Information about how the show got started before the first season (1978).
On Friday, May 19th, 1978, Tandem Productions executived gave NBC an idea to start a new show to help the weak NBC Network, Diff'rent Strokes. Soon after the idea was revealed 26 episodes were ordered for the series. The cast included Conrad Bain as Mr. Philip Drummond, Charlotte Rae as Mrs. Edna Garrett, Dana Plato as Kimberly Drummond, Gary Coleman as Arnold Jackson, and Todd Bridges as Willis Jackson. Diff'rent Strokes premeired on November 3rd, 1978.
Diff'rent Strokes was NBC's only hit show, and was still suffering from powerhouse rival networks ABC and CBS. NBC desperate for good ratings was looking for ideas to help the weak network. Then NBC President Fred Silverman saw the audience reaction to Charlotte Rae in her role on Diff'rent Strokes and came up with the idea to spin her off in her own sitcom. " I thought they were going to fire me when they asked me to come in their office" stated Rae. The pilot aired as an episode of Diff'rent Strokes where Kimberly Drummond's (Dana Plato) private boarding school is in need of a new house mother. After the airing, the network then ordered 9 episodes of a new series, The Facts of Life. Charlotte Rae was promised her old position back as housekeeper on Diff'rent Strokes if the new series flopped. The Facts of Life later premeired on August 24th, 1979.