Saturday, June 5, 2010

Gary Coleman: pioneer. Yes, pioneer.

You know how many Black actors complain there aren’t any good roles for them on television and how they make much less than their White counterparts when they do find roles? Now imagine 1978 and cue-in Gary Coleman.

In 1978, NBC premiered “Diff’rent Strokes”, the sitcom that turned Gary Coleman into the loveable Arnold Jackson. Then a pre-teen, Coleman carried the show on his shoulders and made it a very profitable franchise for NBC (nota bene: in Spain & in Brazil, the show was simply called “Arnold”). And, in what was rarely seen at the time, Coleman was paid $100 000 per episode after tense and well documented negotiations.

In recent years, Coleman walked the too-often-sad path of former child actors and became a bitter cliché. He went from being a security guard to a bad-reality TV staple to juicy gossip for the TMZs of this world. It’s sad and of course, he’s partly to blame for some of his shortcomings although I suspect he’s always been betrayed by everyone around him.

I choose to forget the drama and to remember the pioneer who broke many of the unspoken barriers of television that believe or not, still are present 30 years later. Gary Coleman is part of a rare & elusive breed: the non-stereotypical TV Black Actor. So to you Gary, Kim Fields (only as Tootie), Diahann Carroll, Roxy Roker, Bill Cosby and his TV family: I say thank you.

And to NBC who has yet to do a “Remembering Gary Coleman” special: I say you can add that to the list of things proving you’re clueless (right under the Leno at 10PM fiasco).

A little nostalgia:

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