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The Facts of Life - The Complete First & Second Seasons
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A spin-off of Diff'rent Strokes, The Facts of Life was designed as a showcase for Charlotte Rae, who played jack-of-all-trades den mother Edna Garrett. But the show's central plots all revolved around the girls. Back in 1979, certain words weren't common on television. So when Blair tries to make a schoolmate feel bad, insinuating that the girl is a lesbian, she uses the word "strange" instead of the "L" word. The series is a coming-of-age story that plays to its target audience of teenage girls. While much of the humor isn't very sophisticated, the homespun messages the show spread are right on target, whether it's dealing with eating disorders, sexual promiscuity, or acknowledging that handicapped people are people, too. From 1979 to 1988, the girls would grow into young women who go to college, get jobs, and lose their virginity (not necessarily in that order). But in the early seasons, there's a sweet innocence that still rings true today. --Jae-Ha Kim
- Featurette: Remembering the Facts of Life
- Featurette: After Facts
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There are a total of 29 episodes from Season 1 and Season 2.
Here are all the episodes from Season 1 with descriptions and original air dates:
Rough Housing (First aired: 8/24/1979)
The series opens with a crossover from the Drummonds of Diff'rent Strokes visiting Eastland to see Mrs. Garrett (their ex-housekeeper). They arrive during the Harvest Queen competition. Blair thinks she's certain to win. So when Cindy considers running, Blair makes some hateful comments about Cindy's sexuality.
Like Mother, Like Daughter (First aired: 8/31/1979)
It's Parent's Night at Eastland and Blair's sophisticated mother arrives bringing with her, her flirtatious tendencies which prompt rumors when she becomes "friendly" with a married man. Blair is furious and decides she doesn't want to be like her rich and beautiful mother. It's Mrs. Garrett to the rescue to help smooth things over.
The Return of Mr. Garrett (First aired: 9/7/1979)
Mrs. Garrett is surprised by a visit from her ex-husband, who is interested in her again. However, his gambling ways rub off on the girls who begin playing the game that he taught them.
I.Q. (First aired: 9/14/1979)
Nosey Tootie accidentally comes across a paper which lists the I.Q. scores of each one of the girls. Of course, she repeats this confidential information back to the girls prompting a furor with Nancy and Sue Ann.
Overachieving (First aired: 3/12/1980)
Tootie's dad comes for a visit and doesn't like the activities that Tootie is up to. Believing Mrs. Garrett is a bad influence, Mr. Ramsey decides to have Tootie removed from Eastland.
Emily Dickinson (First aired: 3/14/1980).
Blair is so caught up with her latest boyfriend that she forgets to write a poem, so she copies one.
Dieting (First aired: 3/21/1980)
Blair and Sue Ann kid each other about their weight and Sue Ann takes Blair's comments a little too seriously, dieting, starving herself, and eventually getting sick.
The Facts of Love (First aired: 4/4/1980)
Mrs. Garrett begins teaching a sex-education class in stark-disagreement with prudish Mr. Bradley.
Flash Flood (First aired: 4/11/1980)
A flood hits Peekskill which prompts Blair and Tootie to race out to the stables to save their animals. Blair "falls in love" with Mr. Bradley when he comes to the girls' rescue.
Adoption (First aired: 4/25/1980)
Blair sticks here big nose in Natalie's affairs when she finds out that her schoolmate was adopted. Mrs. Garrett convinces Natalie that she's too young to be running after her birth mother because she is too young and not ready for it.
Running (First aired: 5/2/1980)
Mr. Bradley pits Sue Ann and Cindy against eachother so they can each compete to win a track competition. Both girls wind up hating eachother, and it's up to Mrs. Garrett (as usual) to fix things.
Molly's Holiday (First aired: 6/4/1980)
Molly is down in the dumps due to her parents' impending divorce.
Dope (First aired: 6/11/1980)
Blair befriends two girls who she introduces to Sue Ann. All seems to be fine until they learn that their friends are potheads. This episode was dropped from Nick at Nite/TV Land (during it's regular rotation) because of it's "risque" content and storyline.
Here are all the episodes from Season 2 with descriptions and original air dates:
The New Girl (1) (First aired: 11/19/1980)
The new year brings a new student, Jo, a tough girl who hot wires the school van and takes off to the Chug-a-Lug bar with Blair, Natalie and Tootie to meet older boys. However, one of the guys they meet happens to be an undercover officer that drags all the girls to jail when they act up (Tootie pours a pitcher of beer over his head!).
The New Girl (2) (First aired: 11/26/1980)
Mrs. Garrett bails the girls out of jail and announces that they all have been expelled from Eastland. However, they can stay if they move in with Mrs. Garrett and work in the cafeteria. This prompts the new premise with a scaled-down cast.
Double Standard (First aired: 12/10/1980)
Blair is sure that an old friend, Harrison Andrews is going to invite her to a cotillion. However, he invites Jo because Harrison is a sexist snob that thinks he can get lucky with Jo.
Who Am I? (First aired: 12/17/1980)
Tootie begins to think long and hard about her race and how she's being treated at Eastland, thanks to a new boy she meets.
Cousin Geri (First aired: 12/24/1980)
When Blair's cousin Geri (Geri Jewell) makes a big splash at Eastland Mrs. Garret thinks that Blair is embarrassed of her cousin (who has CP) beause Blair hides out in her room. But it's actually the green eye of jealousy that's bitten Blair. BTW, I love the song and dance routine that caps off the ep with Blair and Geri. Geri Jewell was such a great addition to the cast.
Shoplifting (First aired: 12/31/1980)
It's Mrs. Garrett's birthday and the girls (except Blair) steal a blouse to give her.
Teenage Marriage (1) (First aired: 1/7/1981)
Jo's cute little boyfriend, Eddie, surprises her by making a sudden visit to Eastland, but she gets even more of a surprise when he proposes to her.
Teenage Marriage (2) (First aired: 1/14/1981)
Jo is unsure of whether or not to accept Eddie's proposal but finally decides to go ahead with the wedding. All the girls, including Mrs. Garrett help to convince Jo that she's making the wrong decision.
Gossip (First aired: 1/21/1981)
Tootie's big-ears get her in trouble again. She overseas some gossip and repeats it back to the girls inciting another catastrophe.
Breaking Point (First aired: 1/28/1981)
Blair is running for class president but things get out of hand when one of the candidates commits suicide. This is another episode that Nick at Nite/TV Land didn't like to air.
Sex Symbol (First aired: 2/4/1981)
Natalie hits it off with Neil. However, rumors fly that Natalie and Neil did more than just study. Natalie encourages the gossip because she doesn't want the girls to think she's inexperienced.
The Secret (First aired: 2/25/1981)
Shortly after winning an award, Jo learns that her incarcerated father, is getting paroled and that he would like to attend the awards ceremony.
Bought and Sold (First aired: 3/4/1981)
Blair is selling cosmetics for Countess Calvet's cosmetic company. The Countess (played by Zsa Zsa Gabor) makes a special visit to Eastland to give some tips to Blair and the other girls.
Pretty Babies (First aired: 3/11/1981)
A top fashion photographer is coming to Eastland to find the "Face of the 80's." Tootie is picked because this pig of a photographer gets off taking pictures of young girls all dressed up as women with makeup and appealing outfits. Mrs. Garrett is right when she calls this "one step above child pornography."
Free Spirit (First aired: 3/18/1981)
Mrs. Garrett's free-spirited son, Alex whisks by Eastland for a visit, with "tales" about how he rubs elbows with other musicians like Neil Diamond and Carly Simon.
Brian and Sylvia (First aired: 3/25/1981)
Tootie and Natalie visit Tootie's aunt and uncle (an interracial couple living in DC). However, they're unaware they showed up right in the middle of a fight.
"The Facts of Life successfully spun off from "Diff'rent Strokes" and then unarguably went on to establish it's own far more successful and separate idenity. It did this by combining the 1970's 'women's buddy show' with a 1980's emphasis on wealth and luxury.
Edna Garrett (Charlotte Rae), the Drumond's housekeeper, becomes housemother at Kimberly's boarding school in Peekskill New York. The Drummonds make 'special guest appearances' at Eastland into the second season. However, considering it is Kimberly's school, her single guest appearance in "Rough Housing" is puzzling. Surely, we would have seen her more?
29 episodes make up the combined season. Whomever was in charge of DVD production for this release remembered that the series did not become the cultural phenomena it is remembered as today until the second season. However important to establishing the series (and featuring a VERY young Molly Ringwald) the first season comparatively lacked the oomph which ultimately made the series click. I'm also pleased that the price is bellow $30 dollars, studios actually want people buying this product as soon as it hits the shelves.
During the second season, the 'core' group of girls is paired down to four and their distinctive personalities are emphasized. Livening things up, 'rough' 'Jo' (Joanne)Polniaczek is added to the cast. Former season one regulars Molly Ringwald (Molly)Julie Anne Haddock (Cindy), Julie Piekarski (Sue Ann), and Felice Schachter (Nancy) come back for guest appearances.
Season 2 explains how this seemingly disparate group of girls ends up living together. After they are caught sneaking out to the Chugalug bar (The new girl part 2) the girls end up working in the kitchen--with Mrs. Garett always around to dispense advice---in order to be reinstated at Eastland. Realizing they do like working together, the girls follow Mrs. Garrett over when she opens up "Edna's Edibles" ('Gossip').
Other special episodes include "The Return of Mr. Garrett" because Mrs. Garett's ex-husband returns, along with his gambling problem. He is better known to my generation as the father of actor Alan Alda, but Robert Alda is an accomplished actor in his own right.
Another good episode is "The Secret" because Jo is torn between wanting to show off an accomplishment and being worried what her 'fancy' new friends will ultimately think of her father. This dilemma also reveals that Jo ultimately does care what her peers think of her.
Blair also deals with the opinions of others and her own internalized discomfort with 'difference'. Her cousin Geri (played by Geri Jewell) has cerebral palsy. Jewell made television history, becoming the first person with an obvious disability to become a recurring series regular. I was too young to appreciate everything this character did when first seeing the show, but her lines provide insight of what young adult women with disabilities go through.
There are two features, but the important thing is that this series is finally on DVD--and two seasons at once! This series should be required viewing for anybody even considering making a television spin-off.
Started as a spin-off to Diffrent Strokes, Mrs. Garrett goes to Eastland (where Kimberly is a student) to become the house mother. The early season featured a larger cast (Jo was the rebel biker who arrived in season 2 to complet the 5-some of Mrs. G, Blair, Tootie, and Natalie) and has always tackled issues from drug abuse to parental death.
It's light humor and typical plot of the 70's and 80's theme kept it popular for many years. This show is utterly amazing, family oriented, and long overdue on DVD. You will no doubt fall in love with its simplicity and fun times of 4 girls forced to live together as roomies (more so in season 2 forward).
Enjoy this DVD set and may it keep coming with all 9 seasons!!!
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