Diff’rent Strokes—Season 4

diffrent strokes season 4 dvd cover review episode guide
6.5 Overall Score
Story: 6/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 6/10

Entertaining for those who grew up with it

Dated and some questionable writing

diffrent strokes season 4 episode 13 kathy arnold abraham lincoln gary coleman

Diff’rent Strokes is back…if you can’t trust honest Arnold, whom can you trust?

There is always things happening in the Drummond penthouse.  Arnold (Gary Coleman) is facing new troubles as he tries to make amends with the Gooch and could face new bullies at school.  Willis (Todd Bridges) and his girlfriend Charlene (Janet Jackson) are getting serious, Kimberly (Dana Plato) has a shot at being a model, and Arnold continues to deal with Gooch and seeing everyone around him growing up…as he seems to stay short.

Diff’rent Strokes—Season 4 is a sitcom.  The series aired from December 29, 1981 to May 20, 1982 on Thursday on NBC.

Growing up, I watched Diff’rent Strokes all the time…and this season is probably starting to get into the episodes I remember watching first run.  Diff’rent Strokes did run heavily in reruns then, but watching “Arnold” was one of my favorite shows.  While the show is goofy from today’s standards and the laughs are canned, it is a nice throwback.

diffrent strokes season 4 episode 24 the music man afrodisiacs janet jackson

Yep…Janet Jackson is definitely the singer to bump from your band

This season starts to really have problems.  The fact that Arnold is being treated like a “cute little kid” is starting to wear thin.  There is an episode specifically about Arnold having a crush on a girl who thinks he’s too little and despite the “you’ll grow” idea of the storyline (Coleman being older than his character) probably was being optimistic…and in the same episode, they have Arnold come and sit on Mr. Drummond’s lap.  It shows the show began not knowing what to do with him.

This was compounded by contract negotiations led by his parents that kept him out of some of the early episodes of the season.  Kim Fields from Facts of Life stopped by to visit Kimberly and played the role of Arnold in a few episodes.  It is odd, but it also allowed both Todd Bridges and Dana Plato to get some more shows with their characters as the lead…which is always welcomed when you watch the series through a modern eye.  The season also kind of phases out Adelaide Brubaker who never caught on like Mrs. Garrett.

The show itself is a weird balance of drama and comedy at points.  While Blossom years later coined the phrase “a very special episode” before doing a dramatic sitcom episode, Diff’rent Strokes and many other shows did it earlier.  It is a bit unbalanced in humor/drama at points and not always handled well since the episodes generally end with a laugh.

diffrent strokes season 4 episode 25 short but sweet arnold mr drummond gary coleman conrad bain

Tell Arnold how grown up he is at his birthday party by having him sit on your lap….good call, Mr. Drummond

The looks of the show are also dated (understandably).  Sitcoms were easy and the shows rarely branched out of their basic sets.  Most of the show takes place in the penthouse with a few other semi-regular sets thrown in.  Highlights include a trip to a hobby store where Arnold is tasked with stealing a comic book (the book is called Amazing Spider-Man #1 but a close eye can see it is actually a copy of Amazing Spider-Man #14 with the Green Goblin’s first appearance…not a cheap book regardless).  Another trip out of the penthouse includes a recording studio where Janet Jackson is almost bumped from Willis’ group the Afrodisiacs in exchange for Dana Plato…which is a really bad call today.

Diff’rent Strokes—Season 4 is like the rest of the series…primarily for those who grew up with it.  When I see episodes of shows like Full House and I’m critical of how cheap and pandering the laughs are, I remember that I liked shows like Diff’rent Strokes as a kid and I can still watch and enjoy them in spite of the staged laughs and forced humor.  Diff’rent Strokes is a nice throwback to an early time for many…and I’m one of them.

Diff’rent Strokes—Season 4 Complete Episode Guide:

diffrent strokes season 4 episode 1 growing up todd bridges janet jackson sex

“Growing Up”

4.1       Growing Up Airdate:  10/29/81

Willis (Todd Bridges) is thinking of having his first time with Charlene (Janet Jackson), but his first time might not turn out as planned.

diffrent strokes season 4 episode 2 first day blues weed willis todd bridges

“First Day Blues”

4.2       First Day Blues Airdate:  11/05/81

Willis is starting a new school and finds that he’s not fitting in.  When Willis learns that the students want weed, Mr. Drummond, Kimberly, and Tootie (Kim Fields) catch him in the act.

diffrent strokes season 4 episode 3 the model kimberly dana plato

“The Model”

4.3       The Model Airdate:  11/12/81

Kimberly gets her first job and is offered a modeling job in Europe…which Mr. Drummond (Conrad Bain) rejects.

diffrent strokes season 4 episode 4 the team willis basketball affirmative action todd bridges

“The Team”

4.4       The Team Airdate:  11/19/81

Mr. Drummond hires a black employee over his white friend due to affirmative action…but Willis finds himself off the basketball team due to affirmative action.

diffrent strokes season 4 episode 5 the big heist arnold steals spider-man #1 gary coleman

“The Big Heist”

4.5       The Big Heist Airdate:  11/26/81

Arnold learns the Gooch wants him to join his gang but that he has to steal something.  When Arnold gets caught, he faces punishment and learns the owner Mrs. Craig (Rhoda Gemignani) intends to charge him for stealing an Amazing Spider-Man #1.

diffrent strokes season 4 episode 6 double date arnold diane dena crowder shavar ross gary coleman

“Double Date”

4.6       Double Date Airdate:  12/03/81

Arnold wants to go on his first date with Diane (Dena Crowder), but he can only go if Willis goes with him…and the only date that Willis can get is Kimberly.

diffrent strokes season 4 episode 7 the ski weekend kimberly dana plato

“The Ski Weekend”

4.7       The Ski Weekend Airdate:  12/10/81

Kimberly is going on a ski trip with her friend Michelle (Dana Kimmell) but learns that Michelle has invited boys to stay in the room.  When Mr. Drummond decides to take Willis to go skiing, he learns Kimberly has lied to him.

diffrent strokes season 4 episode 8 health club mr drummond conrad bain

“Health Club”

4.8       Health Club Airdate:  12/17/81

Mr. Drummond is Athlete of the Year at his health club, but Willis, Kimberly, and Arnold find out the club doesn’t allow them in because they are black.

diffrent strokes season 4 episode 9 burial ground arnold gary coleman native american

“Burial Ground”

4.9       Burial Ground Airdate:  01/07/82

Arnold discovers a Native American idol on Mr. Drummond’s construction site and learns that it could be Native American burial grounds.  When the courts refuse to step in, Arnold and Willis join Chief John Longwalker (Ned Romero) on a hunger strike.

diffrent strokes season 4 episode 10 hello daddy keone young

“Hello Daddy”

4.10     Hello Daddy Airdate:  01/14/82

Mr. Drummond gets a surprise from David Chun (Keone Young) who believes Philip is his father from a relationship in Korea…but Philip knows it isn’t possible.

diffrent strokes season 4 episode 11 jilted charlene kimberly arnold janet jackson dana plato gary coleman


4.11     Jilted Airdate:  01/21/82

When Willis skips out on Arlene to go to a basketball game with his friends, Arnold and Kimberly see Darlene with another man at the movie theater…leading to a big break-up.

diffrent strokes season 4 episode 12 dreams arnold mr drummond conrad bain gary coleman


4.12     Dreams Airdate:  01/28/82

Arnold is suffering nightmares that is keeping himself and the family awake.  When Mr. Drummond calls in a psychiatrist, Arnold worries he’s going crazy.

diffrent strokes season 4 episode 11 kathy melanie watson


4.13     Kathy Airdate:  02/04/82

Arnold has been tapped to play Abraham Lincoln the school play and gets help from his friend Kathy Gordon (Melanie Watson).  When Kathy’s mother (Joan Welles) asks Arnold to encourage Kathy to use her crutches, Kathy gets angry.

diffrent strokes season 4 episode 14 fire cast


4.14     Fire Airdate:  02/11/82

There is a fire in Drummond’s building and the family worries that they might be trapped.

diffrent strokes season 4 episode 15 the squatter martison audrey meadows

“The Squatter”

4.15     The Squatter Airdate:  02/18/82

Mr. Drummond is tearing down an apartment to build new condominiums, but evicted Mrs. Martinson (Audrey Meadows) has invited herself to stay at the Drummonds…and the law might be on her side.

diffrent strokes season 4 episode 16 the car willis charlene janet jackson todd bridges

“The Car”

4.16     The Car Airdate:  03/11/82

Willis tries to impress Charlene who resents he cannot drive and decides to take out Mr. Drummond’s car for a concert.

diffrent strokes season 4 episode 17 crime story part 1 shannon presby sal lopez shavar ross gary coleman

“Crime Story—Part 1”

4.17     Crime Story—Part 1 Airdate:  03/11/82

Dudley (Shavar Ross) and Arnold are being harassed by bullies at school…and when the bullies don’t stop, Arnold and Dudley decide to skip class.

diffrent strokes season 4 episode 18 crime story part 2 willis brad trumbull todd bridges

“Crime Story—Part 2”

4.18     Crime Story—Part 2 Airdate:  03/18/82

Eddie (Shannon Presby) and Roberto (Sal Lopez) have beaten Willis, but Mr. Drummond doesn’t want Arnold helping the police bring them down.  Arnold decides to take matters into his own hands.

diffrent strokes season 4 episode 19 bmoc club willis todd bridges


4.19     B.M.O.C. Airdate:  03/25/82

Willis wants in his jocks’ club, and Willis finds Arnold is cramping his style.  When Willis doesn’t make the club, he is afraid to tell his family he failed.

diffrent strokes season 4 episode 20 green hair kimberly dana plato

“Green Hair”

4.20     Green Hair Airdate:  04/01/82

Kimberly is dating a Yale man…but when Aunt Sophia encourages Kimberly to wash her hair with natural rainwater, she could have bigger problems.

diffrent strokes season 4 episode 21 have i got a girl for you delores candice azzara conrad bain

“Have I Got a Girl for You”

4.21     Have I Got a Girl for You Airdate:  04/08/82

Sophia tries to hook Philip up with her hairstylist friend Delores (Candice Azzara)…but when Phil makes an assumption, the relationship could be over.

diffrent strokes season 4 episode 22 lifesavers robber arnold gary coleman


4.22     Lifesavers Airdate:  04/15/82

Willis saves Arnold from a falling piano, and Arnold feels he owes him…but Willis and his coworker’s plan to trick Arnold into saving his life could backfire.

diffrent strokes season 4 episode 23 stress what stress willis mr drummond conrad bain todd bridges

“Stress? What Stress?”

4.23     Stress?  What Stress? Airdate:  04/22/82

When Mr. Drummond finds he’s suffering from stress Willis learns that all his activities are also pushing him to the max…but he doesn’t intend to drop out of any of them.

diffrent strokes season 4 episode 24 the music man afrodisiacs janet jackson dana plato todd bridges

“The Music Man”

4.24     The Music Man Airdate:  05/06/82

Willis joins the Afrodisiacs, and Willis sets up Charlene as the singer for the band…but Kimberly impresses the band.

diffrent strokes season 4 episode 25 short but sweet arnold prince gary coleman

“Short but Sweet”

4.25     Short but Sweet Airdate:  05/13/82

It’s Arnold’s birthday, but Arnold worries that he’s never going to get a girlfriend because he’s so small.  When he invites Teresa (Christina Murrill) to his birthday, he learns she doesn’t know it is a date.

diffrent strokes season 4 episode 26 on your toes ballet arnold gary coleman

“On Your Toes”

4.26     On Your Toes Airdate:  05/20/82

Arnold takes an interest in ballet when he meets famed dancer Dimitri Kuznetsov (Roger C. Carmel)…but Willis tells Arnold that other people will call him a sissy if he dances at the recital.

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 3 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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