Viewers were transported back in time for ABC’s “Live in Front of a Studio Audience” event featuring classic episodes of The Facts of Life and Diff’rent Strokes, along with appearances by special surprise guests.
In the Diff’rent Strokes portion, Kevin Hart played Arnold Jackson, a role originated by the late Gary Coleman. John Lithgow co-starred as Mr. Drummond, Damon Wayans played Willis Jackson, and Ann Dowd played Mrs. Garrett. Snoop Dogg also surprised the live audience by playing one of Willis’ friends.
During the one-night only event, the cast recreated a 1978 episode — from the first season of the show — titled “Willis’ Privacy,” with Hart wearing a cape and delivering the famous line — “what you talkin’ ’bout, Willis?”
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The special kicked off with an appearance by the sitcom’s original star Todd Bridges (who played Willis on the long-running series). Bridges praised his fellow late Diff’rent Strokes castmates and introduced Boyz II Men, who performed the series’ iconic theme song.
“It’s hard to believe that I walked through those doors 43 years ago, back when I had hair,” Bridges joked. “Now in 1978, Diff’rent Strokes premiered and ran for eight seasons — which back then meant 169 episodes of television with… the late Conrad Bain, Dana Plato, Charlotte Rae and Gary Coleman. Now, I know that if my family was here, they would be just as proud as I am here, celebrating Diff’rent Strokes and Facts of Life.”
The Facts of Life portion featured Jennifer Aniston as Blair, Gabrielle Union as Tootie, Allison Tolman as Natalie, Kathryn Hahn as Jo, and Ann Dowd as Mrs. Garrett.
The 90-minute special came from executive producers Norman Lear, Jimmy Kimmel, Brent Miller, Kerry Washington, Will Ferrell, Justin Theroux and Jim Burrows. It was produced by Kimmelot, ACT III Productions, Gary Sanchez Productions, D’Arconville, Simpson Street and Sony Pictures Television. For viewers who didn’t catch the live special, it is now available on Hulu.
Watch a clip featuring Kevin Hart below: