Here’s what Willis is talkin’ about. Jimmy Kimmel and Norman Lear are bringing back their “Live in Front of a Studio Audience” franchise for a third edition this December, and this time they’ll be taking on the iconic sitcom “Diff’rent Strokes’ and its spin-off, “The Facts of Life.”
Already cast in the “Diff’rent Strokes” installment are John Lithgow as Mr.Drummond, Kevin Hart playing Arnold, Damon Wayans as Willis and Ann Dowd as Mrs. Garrett. The cast of “The Facts of Life” will be revealed at a later date.
“Live in Front of a Studio Audience: ‘The Facts of Life’ and ‘Diff’rent Strokes'” will air Tuesday, Dec. 7 at 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. ET, followed by the premiere of new workplace comedy “Abbott Elementary.” Lear is back to executive produce and host with Kimmel. Also executive producing: Brent Miller, Kerry Washington, Will Ferrell, Justin Theroux and Jim Burrows. Burrows and Andy Fisher are set to direct the live show.
“Other than with my family, there’s no place I’d rather be in my 100th year than on a soundstage at Sony with these glorious actors reliving what our company had produced all those years ago and sharing it with the millions of viewers who could use a little laughter,” said Lear, who turns 100 next July.
“Diff’rent Strokes” and “The Facts of Life” are part of the Lear cannon via his Tandem Productions banner. “Diff’rent Strokes,” which aired from 1978 to 1985, starred Gary Coleman and Todd Bridges as Arnold and Willis Jackson, two young Black boys, who are adopted by rich white businessman Phillip Drummond (played by Conrad Bain). When their mother passes away, the boys move in with Drummond (a widower) and his daughter Kimberly (Dana Plato). Charlotte Rae played their housekeeper, Mrs. Garrett, who was later spun off into “The Facts of Life.”
In “The Facts of Life,” Edna Garrett becomes housemother of a dormitory at a private all-girls school in Peekskill, New York, and oversees the care of students Blair Warner (Lisa Whelchel), Dorothy “Tootie” Ramsey (Kim Fields), Natalie Green (Mindy Cohn) and others, who were written out of the show after Season 1. Later came Jo Polniaczek (Nancy McKeon) as part of a revamp in Season 2.
“The Facts of Life” was created by Dick Clair and Jenna McMahon, and “Diff’rent Strokes” was created by Bernie Kukoff and Jeff Harris.
“‘Live in Front of a Studio Audience’ has become one of our most anticipated highlights of the year — it brings some of the biggest and funniest stars on the planet together on the same stage, where truly anything can happen, to introduce a whole new generation to ‘Diff’rent Strokes’ and ‘Facts of Life,’” said Craig Erwich, president, Hulu Originals and ABC Entertainment. “Jimmy and Norman have outdone themselves with a spectacular, irreverent and hilarious cast to once again create a can’t-miss television event.”
The first “Live in Front of a Studio Audience” featured re-creations of “All in the Family” and “The Jeffersons” in spring 2019, averaging 13 million viewers. It was followed by a second edition featuring “All in the Family” and “Good Times” in winter 2019, which averaged nearly 8 million Total Viewers after 35 days of delayed viewing across all platforms. Both installments won Emmy Awards in the Outstanding Variety Special (Live).
Previous casts included Woody Harrelson, Marisa Tomei, Ellie Kemper, Ike Barinholtz, Anthony Anderson, Sean Hayes, Kevin Bacon, Jesse Eisenberg and Justina Machado for “All in the Family”; Jamie Foxx, Wanda Sykes, Kerry Washington, Will Ferrell, Marla Gibbs, Fran Bennett, Jovan Adepo, Amber Stevens West, Stephen Tobolowsky and Jackée Harry for “The Jeffersons”; and Andre Braugher, Viola Davis, Tiffany Haddish, Jay Pharoah, Corinne Foxx, Asante Blackk, John Amos and Jharrel Jerome on “Good Times.”
Further editions were put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but with production protocols in place, producers were ready to bring it back.
“As Norman Lear approaches his 100th birthday, what better way to celebrate him than bringing back these classic shows, ‘Facts of Life’ and ‘Diff’rent Strokes.’ It has been such an honor to work with Norman Lear, Jimmy Kimmel, Brent Miller and our partners at ABC on the live specials. We look forward to seeing another stellar cast bring families together and enjoy this exciting format,” said Sony Pictures Television Studios President Jeff Frost and Co-President Jason Clodfelter in a join statement.
“Live in Front of a Studio Audience” will be produced by Kimmelot, Act III Productions, Gary Sanchez Productions, D’Arconville, Simpson Street and Sony Pictures Television.
“Thanks, again, to ABC and Sony Pictures Television for supporting our creative conceit and our incredible cast as we try to make what might seem like the impossible possible — once again. I couldn’t be more excited to end this year producing a project that supports, promotes and encourages appointment TV with those you care for,” said executive producer Brent Miller, who runs Act III with Lear.
Added executive producer Kerry Washington: “It has been an honor and highlight of my career to collaborate with the legendary Norman Lear, Jimmy Kimmel, ABC and Sony. Part of the magic of Norman’s iconic TV series is that they resonate with audiences today just as much as they did decades ago. Reliving and reimagining them feels like pure joy. I keep wondering when this will start to feel like work!”
Here’s a poster for the new special: