The Facts of Life: Did You Know? 


The Facts of Life cast


This section contains interesting facts about the show, the characters, the cast members, etc.  Please send any additional information to: 


 

  • The Facts of Life began as spinoff of the popular NBC comedy Diff'rent Strokes in August of 1979 and ran until September of 1988. 209 (half-hour syndicated) episodes were produced.

  • Charlotte Rae reportedly had it in her contract that she would get her own series near the end of the first year of Diff'rent Strokes. If it failed, she would have had a safe passage back to Diff'rent Strokes. She played the Drummonds' housekeeper, Mrs. Garrett.

  • Felice Schachter auditioned for the role of Kimberly on Diff'rent Strokes but didn't get the role as it eventually went to Dana Plato. The producers, however, liked her and cast her in the spin-off, The Facts of Life. Felice was the first girl to be cast in The Facts of Life and the first to be released when the show was re-tooled and down-sized after the first season.

  • The first four episodes of The Facts of Life were the original episodes of what was to be a short-lived late summer replacement for the NBC sitcom Hello, Larry.

  • Lisa Whelchel auditioned for and was offered the part of the older daughter (she would have been Kim Richards' sister) on the second season of Hello, Larry. She had already done the pilot for The Facts of Life and fortunately for her The Facts of Life was picked up and ran for 9 seasons while Hello, Larry was gone after its' second season.

  • When the show began filming, Kim Fields was so short that the producers put Tootie in roller skates to avoid difficult camera angles (she grew 3 inches by the 2nd season). Ironically, she had lost a role on Diff'rent Strokes because she was too tall to play Gary Coleman's girlfriend.

  • Mindy Cohn got a part on the series when in the summer of 1979, she was taking an advanced science course at the Westlake School for Girls in Los Angeles - a private all-girls prep school, complete with uniforms, but where the girls went home at night. . One day, completely unheralded actress Charlotte Rae showed up with the series' producers. They wanted to interview private-school students to get ideas for scripts. "We weren't looking for actresses," says Rae. But after she asked Mindy a few questions, something clicked. "I'd envisioned a character called Natalie,"says Rae. "The best friend of the cutie-pie. Funny, down-to-earth. And Mindy was so adorable, I knew she was right. The only question was: could she act?"

  • For the second season, the cast was trimmed down to include just Charlotte Rae, three original girls and one new character. This newcomer, Nancy McKeon, was suggested by a NBC chief Fred Silverman after he had seen the coming of age movie "Little Darlings". She was brought in as Jo Polniaczek, a street-wise kid attending Eastland School on a scholarship. The other three original girls were Lisa Whelchel, Mindy Cohn, and Kim Fields.

  • Nancy McKeon won the part of Jo over Kari Michaelson who later got the part of the oldest daughter Katie Kanisky on Gimme A Break.

  • In 1983, Mindy Cohn was making $10,000 per episode.

  • When The Facts of Life ended its run in 1988, it had earned the distinction of being the longest-running NBC prime-time series to date.

  • There were numerous spinoff attempts - all which were unsuccessful. In season 2, there was the episode Brian and Sylvia with Richard Dean Anderson and Rosanne Caton as an interracial couple. In season 3, there was The Academy and The Big Fight (seven boys at a military academy near Eastland) and Jo's Cousin (Donnelly Rhodes as a gas station owner with three kids). In the 9th and final season, there was Big Apple Blues (when Natalie decides to live in a loft in New York's SoHo to pursue her writing career) and the final 2 episodes which were the pilot for a proposed series with Lisa Whelchel running Eastland. Earlier in the series, there were thought of having Nancy McKeon and Lisa Whelchel in their own series as their high-school graduation episode was the highest rated episode of the 4th season.

  • Nancy McKeon missed the taping of the first two episodes of season six. The show's producers, Embassy Television, slapped her with a breach-of-contract suit, and McKeon suddenly showed up for work again. Embassy then dropped it's lawsuit.

  • Cloris Leachman wasn't signed until two weeks before production began when she replaced Charlotte Rae who wanted to go on to other projects.

  • There are a variety of stories about the show's origins. One version has it that Fred Silverman, head of NBC and a big fan of spin-offs, was anxious to create one from Diff'rent Strokes - his only hit sitcom at the time - and that he suggested something along the lines of "Kotter girls" (a female equivalent of the popular Welcome Back, Kotter). So the writers at Norman Lear's production company, which produced Diff'rent Strokes, came up with the idea of an exclusive girls' school with Mrs. Garrett as the focal point. Charlotte Rae didn't want to leave her current hit, however, and Lear had to guarantee she would get her old role back if the new show died.

  • Ratings declined during the last two seasons (1986-1988), but only gradually. However, the network that had done so much to support the show in its early years now had higher expectations. In 1985, NBC had moved the show to Saturday night, against soft competition on CBS and ABC - shows like Downtown, Life with Lucy and Once a Hero. NBC's own Saturday night lineup (227, Golden Girls, Amen, Hunter) had become a powerhouse. Although The Facts of Life was the #1 show in its time period for its last three years, ironically it was the lowest-rated program in NBC's Saturday lineup, presumably hurting the shows that followed it.

  • The original concept of The Facts of Life was not entirely new as their was a short-lived CBS sitcom from August 8th, 1979 - August 24th, 1979 (4 episodes) with a similar storyline.

    Dorothy Loudon and Linda Manz starred.

    Fresh from winning a Tony Award for her role in the musical Annie, Dorothy Loudon turned up on this summer comedy series as a divorced former showgirl who took a position as music and drama teacher at the exclusive Hannah Hunt School for Girls, a rather stuffy Eastern school. Her background and undisciplined approach to teaching were not always appreciated by the administration, especially by headmaster Burton Foley. But the girls were delighted, and Dorothy was tickled by the chance to do some of her routines for such an appreciative (if underage) audience. Jack and Lorna were two other teachers at school.

  • The Facts of Life: Ratings History

    1979-1980 - Fri. 8:30PM - 4.5 Nielsen Rating *, #74 Ranking among all TV shows
    1980-1981 - Wed. 9:30PM - 19.3, #26
    1981-1982 - Wed. 9:00PM - 19.1, #24
    1982-1983 - Wed. 9:00PM - 17.1, #32
    1983-1984 - Wed. 9:00PM - 17.3, #24
    1984-1985 - Wed. 9:00PM - 16.3, #34
    1985-1986 - Sat. 8:30PM - 17.7, #27
    1986-1987 - Sat. 8:00PM - 16.3, #31
    1987-1988 - Sat. 8:00PM - 14.6, #37

    *Percentage of all television homes in the U.S. that were watching, on an average night.

  • The character of Natalie was named after one of Charlotte Rae's best friends - the character was created specially for Mindy.

  • The character of Andy was named after Charlotte Rae's autistic son Andy.

  • The character of Beverly Ann (Mrs. Garrett's sister) was named after Charlotte Rae's real-life sister Beverly Ann.

  • There have been Facts of Life references on Family Guy, Roseanne, Married with Children, South Park, Living Single, Newhart, and The Simpsons among other shows. In the movie The Cable Guy, Jim Carrey says: "I had to learn the facts of life by WATCHING The Facts of Life."

  • The Facts of Life was featured on TV Guide's Truth Behind the Sitcoms special on May 4th, 2000 on FOX. Welcome Back, Kotter and Roseanne were featured as well. (read transcript here)

  • In the episode where Natalie's father dies, Mrs. Garrett (Charlotte Rae) recounts the death of her own father in the 1950's.

  • Charlotte Rae is from rural Wisconsin and her character was from Appleton, Wisconsin.

  • An one-hour E! True Hollywood Story on the Facts of Life aired on 11/28/99 (and repeated on 8/9/00 and a few other times) - (read transcript here)

  • Charlotte Rae was nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series at the 1982 Emmys but lost.

  • Alex Rocco who played Nancy McKeon's father on The Facts of Life also played her father on the CBS sitcom 'Can't Hurry Love' and also has played her father on the Lifetime series 'The Division'.

  • 16 What kind of music do you like, Lisa? Lisa The Doobie Brothers are the best - I'd love to meet Michael McDonald! I even hung a 16 pin-up of him in "Blair's" room!

  • During season 6, Charlotte Rae's contract allowed her to miss a few episodes toward the end of the season. During season 7, I believe she only signed for 13 episodes, which is why she's missing during the latter half of the season. Then she left entirely after doing the first two episodes of season 8.

  • The exterior shots of Eastland were shot in Pomona, California.


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