Pros: Show is still fun and entertaining.
Cons: Some episodes were't as good.
Over the last few years, I have started to pick up DVD sets for television shows that I really liked. Some of the DVD sets have been for shows that I can still find on television somewhere and other are shows that I haven’t seen on television in years. I loved Facts of Life, but I haven’t seen it on any of the stations I get for years. I recently picked up Facts of Life - The Complete First and Second Seasons on DVD.
Facts of Life aired from 1979 to 1988. It started as a spin off of Diff'rent Strokes featuring Edna Garrett, the former housekeeper for the Drummond family, in her new job. Mrs. Garrett became a housemother at Eastland, a private girl’s school. She helped the girls with different problems and served as an authority figure.
During the first season of Facts of Life, Mrs. Garrett was in charge of a group of girls living in one of the dormitories, which looked like a house, at Eastland. The girls varied in ages yet they all seemed to get along well and even had classes together. The episodes mostly only showed the girls that lived in Mrs. Garrett’s dorm - Blair, Cindy, Nancy, Sue Ann, Natalie, Tootie, and Molly. Only a few other girls turned up briefly in a few of the episodes. Mr. Bradley, the headmaster, and one teacher, Miss Mahoney, were the only other staff members shown during the first season. Mr. Bradley was shown teaching at times as well in a few episodes.
Some things about the show were changed for the second season. Mrs. Garrett became the nutritionist for Eastland. Only three of the girls from the first season - Blair, Natalie, and Tootie - returned as main characters. A new girl named Jo, who was street wise and at the school thanks to a scholarship, was added. Jo was very different from the other girls, especially Blair, and they did clash. Blair and Jo were ultimately responsible for something that caused all four girls to get into so much trouble that they were almost expelled from Eastland. As part of their punishment, they had to live together under Mrs. Garrett’s supervision and work in the school’s cafeteria. The other girls from the first season did turn up in a few episodes, but they were gone for the most part. During the first season, since there were so many girls, most of them really weren’t developed that much. Things did seem to work better with only four girls and they all received a decent amount of attention.
The episodes in the first two seasons of Facts of Life dealt with a variety of subjects. Some of the episodes focused on more serious things like drug use, sex, teen marriage and others were about more trivial things like crushes or dances. Some of the episodes that seemed to be more trivial at first ended up being more serious by the end. The episodes were entertaining and usually managed to deliver some sort of message in a non preachy way. I thought the show balanced those things well. It was done much better with this show than it had been on some of the newer shows. The last episode of the second season, Brian & Sylvia, was a bit weaker and didn’t work as well in my opinion. It did seem to be an attempt to launch a new show that ended up not being made.
Molly, Sue Ann, Cindy, and Nancy were the girls from the first season who were mostly gone by the second season, only popping up briefly in a few episodes. Even during the first season, those four really didn’t have that much to do, so I didn’t mind that they weren’t included more. I didn’t dislike them, though Nancy was a bit annoying with how she kept going on and on about her boyfriend Roger. There were episodes focused on them during the first season, but I think the other girls received more attention.
It did seem like the most interesting and likable of the girls from the first season were chosen to be main characters from that point on. Blair was very rich and tended to act like a snob. She could be downright rude and nasty to the other girls at times, so it was harder to like her. She did help to keep things interesting. Lisa Whelchel handled the part well. Tootie was a huge gossip who frequently didn’t get the story straight before she started blabbing to anyone who would listen. She did cause a few problems doing that. She was running around on roller skates all the time during the first season, even when going to class. That was done to make Kim Fields look taller and therefore older than she was at the time. I always have thought it was odd that she was allowed to wear skates all the time like that. She was even shown going up stairs in them, which I would think would be an accident waiting to happen.
Natalie was a nice girl who everyone seemed to like. She was a bit overweight, but she was shown to have a good attitude about it most of the time. She tended to be more in the background during the first season, but she was given more attention during the second which was good since she was such a nice, likable character. Mindy Cohn handled the part well. Jo was the new main character added during the second season. She was more wild than the other girls and had some adjusting to do once at Eastland. She had gotten a scholarship and was trying to do well in school because of how important that was to her mother. That didn’t stop Jo from getting into some trouble every so often though. Jo came across as tough, but she was a likable character. I really liked Nancy McKeon in the part.
Mrs. Garrett was a kind loving woman who could also be strict when it was needed. She bonded well with the girls and did what she could to help them. She was basically a parental figure to the girls most of the time and they did tend to listen to her and respect her. They all got along well. I did like Charlotte Rae in the part. Mr. Bradley was only around in a few episodes of the first season. He never seemed to do much other than pop up to throw his authority around. I really didn’t miss him in the second season. Miss Mahoney was in even fewer episodes, so she basically had nothing to do.
A different headmaster turned up during one or two short scenes. I don’t remember seeing any other staff members during the second season other than a cook and I can’t recall his name now. Family members for a few of the girls turned up every so often when they were visiting the school for some reason. Only a few other girls going to Eastland were shown. Whenever that happened, the other girls usually didn’t have too much to do, though the one girl ended up being very important in her episode. Arnold and Willis turned up in a few episodes to visit Mrs. Garrett. When Willis was there in the second season, he was barely shown, but Jo was talking to him like she already knew him even though that was the first time they were shown talking on the show. Helen Hunt and Richard Dean Anderson showed up as guest stars.
Mindy Cohn - Natalie Green
Kim Fields - Tootie (Dorothy) Ramsey
Julie Ann Haddock - Cindy Webster
John Lawlor - Mr. Bradley
Nancy McKeon - Jo (Joanne) Polniaczek
Jenny O’Hara - Miss Mahoney
Julie Piekarski - Sue Ann Weaver
Charlotte Rae - Edna Garrett
Molly Ringwald - Molly
Felice Schachter - Nancy Olson
The first and second seasons of Facts of Life are included together in one DVD set on four discs. The first two discs contain the thirteen episodes from season one and the last two discs have the sixteen episodes of the second season. There was a play all option on the main menu of each disc, or the episodes could be selected one at a time and played that way. The first disc had two short features on the making of the show that included interviews with a few cast members. They were interesting, though they really didn’t say much.
Like Mother, Like Daughter
The Return of Mr. Garrett
The Facts of Love, AKA Sex Education
The New Girl - Part 1
The New Girl - Part 2
Who Am I?
Teenage Marriage - Part 1
Teenage Marriage - Part 2
Bought & Sold
Brian & Sylvia
Facts of Life - The Complete First and Second Season is a great DVD set for fans of the show. I’m really happy that I picked this set up and plan to get the third season as well. Unfortunately, the third season is the last season to have been released on DVD and I haven’t been able to find any news on when the rest of the seasons will be released. I’m hoping that eventually they will be available on DVD and I won’t hesitate to get them if that happens.