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Diff'rent Strokes - The Complete Second Season


TITLE: DIFF'RENT STROKES - THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON


Info:

DVD Release Date: January 31, 2006 (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Color
MSRP: $29.95
Number of Discs: 3
Number of Episodes: 24 (2 are hour-long episodes)
Running time: Approx. 650 Minutes
Audio Tracks: English - Dolby Digital - Mono
Video: Full Frame 1.33:1
Languages, Subtitles, Closed Captioning: English; Closed Captioned
Special Features: None


Introduction:

The hit series Diff'rent Strokes is back for a second season of laugh-filled comedy and warm, human drama. Audiences loved the hilarious culture clash between wealthy Philip Drummond (Conrad Bain), Arnold (Gary Coleman) and Willis (Todd Bridges), the sons of his late housekeeper from Harlem and his daughter Kimberly (Dana Plato).

The series continued to explore race releations through its comedic story lines, and also featured a dazzling array of guest stars, including the legendary Muhammad Ali and baseball great Reggie Jackson. During the second season, Arnold and Willis were officially adopted by Mr. Drummond. Also, midway through the season, Mrs. Garrett (Charlotte Rae) left the Drummonds to work at the Eastlake School for Girls (as seen in the hugely successful spin-off TV series "The Facts of Life"), and was replaced by Nedra Volz as the new housekeeper, Adelaide Brubaker. Experience the charm of Diff'rent Strokes and watch its evolution into a TV classic!


Memorable Episodes / Notable Guest Stars:

After finishing its first season with a viewing audience of over 41 million people, Diff'rent Strokes' second season premiered on NBC on September 21, 1979, with the one-hour "Arnold's Girlfriend" episode. The show would finish #26 in the Nielsen ratings with a 20.3 rating. Charlotte Rae reportedly had it in her contract that she would get her own series near the end of the first year of Diff'rent Strokes. If it failed, she would have had a safe passage back to Diff'rent Strokes. For a short while, Charlotte Rae was appearing on both Diff'rent Strokes and The Facts of Life. Her last regular appearance on Diff'rent Strokes was in "Poor Drummond." Nedra Volz made her debut as the somewhat grumpy housekeeper, Adelaide Brubaker, in "The Election." This season also had the debut appearances of two of Arnold's friends, Robbie and Dudley, played by Steven Mond and Shavar Ross.

Diff'rent Strokes had two crossover episodes with "Hello, Larry" and one with spin-off series "The Facts of Life" during the second season. There were many memorable episodes this season, as the show started to gain steam. Arnold and Willis are going to be officially adopted by Mr. Drummond, but the visit of a junkyard dealer posing as a relative leaves their plans in jeopardy in "The Adoption (Part 1 and 2)." When a girl Arnold likes comes to visit, her attention turns toward Willis, and Arnold is convinced his brother has stolen is girl in "The Rivals." When a neighbor's watch is stolen, Arnold and Willis find it, but then must find a way to return it without being blamed for the crime in "Hot Watch." Arnold and Willis go into business selling Adelaide's fudge brownies, but problems arise when they become too greedy in "Big Business." Leaving Willis in charge of the house is a mistake Mr. Drummond soon regrets when Kimberly and her friends (TV's "The Facts of Life" co-stars) return the ensuing chaos disrupts his date in "The Slumber Party." Willis joins a street gang, The Tarantulas, and decides he would rather risk jail time than squeal on his fellow gang members in "The Squealer."

Notable guest stars included some familiar faces from TV and films. Dabney Coleman appeared as Bill Tanner in "Arnold's Girlfriend (Part 1 and 2)." Hello, Larry cast members McLean Stevenson, Joanna Gleason, Kim Richards, Krista Errickson, and Meadlowlark Lemon (not in the second one) appeared in the two crossover episodes: "Feudin' and Fussin'" and "Thanksgiving Crossover." Philip Charles MacKenzie appeared as Mrs. Garrett's new beau, Leon, in "Mrs. Garrett's Romance." Character actress Enid Martin played Mrs. Martino in "Birds and Bees." Boxing legend Muhammad Ali appeared as himself in "Arnold's Hero." James Cromwell guest starred as Father Martin in "Arnold's Hero." Whtiman Mayo appeared as junk dealer, Jethro Simpson, in "The Adoption (Part 1 and 2)." Robert Rockwell makes his first appearance as the semi-recurring character Tom Bishop, Mr. Drummond's attorney, in "The Adoption (Part 1)." Baseball great Reggie Jackson guest stars as Larry in "Father and Son Day." William Pierson played the Bartender in "Thanksgiving Crossover." James Hong appeared as Mr. Lee in "The Dog Story." Melora Hardin guest starred as Emily Morehouse in "Guess Who?". Steven Mond and Shavar Ross make their first appearances as Arnold's friends, Robbie and Dudley, in "Teacher's Pet." Mary Ann Mobley appeared as Miss Nancy Osborne in "Teacher's Pet." She would later play Maggie McKinney in the 8th season. The Facts of Life girls Kim Fields, Mindy Cohn, Julie Anne Haddock, and Molly Ringwald appear in the crossover episode "The Slumber Party."


Packaging:

This 3-disc set contains all 24 episodes from the second season (1979-1980). This includes two one-hour episodes. The DVD cover art (pictured above) features a photo of Dana Plato, Conrad Bain, and Todd Bridges on one side and a super-imposed shot of Gary Coleman in the foreground. There is a view of the New York City skyline in the background, and the Diff'rent Strokes logo is at the top. The back of the box features three smaller photos of the cast with guest stars Muhammad Ali and Whitman Mayo. A summary of the set and the DVD specs are listed as well. There are three indiividual slim cases that slide out from the left of the main DVD box. After seeing Gary Coleman on all of the slim cases and discs for the first season set, it is nice to see some other cast members represented here. The slim cases are various shades of blue, purple, and red. The disc numbers are listed in a large font in the backgrounds on the front and back of the cases. There are some pretty detailed summaries of the episodes on the back of the slim cases. It would have been nice to see them list the original airdates and guest stars also. Inside the cases, there is some advertising for some other Sony TV DVD releases. The actual discs have the same cast member that is on the front of that particular slim case. Disc 1 features Gary Coleman and has episodes 1-8, Disc 2 pictures Todd Bridges and contains episodes 9-16, and Disc 3 has a photo of Dana Plato and offers episodes 17-24.


Menu Design and Navigation:

The menus are very basic and easy to navigate. The main menu on each disc has the same photo as the cover art, except it is cropped a bit and the image is reversed. Dana Plato is on the right, and Willis is on the left. There are options for "Play All Episodes" and "Episode Selection" on each disc. The third disc adds a "Previews" option. When you go to "Episode Selection," it takes you to a sub-menu that has a still image from each episode. There are 3-4 episodes listed on each screen. There are various individual photos of Conrad Bain, Todd Bridges, and Dana Plato on the different episode screens. All of the menus have the same purple background, with the New York City buildings in the background. A purple border is around the episode you select. It turns gray upon your selection.


Video and Audio Quality:

The video and audio quality of this set is slightly better than what I saw on the first season release. While the episodes look better than the prints you saw on Nick at Nite/TNN in recent years or on the VHS tapes released by Columbia House a few years ago, the quality is only going to be as good as the original source material, which was shot on tape. The episodes in this season look a bit brighter. That is probably a result of them using better lighting on the set. More importantly to me than the video quality, all of the episodes on this set appear to be unedited. The two one-hour episodes on the first season release were edited, but fortunately that is not a problem with this set. It's strange that they have "Arnold's Girlfriend" in two parts when it originally aired as an one-hour episode. The other one-hour episodes, "Feudin' and Fussin'" and "Thanksgiving Crossover" are presented in their original form. "The Adoption" is in two parts, just like it was when it originally aired. All episodes are in their original broadcast order, which differs quite a bit from the order in which they were produced.

The Dolby Digital Mono audio track is typical of many other 1970's sitcoms. It is generally at a good volume, and the dialogue is easy to understand. The living room set was cavernous, so occasionally the audio is a bit lower there than in the other sets, such as the kitchen or the boy's bedroom, they used. Closed captioning is available on all of the episodes.

Update: The Prince song, "I Wanna Be Your Lover," is replaced in "The Rivals" with a generic instrumental. It's in the scene where Willis and Lurleen are dancing. It's also replaced in the clip show "Valentine's Day Retrospective."

Here is the episode breakdown by disc, including the running times:

Disc 1
---------
1. Arnold's Girlfriend (Part 1) (26:29)
2. Arnold's Girlfriend (Part 2) (23:58)
3. Feudin' and Fussin' (48:56)
4. Mrs. Garrett's Romance (25:14)
5. Birds and Bees (25:08)
6. Arnold's Hero (25:02)
7. The Adoption (Part 1) (25:18)
8. The Adoption (Part 2) (25:03)

Disc 2
---------
9. Father and Son Day (25:18)
10. Thanksgiving Crossover (48:46)
11. The Rivals (25:16)
12. Hot Watch (25:02)
13. The Dog Story (25:15)
14. The Election (25:17)
15. Friendly Mate (25:16)
16. Poor Drummond (25:16)

Disc 3
---------
17. Big Business (25:14)
18. Return of the Gooch (25:17)
19. Valentine's Day Retrospective (25:16)
20. Guess Who? (25:15)
21. Teacher's Pet (25:15)
22. The Slumber Party (25:15)
23. The Will (25:15)
24. The Squealer (25:15)


Special Features:

The first season set had some decent extras, but they probably didn't offer a whole lot of new information that most fans of the show didn't already know. It was nice to see some new interviews with some of the cast members and writers/directors.

Unfortunately, there are no special features on this second season release. It would have been nice to see some bloopers/outtakes if they exist. They could have had some audio commentaries by various writers and directors. I really can't say I'm terribly disappointed that there are no extras. The unedited episodes are definitely the most important thing on this set.

There are some previews of some other Sony DVD releases on the third disc, but I don't really call these extras. There are trailers for Classic Comedy, Classic Urban TV Series, Bewitched TV, and The Partridge Family.


Final Comments:

At long last, Diff'rent Strokes - The Complete Second Season is finally on DVD! It has been nearly 18 months since the first season was released. Whatchoo talkin' bout, Sony? I hope that it is a good sign that the second season is available, and that the rest of the seasons will follow at a much more rapid rate.

Diff'rent Strokes began to gain steam in season two, and the show continued to climb in the ratings. There are a number of classic episodes this season, including "The Rivals" and "The Squealer." There are also the two crossover episodes with "Hello, Larry." I know some fans don't particularly care for them, but if Sony ever gave us that complete series, I would buy it in a heartbeat. Kim Richards and Dana Plato were my first TV crushes.

This set is priced very affordably. You can probably pick it up for around $20. That's less than $1 per episode. Let's support this release and show Sony that this can be a big seller. I hope we will also see the spin-off series "The Facts of Life" released at some point if this release is successful.


Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)

Video Quality: 4/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Special Features: 0/5
Menu Design/Navigation: 4/5
Overall: 4/5

-- Reviewed by Todd Fuller on 01/16/06

To purchase the DVD, click below and help support SitcomsOnline.com:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000CCBCCQ/ref=nosim/happydaysonline4-20

For much more information on the show, visit our extensive fan site: Diff'rent Strokes Online


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