Welcome to the MMA scene where we analyze and share our thoughts on various TV episodes related to combat sports.
Today we take a look at Diff’rent Strokes, one of the most popular sitcoms of its time. It aired from 1978 to 1986 primarily on NBC, with the last two seasons on ABC. It starred a wealthy 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 Mrs. Garrett (Charlotte Rae).
We watch the 1980 season 2 episode 9 show titled The return of the Gooch. Arnold is tired of being intimidated by the schoolyard villain called “The Gooch” and so he takes karate lessons to be able to defend himself.
You can watch the episode by clicking above.
The lightweight and bite-sized portrayal of martial arts in the 1970s and 1980s was fairly common on American television. This is why Asian films tended to be much more interesting.
Here, Sensei Mr. Kim is played by prolific South Korean-American actor Soon-Tek Oh, who has played many combat-related roles before and after this episode. While this isn’t the most technically accurate presentation of Taekwondo, the show’s target demographic – kids and teens – can see some basic moves. Oh does a good job of oozing authenticity and making Taekwondo seem like 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 spot. Essentially, the popularity of the 1970s martial arts movies was the backdrop to these movies, with Arnold looking like a young Black Belt Jones.
Arnold and Willis Jackson were popular characters with children and adolescents of this era. What is the popularity? Muhammad Ali appeared on the show like many other athletes.
We will cover this episode in another column.
Essentially, The return of the Gooch is a wellness episode in which Taekwondo is presented in a simple and comical way that always generates a bit of mystery and intrigue for the young target audience.
May we all develop a ‘killer foot’ in our taekwondo lessons.