For months I've wanted to talk about one of my favorite stupid old sitcoms, The Facts Of Life. I wasn't sure how to approach it, as the show seemed to get by with no substance whatsoever. The only interesting things that've ever happened on that show was the cookie store burning down, causing Ms. Garrett to wig out and fly out of the country, and of course the times when Jo made fun of Tootie's name. But other than that, there's really not too much there. Sure, they dealt with every issue from anorexia to death to racism, but nobody's going to pick up on that stuff. So, let's just reintroduce you to the stars of the show...the stars who made our lives that much brighter.
Edna Garrett started out as the maid on Diff'rent Strokes, but eventually moved up the corporate plateau and branched off into owning a baked goods shop and running things at Eastland Academy as their nutritional guidance counselor. Yes, the girls were that close with the school nutritionist.
Despite Tootie's rollerskates, an interim where Molly Ringwald was cast, and a few bad cameos by Gary Coleman, Edna still managed to keep her cool. She was the glue that kept these ever-growing women together. More importantly, she had the voice of a parrot. I'm not kidding, and this is the kinda thing you only come to realize with years of reflection and retrospect - Edna talks exactly like a parrot. Here, check out the proof.
Click here to hear Mrs. Garrett's best parrot impression, as found in this hilarious exchange between Tootie and herself. Also, note the laugh track that seems to go off whenever someone says anything, regardless in what context. If Tootie said 'hi' to Natalie, laugh track. If Jo said she likes men, laugh track.
In 1986, Edna decided she needed to be with other parrots so she left the show to go live in Africa with her new husband who happened to be in the Peace Corps. It always astounds me how fast people will give up their legacies for a little love. I mean, Edna had raised four awkward young girls into four very awkward women, turned a burnt-down cookie shop into a novelty shop that appeared to only sell jelly beans and big red plastic tubes, and most of all, performed an imaginary abortion on Natalie after she got knocked up by her imaginary boyfriend Snake. She threw all of this away just to fly off somewhere where some of the people may have looked like Tootie, but would never come close to her innate charms and wonderments.
All in all, Edna played a crucial role in maintaining The Facts of Life's aura and helping it shape into such a long-lasting show. Whether she deserves praise or a beating for that, I'll leave up to you to decide.
Blair Warner really was a trendsetter. Before Blair, there weren't too many stereotypical blonde narcissit girls found on television, but Blair changed the face of all that with her unique blend of bad roots, cunning wit, and those football shoulderpads all the girls seemed to love so much back in 1987.
And while I wouldn't call Blair a hero for that, I will call her a hero for her repeated insults thrown at Tootie. For me, that was the greatest part about the show. Sure, none of these girls were too crush-worthy, but at least you were guaranteed at least five instances of Blair making fun of Tootie per episode.
There's two fun facts about Blair. The first: in season five, (yes, there were that many...even more) Blair decided to stop dyeing her hair blonde. Now of course, only an idiot would've thought her hair was green/yellow on it's own merit, but it got pretty crazy around the fourth week in when the 5" brown roots started popping up. So either there's a Blair Goes Punk episode that we missed out on, or the people in the show's continuity department were pretty lax.
Secondly, Blair was the poor soul who was chosen to continue on the show's legacy in the form of a spinoff. The name escapes me now, but basically, Blair inherited ownership of the school academy and ran it. Don't worry about Blair though, the job didn't prove to be all that stressful. Mainly because it lasted about a week and a half.
If you called Tootie Ramsey the show's token black character, you'd only be half right. She's a lot more than that - Tootie's been everything from brace-faced rollerskater to the only sitcom character in history who got away with wearing homemade hats. She also dressed like a cross between a news reporter and the rack at Sears marked 'clearance'.
Tootie's real name is Dorothy, but nobody calls her that. Calling Tootie by her real name was a surefire way to get her to unleash her deadly 'rage technique'. She hated it. Normally, Tootie was the show's most bubbly, lovable character. But if you called her Dorothy, she'd go absolutely apeshit. Course, this isn't that great of a testament to Tootie's taste or intelligence, as most of the rest of us would rather be called 'Shithead', 'Asshole', or 'Butterfly Bobby' rather than 'Tootie'.
Her best friend is Natalie, and the show uses this as a platform to show the problems that sometimes arise in white/black relationships. I wish I was kidding. Come on, the show's not that old. I don't think these were back in the days when having jungle fever friendships would constitute such a fuss. Then again, the rest of the cast were really pretty racist. Jo insisted that Tootie couldn't floss in the 'white' bathroom, while Mrs. Garrett installed an outdoor shower so Tootie could clean off all her black germs before walking in the house.
But, when you think of The Facts Of Life, Tootie's always the first thing that comes to mind. And she's played by Kim Fields, who went on to even greater success with the Fox sitcom, Living Single. I love that show. It makes me so frustrated that my neighborhood's mostly flooded with white guineas...Living Single just proved that blacks are the only people in the world who really know how to have fun. Think about it. They'd all be sitting around their apartment reading newspapers, and the next thing you knew you were in the middle of watching a giant sing & dance routine. White people don't spontaneously burst into showtunes sitting at home. And besides, that show had Maxine. You know, that girl who'd always do that weird twitchy thing with her eye when she got annoyed at something? I'd almost go as far to say that I wish I was black, but I've gotten pretty used to store clerks breathing down my neck and watching my every move because of the color of my hair, not my skin. But getting back to the point, Tootie is #1!
Ah, there's my old love...Jo Polniaczeka, or as we all more affectionately know her as...'Just Jo'. Jo was always my personal favorite on the show. She had depth. And I don't mean the type of 'depth' Natalie portrays...I'm talking inner-depth. My friends and I never could understand why Blair was always assumed to be the show's big beauty...we always thought Jo was cuter. We'd sit there and talk about how Jo had better hair, better eyes, the whole nine yards. Yes, we really discussed this. Who said this show didn't hit home?
Jo is a streetwise kid from the Bronx who's just as good in school as she is at riding a motorcycle. They married her off in 1987 to kill all of the obvious lesbian rumors that circulate around a female character with a mullet and a motorcycle.
Blair was often the target of Jo's biting sarcasm, since Jo's from the streets and she doesn't appreciate rich, spoiled snobs. She deserves a lot of the credit...the show really wasn't all that interesting till Jo showed up. And seeing as how all Jo did in her first six appearances was disagree and wear men's clothes, you can just imagine what things were like before.
NATALIE!!! Natalie Green was the chunky girl who made up an imaginary boyfriend because she couldn't get dates. In other words, she was the most entertaining person on the show. I'm surprised she hasn't reached cult icon status yet, because Natalie just screams for you to love her in bad taste. She's not the friend you start fucking and take home to mom, but she is the friend you take home to mom to help you sell her on the idea of your hot but socially inept new girlfriend. Natalie's is known as everybody's big sister, leaving herself open to about 4,000 fat jokes. She became Tootie's best friend early on, not because she felt bad about Tootie's race issue, but because none of the skinny girls would associate with her. Luckily, Blair and Jo were too busy arguing about who should get George Clooney to be preconcerned with Natalie's weight.
Eventually, they added Snake to the show in a 'real-life' persona, but I don't buy it. It's obvious that Natalie just took the first guy who displayed a modicum of interest in her and renamed him 'Snake' to keep up her pathetic lie.
Natalie's ambition in life was journalism. Journalism and pie. Those being her only two ambitions, she actually became quite a writer. After all, there's only so much pie a person can eat.
Beverly Ann Stickle is Mrs. Garrett's sister. She takes over the house when Edna abandons Tootie and Jo for Africa. Beverly means well, but for all intents and purposes, she's an idiot. That's just part of her charm. Though, it does seem pretty odd that Mrs. Garrett, who was obviously in a major rush to get out of the country, all the sudden mentions that she's got a sister who'll be taking over her position. A sister more scatterbrained than a racoon who just got hit by a truck. Seems to me that Mrs. Garrett just grabbed some crazy woman off the street and gave her a job and a place to live under the sole agreement that she'd swear to the grave that they were related. I mean, come on, look at their pictures:
No family resemblence at all! What kind of genetics pool do these 'sisters' come from? I added the third pic of pro-wrestling's 'Vampiro' just to prove that he has just as much in common with these two 'sisters' as they do themselves. Likely story.
Pippa McKenna. An exchange student from Australia who lied about her true identity so she could sneak into America. Jeez. You know, if you're going to go through all the trouble of first illegally importing yourself into a country and then living a lie to keep residency, you could at least find something better to do with your time here than hanging out with fucking Tootie.
George Burnett was the guy who worked at the local hardware shop. He was also played by George Clooney! Clooney on The Facts of Life!
Andy Moffet found himself on The Facts of Life after producers realized Natalie and Jo really weren't hitting the teen steam market enough. Played by Mackenzie Austin, who's only other real contribution to society was The Garbage Pail Kids Movie, Andy eventually gets adopted by Beverly, who was apparently too stupid to figure out how to have her own kids.
The first picture is from the old school Facts of Life. When things got snazzier, so did the opening credits. But not just in pictures...in sound. Yes, they snazzed up the classic Facts theme to make it twice as hip and five times more depressingly catchy as the first! Would you like to hear it again? Click here!
Yes, The Facts of Life Goes To Paris! This is one of the two tv movies the show had, and it goes something like this: Mrs. Garrett and the girls are going to Paris. Mrs. Garrett will be tending a cook school, while the girls are attending the school there. Mrs. Garrett is having a very hard time adjusting to the work, and her boss. He makes her do things perfect, and even Mrs. Garrett's not perfect. The girls feel like they're in prison, working very hard. So, to denounce the evils of responsibility, they escape their school group while on a field trip. Jo is going to Le Mones, Tootie and Natalie help a hardluck writer, while Blair goes off shopping. But that's not important. What's important is that it had probably the sappiest opening theme I've ever heard. I'm listening to this, and I can't tell if it's from The Facts Of Life or that strange song I heard after taking too many pills and seeing the Grim Reaper. Either way, Click here and hear it for yourself.
So the next time you're up at 4 AM and some flailing cable network couldn't sell an infomercial spot, you might just come across and old rerun. And when that day comes, I want you to pay close attention to the grandfather clock in the middle of the living room. Either they condensed years of storylines into a single minute, or that fucking clock's time never changes.