DVD Release Date: July 17, 2012 (Shout! Factory)
Packaging: Viva Case
Number of Discs: 3
Number of Episodes: 22
Running Time: approx. 507 minutes
Running Time of Features: N/A
Audio: English Dolby Digital Mono
Subtitles and Captioning: Closed-Captioned
Special Features: None
Gary Coleman and Todd Bridges return as brothers Arnold and Willis Jackson for another season of family fun and life lessons. During the third season, Arnold and Willis get held hostage by bank robbers, Mr. Drummond (Conrad Bain) celebrates his 50th birthday in the hospital, Kimberly (Dana Plato) helps a pregnant girlfriend, and Arnold "the great" goes missing after a more-than-effective disappearing act. Diff'rent Strokes never shied away from the social and cultural issues at hand, but always managed to deliver laughs and heartfelt character development from week to week.
Diff'rent Strokes' third season premiered on November 12, 1980, with the one-hour episode "The Bank Job." In "The Bank Job - Part I," Willis accompanies Arnold as he sets out to withdraw some money from his bank account to pay for his first "real" date, but two bank robbers force a change of plans when they attempt their own very large withdrawal in this first episode of a special two-part story. Mr. Drummond offers himself and his company airplane as hostages to protect Arnold and Willis, but his sons' futures hang in the balance when the robbers announce their own very different choice of hostages in the conclusion of this two-part story in "The Bank Job - Part II." Arnold has his day in court when an unfortunate "train" of events puts him at odds with a less-than-understanding merchant in "Small Claims Court." Arnold falls head over heels for a temporary housekeeper and embarks on a romantic scheme he hopes will make her a permanent member of the Drummond household in "Substitute Mother." The festive family celebration of Mr. Drummond's 50th birthday suddenly becomes a disaster after a drunk driver puts Drummon in ths hospital, unconscious, his life hanging in the balance, in the first episode of a special two-part story in "The Accident - Part I." When Mr. Drummond finally comes to, he is suffering from amnesia, and unless he can regain his memory he may lose not only his business, but also custody of Arnold, Willis and Kimberly in "The Accident - Part II." Kimberly's efforts to hlep a pregnant girlfriend have Willis and Arnold convinced that Kimberly is the one expecting in "Little Mother." Arfter Arnold fails to measure up to the demands of the basketball, baseball and volleyball teams, Mr. Drummond convinces the boy to try football on for size and then pays the coach a clandestine visit to ensure Arnold a place on the team in "Football Father."
Mr. Drummond orders Willis to spend more time with his studies and less time with his "first love," but Willis and Arnold concoct a plan they're sture will fulfill the wishes of both father and son in "First Love." Arnold tries a regiment of stretching exercies and a change of diet to speed his growth, but Mr. Drummond finds he must go to a very special source to get the boy to accept that he will never be tall in "Count Your Blessings." Arnold learns the true value of a dollar when Mr. Drummond turns down his request to lend $4,000 to an apartment building doorman anxious to take part in an attractive business deal in "The Loan." Willis and Arold turn the Drummond upside down as they try to prove to their old Harlem neighbors -- and themselves -- that they haven't lost touch with their cultural roots in "Roots." Arnold's poor dental checkup and a visit by Mr. Drummond's health-conscious sister, Sophia, launches Drummond on a campaign to have "junk" food machines banned from Arnold's school, even though Arnold's campaign for his class presidency may depend on keeping the machines in "Junk Food." Arnold's excitement at being one of a small group of students in an exchange program with an all-white school is turned to fear by a threatening phone call from a zealous busing opponent in "The Bus." Through Blair's makeup artistry, 15-year-old Kimberly discovers that she can pass for 20, but when she accepts a date with a 25-year-old and the passes start flying, she finds there may be more to being older than looking the part in "The Older Man."
Arnold's tenth birthday party means a lot to him, but for some reason it means a whole lot more to the one person he's determined won't be invited - a pesky young lady who always tries too hard to be friends in "Where There's Hope." Arnold's "famous" magic disappearing act, designed to impress a magazine reporter and special guest star Dallas Cowboys defensive end Ed "Too Tall" Jones, leaves him dangerously high and dry, with no place to go but down -- about 30 stories in "The Magician." Mr. Drummond runs into some stiff opposition to the candidate he's chosen to head a new division of his company, his board members think the attractive young executive's sex disqualifies her, and his family thinks he's being used in "Drummond's Fair Lady." Mr. Drummond and his sister Sophia inherit a prime piece of land in Harlem from a long-lost ancestor, but their plan to dedicate it as a cultural center in his name could spell disaster if the truth of their ancestor's life gets out in "The Ancestors." Arnold's dejection at being grounded for a "D" on a history test turns to inspiration after an immigrant studying for naturalization introduces him to another perspective on America in "Almost American." Fearing his foster father's lost job means he's headed back to orphanage, a classmate cons Arnold into getting Mr. Drummond to consider adopting him into their family in "Room For One More." The coach of the city's top high school baseball team is after Willis and is prepared to do anything to make it possible for Willis to attend his school in "The Athlete."
Notable guest stars this season included Kim Fields, Dick O'Neill, Geoff Edwards, Melanie Watson (first appearance as Kathy Gordon), Kari Michaelsen, Meeno Peluce, Shavar Ross (recurring role), Le Tari (first appearance as Dudley's father), Janet Jackson (first appearance), Dody Goodman (recurring role this season), Steven Mond (recurring role), Mindy Cohn, Lisa Whelchel, Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Rosalind Chao, and Ernie Hudson.
The episodes appear to be unedited, with the regular episodes running over 25 minutes and the one-hour episodes clocking in at 48-49 minutes. There were a couple of one-hour episodes which were split into two episodes on the first season release that Sony used syndicated prints for, but thankfully Shout! Factory has the two one-hour episodes in their original format here. Note that there were two episodes ("Growing Up" and "The Model") which produced for the third season that didn't air until the fourth season, so expect those on the next release. The episodes are presented in their original broadcast order. Runtimes are as follows:
The Bank Job - Parts I and II (48:53)
Small Claims Court (25:15)
Substitute Mother (25:13)
The Accident - Parts I and II (49:02)
Little Mother (25:17)
Football Father (25:17)
First Love (25:15)
Count Your Blessings (25:14)
The Loan (25:14)
Junk Food (25:14)
The Bus (25:14)
The Older Man (25:14)
Where There's Hope (25:13)
The Magician (25:14)
Drummond's First Lady (25:13)
The Ancestors (25:13)
Almost American (25:16)
Room for One More (25:14)
The Athlete (25:14)
Since Shout! Factory is producing this season instead of Sony, the packaging has changed from the previous two seasons that were released years ago. It comes in a clear plastic Viva case. The cover art features a large photo of Arnold in the foreground and another shot of Kimberly, Mr. Drummond and Willis to the left of him. The New York City skyline in the background. The Complete Third Season and the Diff'rent Strokes logo is at the top of the case. The color scheme for this set is orange and white. On the back, there are three small photos: a cast photo and two episode snapshots. A brief synopsis of the season and the DVD specs are provided. Inside, there are episode titles and summaries listed by disc. It would have been nice if they included the original airdates and notable guest stars as well. The episode titles and summaries are printed in white text, with an orange-tinted photo of the city skyline used in the background. The discs have the show logo and use the same orange-tinted skyline background. Disc 1 has a photo of Arnold, Disc 2 has a photo of Willis, and Disc 3 features Kimberly and Mr. Drummond. Disc 1 contains 8 episodes, Disc 2 contains 7 episodes, and Disc 3 contains 7 episodes.
Menu Design and Navigation:
The menus are simple and easy to navigate. The main menu features the same photos as the cover art. Arnold is on Disc 1. Willis is on Disc 2. Mr. Drummond and Kimberly are on Disc 3. Orange bars are at the top and bottom of the screen, with the city skline in the background. The theme song plays once in the background and doesn't loop. Options for Play All and Episodes are available. The option you highlight is in yellow that turns light blue upon your selection. When you choose Episodes, it takes you to another menu that uses the same photo of each cast member. The episodes are listed vertically in white text against an orange background. Chapters are placed throughout each episode.
Video and Audio Quality:
The video and audio quality seems to be slightly improved over the previous two seasons. They don't appear to be digitally remastered, but they look pretty good considering their age. Diff'rent Strokes was shot on tape like many sitcoms of the late 1970s/early 1980s. The episodes are presented in their original 1:33.1 format. The episodes look bright and have good color. I did notice a couple of minor tape glitches in a few episodes, but there appears to be no major issues. As previously mentioned, all of the episodes appear to be unedited and in very good quality. For the closing logo enthusiasts, there are logos for Sony Pictures Television on all of the episodes, except for the one-hour episodes which lack any logos.
The Dolby Digital Mono audio track is typical of many other early 1980s sitcoms. It is generally at a good volume. 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. There's nothing on the packaging to indicate that any music was substituted for this release. Closed captioning is available on all of the episodes.
Unfortunately, there are no special features included on this release. The Complete First Season included cast and crew interviews and three audio commentaries. The Complete Second Season didn't include any extras. It would have been nice if they included some kind of tribute to the late Gary Coleman. Hopefully we'll see some bonus material in future releases.
The Complete Third Season is finally available on DVD! The Complete Second Season was released way back on January 31, 2006. It really seems even longer than that. Sony was always pretty slow at releasing their shows, but I thought we would get the complete series eventually from them like they had done for Sanford and Son, Good Times and What's Happening. Sony did release a Fan Favorites DVD in September 2009. It looked like they could eventually release more new seasons, but it was not meant to be from them. Fortunately, Shout! Factory acquired the rights for this release. I thought they would release Diff'rent Strokes when they released The Facts of Life in 2010, but it's better late than never. This is a pretty basic set, but they've done a nice job including all of the episodes unedited.
It's very important to show your support of this release, so we can get more seasons of this 1980s classic.
Season three was the highest rated season of the series. It finished in a tie for 17th place, with a 20.7 rating. Overall, this is one of the stronger seasons that had many memorable episodes. Some of the highlights included the tense one-hour season premiere "The Bank Job" (Kim Fields guest stars), the one-hour "The Accident" where Mr. Drummond has amnesia, the "Little Mother" teen pregnancy episode with Kari Michaelsen, the debut of Janet Jackson as Willis' girlfriend Charle in "First Love," and "The Older Man" with guest appearances by The Facts of Life stars Mindy Cohn and Lisa Whelchel. Dody Goodman's Aunt Sophia character was added for only this season. She was kind of kooky, but she provided some good comic relief while Adelaide (Nedra Volz) was away. The only really weak episodes of the season were "The Ancestors" and "Almost American" (a failed spin-off attempt). Watching these third season episodes again is a joy, but it also makes me feel sad that we lost Gary in 2010 and Dana in 1999. They were at the height of their fame here. It's nice to see and remember them when they were at their happiest times.