DVD Release Date: November 20, 2012 (Shout! Factory)
Packaging: Viva Case
Number of Discs: 3
Number of Episodes: 26
Running Time: approx. 570 minutes
Running Time of Features: N/A
Audio: English Dolby Digital Mono
Subtitles and Captioning: Closed-Captioned
Special Features: None
Arnold and Willis are back for another season of one of television's most memorable sitcoms! During the fourth season, Arnold (Gary Coleman) lands in trouble with the law when he tries to join the Gooch's private club, Willis (Todd Bridges) sues the basketball team when he is replaced by another player, Kimberly (Dana Plato) goes on a forbidden weekend skiing trip and Mr. Drummond (Conrad Bain) learns of a love child he had while serving in the Korean War. One of the true classics from the golden era of TV sitcoms, Diff'rent Strokes focused heavily on family values, social issues and big laughs.
Diff'rent Strokes' fourth season premiered on October 29, 1981. With the help of Arnold, Willis gets everyone to leave the house so that he and Charlene can be together alone in "Growing Up." Willis struggles to fit in on his first day of high school in "First Day Blues." Kimberly lands a modeling job at a department store which leads to her being selected for an upcoming modeling show in Paris in "The Model." Willis sues the school basketball team when he loses his position to a white player because of their Affirmative Action policy in "The Team." Arnold's desire to gain admission to the Gooch's club lands him in trouble with the law in "The Big Heist." With the parents objecting because of their age, Arnold's prospects of a first date with classmate Diane Wilson look bleak in "Double Date." After Kimberly gets permission to go on a ski weekend with a girlfriend, she learns that Michelle has invited some boys along too in "The Ski Weekend." Hoping to see their father win the race that will make him their Athlete of the Year, Willis and Arnold arrive at the Riverside Athletic Club, only to be turned away because they are black in "Health Club." Arnold finds a prized Native American artifact that ignites controversy over Drummond's latest construction project in "Burial Ground."
A visitor claiming to be Philip's son from a Korean War love affair rocks the Drummond clan in "Hello Daddy." Charlene dumps Willis, feeling he is taking her for granted in "Jilted." A Canadian business trip that has forced Mr. Drummond to cancel a fishing weekend with him and Willis has Arnold worried in "Dreams." After his wheelchair-bound friend, Kathy Gordon, refuses to use her crutches in public, Arnold pitches in to get her to change her mind in "Kathy." Hoping to avoid anyy panic, Drummond and Aunt Sophia agree not to tell the children that a fire has broken out in the building's lower floors in "The Fire." A new construction project threatens to put a woman out on the street, so the kids convince Mr. Drummond to take her home that night in "The Squatter." News that Charlene is going to a concert with a classmate who can drive upsets Willis in "The Car." To avoid a pair of bullies at school, Arnold and his friend Dudley decide that the best solution is to cut class in "Crime in the Schools, Part 1." After Willis takes a beating from a pair of schoolyard bullies, it's up to Arnold to find the courage to stop them in "Crime in the Schools, Part 2."
Willis does his best to dissociate himself from Arnold while trying to impress the members of an exclusive campus club in "B.M.O.C." An encounter with acid rain turns Kimberly's hair green on the eve of a big date in "Green Hair." In order to find him a more age-appropriate date, Aunt Sophia sets Mr. Drummond up with her friend, a down-to-earth hair stylist named Delores in "Have I Got a Girl for You." While he's landing a job at a neighborhood gas station, Willis proves to be in the right place at the right time to save Arnold from being crushed in "Lifesavers." A doctor's relaxation techniques for Mr. Drummond uncover the fact that Willis is the one suffering too much stress in "Stress? What Stress?" After getting Charlene an audition with his new band, The Afro Dizziacs, Willis persuades his dad to back their demo recording in "The Music Man." Encouraged by Dudley to get over his fear of girls, Arnold invites Teresa to his 12th birthday party and is stunned when she accept in "Short But Sweet." With the encouragement from both Kimberly and a world-famous dancer, Arnold decides to take up ballet in "On Your Toes."
Notable guest appearances this season included Janet Jackson (recurring role), Kim Fields, Clarence Gilyard, Jr., Shavar Ross (recurring role), Dana Kimmell, Macon McCalman, Nobu McCarthy, Dody Goodman (recurring role), Rosalind Chao, Steven Mond (recurring role), Melanie Watson (second appearance as Kathy Gordon), Audrey Meadows, Le Tari, Jane Dulo, James Cromwell and Roger C. Carmel.
The episodes appear to be mostly unedited, with all but one of the episodes running of over 25 minutes. "Health Club" runs about 40 seconds shorter than the rest of the episodes at 24:29. It ran 25:12 when it was available on Comcast's Tube Time service a few year ago. There's a 40-second scene that is mostly missing on the DVD. Adelaide and Kimberly dance to a disco song ("Controversy" by Prince) in the episode (you can see a screenshot of the scene in the end credits). Only Kimberly is in the scene on the DVD. The Prince song was replaced with a generic disco instrumental. This is the second time a Prince song has been removed. "I Wanna Be Your Lover" was replaced with a generic instrumental in "The Rivals" in the Season 2 DVD set. It's disappinting to lose another song due to music licensing rights, but I think they should have just replaced the song instead of cutting out a 40-second scene entirely. Moving on, there was only one two-part episode, "Crime in the Schools (aka "Crime in the Streets")," aired this season. It aired over two weeks, so it's presented in two parts on the DVD. "Growing Up" and "The Model" were produced for the third season, but they didn't until beginning of the fourth season. The episodes are presented in their original broadcast order. Runtimes are as follows:
Growing Up (25:16)
First Day Blues (25:11)
The Model (25:15)
The Team (25:12)
The Big Heist (25:10)
Double Date (25:13)
Health Club (24:29)
Burial Ground (25:11)
Hello Daddy (25:12)
The Fire (25:12)
The Squatter (25:11)
The Car (25:12)
Crime in the Streets, Part 1 (aka Crime Story, Part 1) (25:11)
Crime in the Streets, Part 2 (aka Crime Story, Part 2) (25:12)
Green Hair (25:11)
Have I Got a Girl for You (25:11)
Stress? What Stress? (25:12)
The Music Man (25:11)
Short But Sweet (25:12)
On Your Toes (25:12)
The packaging is similar to the third season. It comes in a clear plastic Viva case. The cover art features a large photo of Arnold in a holiday sweater in the foreground and a composite cast photo with Willis, Kimberly and Mr. Drummond. The Manhattan skyline is in the background. The Complete Fourth Season and show logo is at the top of the case. The color scheme for this set is green. On the back, there are three small photos: Arnold in a farmer's outfit; Aunt Sophia, Kimberly, Arnold and Willis in the family room; Mr. Drummond and Arnold. A brief summary of the season and the DVD specs are provided. Episode titles and short summaries are listed by disc number inside the case. The episode titles and summaries are printed in white text, with an green-tinted photo of the city skyline used in the background. It would have been nice if they included the original airdates and notable guest stars as well. Discs 1 and 2 are held in a flip holder in the center of the case. Disc 3 is an embedded holder in the back of the case. The discs have the green-tinted skyline in the background and the show logo in white text. Each disc has a different photo. Disc 1 has a photo of Arnold and episodes 1-8 of the season. Disc 2 has Willis and contains episodes 9-18. Disc 3 features Kimberly and Mr. Drummond and rounds out the season with episodes 19-26.
Menu Design and Navigation:
The menus are very simple and easy to navigate. They have the same color scheme that is used for the packaging. The theme song plays in the background for around 30 seconds. It doesn't loop. A less-cropped version of the cover art photo is used on the main menu. The skyline is in the background in the center of the screen. The show logo is to the right of the photo. There are green bars at the top and bottom of the screen. There are options for "Play All" and "Episodes." Your highlighted option is in lime green and turns light blue upon your selection. When you choose Episodes, it takes you to another sub-menu. Each menu has a different photo on each disc. Arnold is on Disc 1. Willis is on Disc 2. Disc 3 has a nice photo of Kimberly in a yellow top. The episode titles are listed vertically in white text. The highlighted episode in light green. Chapters are placed at the appropriate places.
Video and Audio Quality:
The video and audio quality seems to be on par with season three. They don't appear to be digitally remastered, but they do 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. For the closing logo enthusiasts, there are no original logos. They just have the Sony Pictures Television logo.
The Dolby Digital Mono audio track is typical of many other early 1980s sitcoms. It's 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.
There are no special features included. Only the first season included any extras. It would be hard to imagine that any of the remaining seasons will include any, but I guess there's always hope.
It was a six-year wait between seasons two and three, but it was only four months between seasons three and four. That's the kind of pace Diff'rent Strokes fans were hoping for years ago. Thanks to Shout! Factory for rescuing the series and making the seasons available. Season four was announced only a few weeks after season three was released in July, so hopefully there will be plans for another release in early 2013.
Season four's ratings dropped quite a bit from season three, which was the highest rated of the series. The show moved from Wednesdays to Thursdays, so that was probably a factor. Season four's early episodes focused more on Willis and Kimberly. Willis starting high school opened up many new plots for them. Janet Jackson had a recurring role this season as Willis' girlfriend, Charlene. Some of the highlights of the season were "Growing Up," "First Day Blues," "The Ski Weekend," "Jilted," "The Car," "Crime in the Schools," "The Music Man" and "Short But Sweet." Overall, it was another solid season of the show. There was a nice mix of storylines for all of the characters.