He made the phrase “What’choo talkin’ ’bout?” a national sensation, but there was much more to Gary Coleman’s life than Diff’rent Strokes. WATCH VIDEO from Gary Coleman’s complicated life on television.
Arnold’s First Date
Arnold’s first date on Diff’rent Strokes didn’t go quite as planned when Willis and Kimberly tagged along as chaperones. But when his friend Dudley crashed dinner, things got a bit messy.
Arnold Trains to Fight ‘The Gooch’
In this classic episode of Diff’rent Strokes, Arnold learns karate so he can defend himself against the evil school bully “The Gooch.” Then he tries a kick on Willis, which doesn’t go down too well with Mr. Drummond.
Arnold Gets Molested (Almost!)
Diff’rent Strokes is remembered as about as light a sitcom as one could make, but the show had the characters coping with drugs, kidnapping, and even child sex abuse. Here’s a clip from the infamous child-molester episode, with Gordon Jump of WKRP in Cincinnati-fame playing, quite ably, the nefarious Bicycle Man.
1982: The Gary Coleman Show
In this 1982 animated series, based on a made-for-TV movie Coleman wrote, he voiced an angel descended from heaven on a mission to earn his wings by helping children in need.
4-Foot-8-Inch Football Star
When Arnold doesn’t make the cut for the school football team, Mr. Drummond has a conversation with the coach that magically earns his boy a spot. In this case, conversation means bribe.
Arnold Renounces Drugs, Meets Nancy Reagan
Can you imagine Michelle Obama appearing on Glee to impart a Very Special Lesson about avoiding crack, heroin, marijuana, and angel dust? The rough equivalent took place when Nancy Reagan appeared on Diff’rent Strokes to visit Arnold’s classroom and talk about drugs.
2008: Coleman on Divorce Court
It’s no secret that there were many low points in Coleman’s life after Diff’rent Strokes ended and his money evaporated. But this may be the nadir: Coleman on Divorce Court, leaving the resolution of his marital difficulties to Judge Lynn Toler.
2010: Gary Coleman Explodes on Inside Edition
In one of his last TV appearances, Coleman appeared on Inside Edition to respond to charges that he assaulted his wife. Coleman ends up shouting at everyone and storming off, but somehow remains the least annoying person on the set.
Coda: Coleman at 17, Saying ‘There’s Nothing Left’
Of course he’ll be remembered for playing Arnold on Diff’rent Strokes, but ultimately Gary Coleman was, to his fans, just a nice guy with some problems. Here he is at 17, telling an interviewer if he could give up show business and lead a normal life, “I guess I’d do it tomorrow.”