spin-off from the popular NBC comedy Diff'rent
Strokes originally focused on Mrs. Garrett, who had been
the Drummonds' housekeeper prior to taking a job as housemother at the
prestigious Eastland school for young women. Mrs. Garrett was kind and understanding,
serving as both confidante and surrogate parent to the girls in her charge,
who at the start of the series ranged in age from 11 to 15. Blair, 15, was wealthy, attractive and spoiled;
Nancy, 14, was well-rounded; Sue Ann, 14, was cute and boy-crazy; Tootie,
11, was the resident gossip; and Natalie, the other principal student, was plump and impressionable.
The headmaster at Eastland was Mr. Bradley, and Miss Mahoney was a teacher
seen only during the tryout run of The Facts of Life in the summer of 1979.
the season passed, the series evolved. By 1980 Mrs. Garrett had taken on
the additional responsibilities of dietician at Eastland, and two new cast
members: Jo, a 16-year-old street kid from the Bronx who maintained a
tough exterior to hide her insecurities; and Howard, the cook at Eastland.
Mr. Bradley was succeeded as headmaster by the seldom-seen Mr. Harris (Kenneth
Mars), and then by Mr. Parker. It was Parker's callousness towards Mrs. Garrett that led
to a major change in 1983. Frustrated at having been underpaid and taken for granted
for so long, Edna vented her frustrations to her
beloved son Raymond, an accountant who stunned her by offering to buy a run-down
store in the nearby town of Peekskill, New York, and letting her reopen
it as a gourmet food shop. Thus was born Edna's Edibles. Blair
and Jo (who were now attending nearby Langley College) and Tootie and Natalie
(still at Eastland) moved in, and their good times continued.
1985, a fire destroyed the store and Mrs. Garrett and the girls rebuilt
it into a completely new business - an updated version of a 1950's malt
shop, selling everything from ice cream to records and T-shirts, and
called it "Over Our Heads." It was the perfect hangout for
students at Langley, and the girls were all partners. Young Andy was the errand
boy, and George the good-looking
young carpenter who helped with the rebuilding. The following year, Mrs.
Garrett remarried and tearfully moved away; she was replaced by her chatterbox
sister, Beverly Ann, who became the new "housemother" and stepmother to Andy.
1987-1988 the "girls" had become young women. It was announced that this
would be The Facts of Life's last season, and each of the regulars were seen embarking
on adult life, each in her own way. Natalie, the aspiring author, got her first taste of a writer's
life in New York City, and was also the first to lose her virginity when
she spent the night with her boyfriend Snake. Shortly thereafter Jo, who headed
for a business career, was married to freewheeling musician Rick. Tootie,
who was engaged to Jeff, planned to become an actress, and enrolled at the
prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London. But the most surprising
was wealthy Blair, by now enrolled at Langley Law School. Watching in
despair as her alma mater Eastland went steadily downhill, she decided
to do something about it. Putting all her assets on the line, she bought
the school and assumed the position of headmistress, planning major changes
- including a coed student body - to put Eastland back on the map.
The stories on The Facts of Life
were funny, but also often touching. the girls faced problems with their
parents, including lack of communication, divorce, and death; they also
experienced growing pains in a realistic way (it seemed as if teenager Tootie's
braces would never come off). Blair's 23-year-old cousin Geri, who was
determined to become a comedienne despite the handicap of cerebral palsy, was
occasionally seen (played by Geri Jewell, a real-life CP victim). Also seen
infrequently were Blair's divorced parents, David and Monica Warner (played by
Nicolas Coster and Marj Dusay), and Jo's folks, Charlie and Rose Polniaczek
(Alex Rocco, Claire Malis).
NBC aired reruns of The Facts
of Life on weekdays from December 1982 until June 1985.