Saturday, September 02, 2006

Behind the Camera: The Unauthorized Story of 'Diff'rent Strokes' and Barry Williams Presents One-Hit Wonders of the 70s CD Reviewed

Behind the Camera: The Unauthorized Story of Diff'rent Strokes

Behind the Camera: The Unauthorized Story of 'Diff'rent Strokes' - Monday, September 4th at 8-10PM ET/PT on NBC

NBC will re-visit one of television's most popular
comedy series -- "Diff'rent Strokes" -- with a movie
that serves as a powerful cautionary tale about the
tragedies and challenges facing the child stars of the
sitcom as well as all child stars in "Behind the
Camera: The Unauthorized Story of 'Diff'rent
Strokes,'" premiering on Monday, Sept. 4 (8-10 p.m.
ET). Original cast members Gary Coleman and Todd
Bridges participated in the movie and will also appear
in on-camera interviews.

"Behind the Camera: The Unauthorized Story of
'Diff'rent Strokes'" not only takes viewers behind the
scenes of the popular sitcom, but also follows the
lives of Coleman, Bridges and fellow star Dana Plato
in the years after the series went off the air as
their personal lives spiraled downward. In addition,
it also examines the pitfalls of child stardom.

"Diff'rent Strokes" premiered on NBC on November 3,
1978 and concluded in 1986. Coleman and Bridges
starred as Arnold and Willis Jackson, respectively --
two orphaned children from Harlem who were adopted by
wealthy businessman Philip Drummond. The brothers'
sudden lifestyle change from poverty to the penthouse
made the comedy an instant hit for NBC.

This production -- which follows previous "Behind the
Camera" movies on NBC that re-created the story and
era surrounding "Three's Company," "Charlie's Angels"
and "Mork & Mindy" -- is produced by Once Upon a Time
Films. Bobb'e J Thompson ("The Tracy Morgan Show")
plays the young Coleman while Verda Bridges, Bridges'
real-life sister, portrays Bridges' mother.

"Behind the Camera: The Unauthorized Story of
'Diff'rent Strokes'" is executive-produced by Stanley
M. Brooks ("Broken Trail") and Scott W. Anderson
(NBC's "Behind the Camera: The Unauthorized Story of
'Three's Company'"), with Damian Ganczewski ("Broken
Trail") producing. Robert Iscove ("She's All That")
directs from a script written by Greg Pincus and Susan
Rinehart.

Cast
Character / Actor
Gary Coleman as himself
Todd Bridges as himself
Gary Coleman (10-12 years) Bobb'e J Thompson
Gary Coleman (13-29 years) Robert Bailey, Jr.
Gary Coleman (30-31 years) Alon Williams
Todd Bridges (13-17 years) Brennan Gademans
Todd Bridges (17-37 years) Shedrack Anderson
Dana Plato (13-16 years) Jessica King
Dana Plato (17-34 years) Britt Irvin
Conrad Bain John Innes
Willie Coleman Bruce Young
Sue Coleman Lorena Gale
Betty Bridges Verda Bridges
Kay Plato Teryl Rothery
Kline Jason Schombing
Howard Leeds Jerry Wasserman
Dion Mial Rainbow Sun Francks
Vic Perillo Colin Cunningham
Wayne Newton Winston Reckert
Fred Silverman Saul Rubinek
Al Burton Peter Outerbridge
Brandon Tartikoff Adam Reid

Crew
Executive Producers: Stanley M. Brooks and Scott W.
Anderson
Produced by: Damian Ganczewski
Producer: Chad Oakes
Line Producer: Ian R. Smith
Associate Producer: Cath-Anne Ambrose
Director: Robert Iscove
Writer: Gregory K. Pincus
Director of Photography: David Frazee
Editor: Richard A. Schwadel
Production Designer: Phil Schmidt
Costume Designer: Sheila Bingham
Original Music by: Jeff Rona
Re-Recording Mixers: Cory Mandel and Ian Rodness

Casting by: Coreen Mayrs C.S.A.and Heike Brandstatter
C.S.A.
U.S. Casting by: Sandi Logan C.S.A. and Alyson
Silverberg C.S.A.
Production Company: Nomadic Pictures in association
with Once Upon A Time Films

My Review: I was beginning to wonder if this TV movie was ever going to see the light of day. This movie was greenlight in early 2005 and was produced in the fall of 2005 in Canada. This was NBC's 4th "Behind the Scenes" TV movie. It was by far the most dramatic. If you've seen the E! True Hollywood Stories on Diff'rent Strokes and Dana Plato, then you already know most of the events. It was interesting to see how these events were dramatized. FOX already made a Behind the Scenes Diff'rent Strokes movie in May 2000, but I thought the NBC one was quite a bit better. It went into a lot more details and just seemed to have higher production values. This movie was a bit different from the previous NBC TV movies. While previous installments have focused on the time the shows originally aired, this one also covered what happened after the series ended. About 2/3 of the movie was devoted from 1978-1986. The last 1/3 was about what happened after the series was cancelled.

What did I like?

Involvement of Gary Coleman and Todd Bridges - They were consultants on the project and appear in on-camera interviews throughout the movie. They didn't sugarcoat their comments or cry or make excuses about their problems. They seemed very frank and honest with what they said.

Good Casting - It seems like they didn't try and go out and get exact doubles for the real actors. The two actors who played the young Gary Coleman were fantastic. Not only did they look like him physically, they had some of the same mannerisms. The actresses who played Dana Plato did a good job with the part. The older one is a real cutie. I didn't think the actor who played the young Todd Bridges looked much like him, but the older one looked and sounded more like him. Bruce Young did a fine job as Willie Coleman. He was big and intimidating and showed a lot of emotion. Verda Bridges was excellent as Betty Bridges, Todd Bridges' mother. I just thought she was a bit underutilized and could have been in a few more scenes. Some of the smaller parts went to local Canadian actors.

The Little Details - I like how they included all these details that most people probably wouldn't even notice... like the schedule grids on the walls at the NBC studios and including all the directors, production people, and some later cast members in some scenes. The dates of many events are listed to give you a timeline.

Funny Moments - There were a lot of unintentionally funny moments that will probably give you a laugh. The scene where Johnnie Cochran is questioning a potential jury member will leave you smiling.

What didn't I like?

The main studio set - They got the colors right but not much else. If you were a casual fan and only saw the show a few times, you might be fooled into thinking the set really looked the same. The staircase is completely wrong and spirals up in a different direction. They put the balcony area behind the couch. A lot of the furniture, props, and the general layout of the set was just not like how you saw it on the show.

The theme song - They used a completely modern sounding version that had different lyrics. This is not the theme song that people love and remember. Since this movie is airing on NBC, I don't see why they couldn't use the original theme to add some authenticity.

The casting of the actor who played the adult Gary Coleman - This actor also played Gary in the FOX TV movie. He simply looked too old for the part and didn't sound like him at all. If you look at his imdb.com entry, 2 of his 5 listed roles have been as Gary. I think he's been typecast.

Overall, this is probably not NBC's best "Behind the Scenes" TV movie (that would be Mork & Mindy), but it does a decent job of telling the story. There were even a few fresh revelations that I never knew about. If you are a fan of the show, it would certainly be worth watching or tivoing for later viewing.

-- Reviewed by Todd
(4/5 stars)

Related Links:

  • Diff'rent Strokes Online
  • Internet Movie Database entry for Behind the Camera: The Unauthorized Story of 'Diff'rent Strokes'
  • Todd Bridges on Diff'rent Strokes movie, his sister, and reality shows




    Barry Williams Presents One-Hit Wonders of the 70s

    Barry Williams Presents: One-Hit Wonders of the 70s (Time Life Records, $18.98)

    AM radio magic… without the static! This fantastic collection is your one-stop ticket back to the groovy ‘70s, featuring 20 of your favorite songs by "one-hit wonder" artists. And who knows the ‘70s better than Barry "Greg Brady" Williams from the ever-popular sitcom The Brady Bunch. You may not remember the artists, but you’re sure to remember these Top-10 songs, like Afternoon Delight, Please Come To Boston, In The Summertime, Sometimes When We Touch, Play That Funky Music, The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia, Seasons In The Sun and many more.

    Here is the track listing, including the highest Billboard chart position:

    1. Wild Cherry - Play That Funky Music (3:17) No. 1 1976
    2. B. W. Stevenson - My Maria (2:25) No. 9 1973
    3. Brewer & Shipley - One Toke Over The Line (3:20) No. 10 1971
    4. Starland - Afternoon Delight (3:14) No. 1 1976
    5. Reunion - Life Is A Rock (But The Radio Rolled Me) (3:32) No. 8 1974
    6. Billy Swan - I Can Help (2:58) No. 1 1974
    7. Mungo Jerry - In The Summertime (3:29) No. 3 1970
    8. Terry Jacks - Seasons In The Sun (3:29) No. 1 1974
    9. Paper Lace - The Night Chicago Died (3:31) No. 1 1974
    10. Climax - Precious and Few (2:47) No. 3 1972
    11. Stories - Brother Louie (3:54) No. 1 1973
    12. Dave Loggins - Please Come to Boston (4:09) No. 5 1974
    13. First Class - Beach Baby (4:59) No. 4 1974
    14. The 5 Stairsteps - O-o-h Child (3:14) No. 8 1970
    15. Vicki Sue Robinson - Turn The Beat Around (5:31) No. 10 1976
    16. Dan Hill - Sometimes When We Touch (4:05) No. 3 1978
    17. Lynn Anderson - Rose Garden (2:47) - No. 3 1971
    18. Edison Lighthouse - Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes) (2:47) - No. 5 1970
    19. Wadsworth Mansion - Sweet Mary (2:40) No. 7 1971
    20. Vicki Lawrence - The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia (3:34) No. 1 1973

    My Review: As a big movies and soundtracks fan, I recognized a lot of these songs from movies from the last few years. "Play That Funky Music" by Wild Cherry was used in "Undercover Brother." The "Starsky & Hutch" movie used "Afternoon Delight" by the Starland Vocal Band. There was a memorable cast version by Will Ferrell and company in "Anchorman." Mungo Jerry's "In The Summertime" was used in a funny bicycling montage scene in "Wedding Crashers." Dan Hill's "Sometimes When We Touch" was used in the Molly Shannon movie, "Superstar." Interestingly enough, "The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia," was originally offered to Cher, but she turned it down. Vicki Lawrence was already known for her work on The Carol Burnett Show at the time of her big hit. Sitcom fans, of course, would later know her as Mama on Mama's Family.

    My favorite tracks on this compilation were the classic hit "Precious and Few" by Climax, "O-o-h Child" by The 5 Stairsteps, and "Sometimes When We Touch" by Dan Hill.
    I'd definitely recommend this CD if you are a fan of '70s music. There's a little bit of everything on this CD: Pop, Rock, Funk, Soul, Country, and Disco. I am more of a '60s (music that was used on The Wonder Years and American Dreams) and '80s music fan, so I'd probably enjoy an one-hit wonder compilation for those decades a bit more.

    You might ask what is the connection with Barry Williams? He currently hosts a program Sunday-Friday at 2-6PM ET on the Totally '70s channel on Sirius Satellite Radio. Groovy man!

    -- Reviewed by Todd
    (3/5 stars)

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

    Related Links:

  • Barry Williams Official Site
  • Brady World

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