Some older television shows are on almost constantly while others are never on. There are several shows that I really liked that are never on anymore, so I have started picking them up on DVD when I can. I just finished watching Facts of Life: The Complete Fourth Season, one of the shows that I've been getting on DVD.
Recommend this product?
Facts of Life aired for nine seasons on NBC starting in 1979. I do remember seeing a lot of the episodes at that point, though I think I only saw the first season once it was in syndication. The show is a spin off of Diff'rent Strokes that shows Mrs. Edna Garrett, the Drummond's housekeeper, taking a job as a housemother at Eastland, a boarding school for girls. During the second season Mrs. Garrett changes positions with the school and becomes the dietician. She also steps up to take responsibility for four girls, Blair, Natalie, Tootie, and Jo when they are in danger of being expelled. The girls have to work in the cafeteria and live together above the kitchen as part of their punishment.
A movie, Facts of Life Goes to Paris, aired just before the fourth season began airing. The movie has Mrs. Garrett going to a cooking school while the girls are taking part in some kind of exchange program and going to a French school. Noting too exciting happens during the movie, but it is entertaining.
The fourth season of Facts of Life takes place during Blair and Jo's senior year at Eastland. Things about graduation and their college plans do come up, especially during the last several episodes of the season. The school is very important to what is going on even though not much of it is shown. The cafeteria, kitchen, lounge and the bedroom the girls share are shown the most. Mrs. Garrett's room is shown a few times as well. All the girls are shown doing homework or studying at some point and one episode is focused on them all cramming all night for finals. A few other locations are used briefly in some episodes, like a garage where Jo gets a job and her mother's apartment.
While there is a lot of humor to what is going on in the fourth season of Facts of Life, the show also deals with some serious issues during the season. Jo's financial issues come up a few different times, and they even threaten her being able to go to college. Natalie writes an article about abortion and then is facing being expelled if she doesn't tell the headmaster her source. The serious issues are dealt with well without the show getting overly preachy about the various subjects. Several episodes have a less serious main plot, like Natalie being upset about a dance, though those episodes also have some serious moments to them. The balance between the humor and serious moments is fairly well balanced, though at times things do seem to get a bit melodramatic. There really aren't any pop culture references, though the girls mention going to the new Star Wars movie. During one episode, Tootie compares Natalie to Lois Lane.
The girls are getting older and dating does come up throughout the season. Blair and Jo have been shown to have dates in previous seasons with Jo having a rather serious relationship with her boyfriend for a while. There isn't as much about the two of them dating overall, though one episode focuses on an unhealthy relationship that Blair is in. Natalie ends up getting a boyfriend that she starts spending most of her time with, but he isn't mentioned again after the one episode. The girls do talk about boys every so often, though nothing is too graphic. Mrs. Garrett is shown dating during one episode as well.
The fourth season of Facts of Life has the same five main characters the show has had since the second season. Mrs. Garrett serves as the main authority figure for the girls. She is also a mother figure for them who they can go to with problems. She is usually understanding about things. Mrs. Garrett does get a bit worked up every so often. Charlotte Rae does well with the part. One of the teachers plays a part in one episode. The headmaster makes a few short appearances and that is it for the other staff of the school.
The girls are well developed by this point, with distinct personalities. Blair is still a bit of a snob, though she isn't as bad as she was earlier in the series. Blair is self absorbed frequently, but she shows that she cares for her friends as well. Lisa Whelchel continues to do well with the part. Blair isn't a typical likeable character, though she is interesting and entertaining.
Jo is still acting tough most of the time. She does take her tough act to extremes a few times, but it works overall for the character. There is more to Jo than there seems at first. She and Blair continue to have issues, but it is clear that they do really like each other. Nancy McKeon does well with the part. Jo's mother and father are in a few episodes.
Natalie is starting to date more, which does cause some issues with her and Tootie. Writing continues to be very important to Natalie. She is smart, though she doesn't always do smart things. Tootie does seem a bit more mature for the most part, but she still does a few childish things every so often. Mindy Cohen and Kim Fields do fine with their parts. There are times when it looks like Cohen is on the verge of cracking up. Cohen and Fields do slip into more over acting in some scenes, doing more yelling than talking. That may be because of the direction they were receiving.
Every so often, some other girls are shown at the school. Most of the time, they are just in the background with nothing to do. A new student turns up in a few episodes, though she still doesn't have a lot to do. At least one relative of each of the four girls turns up during the season. None of the girls that were removed from the main cast after the first season are shown in this season.
Mindy Cohn - Natalie
Kim Fields - Tootie
Nancy McKeon - Jo
Charlotte Rae - Edna Garrett
Lisa Whelchel - Blair
Facts of Life: The Complete Fourth Season was released on DVD in May of 2010. It has been a while since the release of the third season. Unfortunately, I have no idea when or if the remaining seasons will be released. The twenty-four episodes of the fourth season plus the movie set in Paris are on four discs. The case has these disc shaped pages that hold the discs. The inside of the case has a list of episodes along with short summaries.
From the menu on each disc, there is the option to play all the episodes, one after the other, or to go to an episode list and play them one at a time. The only extra, a trivia game, is on the fourth disc. There are some color issues with some of the episodes. Every so often, especially during The Sounds of Silence, the colors would change brightness during a scene. That did get a bit distracting. I think it may be footage that was shot on different cameras, but I don't know for sure. I did notice some issues with the colors in some other episodes, but it wasn't as noticeable as the one episode. I did watch the episodes on the last disc on a HD-TV and Blu-ray and the picture quality did seem better. I haven't gone back to watch the other episodes in the season again on the Blu-ray yet.
I loved Facts of Life when I was growing up and I still enjoy watching the episodes now. Some things do look a bit dated, and there are some issues with over acting at times, but the show is very entertaining. Facts of Life: The Complete Fourth Season is a decent set for fans of the show, though it would have been nice if there were more extras. Hopefully the rest of the seasons will be released.
This review is part of CaptainD's Good Movies EpiGuide 3 Write Off. It is also part of elvisdo's 2010 Funny Pages Write Off because of the mention of Lois Lane.
Facts of Life - The Complete First and Second Seasons ~ Facts of Life - The Complete Third Season ~ Facts of Life: The Complete Fourth Season ~
Viewing Format: DVD