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The Facts of Life - The Complete Third Season



DVD Release Date: October 24, 2006 (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Color / 1981-82
MSRP: $29.95
Number of Discs: 3
Number of Episodes: 24
Running time: Approx. 602 Minutes
Audio Tracks: English - Dolby Digital - English (Stereo)
Video: Full Frame 1.33:1
Languages, Subtitles, Closed Captioning: English; Closed Captioned
Special Features: Sony TV DVD Previews


School is back in session as Mrs. Garrett and the girls of Eastland return for the third season of The Facts of Life, one of the biggest TV hits of the '80s! Charlotte Rae (1982 Emmy nominee for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series) stars as school nutritionist Edna Garrett, who serves up her no-nonsense advice - and big laughs - to Blair (Lisa Whelchel), Tootie (Kim Fields), Natalie (Mindy Cohn), and Jo (Nancy McKeon). The four girls are maturing into responsible young women, and yet there is still so much more to learn.

The third season finds the characters in myriad dilemmas: Tootie (Fields) gets drunk for the first time, as well as developing a crush on her favorite singer (Jermaine Jackson of "The Jackson 5"); Natalie (Cohn) gets mugged after coming home from a party and develops a fear of going outside; Jo (McKeon) falls out of love with her fiancée (played by ‘80s heartthrob Clark Brandon) and in love with the man who’s playing her husband in a simulated marriage project for a class; Blair (Whelchel) learns her grandfather is a member of a Ku Klux Klan; and Mrs. Garrett has her hands full when she rekindles an old romantic fling. From the opening lines of the classic theme song to every one of Blair's "brilliant ideas," enjoy the poignant and hilarious moments of The Facts of Life's third season, digitially mastered and on DVD for the first time.

Memorable Episodes / Notable Guest Stars:

The Facts of Life's third season premiere aired on October 28, 1981 on NBC. This was the first full season, with 24 episodes being broadcast. Charlotte Rae received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for her work in this season. The series finished in a tie for 24th place in the Nielsen ratings, with a 19.1 rating.

From start to finish, this is arguably the strongest season with many memorable episodes. In order to get back at her journalism teacher, Jo writes a story about his recent arrest at a cocaine party, but doesn't get all the facts straight in "Front Page." Mrs. Garrett suffers a financial setback and has to take a second job, but the girls are too self-involved to notice in "Give and Take." Just as the school is putting the finishing touches on a new library built in honor of Blair's late grandfather, a dark and troubling secret about him comes to light in "Legacy." Even though Natalie had her heart set on the lead role, Tootie gets picked to star in the school's production of "South Pacific," and jealously rears its ugly head in "Green-Eyed Monster." Agruing more than ever, and with their probation period over, the girls all decide they'd rather move back into the dorms and live separtely in "The Four Musketeers." This episode features the famous paint fighting scene. Rivals Blair and Jo head into the city to meet up with old friends and are surprised to realize how much they've changed since they've been at Eastland in "New York, New York." After Blair reads Natalie's diary, the girls feel the need to draw up a set of privacy rules, with disastrous results in "Mind Your Own Business." Newspaper editor Natalie writes an editorial against the controversial book banning going on at Eastland and then gets fired from her position in "Read No Evil."

Notable guest stars included Marj Dusay as Blair's mother, Monica Warner, in "A Friend In Deed." Geri Jewell returns as Geri in "A Friend In Deed," "Cousin Geri Returns," "Starstruck," and "Read No Evil." First season cast members Julie Anne Haddock (Cindy) and Julie Piekarski (Sue Ann) return in "Front Page." Clark Brandon returns as Jo's boyfriend, Eddie Brennan, in "Sweet Sorrow." Felice Schachter (Nancy) appears in "Dear Me" and "Green-Eyed Monster." Lauren Tom played Miko and Mako was Mr. Wakamatsu in "The Americanization of Miko." Jermaine Jackson appeared as himself in "Starstruck." Lauren Tom returns as Miko and Tammy Lauren plays Kristy in "Runaway." Alexa Kenin guest starred as Jesse and Dana Kimmell was Dina Becker in "New York, New York." Dan Frischman (Arvid on "Head of the Class") played Carl in "Kids Can Be Cruel." Jimmy Baio appeared as Buzz Ryan and John P. Navin, Jr. was Alfred in "The Academy." Donnelly Rhodes guest starred as Sal and Megan Follows was Terry Largo in "Jo's Cousin."


This 3-disc set contains all 24 episodes from the third (1981-82) season. The colorful DVD cover art (pictured above) features solo shots of Jo, Blair, Mrs. G, Tootie, and Nat. I'm not sure if all of them are season 3 photos, but that is a minor issue. The Facts of Life logo is in yellow, once again, at the top of the box. I think this cover is a bit better looking than the first set. The colors would certainly make it stand out on store shelves. It is designed to look like a yearbook, with a blue background and black colored spine. On the back of the box, there is a color publicity shot of Mindy Cohn and Charlotte Rae hugging and a black and white still of Mindy Cohn, Kim Field, and Lisa Whelchel in the cafeteria from one of the episodes. A synopsis of the set and the DVD specs are listed. There are 4 tiny photos (the same as the cover art) of Jo, Blair, Tootie, and Nat on the spne of the box.

Two slim cases slide out from the left of the thin cardboard box. The slim cases feature two slightly different black and white cast photos. The photos were likely taken on the same day, but they have different facial expressions and poses. Mrs. Garrett is in different clothing, but the girls are in their Eastland uniforms. The Facts of Life logo in pink and yellow is at the top. There is a lined paper background on the front and back of the cases. On the back of the slim cases, the episode titles and short summaries are listed. Once again, it would have been nice to see them list the original broadcast airdates and highlight some of the notable guest stars. Inside slim case #1, there is a black and white photo of Charlotte Rae (probably from season 1) and another with Nancy McKeon and Charlotte Rae in her bedroom. Inside slim case #2, some other Sony TV DVD releases (Who's the Boss, Diff'rent Strokes Seasons 1-2, The Facts of Life Seasons 1-2, Fantasy Island, and Hart to Hart) are promoted on one side, and there are 2 small photos from the episodes on the right side. One features Charlotte Rae, Nancy McKeon, Mindy Cohn, and Lisa Whelchel. The other features Nancy McKeon and Lisa Whelchel in their Eastland uniforms. The actual discs have the same solo shots of the cast that are featured on the DVD cover art, with a notebook paper lined background. Disc 1 has Jo and Natalie and contains episode 30-37. Disc 2 features Blair and Tootie and offers episodes 38-45. Disc 3 pictures Mrs. G and holds episodes 46-53.

Menu Design and Navigation:

The menus are very colorful and easy to navigate. They continue the yearbook/school theme. The background is a spiral notebook page that has some doodles, stickers, Eastland pennant, and smilie faces. The Facts of Life logo is in yellow at the top of the screen. Each main menu features a different set of photos and has a different color theme. Disc 1 has a blue background and features a vertical strip of 4 color photos of Jo, Blair, Tootie, and Natalie. Next to that on the bottom, there is a color photo of Mrs. G and Tootie and a black and white cast photo. Disc 2 has a pink background and has a color publicity shot of Nat and Mrs. G hugging and a black and white headshot of Mrs. G. Disc 3 has a purple background features a color solo shot of Natalie and a color cast photo. There are options for "Play All Episodes," "Episode Selections," and "Previews" (only on Disc 1) in red bars. There is a blue check mark next to the option to choose that turns black upon your selection. When you select "Episode Selections," it takes you to a sub-menu that has individual screenshots from each episode. These menus have the same notebook lined paper background. There are 4 episodes listed per screen. No separate menus are available 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:

There are some slight improvements to the video and audio quality from the first set. They have been digitally remastered for the best quality possible. The picture is pretty sharp, and the colors are bright. Since it was shot on videotape, there is no dust or debris that you sometimes see with shows shot on film. Many of the NBC comedies of the early 80's like Diff'rent Strokes and Gimme A Break look similar. The episodes are in their original fullscreen format. Most of the episodes are over 25 minutes in length, which is strangley longer than the season 1-2 episodes. Only one episode, "Jo's Cousin," runs under 24 minutes at 23:58. I can't say with 100% certainty that all of the episodes are unedited, but there are no syndicated 22 minute episodes here. The recaps of the 2-part episodes weren't included on the seasons 1-2 set, but there is no problem with that on season 3 as there were no 2-parters. There was one, short :30 second scene that was inexplicably missing from the first set on the "Overachiever" episode - even though it was shown uncut on Comcast's On-Demand service and was unedited on the Columbia House tape. We'll have to wait until somebody is able to compare the Comcast On-Demand episode times with the episodes on the DVD. The episodes are presented in their original broadcast order. Once again, there is only a Sony Pictures Television closing logo. We'll probably see some Embassy Television logos in the fourth season.

There is a Dolby Digital Stereo audio track for this season. Seasons 1-2 just had a Dolby Digital Mono audio track. Not a huge difference between them really. 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 theme song, sung by Gloria Loring, sounds great in stereo. Closed captioning is available on all of the episodes.

Here is the episode breakdown by disc and the running times:

Disc 1
3-01, 30. Growing Pains (25:09)
3-02, 31. Fear Strikes Back (25:09)
3-03, 32. A Baby in the House (25:10)
3-04, 33. A Friend In Deed (25:09)
3-05, 34. Front Page (24:39)
3-06, 35. Give and Take (25:10)
3-07, 36. Sweet Sorrow (25:10)
3-08, 37. From Russia With Love (25:10)

Disc 2
3-09, 38. Dear Me (25:10)
3-10, 39. Cousin Geri Returns (aka Geri's Romance) (25:10)
3-11, 40. Legacy (25:10)
3-12, 41. Green-Eyed Monster (25:10)
3-13, 42. The Americanization of Miko (25:10)
3-14, 43. The Marriage Brokers (25:10
3-15, 44. Starstruck (25:08)
3-16, 45. The Four Musketeers (25:10)

Disc 3
3-17, 46. The Affair (25:10)
3-18, 47. Runaway (25:08)
3-19, 48. New York, New York (25:10)
3-20, 49. Kids Can Be Cruel (25:11)
3-21, 50. Mind Your Own Business (25:10)
3-22, 51. The Academy (25:10)
3-23, 52. Jo's Cousin (23:58)
3-24, 53. Read No Evil (25:10)

Special Features:

After having 2 featurettes on the seasons 1-2 set, there are none included here. Unfortunately, this seems to be a trend with somy other Sony TV DVD releases. Diff'rent Strokes - Season 1 also had some special features, but Season 2 didn't have any. It would have been great to have some more interviews (especially with Nancy McKeon and Charlotte Rae, who were absent on the first set), bloopers, and audio commentaries. Why Nancy appeared in the promotional tour to promote the DVDs and not on the actual DVD features, I can't understand.

I was shocked to hear that the cast members didn't receive a dime from the sales of the seasons 1-2 set. Their expenses were paid for the promotional tour in May, but they didn't receive any additional money for that either. You hear so much about how expensive it is to produce special features, but if the cast members aren't being paid to appear - where are all the costs going for them? I feel sorry for the actors who don't get paid anything for the DVDs or sometimes when the shows go into syndication. I guess maybe it varies from show to show. You would think everybody would get their own piece of the pie from the DVD sales. These companies are making millions, but the actors who appeared in them sometimes don't receive anything until they reach a certain season. It would make me think about going into producing/writing/directing, instead of acting.

All we get on this set are some Sony TV DVD Previews on Disc 1 for the Bewitched movie (2:30), Bewitched tv series (1:00), I Dream of Jeannie (:51), and Gidget and The Flying Nun (1:33).

Final Comments:

Wow, what a quick turnaround between seasons 1-2 and 3! I'm sure Facts of Life fans are thrilled that they only had to wait about 5 1/2 months for this season. Sony traditionally releases their series at a much slower rate. There was about a 18-month wait between seasons 1 and 2 of Diff'rent Strokes. The Facts of Life must have been a real big seller for them to accelerate the pace. Having some of the cast members go on a promotional tour in May probably helped. Being one of the most popular sitcoms of the 80's, with a huge fan base, doesn't hurt either.

This is my favorite season of the show. There are just so many classics, including a lot "very special episodes." It is a bit disappointing that there are no special features included, but the episodes are the most important thing. This set is priced about $10 cheaper than the seasons 1-2 set, despite containing only 5 fewer episodes. For 24 season three episodes, $20 is a vey good deal. It will be interesting to see how Sony handles The Facts of Life Goes to Paris 2-hour TV movie. It aired on 09/25/82, just 4 days before the start of the fourth season on 09/29/82. They could include it with the fourth season set, or maybe they will package it together with The Facts of Life Down Under TV movie. Hopefully we'll have a similar short wait for the fourth season to find out that answer.

Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)

Video Quality: 4/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Special Features: 0/5
Menu Design/Navigation: 4/5
Overall: 4/5

-- Reviewed by Todd Fuller on 10/11/06

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