TITLE: THE FACTS OF LIFE - THE COMPLETE FIRST AND SECOND SEASONS
DVD Release Date: May 9, 2006 (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Color / 1979-81
Number of Discs: 4
Number of Episodes: 29
Running time: Approx. 707 Minutes
Running time of Special Features: Approx. 22 Minutes
Audio Tracks: English - Dolby Digital - Mono
Video: Full Frame 1.33:1
Languages, Subtitles, Closed Captioning: English; Closed Captioned
Special Features: Remembering "The Facts of Life" Featurette, After Facts Featurette
A spin-off of the tremendously popular show "Diff'rent Strokes," The Facts of Life
is the hilarious series that follows housemother Mrs. Edna Garrett (Charlotte Rae)
and her mission to instill values in the girls of Eastland School.
The large first season cast included John Lawlor, Jenny O'Hara, Lisa Whelchel,
Felice Schachter, Julie Piekarski, Kim Fields, Molly Ringwald,
Julie Anne Haddock and Mindy Cohn. By the second season, the show focused
on Mrs. Garrett and just four Eastland girls - spoiled Blair, gossipy Tootie,
wise-cracking Natalie, and newcomer to the group, rebellious Jo (Nancy McKeon).
Under Mrs. Garrett's guidance, these four go from wide-eyed school girls to mature
young women...all while learning The Facts of Life! Guest stars include
the cast of "Diff'rent Strokes," Helen Hunt and Richard Dean Anderson
of TV's "MacGyver."
The Facts of Life first aired on August 24, 1979, on NBC as a spin-off from the
network's phenomenally-popular sitcom "Diff'rent Strokes" on which Charlotte Rae
played Mrs. Garrett, housekeeper to Philip Drummond's household. On The Facts of Life,
Mrs. Garrett becomes a dorm housemother at Eastland, an exclusive girl's boarding school,
where she acts as confidante and surrogate parent to the girls in her charge. The first season
involved Mrs. Garrett adjusting to her new job and featured storylines involving the
numerous issues besetting teens like dieting, adoption, athletic competition, divorce,
Needing to sharpen its broad focus, in the second season Mrs. Garrett became the school's
nutritionist and the series concentrated its attention on four girls in Mrs. Garrett's
charge: the wealthy and spoiled debutante Blair Warner (Whelchel), the wisecracking Natalie Green (Cohn),
the sassy Dorothy "Tootie" Ramsey (Fields) and the newly-introduced character of working class
tough girl from the Bronx, Jo Polniaczek (McKeon), who offered a dynamic counterpoint to the other uppler-class teens
and gave the series renewed energy and life.
After its somewhat slow start (it ranked #74 in the Nielsen ratings for the 1979-80 season),
The Facts of Life found its niche and became a sucess, ultimately becoming the longest-running
sitcom of its time on television with 209 episodes, despite numerous timeslot changes
over the course of its nine seasons from 1979-88. ABC aired a reunion movie on November
Memorable Episodes / Notable Guest Stars:
The first four episodes of the series aired from August-September 1979. The 9 remaining episodes
aired from March-October 1980 to complete the short first season. Season 2 premiered
on November 19, 1980. A total of 16 season 2 episodes were produced.
Memorable episodes in the first and second seasons included "I.Q.," in which Tootie
finds a copy of her friends' I.Q. scores and reveals the informatin to the girls,
with unexpected results. In order to impress a blind date, Sue Ann goes on a crash
diet, placing her health in jeopardy in "Dieting." Blair and Sue Ann join an exclusive
clique of girls at another dorm, but they're not quite ready for the group's
favorite pasttime - smoking marijuana in "Dope." In addition to her new responsibilites
as school nutritionist, Mrs. Garrett has her hands full when she decides to make
roommates of streetwise new student Jo and snobbish Blair in "The New Girl - Part 1."
A ridiculous bet between Jo and Blair lands the girls in jail - and expelled
from Eastland School in "The New Girl - Part 2." Expecting an invitation to the country
club cotillion, Blair is shocked to learn that her childhood friend Harrison has
invited Jo instead in "Double Standard." Her Eastland schoolmates try to dissuade
her from marriage when Jo's steady boyfriend Eddie proposes in "Teenage Marriage - Part 1."
Mrs. Garrett and the girls attempt to delay the marriage until Jo's mother can be
contacted, but Jo and Eddie get wind of their plan and rush off to elope
in "Teenage Marriage - Part 2." Blair joins Countess Calvet's cosmetic company
as a sales representative and gives Natalie a glamorous - but expensive - makeover
in "Bought & Sold."
Notable guest stars included the Diff'rent Strokes cast (Conrad Bain, Todd Bridges,
Gary Coleman, and Dana Plato) in "Rough Housing." Robert Alda played Mrs. Garrett's
ex-husband, Robert Garrett, in "The Return of Mr. Garrett." Helen Hunt guest
starred as Emily in "Dope." Gary Coleman returned as Arnold in "The New Girl - Part
1." Geri Jewell makes her first appearance in the recurring role of Blair's cousin, Geri,
in "Cousin Geri." Dick O'Neill appeared as Henry Douglas in "Shoplifting." Clark
Brandon played Jo's boyfriend, Eddie, in "Teenage Marriage - Part 1" and "Teenage
Marriage - Part 2." Alex Rocco makes his first of many appearances as Jo's father in
"The Secret." Zsa Zsa Gabor played Countess Calvet in "Bought & Sold." Todd Bridges
returned as Willis in "Bought & Sold." Richard Dean Anderson guest starred as
Brian and Ja'net DuBois was Ethel in the failed spin-off attempt "Brian and Slyvia."
This 4-disc set contains all 29 episodes from the first (1979-80) and second (1980-81)
seasons. The DVD cover art (pictured above) features solo shots of five of the cast
members in different colored backgrounds with white edges: Lisa Whelchel, Nancy McKeon,
Charlotte Rae, Mindy Cohn, and Kim Fields. The Facts of Life logo is in yellow
at the top of the box. My initial impression of seeing the photos of the cover was
that is looked kind of amateurish. I would have preferred to see them just use a Season 2 cast photo on the cover.
It really looks better in person though, and the colors will make it stand out in stores. Lisa
Whelchel's photo on the cover looks like it was reversed, as the Eastland logo on her uniform is backwards.
On the back of the box, there is nice color cast photo of the Season 1 cast and 2 smaller
photos from the episodes. Lisa Whelchel and Julie Piekarski (both in incredibly short shorts)
and Mrs. Garrett are in one photo, and Mindy Cohn massages Charlotte Rae's neck in the other.
There is also a summary of the show, a listing of the special features, and the DVD
specs on the back cover. Lisa Whelchel is on the spine of the box.
Two slim cases slide out from the left of the thin cardboard box. Slim case #1
is light green, and it has a season 1 cast photo of the girls in their athletic Eastland uniforms
and Mrs. Garrett blowing a whistle and holding a basketball. Slim case #2 is light
blue and has a Season 2 cast photo of the girls in their regular Eastland uniforms.
On the back of the slim cases, the episode titles and short summaries are given.
It would have been to see them list the original broadcast airdates and highlight some
of the notable guest stars. Inside the cases, there are some additional light green
and blue tinted cast photos. The photo inside the second case looks to be from past
Season 2, but that's not a big deal. The actual discs have solo photos of various cast
members with different colored backgrounds. Disc 1 is orange and has a picture
Julie Piekarski and contains episodes 1-6 and the special features. Disc 2 is light green and has a photo
of Molly Ringwald and offers episodes 7-13. Disc 3 is purple and has a picture
of Lisa Whelchel and holds episodes 14-21. Disc 4 is yellow and has a photo of
Nancy McKeon and rounds out the set with episodes 22-29.
Menu Design and Navigation:
The menus are very colorful and easy to navigate. All of the menus have a school theme,
with lockers in the background. Disc 1's main menu has the Facts of Life logo in
pink on the left-hand side of the screen and 5 photos (Lisa, Nancy, Charlotte, Mindy,
and Kim) on the right. There is an Eastland pennant and various other items in
the locker. The other disc main menus have different colored backgrounds and feature solo
shots Lisa Whelchel, Mindy Cohn, and Charlotte Rae. The Facts of Life logo is in various
colors. There are options for "Play All Episodes,"
"Episode Selections," "Special Features," and "Previews" (the Special Features and
Previews are only for Disc 1). There is a green circle next to the episode you highlight
that turns black upon your selection. When you select "Episode Selections," it takes
you to a sub-menu that has an individual photo of one of the cast members, and the episode
titles are listed vertically on the right. There is a bracket next to the episode
you highlight. Julie Pierkarski is on the Disc 1 sub-menu, Molly Ringwald is on Disc 2,
Nancy McKeon (in her military fatigues) is on Disc 3, and Kim Fields is on Disc 4.
There are no separate menus for scene selections. There are well-placed chapter stops
after the opening credits, traditional commercial breaks, and before the ending credits.
Video and Audio Quality:
The video and audio quality is about what I expected. Overall, the picture quality
is pretty sharp, and the colors are bright. The episodes are in their
original fullscreen format. These episodes looked better than what I've
seen on Nick at Nite, Hallmark, or on the USA Network in recent years, so Sony likely
has remastered them for this set. Since the show was shot on videotape, there
is none of the dust or debris you find with shows shot on film. All of the episodes
appear to be unedited, running around 23-24 minutes in length. The first episode is only
23:03, but that matches the time on the episode aired on Comcast's On Demand service
and on Columbia House's VHS tape. The episodes are not spread really evenly, but I didn't
notice any compression issues. The way they have the episodes on each disc makes sense though,
with the start of Season 2 on Disc 3 and a non 2-part episode at the start of Disc 4.
The episodes are presented in their original broadcast order. There is only a
Sony Pictures Television closing logo. Maybe we'll see some Embassy logos (including some plastered
on the end credits) on future releases.
The Dolby Digital Mono audio track is typical of many other sitcoms of the late 1970's
and early 1980's. It is generally at a good volume, and the dialogue is easy to
understand. Some of the sets like the cafeteria were quite large, so the actors might
have had to speak up sometimes. The slightly different opening theme credits, with
the Diff'rent Strokes cast members, are included on the first episode. Charlotte Rae sang part
of the theme song in the first season. The second season theme and on was sung by Gloria Loring. Closed captioning
is available on all of the episodes.
Here is the episode breakdown by disc and the running times:
1. Rough Housing (23:03)
2. Like Mother, Like Daughter (24:18)
3. The Return of Mr. Garrett (23:37)
4. I.Q. (24:21)
5. Overachieving (23:47)
6. Emily Dickinson (24:19)
7. Dieting (24:24)
8. The Facts of Love (aka Sex Education) (24:18)
9. Flash Flood (24:18)
10. Adoption (24:08)
11. Running (24:19)
12. Molly's Holiday (24:19)
13. Dope (24:19)
14. The New Girl - Part 1 (24:33)
15. The New Girl - Part 2 (23:58)
16. Double Standard (24:43)
17. Who Am I? (24:45)
18. Cousin Geri (24:44)
19. Shoplifting (24:44)
20. Teenage Marriage - Part 1 (24:44)
21. Teenage Marriage - Part 2 (23:50)
22. Gossip (24:45)
23. Breaking Point (24:45)
24. Sex Symbol (24:46)
25. The Secret (24:44)
26. Bought & Sold (24:23)
27. Pretty Babies (24:25)
28. Free Spirit (24:25)
29. Brian & Sylvia (24:24)
Note: The Facts of Life pilot episode, "The Girls School," which aired as part
of Diff'rent Strokes, is not included on this set. You can find it on
Diff'rent Strokes - The Complete First Season.
There are two featurettes found on Disc 1.
Remebering The Facts of Life (18:27) - This featurette has new interviews with
Kim Fields, Casting Director Eve Brandstein, Lisa Whelchel, Felice Schachter,
Mindy Cohn, Julie Anne Becker (Haddock). Various topics are covered including
how the show was developed to be built around Charlotte Rae, working with Charlotte
Rae, the casting of real teenagers, Felice Schachter's casting, how Lisa came up
with her character and auditioned for the role, Kim's casting and her
comedic timing, Mindy Cohn's casting, Molly Ringwald, Julie Anne Haddock, Julie Piekarski,
how the the show was revamped after the first season and the cast was cut, and
Overall, this was a well produced special. It had some cool background music, and I liked
how they showed little video clips from the show when each cast member was first interviewed.
It was great to see new interviews with some of the cast members. There probably isn't any new
information for any die-hard fans, and it doesn't go into great depth. Only about the last
4 minutes or so is about the second season, so the focus is mainly on the first season.
I think that it was more geared to new and casual viewers.
It was nice to see Felice Schachter and Julie Anne Becker (Haddock) interviewed. I don't
think I've ever seen an interview with Julie Anne. Everybody looks great. It is hard
to believe the show premiered over 25 years ago, and it has been nearly 20 years
since it ended.
After Facts (3:50) - Felice Schachter, Julie Anne Becker, Mindy Cohn, Kim Fields,
and Lisa Whelchel talk about what they've done since they were let go from the show or
it ended. Everybody who has followed the cast probably knows what Mindy, Kim, and Lisa
have been up to. There have been some updates on Felice online, but I've never
seen anything on Julie Anne. Time to update the where are they now? section for them.
Who was missing from the featurettes? Charlotte Rae - She was interviewed for the first
season DVD release of Diff'rent Strokes, just two years ago. I was really surprised to see
her not here.
Julie Piekarski - I was surprised they were able to get the other
first season girls and not her. She was my favorite season 1 cast member, so it was
a disappointment she wasn't included.
Molly Ringwald - I've not seen her talk a lot about The
Facts of Life. She probably doesn't regret being letting go from the show because of her
80's film hits.
Nancy McKeon - She didn't participate in the 2001
reunion movie, so it shouldn't be a shock she wasn't interviewed. I don't think she necessarily
minds talking about the show, but she doesn't want it to be the only role she is known for.
Some cast audio commentaries would have been fun to hear. Logistics may have been a problem.
It seems like the interviews were conducted in various parts of the country. Lisa's was
in Dallas, Felice was in New York, and the rest were likely in Los Angeles.
Maybe we will see some more interviews and bloopers/outtakes in future
There are also some Bonus Previews for some other Sony DVD releases: I Dream of Jeannie (:51),
Gidget and The Flying Nun (1:33), Ladies Night TV (1:55), and '80s Hits (2:52). The Ladies Night TV
preview would lead you to believe that we'll be seeing Maude and One Day at a Time
on DVD soon.
You take the good (quality, unedited episodes and a good value under $30), you take the bad (so-so cover art and
a lack of in-depth special features), you take them both and there you have The Facts of Life - The Complete First
and Second Seasons. I think fans of the show will be pleased with this release. It has been such a long wait for this series to come to DVD.
I think it was a wise decision to package the first and second seasons together. The special features won't blow you away, but it is always nice to see recent interviews with as many cast members as they
can get to participate. I don't care what other people think. The show still holds up, and it is as fun
to watch now as it was as a child of the 80's. It had a lot of impact and influenced many people. The clothing
and hairstyles have changed, but a lot of issues are still relevant today. For those of you who may only like the later Edna's Edibles and Over Our Head seasons, I think
it is important to show your support for this first release. Hopefully strong sales will lead Sony to release future
seasons at a fast rate. A season every 6 months or so would be very nice and would satisfy the large fan base.
Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)
Video Quality: 4/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Special Features: 1.5/5
Menu Design/Navigation: 4/5
-- Reviewed by Todd Fuller on 04/25/06
To purchase the DVD, click below and help support SitcomsOnline.com:
Questions or comments about this set? Post on our message board:
For much more information on the show, visit our extensive fan site:
The Facts of Life Online
Please e-mail me with your sitcom related questions, sitcoms to add, and suggestions for additional links. © 1999-2014, Todd Fuller Contact Form