The Facts of Life
A spin-off of Diff'rent Strokes, the series featured the Drummonds' housekeeper, Edna Garrett as the housemother of a dormitory at Eastland School, a private all-girls school. The girls in her care included spoiled rich girl Blair Warner; the youngest, gossipy Dorothy "Tootie" Ramsey; and overweight, impressionable Natalie Green. In the second season, Mrs. Garrett was promoted to school dietitian, and all the original cast members were dropped except for Blair, Natalie, and Tootie. Nancy McKeon joined the cast as tough, streetwise-but-vulnerable Jo Polniaczek.
In the show's first season, episodes focused on the troubles of seven girls, and the action was usually set in a large, wood-paneled common room of a girls' dormitory. Also appearing was the school's headmaster, Stephen Bradley. Early episodes of the show typically revolved around a central morality-based or "lesson teaching" theme.
After the first season, the show was retooled extensively. The producers felt that there were too many characters given the limitations of the half-hour sitcom format, and that the plotlines should be more focused to give the remaining girls more room for character development. Four of the original actresses — Julie Anne Haddock (Cindy), Julie Piekarski (Sue Ann), Felice Schachter (Nancy), and Molly Ringwald (Molly) — were written out of the show (although the four did make periodic appearances in the second and third seasons, and one "reunion" in the eighth season). Mr. Bradley's character was also dropped and replaced with a generally unseen headmaster named Mr. Harris. (Mr. Harris actually appeared in an early second season episode, "Gossip", played by Kenneth Mars) and Mr. Parker for the rest of the series. In addition to being housemother to the remaining girls, Mrs. Garrett became the school dietitian as the second season began. Jo Polniaczek, a new student originally from the Bronx, arrived at Eastland on scholarship. A run-in with the law forced the four to be separated from the other girls, and work in the cafeteria, living together in a spare room next to Mrs. Garrett's bedroom.
In 1983, Jo and Blair graduated Eastland Academy in the season four finale "Graduation.". To keep the four girls under one roof, Mrs. Garrett went into business for herself and opens a gourmet food venture named Edna's Edibles. The four girls come to work for her and live in one of the rooms in the house attached to the store.
The show became part of NBC's much-watched Saturday night lineup in 1985, but by this time, the main actors were now in their late teens and early twenties, and public interest was beginning to wane. In an attempt to increase ratings, Mrs. Garrett's store Edna's Edibles was burned to the ground in the season seven premiere "Out of the Fire." The follow-up episode "Into the Frying Pan" had the girls band together to rebuild the store with a pop culture-influenced gift shop that the girls ran together, called Over Our Heads.
Charlotte Rae initially reduced her role in seasons six and seven, and later decided to leave the series altogether. In season eight's heavily promoted one-hour premiere "Out of Peekskill", Mrs. Garrett married the man of her dreams and joined him in Africa while he works for the Peace Corps. Mrs. Garrett convinces her sister, Beverly Ann Stickle (Cloris Leachman), to take over the shop and look after the girls. Beverly Ann later legally adopted Over Our Heads worker Andy Moffett (Mackenzie Astin) in the episode "A Boy About the House."
In the final season, even though the series still usually won its time slot, it placed last among the programs in NBC's Saturday night lineup (which, at the time, had Top 20 hits in The Golden Girls and 227). At 8 p.m. it was now in TV's most unforgiving time slot. NBC still had confidence in the series, however, and placed it as the 8 p.m. anchor, kicking off one of the network's highest-rated nights (second to The Cosby Show on Thursdays).
|Charlotte Rae||Edna Ann Garrett||*||*||*||*||*||*||*||*|
|Lisa Whelchel||Blair Warner||*||*||*||*||*||*||*||*||*||*|
|Mindy Cohn||Natalie Green||*||*||*||*||*||*||*||*||*||*|
|Kim Fields||Dorothy "Tootie" Ramsey||*||*||*||*||*||*||*||*||*||*|
|John Lawlor||Steven Bradley||*|
|Jenny O'Hara||Emily Mahoney||*|
|Felice Schachter||Nancy Olson||*||o||o|
|Julie Piekarski||Sue Ann Weaver||*||o||o|
|Julie Anne Haddock||Cindy Webster||*||o||o|
|Molly Ringwald||Molly Parker||*||o|
|Nancy McKeon||Joanne "Jo" Marie Polniaczek Bonner||*||*||*||*||*||*||*||*||*|
|Pamela Segall||Kelly Affinado||*|
|George Clooney||George Burnett||*||o|
|Mackenzie Astin||Andy Moffett Stickle||o||*||*||*|
|Cloris Leachman||Beverly Ann Stickle||*||*|
|Sherrie Krenn||Pippa McKenna||*|
| Orange/Red/o indicates a recurring or guest role during that season.|
Dark Green indicates top billing during that season.
|Season One||August 24, 1979||June 11, 1980||13|
|Season Two||November 19, 1980||March 25, 1981||16|
|Season Three||October 28, 1981||May 5, 1982||24|
|Season Four||September 29, 1982||May 4, 1983||24 + 1|
|Season Five||September 21, 1983||May 9, 1984||26|
|Season Six||September 26, 1984||May 15, 1985||26|
|Season Seven||September 14, 1985||May 10, 1986||24|
|Season Eight||September 27, 1986||May 9, 1987||24 + 1|
|Season Nine||September 26, 1987||May 7, 1988||24|
|The Facts of Life Goes to Paris||September 25, 1982|
|The Facts of Life Down Under||February 15, 1987|
|The Facts of Life Reunion||November 18, 2001|
- At a Glance: Additional information about the series
|Season Sets (Region 1)|
|The Complete First and Second Seasons||May 9, 2006||purchase||4|
|The Complete Third Season||October 24, 2006||purchase||3|
|The Complete Fourth Season||May 4, 2010||purchase||4|
|The Complete Fifth Season||November 2, 2010||4|
|The Complete Sixth Season||June 9, 2015||4|