootie find Willis, Arnold, and Mr. Drummond (Conrad Bain) are among the hostages.

diffrent strokes season 3 episode 3 small claims court

“Small Claims Court”

3.3       Small Claims Court Airdate:  11/19/80

Arnold buys a train engine with dog walking money…only to learn it doesn’t work.  When the store refuses to give him his money back, Arnold takes the owner to court.

diffrent strokes season 3 episode 4 substitute mother denise nicholas gary coleman

“Substitute Mother”

3.4       Substitute Mother Airdate:  11/26/80

Adelaide (Nedra Volz) is going on a vacation, and Sondra (Denise Nicholas) is filling in for her.  Arnold realizes that Sandra reminds him of his mother and hopes he can hook her up with Mr. Drummond.

diffrent strokes season 3 episode 5 the accident part 1 phil drummond conrad bain

“The Accident—Part 1”

3.5       The Accident—Part 1 Airdate:  12/03/80

It’s Mr. Drummond’s birthday and he’s taking the family to Disney World…but an accident with a drunk driver has him hospitalized.

diffrent strokes season 3 episode 6 the accident part 2 gary coleman conrad bain dana plato todd bridges

“The Accident—Part 2”

3.6       The Accident—Part 2 Airdate:  12/03/80

Mr. Drummond has amnesia and in addition to not being able to remember his family, he could lose his company to a corporate takeover.

diffrent strokes season 3 episode 7 little mother kari michaelson dana plato pregnant

“Little Mother”

3.7       Little Mother Airdate:  12/10/80

Mr. Drummond’s old friend Ed Marshall (Claude Earl Jones) has come with his daughter Ellen (Kari Michaelsen)…but Ellen has a secret that leads to a big mix-up.

diffrent strokes season 3 episode 8 football father coach slattery greg mullavey

“Football Father”

3.8       Football Father Airdate:  12/17/80

Arnold tries out for the football team but fails to make the cut.  When Mr. Drummond gets him on the team, he learns that he doesn’t believe in Coach Slattery (Greg Mullavey) and his coaching techniques.

diffrent strokes season 3 episode 9 first love charlene janet jackson

“First Love”

3.9       First Love Airdate:  12/31/80

Willis is in love, but it is affecting his grades.  When Willis disobeys Mr. Drummond to go see Charlene (Janet Jackson), Willis finds himself banned from seeing Charlene.

diffrent strokes season 3 episode 10 count your blessings kathy melanie watson gary coleman

“Count Your Blessings”

3.10     Count Your Blessing Airdate:  01/07/81

Arnold learns he’s not going to be much taller and is depressed about it.  When Mr. Drummond introduces him to Kathy Gordon (Melanie Watson), Arnold learns he has advantages that Kathy does have.

diffrent strokes season 3 episode 11 the loan tommy aguilar gary coleman

“The Loan”

3.11     The Loan Airdate:  01/14/81

The doorman Mannie (Tommy Aguilar) wants to start a limo business, and Arnold lends him $100 to bet on a horse race to get the collateral.

diffrent strokes season 3 episode 12 roots willis arnold mr drummond africa gary coleman conrad bain todd bridges


3.12     Roots Airdate:  01/21/81

Willis’s friends Oscar (Erik Moses) and Charles (Tony Williams) tell Willis and Arnold that they are no longer Black since they have adjusted to Park Avenue life.

diffrent strokes season 3 episode 13 junk food junkie arnold mr drummond sofia dody goodman conrad bain gary coleman

“Junk Food Junkie”

3.13     Junk Food Junkie Airdate:  01/28/81

Mr. Drummond’s sister Sophia (Dody Goodman) is in town and vowing to get Arnold eating better…which means getting junk food machines out of the school.

diffrent strokes season 3 episode 14 the bus gary coleman conrad bain bussing

“The Bus”

3.14     The Bus Airdate:  02/04/81

Arnold is selected to be part of a bussing program to an exclusive school, but Mr. Drummond must consider pulling him when he learns there are protests against the students.

diffrent strokes season 3 episode 15 the older man lou richards dana plato

“The Older Man”

3.15     The Older Man Airdate:  02/25/81

Kimberly is playing an older woman in a play, and Willis and Arnold’s gym coach Mike (Lou Richards) thinks she is twenty.  When Kimberly allows Mike to think she is twenty, Willis and Arnold try to sabotage the date.

diffrent strokes season 3 episode 16 where theres hope monika furness gary coleman

“Where There’s Hope”

3.16     Where There’s Hope Airdate:  03/04/81

Arnold has a new neighbor named Suzie (Monika Furness) that drives him crazy, but Suzie has her own problem that Arnold isn’t aware of.

diffrent strokes season 3 episode 16 the magician ledge arnold ed too tall jones conrad bain

“The Magician”

3.17     The Magician Airdate:  03/11/81

The Drummonds are going to be featured in Black Life Magazine and Arnold realizes that he has no special talent for the article…but his disappearance act could put him in danger.

diffrent strokes season 3 episode 18 drummonds fair lady conrad bain wendy fulton

“Drummond’s Fair Lady”

3.18     Drummond’s Fair Lady Airdate:  03/18/81

Mr. Drummond is hiring for an open position in his company.  When a woman named Rebecca Conway (Wendy Fulton) becomes a top contender, he has to defend his position…but Arnold, Willis, and Kimberly questions if she’s using him.

diffrent strokes season 3 episode 19 the ancestors slaver todd bridges dana plato

“The Ancestors”

3.19     The Ancestors Airdate:  03/25/81

Mr. Drummond learns that his ancestor owned property in Harlem but plans for a community center are in question when the Drummonds learn that their ancestor was a slave trader.

diffrent strokes season 3 epside 20 almost american pilot bob ari

“Almost American”

3.20     Almost American Airdate:  04/01/81

Mr. Drummond has a cake delivered for a friend’s party, but Milos (Bob Ari) who delivers the cake reveals he’s attending a class for naturalization…and his friend is accused of robbery.

diffrent strokes season 3 episode 21 room for one more dudley shavar ross gary coleman

“Room for One More”

3.21     Room for One More Airdate:  05/06/81

Dudley (Shavar Ross) is worried that his foster dad (Le Tari) might be able to keep him…leading Arnold to try to get Mr. Drummond to adopt him.

diffrent strokes season 3 episode 22 the athlete willis mr drummond coach stockwood jack knight todd bridges conrad bain

“The Athlete”

3.22     The Athlete Airdate:  05/13/81

Willis is showing skill in baseball and recruited by a high school coach named Coach Stockwood (Jack Knight).  Mr. Drummond finds he has questions when Willis starts getting gifts from the new team.

Related Links:

Diff’rent Strokes—Season 1 Review and Complete Episode Guide

Diff’rent Strokes—Season 2 Review and Complete Episode Guide

Diff’rent Strokes—Season 4 Review and Complete Episode Guide

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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