February 20, 2016


(NBC, September 18-December 11, 1982)

Hanna-Barbera Productions

Gary Coleman – Andrew “Andy” LeBeau
Jennifer Darling – Angelica
Sidney Miller – Hornswoggle
Lauren Anders – Chris
Geoffrey Gordon – Haggle
LaShana Dendy – Tina
Jerry Houser – Bartholomew
Calvin Mason – Spence

Casey Kasem – Opening narrator

            While small in stature, Gary Coleman was pretty big in the 1970s and early 1980s.

            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.

“Fouled Up Fossils / Going, Going, Gone” (9/18/82) – Spence, Tina and Andy join an archaeologist on a dig in Oakville. / Andy helps Bartholomew round up items for an auction.

“You Oughtta’ Be In Pictures / Derby Daze” (9/25/82) – Andy has to save Lydia’s film in order to help Chris become a star. / Andy tries to help Bartholomew win the soap box derby for a date with Lydia.

“Hornswoggle’s Hoax / Calamity Canine” (10/1/82) – Hornswoggle disguises himself as Angelica to trick Andy into exposing his identity. / Andy takes to protecting a klutzy dog from the dog catcher.

“Cupid Andy / Space Odd-Essey” (10/8/82) – Andy is assigned to help Bartholomew win over Lydia. / Andy and Tina mistake a movie production for an alien invasion.

“Hornswoggle’s New Leaf / Keep On Movin’ On” (10/15/82) – Hornswoggle tricks Andy into believing he’s turned good in order to discredit Andy with his friends. / Andy and the gang help Mrs. Trindle move into her new house.

“Mansion Madness / Wuthering Kites” (10/22/82) – A sick Bartholomew accidentally messes up Lydia’s mother’s new carpet. / Andy and the gang try to retrieve Tina’s kite.

“In the Swim / Put Up or Fix Up” (10/29/82) – Lydia invites everyone but Chris to her pool party. / Angelica assigns Andy to fix up an old building so that the gang can have a safe place to hang out.

“Haggle and Double Haggle / The Royal Visitor” (11/6/82) – Hornswoggle frames Haggle for spending the gang’s money on a new baseball mitt. / Lydia goes on a gift-shopping spree for a visiting royal guest while Tina makes one.

“The Future Tense / Dr. Livingston, I Presume” (11/13/82) – Tina gets a crystal ball that seems to actually predict the future. / Andy goes with Tina to meet her scientist cousin at the airport.

“Haggle’s Luck / Head in the Clouds” (11/20/82) – Hornswoggle tricks Haggle into thinking a charm will protect him from any kind of harm. / Spence becomes so engrossed in his studies that he forgets about everything else.

“Teacher’s Pest / Andy Sings the Blues” (11/27/82) – Andy takes a final examination. / Mack gets credit for Andy’s preventing a train disaster.

“Easy Money / Take My Tonsils – Please” (12/4/82) – Andy helps Haggle on his babysitting job. / Tina runs away to avoid having her tonsils taken out.

“The Prettiest Girl in Oakville / Mack’s Snow Job” (12/11/82) – Spence and Bartholomew go crazy over Chris when she shows up in a new dress. / The gang just wants to enjoy the snow, but Mack has other plans.

Originally posted in 2016. Updated in 2020.

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