Coleman began his career in 1974 by appearing in a commercial for Harris Bank. After several guest spots on established television shows, he found his claim to fame when he was cast as Arnold Jackson on Diff’rent Strokes; one of two orphaned brothers taken in by their mother’s former employer. With that role came other opportunities, including the chance to star in several television movies.
In 1982, Coleman starred in The Kid with the Broken Halo, written by George Kirgo and directed by Leslie H. Martinson. He was Andy LeBeau, a wise-cracking angel-in-training who kept messing up and causing trouble in training. As a bit of a last chance, he was sent to Earth in order to perform good deeds for three families to win his wings. While the movie itself wasn’t a runaway hit, Coleman was still a name to bank on and NBC decided to translate the film into an animated series.
|Character model sheet.|
Produced by Hanna-Barbera and Zephyr Productions, one of the studios behind the film, The Gary Coleman Show focused on the continuing adventures of apprentice guardian angel Andy (Coleman) as his supervisor, Angelica (Jennifer Darling), sent him down to perform assigned good deeds in the town of Oakville. Hampering his efforts most of the time was a being known as Hornswoggle (Sidney Miller), who would trick Andy into making the wrong choices and having to clean up the resulting mess afterwards (although, Andy was quite capable of fouling things up himself). To make matters worse Hornswoggle was invisible to Angelica, leading her to doubt his existence in Andy’s explanations.
|Angelica is unable to see Hornswoggle.|
The subjects of Andy’s help (and trouble) were his Earth-bound friends. Amongst them was klutzy Batholomew (Jerry Houser) who had a crush on spoiled rich girl, Lydia (Julie McWhirter Dees); genius Spence (Calvin Mason) with a verbose vocabulary; Spence’s little sister, Tina (LaShana Dendy), who had a crush on Andy; Haggle (Geoffrey Gordon), who often spoke in rhyme; and athletic Chris (Lauren Anders). Occasionally they were at odds with the local bully and braggart, Mack (Steve Schatzberg). While on Earth, Andy would remove his halo to become visible to his friends and appear human. Donning it again allowed him to access his angelic powers.
|Spence finds Andy's halo.|
The Gary Coleman Show debuted on September 18, 1982 on NBC. The opening narration describing the premise was provided by Casey Kasem over music by Hoyt Curtin. It was written by Cliff Roberts, Dianne Dixon, Martin Werner, Robert Jayson (who also wrote for Diff’rent Strokes), Paul Dini, Peter Dixon, John Bates, Janis Diamond, Mark Shiney, David Villaire, Bob Langhans, Larry Parr, Sandy Fries, Allan Heldfond, John T. Graham and Tom Ruegger. It was animated by a Mexican animation studio that Hanna-Barbera had set up expressly for work on this series due to the tight timeframe they had to deliver it. However, complications arose when animation came back incorrect; such as Andy’s skin being rendered as Caucasian as they had never heard of Coleman in Mexico, apparently. Geoffrey Gordon was an NBC page when he was cast in the role of Haggle, which became the first cartoon character ever to rap.
|Batholomew tries to get in shape to impress Lydia.|
The series only lasted a single season of 13 episodes, each broken up into two 11-minute segments. It re-aired in syndicated reruns on Cartoon Network in the 1990s and again in 2006 as part of their Adult Swim programming block. Kasem’s narration from the intro were omitted from the reruns. Antioch Publishing Editors produced several books based on the series both adapting the episodes and featuring original stories. While it hasn’t seen a full home media release yet, various episodes have been made available on various video hosting sites through fan recordings.
Originally posted in 2016. Updated in 2020.