Shout! Factory // 1983 // 585 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // November 4th, 2010
"There's a time you got to go and show you're growin' now you know about the facts of life!"
How long did this series run? Seven, eight seasons? More? I've apparently been the staff writer pegged as "The Facts of Life Guy" and it'd be nice to know how many more of these sets I'll have to endure.
Big changes in whatever jerkwater upstate town these characters live: Mrs. Garrett (Charlotte Rae) has been sacked as the school's dietician and has opened up a gourmet food shop; Blair (Lisa Whelchel) and Jo (Nancy McKeon) start college and deal with ex-boyfriends, political pressure on the student council and, of course, class warfare; Natalie (Mind Cohn) grapples with the death of her father; and Tootie (Kim Fields) comes face-to-face with the scourge of illiteracy.
So, you know, light-hearted times as usual!
Here's the brilliant realization that dawned on me as I once again took a spin with this old-school sitcom: The Facts of Life isn't funny.
My apologies to the keepers of the Facts flame, but even grading on a curve for the era in which it aired, this show can be downright painful to watch. Nostalgia kept me rolling along merrily enough through Season Four, willing to look past the brutality for the sake of the times of yore, but enough is enough.
I can't take it anymore.
Episodes are made up of fifty percent "comedy" and fifty percent "grueling melodrama." Here's the agenda:
0:00-10:00: Some jokes as the girls and Mrs. Garrett get into whatever predicament the week calls for. Mostly it's Jo making fun of Blair's upper middle-class upbringing (mysteriously ignoring an easier insult target, the fact that Blair wears bulkier shoulder pads than NFL linebackers), Tootie flipping out, and Natalie popping off a wry barb.
10:00-12:00: The full drama of the predicament is revealed -- dead relative, illiteracy, industrial espionage (really), attempted divorce reconciliation -- as the studio audience sits in stunned silence and the first act comes to a close.
12:00-15:00: As the characters grapple with the Big Emotional Challenge of the Week, a few more jokes are tossed in, again involving Jo carrying on about Blair's money. And Mrs. Garrett might show up with some folksy bit of exasperation.
15:00-25:00: Now we're in community theatre territory, as our characters emote, pacing back and forth, exchanging charged dialogue, struggling to resolve their issues, all sans jokes (except for one or two tension-defusing one-liners that I'm sure the viewing audience was desperate for). And then, credits and a rousing ovation. Oof...
Twenty-six (!) total episodes, culminating in a two-part "finale," which is, in fact, a clip show. Shout! Factory's DVD is utilitarian: mediocre full frame transfers, 2.0 stereo, no extras.
If you like your sitcoms painfully over-dramatic and unfunny, take a trip down this pot-hole-ridden Memory Lane.
Please, I can't handle any more facts.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (CC)
Running Time: 585 Minutes
Release Year: 1983
MPAA Rating: Not Rated