If you’re over 30 will be able to explain, the formula is: You get good, and the bad, and you choose to take both of them, and then you’ve got The Facts of Life.
The sitcom that lasted for a long time on NBC is a fond reminiscences piece of the ’80s’ nostalgia. Today marks its 30th anniversary since the show’s conclusion; it’s time to go through the past and meet Blair, Tootie, Natalie, Jo, and good old Mrs. Garrett.
To make the trip more entertaining, There are a few things you don’t know about your favourite all-female ’80s sitcom.
Interesting Facts of Life!
1. There were seven girls during the first season: BLAIR, TOOTIE, NATALIE and FOUR OTHERS.
The scene was quite crowded at the Eastland School during those first 13 episodes, featuring Felice Schachter, Julie Anne Haddock, Julie Piekarski, and Molly Ringwald (yes, that one), among other characters. Some of the school’s administrators appeared on the show too. It was quickly clear that there wasn’t enough for all those characters to be doing, and the ratings were not great. In the second season, producers pared down the show to those elements performing most effectively, eliminated all the others and added Nancy McKeon as a tomboy, blue-collar Jo.
2. Lisa WHELCHEL, KIM FIELDS, and MINDY COHN DID NOT KNOW. The other GIRLS were sacked until they showed up for work on the second season of Season Two.
“Everybody was stunned,” Whelchel said. “Nobody had any idea, as far as I can tell, that they were planning to make these huge cuts.” The four castoffs appeared back as guest performers several times throughout season two, three as well as for a final season eight reunion episode titled “The Little Chill.” Ringwald was the one to hold out.
3. GEORGE CLOONEY WAS ONE of the many guest stars who would later become a big-time CELEBRITY.
It’s a well-known bit of information that Clooney played a handyman on 17 episodes dotted throughout season seven as well as eight. Some of the guest stars who haven’t yet become famous on the show included Helen Hunt, Juliette Lewis, Mayim Bialik, Seth Green, Richard Dean Anderson, Richard Grieco, Dennis Haysbert, and Crispin Glover, David Spade, and Bridesmaids director Paul Feig.
4. The show’s final episode aired in 1988; it was the longest-running NBC show in its Historiography.
Nine seasons with 201 hours were more than enough to make history for the period. (Yep, it also beat Diff’rent Strokes, the show that it was split off.) It’s since been eclipsed in the record books of NBC through Cheers, Frasier, and Friends.
5. COHN WAS CHOSEN FROM A REAL GIRLS’ CHOCOLATE TO play NATALIE, a PART SPECIFICALLY crafted for her.
Before when The Facts of Life began production, Charlotte Rae and some of the show’s creators went to Westlake School in Bel Air to observe actual teens. Cohn was among the students who agreed to visit the people on TV and respond to their questions. (“Getting out of the classroom was a good idea, as did the additional incentive of free doughnuts sounded much better,” Cohn later wrote.) Rae was apparently in the love of Cohn as she said that she was reminiscent of her childhood friend, who was named Natalie. “She was so adorable and had a Jewish sensibility, so we thought”Hey, she’d make amazing as one of the girls’ !'” executive producer Jerry Mayer recalled. “We were able to contact her mother, and her mom told us, ‘Sure, and the rest was the story. However, it was purely lucky luck.”
6. KIM Fields was just 10 AFTER THE SHOW DEVELOPED.
Mindy Cohn was thirteen, while Lisa Whelchel was 16. (Nancy McKeon wasn’t a part of the team until season two, however she’s exactly the similar age as Cohn.) Another reason Tootie was often skating on roller skates during the beginning was to conceal that she was shorter compared to the other girls.
7. It wasn’t merely a spinoff OF DIFF’RENT STOKES, IT was a very fast spinoff of DIFF’RENT STROKES.
NBC was in a slump in the latter part of the 1970s when NBC was struggling. The top thirty shows on the network during the 1977-78 season, 15 of them were on ABC and 11, on CBS while only four were in NBC (Little House on the Prairie, Project UFO, and the Monday and Tuesday evening films). That’s why the moment Diff’rent Strokes premiered in the fall of 1978 and quickly became popular–it ranked 27th for the entire season–NBC jumped in quickly to take advantage of the popularity.
The final episode from Diff’rent Strokes’ first season, “The Girls School,” included a housekeeper named Mrs Garrett helping out at Kimberly’s private school. It ended with her being offered a role as a housemother. “The Facts of Life premiered three months later in August of 1979. It was a trial run of four episodes and then was renewed at the beginning of March in 1980. Mrs Garrett continued to appear on the second season of Diff’rent Strakes in the between before she left the Drummonds for good.
8. The show tried (AND was unsuccessful) to launch six of the show’s spinoffs.
All of them were known as “backdoor pilots”, in which an apparent regular episode of the show is an audition for a brand new show. (The Facts of Life was conceived in a “backdoor” pilot.) The episode of season two, “Brian and Sylvia”, could have led to an episode about an interracial union (featuring Aunt Tootie’s). In season three, “The Academy” introduced an all-boys military college near our girls’ high school, and they returned in the Season 4 episode. Also, in the third season, “Jo’s Cousin” had Jo’s tough-talking streetwise cousin living in a house that was full of men. The season finale, “Graduation”, test the idea of sending Blair and Jo out to their own, having completed their studies at Eastland. “Big Apple Blues” from season 9 featured Natalie drinking with odd SoHo actors (including David Spade and Richard Grieco) and contemplating beginning a new life in the city. The series finale featured Blair purchasing Eastland, which was co-ed and then making a fresh start as the new Mrs Garrett, expecting that NBC would approve The Facts of Life: The Next Generation (or something similar to that).
9. The FACTS OF LIFE AIRED around the same time as another show with a SIMILAR PRICE.
Dorothy starred the Broadway’s Dorothy Loudon (Annie’s original Miss Hannigan). It was about the free-spirited showgirl, a drama and music teacher at a snooty East Coast girls school. The show aired on CBS for four episodes in August 1979, which overlapped with the premier in The Facts of Life by one week.
10. NANCY McKEON SUCCEED TO TOUGH GIRL JO’s role… being a genuinely tenacious girl.
The screen test she took was an emotional scene that required an unplanned phone call. The director John Bowab later recalled, “I clearly remember asking Nancy. “Even though the script states cry, don’t. I’d like you to keep off and make your audience cry. She did. Everyone who was in control of the room was shaken.”
11. PRODUCERS COMPLAINED that WHELCHEL gained weight, and COHN lost it.
In an interview in 2013 on People, Whelchel and Cohn spoke about the difficulties that producers had to face with (in the words of Whelchel) “trying to find out the best way to adapt to our evolving body.” “Weight has always been a problem at the time,” explained Cohn. “An everyday struggle,” added Whelchel. “Our bodies were the subject of discussion. There was no Internet. However, we were aware of the opinions of people. Joan Rivers called us The Fats of Life … The producers had me sent to several fat farms! I’d tell them, ‘I’m heading to Texas for my break, and they’d respond, “No, you’re not. We gave tickets on the way to the fat-farmed!” In the meantime, Cohn was losing weight. Cohn later revealed to E! True Hollywood Story that the producers had asked her to stop the show because of the character she played being overweight. The solution was to put Cohn in loose clothes that made her appear larger than she was.
12. BLAIR’S COUSIN GERI was the first disabled character to appear regularly on A TV SHOW PRIMETIME.
She was performed on stage by Geri Jewell. She was comic suffering from cerebral palsy, who produced Norman Lear had seen perform at the Media Access Awards in 1980. “I received applause from the crowd when I ran across Norman on the way to his office,” Jewell later recalled. “He told me”, You’ll hear from me very soon. I promise you that, kid. Three months after, he called me in the “Cousin Geri episode from season 2.” Jewell was on the show several times over the next couple of years. Recently, Jewell was a regular on HBO’s Deadwood and had appearances on Glee.
13. As long as it was, and as fervently I REMEMBER IT AS MUCH, the show was never a huge success.
It placed 74th in its debut season but only got through its cancellation. Streamlining the cast did the trick to make the show well-loved from season two onward, particularly younger viewers. Although the show usually was a winner in its time slot and saw a few episodes make it to the top of the week’s 20 in the top 20, the average for the season did not rise above 24th. It wasn’t able to earn any respect from the television academy either, racking up only 3 Emmy nods (no wins) throughout its season, including one for hairstyling, the other for technical direction and another for Charlotte Rae lead actress.
14. SNOBBY RICH GIRL BAIR WAS SUPPOSED to be a naive fast-talking TEXAN.
The script was written that way in the script, at least. However, when Whelchel was auditioning, “There is one word in the script that the way I read it was very rudely and condescendingly,” she said. “And I didn’t realize until I was cast and then realized that they had changed for the character to become the one who was a snob.”
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