Case Number 10303


Sony // 1982 // 602 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // November 8th, 2006

The Charge

You take the good. You take the bad. You take them both. And there you have.
The Facts of Life.

Opening Statement

Mrs. Garrett (Charlotte Rae) and the girls log in another round of valuable life lessons and knee-high socks. What pointed misadventures are in store for us this season? Lots, not the least of which is Tootie's recruitment into a stable of New York City hookers by a pimp.

Facts of the Case

At the elite all-girl's boarding Eastland School, Mrs. Garrett lords over the school cafeteria and her crack squad of lunch helpers: Blair (Lisa Whelchel), Natalie (Mindy Cohn), Jo (Nancy McKeon) and Tootie (Kim Fields). When they're not bussing tables or scraping the gum of the underside of trays, the girls are learning some hard-hitting lessons.

Here's the season three menu:

Disc One:
* "Growing Pains"
* "Fear Strikes Back"
* "A Baby in the House"
* "A Friend in Deed"
* "Front Page"
* "Give and Take"
* "Sweet Sorrow"
* "From Russia With Love"

Disc Two:
* "Dear Me"
* "Cousin Geri Returns"
* "Legacy"
* "Green-Eyed Monster"
* "The Americanization of Miko"
* "The Marriage Brokers"
* "Starstruck"
* "The Four Musketeers"

Disc Three:
* "The Affair"
* "Runaway"
* "New York, New York"
* "Kids Can be Cruel"
* "Mind Your Own Business"
* "The Academy"
* "Jo's Cousin"
* "Read No Evil"

The Evidence

When I was young, I had a recurring dream that Mindy Cohn was chasing me in a motel, dressed up as a superhero. Oh how that nightmare tormented me! There are only two things I can extrapolate from this: 1) there was a lot of lead paint in my bedroom, 2) I watched may too many Facts of Life reruns. I can see number one, but after wading back into the misadventures of Garrett and the girls, I'm unsure of what I found so engrossing about the show way back when.

Facts of Life is as heavy-handed and moralizing a sitcom as you'll ever see, where the genres of comedy and drama blend together to form a genre that makes you feel awkward. The textbook plays for episodes usually go something like this: jokes/jokes/big dramatic cliffhanger at the commercial break/jokes/jokes/drama/overzealous applause. When we reach the moral of the episode, which usually eats up the last five minutes or so, it's full-on melodrama, with the occasional laugh tossed in to relieve some pressure. And while that setup's certainly not alien to similar sitcoms, Facts of Life earns an honorable mention for its heavy-duty subject matter. This season, the girls tackle the Ku Klux Klan, Freedom of Speech, Tootie's obsession with Jermaine Jackson (yes!), the treatment of people with disabilities, antiquated Russian anti-feminism, immigrant assimilation, nerd tolerance, parental infidelity, yellow journalism, and -- the pinnacle of the season -- hooker recruitment. Thankfully, Mrs. Garrett is always at the ready to dispense some much-needed advice and guidance.

It's all very uneasy, especially those long climactic stretches, where you can audibly hear the live studio audience growing restless and uncomfortable. That kind of melding of comedy and drama may have been the norm back then, but the simple truth is, this sitcom formula is dated. Worse, the object lessons are dated, too. Really, who gives a crap about book banning any more? And when was the last time you knew someone who almost "accidentally" ended up in a pimp's ho train? The comedy writing is okay I guess, though the wit is diminished by an audience that gets too into it (I can't stand those vigorous applause rounds at the commercial break) and the fact I've been spoiled by Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Arrested Development, shows that really know how to make a person spew corn flakes in a fit of laughter.

Here's the honest truth: The Facts of Life season three has ceased to be relevant, offering only a jog through Memory Lane and some inadvertent laughs at the sight of Kim Fields going psycho over frickin' Jermaine Jackson.

A typical economy presentation by Sony for these old-school TV sets: full frame, 2.0 stereo and no extras.

Closing Statement

I guess I'm heartless, but playful reminiscence isn't enough reason to shell out money for an antiquated TV series. Unless, of course, that series included high-tech battle helicopters. Sadly, no high-tech battle helicopters in The Facts of Life.

The Verdict

The accused is run over by Jo's motorcycle.

Review content copyright © 2006 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 70
Audio: 75
Extras: 0
Acting: 85
Story: 75
Judgment: 76

Perp Profile
Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
* Full Frame

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)

* English

Running Time: 602 Minutes
Release Year: 1982
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* None

* IMDb