“You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have The Facts of Life…”
For anyone who grew up in the ’80s, The Facts of Life theme song is instantly recognizable. While the theme song is catchy, the show’s legacy is its longevity. Shout Factory‘s release of the complete series on DVD is a testament to the staying power of Edna Garrett’s girls.
Conceived as a spin-off to Diff’rent Strokes, The Facts of Life followed the Drummond’s housekeeper Edna Garrett (Charlotte Rae) as she became the housemother at Eastland Academy. The first season found Mrs. Garrett struggling to help 7 young women find their place in the world. The show tackled serious issues facing teenagers while injecting a healthy dose of laughter. It’s hard to imagine the pilot episode, which aired in 1979, dealt with the possibility of one character being a lesbian.
The show struggled to find its footing during the first season and ratings were poor. After an extensive retool for the second season, several characters were dropped as main characters. Jo Polniaczek (Nancy McKeon) was introduced as a tough talking tomboy to Eastland. She joined Blair Warner (Lisa Whelchel), Natalie Green (Mindy Cohn), and Tootie Ramsey (Kim Fields) to round out what became the classic lineup. These four girls would provide the backbone of The Facts of Life for the remainder of the show’s run.
Over 9 seasons, the girls of Eastland went through the ups and downs of being young adults. We see the girls travel to Paris, graduate from Eastland, help Mrs. Garrett start a new business, go off to college, and finally go their separate ways. We’re subjected to some cast changes along the way. Mrs. Garrett gets married and is replaced by her sister Beverly Ann Stickle (Cloris Leachman). And before he was a superstar, George Clooney famously sported a mullet as handyman George Burnett.
Shout Factory serves up all 9 seasons of The Facts of Life in this comprehensive 26-DVD box set. Episodes are presented in full frame without subtitles. The quality of the transfer on these discs is good. You may notice some small digital artifacting in episodes but it’s not a major issue and won’t take away from your enjoyment of the show. It’s probably the best the show has ever looked. I don’t expect we’ll see The Facts of Life on Blu-ray any time soon.
There aren’t a lot of bonus features included here. Some of the featurettes have been previously included on DVD releases of the show. The real gems are the inclusion of the back-door pilot episode of the show (originally aired as the final episode of the first season of Diff’rent Strokes) and the made-for-TV movies The Facts of Life Goes To Paris and The Facts of Life Down Under. Unfortunately, Shout Factory wasn’t able to secure the rights for the The Facts of Life Reunion which aired in 2001 so it’s not included in the box set.
The Facts of Life: The Complete Series is a wonderful treat for any fan of the series. With over 200 episodes of the show, 2 made-for-TV movies, and bonus features, it’s hard to go wrong. Just be sure to set aside some time to sit down with Mrs. Garrett and the girls. While not every episode is a gem, you take the good and you take the bad. You take them both…
For even more info on The Facts of Life, be sure to check out The Retroist Podcast on The Facts of Life.
- Remembering The Facts Of Life – Featurette
- After The Facts – Featurette
- The Girls School – Diff’rent Strokes Episode Introducing the Girls of “Eastlake” Academy
- The Facts Of Life Goes To Paris – 1982 TV Movie
- The Facts Of Life Down Under – 1987 TV Movie
- Know The Facts: Trivia Game
- 2014 Cast Reunion At The Paley Center
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