On Tuesday night, the Emmy Award-winning Live in Front of a Studio Audience returns with two new reenactments of beloved, classic television series, this time taking on The Facts of Life and Diff'rent Strokes. Both reenactments premiere tonight, December 7th beginning at 8 p.m. ET on ABC and when it comes to bringing the laughs, it certainly sounds like the performances will deliver. During a recent appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live, the cast of this iteration of Live in Front of a Studio Audience revealed that, during the Diff'rent Strokes reenactment, John Lithgow, who will play Mr. Drummond, will physically carry Kevin Hart, who is playing Arnold, the role played by Gary Coleman in the original series.
"Really it was my idea," Lithgow told Kimmel. "Kevin is not quite as light as I expected but managed to get him across the stage and everybody laughs so it works. He's all comedy and all muscle."
Created by Jeff Harris and Bernie Kukoff, Diff'rent Strokes ran first on NBC from November 1978 to May 1985 and then from September 1985 to March 1986 and originally starred Gary Coleman, Todd Bridges, Conrad Bain, Dana Plato, and Charlotte Rae. The Facts of Life, which starred Rae and was created by Dick Clair and Jenna McMahon, aired on NBC from August 1979 to May 1988. The series was a spinoff of Diff'rent Strokes and followed Rae's Edna Garret, formerly the housekeeper on Diff'rent Strokes, becoming the housemother of a dormitory for a private all-girls school.
Live in Front of a Studio audience debuted in spring 2019 with recreations of episodes of All in the Family and The Jeffersons featuring all-star casts, followed by an additional episode of All in the Family and the groundbreaking sitcom Good Times in winter 2019. The program has been popular with viewers with The Sony Pictures Television special Live in Front of a Studio Audience: All in the Family and Good Times reaching nearly 13 million total viewers on linear and digital platforms. In addition, the holiday-inspired live event averaged nearly 8 million total viewers after 35 days of delayed viewing across all platforms.
The special event will reunite executive producers Norman Lear, Jimmy Kimmel, Brent Miller, Kerry Washington, Will Ferrell, Justin Theroux, and Jim Burrows. The cast for Diff'rent Strokes has already been announced with John Lithgow playing Mr. Drummond, Kevin hart playing Arnold, Damon Wayans playing Willis, and Ann Dowd playing Mrs. Garret. The cast of The Facts of Life will include Jennifer Anniston as Blair, Gabrielle Union as Tootie, Allison Tolman as Natalie, and Kathryn Hahn as Jo. The special will be followed by a special early premiere of the new series Abbott Elementary which stars and is executive produced by Quinta Brunson.
"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," Norman Lear said in a statement.
Live in Front of a Studio Audience premiere's Tuesday, December 7th at 8 p.m. ET on ABC. The event will stream the next day on Hulu.