Saturday, May 29, 2010

Gary Coleman's Comedy Legacy

Gary Coleman's Comedy Legacy

By Mike Ryan | Friday, May 28, 2010, 4:42 PM

Courtesy Of Yahoo! TV Blog

Gary Coleman in "The Kid From Left Field"
© Columbia Pictures
When diminutive comedic actor Gary Coleman died on Friday after a brain hemorrhage, pop culture fans of "Diff'rent Strokes" rushed to the Internet to post their "Whatchu talkin' 'bout, Willis?" tributes, and the news channels tried to piece together the details of his death (he had suffered a seizure on an episode of "The Insider" in February, and was admitted to a hospital in Provo, Utah, on Wednesday).

Mostly, though, there was a palpable sense of shock that the perennially youthful actor was gone so soon.

Almost as shocking as his death is the fact that Gary Coleman was 42 years old. Because his height topped out at 4 feet 8 inches, Coleman would always be young Arnold Jackson in the eyes of TV watchers. In more recent years, the public seemed hard-pressed to accept the more unfortunate aspects of this otherwise-cheerful comedian's life.

In his happier days in the late 1970s and the early 1980s, Coleman was a true cornerstone of popular culture, and wherever he went, laughter seemed not far behind.

Gary Coleman broke into acting in a series of successful guest appearances on everything from "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century" to "The Jeffersons" and "Good Times.

Gary Coleman as "Mr. President" in "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century": a cameo on "The Jeffersons":

...and as a persistent, crushed-out young man on "Good Times":

"Diff'rent Strokes" premiered on November 3, 1978, and ran for a very successful eight seasons. Coleman was just 10 years old when he first played Arnold Jackson, the role that would eventually make him a star. The plot centered on orphans Arnold and brother Willis (Todd Bridges), who were adopted by a wealthy Park Avenue resident named Phillip Drummond (Conrad Bain), who learned just as much from them as they learned from him. Willis had a knack for getting involved in many wacky hijinks that would always result in Arnold's now more than iconic catch phrase, "Whatchu talkin' 'bout, Willis?":

Coleman had a fairly successful film career as well. In 1979′s "The Kid From Left Field"  -- a remake of a 1953 movie -- Coleman starred alongside Robert Guillaume, playing Jackie Robinson "J.R." Cooper, who wound up the manager of the San Diego Padres even though he was a child: 

And later, in 1981′s "On the Right Track" (eventually played relentlessly on HBO), Coleman played an orphaned shoeshine boy who lived in a locker at a railway station. He costarred with Norman Fell (better known as Mr. Roper on "Three's Company"):

Eventually, Coleman proved so popular on "Diff'rent Strokes" that in 1982, he was given his own Saturday morning cartoon called "The Gary Coleman Show." Eerily enough, given recent news, in his self-titled show, Coleman played an angel who returns to Earth to help other children with their problems:

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