An Unfortunate Episode – Diff’rent Strokes Season 5 Episodes 16 & 17: The Bicycle Man

Gordon Jump guest stars in his most infamous role on Diff'rent Strokes
Diff'rent Strokes (Screen: NBC)

Gordon Jump guests as a bad man on an unfortunate episode of Diff’rent Strokes. It’s even more disturbing than you remember (or tried to forget).

Being a child of the 80s, my two introductions to the concept of pedophilia were an instructional/safety film strip called “It’s Better to Be Safe than Sorry” (screened once every school year starting in second grade) and “The Bicycle Man” episode of Diff’rent Strokes. Apparently, the writers and producers of the latter fancied this Very Special Episode as something akin to the former. The program begins with this direct announcement to the camera.

“Hello, I’m Conrad Bain. Tonight on Diff’rent Strokes, we’re starting a special two part show on a very sensitive and important subject. Now we urge families, parents and children alike, to watch both of these informative episodes and then to discuss the problem presented, which is of deep concern to all of us.” Um, no. That didn’t happen in my house. This bit wasn’t included in syndication and even if it had been, my mom would refuse to discuss this show as anything but garbage.

The post-theme song action begins with Mr. Drummond, Arnold, Willis and Kimberly rolling bikes into Horton’s Bicycle Shop. The family chats about their fun ride through Central Park. Willis jokes about breezily passing all the winos. Ha ha! Homeless people.

Enter Mr. Horton. He emerges from the back room juggling. Uh oh. For some reason, these kids love him. When Mr. Drummond pays for the borrowed bikes, Horton pushes him to buy instead of throwing his money away on rentals. Arnold begs for a bike in that “pretty please” whine every parent should ignore. Mr. Drummond hesitates about giving Arnold that freedom. “There are a lot of strange people out there. I just don’t like the idea of you riding out in the park alone.” Foreshadowing!

The combined force of salesman and child overcome Mr. Drummond’s reservations and he agrees to purchase the bike for Arnold’s upcoming birthday. Recognizing a fellow shyster, Horton offers Arnold a free handlebar radio if he successfully distributes a thick pile of sales flyers at school, adding, “You scratch my back, I scratch yours.” Arnold replies, “You keep coming up with these presents, you can scratch me all over.” Eww.

    A Brief Word From Our Sponsors:

    Tara Rose
    About Tara Rose 106 Articles
    Since 2009, Tara has been writing snarky essays about pop culture, motherhood and her various neuroses at Rare Oats. She spends most of her other time selling cheese, raising a small human and goofing off with her husband Dan. E-mail:
    Contact: Twitter