‘Live in Front of a Studio Audience’ returns with lighthearted take on ‘Facts of Life’ and ‘Diff’rent Strokes’
Written by George Costantino on December 8, 2021
ABC aired its third Live in Front of a Studio Audience on Tuesday, this time featuring episodes of The Facts of Life and Diff’rent Strokes, hosted once again by Jimmy Kimmel and Norman Lear.
This time, however, the producers decided to have a little fun, casting older actors — including Jeniffer Aniston, 52, Kathryn Hahn, 48, Allison Tolman, 40, and Gabrielle Union, 49, to fill the respective roles of Blair, Jo, Natalie, and Tootie in the original series.
Likewise, the Diff’rent Strokes segment featured 42-year-old Kevin Hart and 61-year-old Damon Wayans, respectively, to play to play Arnold and Willis, originally portrayed by Gary Coleman and Todd Bridges.
Despite the age differences, all four actresses did an admirable job of copying their characters’ looks and mannerisms. Ann Dowd, who who returned as Mrs. Garret in the Diff’rent Strokes segment, looked and sounded amazingly like her counterpart, the late Charlotte Rae.
There was also a guest appearance from John Stewart, along with surprise cameos from Will Arnett and Jason Bateman.
Lisa Welchel, who played Blair in the original series, sang the show’s iconic theme song, before being joined by former cast mates Mindy Cohn and Kim Fields, who played Tootie and Natalie, respectively.
Next, after Boyz II Men‘s Wanya Morris and Shawn Stockman delivered a version of the Diff’rent Strokes theme song, Hart and Wayans were joined by John Lithgow, as Mr. Drummond, played in the original series by the late Conrad Baines.
Hart and Wayans also played up the obvious physical differences between them and their characters, such as Wayans’ observation that while Hart’s Arnold “looks 45, he’s just eight.”
Another obvious ad-lib came at the end of the episode when Hart noted that Willis’ friend Vernon — played by Snoop Dogg “always smells like weed.”
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