Judge David Johnson learned the facts of life recently. A lot of big surprises.
Our reviews of The Facts Of Life: The Complete First And Second Seasons (published May 1st, 2006), The Facts Of Life: The Complete Third Season (published November 8th, 2006), and The Facts Of Life: The Complete Fifth Season (published November 4th, 2010) are also available.
You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have…
…24 episodes of dated humor and overwrought melodrama!
Facts of the Case
Big things are afoot at the Eastland Academy for Girls. Seniors Blair (Lisa Whelchel) and Jo (Nancy Mckeon) are prepping to graduate and attend some place called Langley College, Tootie (Kim Fields) is coming to grips with her hearing loss, Mrs. Garrett (Charlotte Rae) looks to get her groove back with a professor who may just be too old for her, and Natalie (Mindy Cohn) is about to write the most provocative high school newspaper abortion story of all time.
The Facts of Life is an interesting relic. They don't make primetime comedies like this anymore and for that, well, I have to admit I'm grateful. I can certainly appreciate Mrs. Garrett and crew and the impact they had on network TV, and I enjoyed watching this season. But not because it was funny or anything. It was more like an exercise in bizarre curiosity.
As far as sitcoms go, Season Four of The Facts of Life is way more "situation" than "comedy." Laughs seem to be a secondary thought, with the emphasis placed on long, melodramatic conversations between characters as they attempt deal with the issue of the week. Huge chunks of time goes by without a single joke, making these adventures designed more to attack the heart than the funny bone.
But that's the whammy, here. Because of its age, the show and its life lessons are antiquated. Not completely, of course. There are some applicable teachable moments we can still take away, like anxiety over a mother figure dating someone who's too old for her or a disappointing father or questions of how to pay for school. But the heavy-hitters? Yeah, those are a struggle. Hearing loss? Get over it Tootie. It's not permanent. The abortion episode? The show's attempt at addressing parental notification is laughable (something about the girl's father still flinches at the scratch she left on his car—and that's why you don't tell the guy about your abortion?!). And then there's my favorite, the Not Just Very, But Hugely Special Episode where Blair befriends a mentally challenged boy and no one on the show can stop saying the word "retarded."
This laugh-free wackiness culminates in Blair and Jo's matriculation, which ushers in the beginning stages of the show's frantic scurrying to maintain the formula outside of a school setting, eventually leading to Mrs. Garrett opening an eatery and a gaudy gift shop. As such, Season 4 is a transition season for the show, which was still skating on Top 30 popularity. NBC, recognizing this, used the series for one of my favorite old-school sitcom ploys, the backdoor spin-off attempt; which would substitute a regular episode with a random new setting filled with new characters in hopes of launching another franchise. Here, it's "Academy II," a full-episode look at a neighboring boys military academy and some little schmuck's upcoming boxing match. A waste of everyone's time.
The four-DVD set brings the shows in their native full-frame aspect ratio and sports two extras: the 1982 made-for-TV movie "The Facts of Life Goes to Paris" and a 15-question trivia game.
The nostalgia effect is there but let's all be honest with each other, what's the point?
Not Guilty. Mainly because when I was a younger I used to have a recurring
nightmare where Natalie would chase me around an abandoned hotel in a cape and I
don't want to have to go through that again.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
• Bonus Episode
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