TITLE: THE FACTS OF LIFE - THE COMPLETE FIFTH SEASON
Release Date: November 2, 2010 (Shout! Factory)
Number of Discs: 4
Number of Episodes: 26 (2 of which are one-hour episodes)
Running Time: Approx. 9 3/4 hours (585 minutes)
Running Time of Features: n/a
Audio: English, Dolby Digital 2.0
Subtitles and Captioning: Closed Captioned
Special Features: None
Blair, Natalie, Tootie and Jo - the girls are back in business in Season Five... literally.
Season Five finds Mrs. Garrett (Charlotte Rae) opening her own gourmet shop, Edna's Edibles, with some help from the girls. Meanwhile Blair (Lisa Whelchel) pledges a sorority, Tootie (Kim Fields) gets into an intense battle with her mother, Natalie (Mindy Cohn) experiences an unexpected death in the family, and Jo (Nancy McKeon) starts dating a rich kid! As the girls grow, so do the story lines and characters, making every season a unique chapter in each of their lives.
A spin-off of Diff'rent Strokes, The Facts of Life aired from 1979-1988, securing it a prime-time spot as one of the most adored sitcoms of all time.
Season Five premiered on NBC on September 21, 1983 with the one-hour episode "Brave New World." Mrs. Garrett's fed up, Tootie and Natalie are distraught, Jo faces expulsion from college, and Blair is oblivious to it all in this first episode of a special two-part story. The opening of Mrs. Garrett's own gourmet shop solves her problems with Eastland - but leaves in her wake a tidal wave of housing troubles for Tootie, Natalie, Blair and Jo in the conclusion of a two-part episode. Blair recommends Mrs. Garrett to cater a rush party for the sorority she's pledging, but then, in a fit of anger, fires her in "Gamma Gamma or Bust." Jo's in love, but when her "regular" guy turns out to be a rich kid, resentment sets in -- and so does Blair's plan for masking Jo's rough edges in "Just My Bill." Tootie discovers that her boyfriend, a college-bound star athlete, is illiterate in "What Price Glory." Halloween hysteria sets in when a customer mysteriously disappears, and the girls fear that Edna may have ground him into her famous homemade bratwurst in "The Halloween Show."
High school junior Natalie is permitted to enroll in a college course, and her overblown feeling of superiority becomes a problem for Tootie, Blair and Jo in "Advance Placement." Blair and Jo plan a birthday surprise for Mrs. Garrett at a male exotic club in "I'm Dancin' As Fast As I Can." Mrs. Garrett and the girls befriend Kelly, a fast-talking street punk, and wind up victims of her scheme to extort protection money in "Small But Dangerous." The girls resort to espionage in their efforts to save Edna's Edibles from financial ruin when a competing store woos away all of Mrs. Garrett's customers in "Store Games." Jo's plans to reunite her divorced parents hits a snag when her father announces he's contemplating marriage to another woman in "The Second Time Around." Blair fails to trick Jo into accepting a monetary gift that would allow her to spend the holidays with her mother, but she does devise an offer in the true spirit of Christmas that Jo can't refuse in "The Christmas Show."
The girls' haphazard work habits initiate a chain of "horrors" that could lose them their jobs and lead to the closure of Mrs. Garrett's gourmet shop by the Board of Health in "The Chain Letter." Tootie is the only one who may be able to talk a wary seven-year-old "latchkey kid" out of his apartment during an emergency evacuation in "Next Door." Natalie and Tootie's relationship is jeopardized when Tootie questions Natalie's reasons for accepting a date with Tootie's cousin Michael in "Crossing the Line." Jo faces a harsh lesson in political reality when she's elected to the Langley College Board of Regents and then battles with them in "All or Nothing." The unexpected death of her father poignantly brings to light the strength of the bonds that link Natalie to her Peekskill "family" in "A Death in the Family." Blair suffers an identity crisis when she realizes that Jo has taken her place as the most popular girl in "Big Fish/Little Fish."
Blair is forced to compete for boyfriend Cliff's attention when a popular movie star enrolls at Langley in "Star at Langley." A startling marriage proposal ignites a dream into the future and forces Blair to reevaluate her goals in "Dream Marriage." Tootie's inability to communicate with her mother sparks an explosive confrontation in "Mother and Daughter." Blair's overzealous efforts usurp all of cousin Geri's responsibility for organzing a charity auction in "All by Herself." Jo gets an unexpected visit from her former Brookyln boyfriend, which reignites her flame for him in "Seems Like Old Times." The future of Edna's Edibles is unexpectedly jeopardized by the troubled marriage of Mrs. Garrett's son in "Joint Custody." As the school year closes, the girls take time to reminisce about the good times -- until Jo and Blair go at it again for what may be the last time in "The Way We Were: Part 1." When Tootie and Natalie try to convince Jo and Blair that they shouldn't let a minor mishap ruin the friendship they've developed over the years, their advice seems to stir up more trouble than it solves in "The Way We Were: Part 2."
Notable guest stars included Joel Brooks as Raymond Garrett, Mrs. Garrett's son, in "Brave New World - Part 1" and "Joint Custody." Jami Gertz makes her first appearance as Boots St. Clair in "Gamma Gamma or Bust." Geri Jewell returned as Geri in "What Price Glory," "Star at Langley," and "All by Herself." Pamela Segall makes her first appearance in the recurring role of Kelly Affinado in "Small But Dangerous." Alex Rocco returns as Jo's father, Charlie Polniaczek, in "The Second Time Around." Jean Smart guest starred as Ellen Slater in "Next Door." Rob Stone appeared as Harvey in "Crossing the Line." John Randolph played Ward Beaumont in "All or Nothing." Chip Hurd, Kim Fields' real-life mother, appeared as Pauline Ramsey in "Mother and Daughter." Clark Brandon returned as Eddie Brennan in "Seems Like Old Times."
It appears that all of the episodes on the set are unedited, with each one running around 25 minutes. The season premiere, "Brave New World," and season finale, "The Way We Were," originally aired as one-hour episodes and are presented that way on the DVD. They run over 48 minutes. The 100th episode, "Joint Custody," even has the original introduction by Charlotte Rae and the rest of the cast. There isn't anything on the packaging to indicate that any of the music was changed on this release. Shout! Factory is among the best of the studios when it comes to clearing all the music. Runtimes and original airdates for each episode are as follows:
5-01-02, 82-83. Brave New World (09/21/83) (48:31)
5-03, 84. Gamma Gamma or Bust (09/28/83) (24:55)
5-04, 85. Just My Bill (10/12/83) (24:57)
5-05, 86. What Price Glory (10/19/83) (24:56)
5-06, 87. The Halloween Show (10/26/83) (24:57)
5-07, 88. Advance Placement (11/02/83) (24:57)
5-08, 89. I'm Dancin' As Fast I Can (11/09/83) (24:58)
5-09, 90. Small But Dangerous (11/16/83) (24:57)
5-10, 91. Store Games (11/30/83) (24:58)
5-11, 92. The Second Time Around (12/14/83) (24:57)
5-12, 93. The Christmas Show (12/21/83) (24:57)
5-13, 94. The Chain Letter (12/28/83) (24:57)
5-14, 95. Next Door (01/04/84) (24:55)
5-15, 96. Crossing the Line (01/11/84) (24:57)
5-16, 97. All or Nothing (01/18/84) (24:56)
5-17, 98. A Death in the Family (02/01/84) (24:58)
5-18, 99. Big Fish/Little Fish (02/08/84) (24:58)
5-19, 100. Star at Langley (02/15/84) (24:58)
5-20, 101. Dream Marriage (02/22/84) (24:58)
5-21, 102. Mother and Daughter (02/29/84) (24:57)
5-22, 103. All by Herself (03/14/84) (24:55)
5-23, 104. Seems Like Old Times (03/21/84) (24:56)
5-24, 105. Joint Custody (05/02/84) - with 100th episode introduction - (24:57)
5-25-26, 106-107. The Way We Were (05/09/84) (48:42)
The packaging is very similar to what Shout! Factory used for the fourth season. Once again, we have a standard Viva-pack keepcase. The package art is designed to look like a notebook, and the theming is very nicely done. Individual headshots of Nancy McKeon as Jo, Kim Fields as Tootie, Charlotte Rae as Mrs. G, Lisa Whelchel as Blair and Mindy Cohn as Nat are featured in the same positions as the previous season. Their character names are underneath them in a labal that looks to be made with one of those older labelmakers, with a light red background. The back of the case has a bunch of stars and one buttefly (designed to look like stickers), and 3 photos (Natalie holding Tootie's chin - a solo shot of Mrs. Garrett - Blair and Jo) on the right side. A synopsis of the set and the DVD specs are provided. Inside, each disc has artwork that also looks like the cover of a notebook, with one of the photos from the cover art on each disc (sadly, Mrs. G is again left out), with Blair on Disc 1, Tootie on Disc 2, Natalie on Disc 3, and Jo on Disc 4. Episode titles and summaries with original airdated are included on this set, and can be found inside the case (on both sides inside). A few of the episode titles are slightly different than what is listed on online episode guides. Disc 1 contains episodes 82-87, Disc 2 contains episodes 88-93, Disc 3 contains episodes 94-99, and Disc 4 contains episodes 100-107.
Menu Design and Navigation:
The menus on the set are similarly designed to season four and are very nice, colorful and easy to navigate. When you first insert a disc, the main menu is animated and slowly drawn out for you, appearing to be shaded with a color pencil. The effects looked quite a bit like the menus on Shout! Factory's Punky Brewster release. The Facts of Life logo is in yellow at the top of the screen. The same individual headshots of the cast are on a notebook paper background. There are various flowers and doodles on the paper. A different colored notebook background is used on each disc. The theme songs plays on the main and episode selections menu and loops after finishing. There are options for Play All Episodes and Episode Selections. A large blue checkmark is next to the option you highlight that turns yellow upon your selection. When you choose episode selections, there is a transitional "mmmmm" music cue and paper turning sound played. There is a photo from each episode next to the episode title. Trailers (2:34) for Mr. Belvedere Seasons 1-3, Punky Brewster Seasons 1-3 and Small Wonder Season 1 can be played or skipped when you insert disc 1. Chapters are placed all throughout each episode at all of the appropriate places.
Video and Audio Quality:
The video and audio quality on this set is on par with the previous seasons. It isn't perfect, but it is as good as can be expected given the source material. The show was shot on videotape like many sitcoms of the 1980s, so there's really not much they could do to improve the quality. This was the first season with the Edna's Edibles sets, so the colors this season looked a bit more vivid to me than the Eastland seasons.
For the closing logo enthusiasts, all of the episodes have logos for Embassy Television and Sony Pictures Television. Only the fourth season finale had the blue Embassy logo on the previous set.
The audio is a Dolby Digital 2.0 track (though it isn't exactly true stereo). The volume is at a good level for all of the episodes. Closed captioning is available on all of the episodes, just like the fourth season. Some previous Shout! Factory releases lacked them, so it's nice they offer them for the people who need them.
Unfortunately, there are no special features included on this set. It would be nice to have some audio commentaries by the cast and crew and other featurettes for the remaining seasons. I know the cast has been interviewed many times, but maybe they could take questions from fans and have them answer. It could be something unique to the DVD.
It's not really a special feature, but they did include the 100th episode ("Joint Custody") introduction by Charlotte Rae and the rest of the cast. It only runs about 10 seconds, but it's something that I don't remember ever seeing in syndication. Unless you watched the episode originally on NBC, you probably have never seen this rare piece of Facts of Life history.
After a long wait between seasons three and four, it was only about a six month wait for the fifth season. If you have already picked up the fourth season, you can expect similar style packaging and menus. I guess if it works the first time, why change it? The only things that have changed between the seasons are the headshots of the cast and, of course, the episodes. Good job by them of presenting the one-hour episodes as they originally aired as as one episode instead of them dividing into two.
The fifth season was a year of change for the show. Blair and Jo had graduated Eastland and were now attending Langley College, so it was necessary for them to come up with a new storyline to keep everybody together under one roof. Mrs. Garrett was sick and tired of being underpaid and underappreciated at Eastland, so Edna's Edibles was born. The changes caused a slight uptick in the ratings from the fourth season. Some of the more memorable episodes this season were "The Halloween Show," "Advance Placement," "Store Games," "The Christmas Show" and "Big Fish/Little Fish." These were their first Halloween and Christmas themed episodes of the series. It's too bad that they couldn't release this set a week earlier. They also celebrated their 100th episode this season. Look for the rare introduction by Charlotte Rae and the rest of the cast at the start of that episode ("Joint Custody"). What a treat to see that piece of FOL's history. Let's hope Shout! Factory will continue to release the remaining four seasons about every six months. It would also be great to see them pick up some other abandoned Sony sitcoms like Diff'rent Strokes and Silver Spoons, since they've done such an excellent job with The Facts of Life sets.
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: 5/5
-- Reviewed by Todd Fuller on 10/26/10
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