Welcome back to The MMA Scene, where we analyze and share our thoughts on various combat sports-related television shows and episodes.
Today, we look at the show Diff’rent Strokes, one of the most popular sitcoms of its era. It aired from 1978-1986 primarily on NBC, with the last two seasons on ABC. It featured a rich caucasian businessman named Phiiip Drummond (played by Conrad Bain) who adopts two black boys Arnold and Wllis Jackson (Gary Coleman and Todd Bridges). Drummond has a daughter named Kimberley (Dana Plato) and a maid named Ms. Garrett (Charlotte Rae).
We look at the 1980 Season 2 Episode 9 show called Return of The Gooch. Arnold is tired of being bullied by the schoolyard meanie called “The Gooch” and so he takes karate lessons so he can defend himself.
You can watch the episode by clicking above.
The light-hearted and bite-sized portrayal of martial arts in the 1970s and 1980s was pretty common for American television. Which is why the Asian movies tended to be so much more interesting.
Here, the Sensei Mr. Kim is played by prolific South Korean-American actor Soon-Tek Oh, who has played many combat-related roles previous and after this episode. While it’s not the most technically accurate presentation of Taekwondo, the target demographic of the show – children and teenagers – get to see some basic moves. Oh does a good job to ooze authenticity and make the impression that Taekwondo is a formidable and dangerous martial art.
Dangerous enough to defeat “The Gooch.”
One thing to note is that this episode was four years before the movie The Karate Kid exploded on the scene. Essentially the popularity of the martial arts movies of the 1970s was the backdrop for these as Arnold looks like a young Black Belt Jones.
Arnold and Willis Jackson were popular characters to kids and teenagers of that era. How popular? Muhammad Ali appeared on the show as did many other athletes.
We’ll cover that episode in another column.
Basically, Return of the Gooch is a feel-good episode in which Taekwondo is introduced in a simple and comedic manner that still generates some mystery and intrigue to the young target audience.
May we all develop a “killer foot” in our Taekwondo lessons.