The Facts of Facts of Life

This list was started WAY back in the beta era but I never finished it. Mostly because I didn't think anyone cared, and also because I kept on adding to it! But then a petition was started by @boygirlparty for me to finish and publish it. Here you go kids!
  1. The Facts of Life was an NBC spinoff of their successful show Diff'rent Strokes.
    At the time, NBC was in last place in the ratings with very few hits. One of their only successful shows was Diff'rent Strokes, a show about an upperclass wealthy man and his daughter who adopts two poor inner city African-American kids. In the 1st season finale, their housekeeper Mrs. Garrett pitches in to help the daughter make costumes for her play at her private school. This was the backdoor pilot for Facts of Life.
  2. The Facts of Life was part of a shared universe!
    Much like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Facts of Life was part of a shared universe on TV! As a spin-off of Diff'rent Strokes, they occasionally had a crossover episode. But Diff'rent Stokes also had crossover episodes with Silver Spoons as well as a short lived sitcom called Hello, Larry! making them all part of one universe. Fun fact: Lisa Welchel was cast in both the pilot of Facts of Life & in season 2 of Hello, Larry! And had to decide which role to take. She chose wisely.
  3. The initial 1st season of Facts of Life had a very different cast of characters, with 7 students as well as a number of administrators and teachers.
    The show was subsequently retooled starting with season 2. But the initial 7 characters included Natalie, Tootie, Blair, as well as Cindy, Sue Ann, Nancy and Molly. The last character was played by a very young Molly Ringwald who ended becoming the most successful star of the original group thanks to John Hughes. (Fun fact: the actress that plays Sue Ann, is from my home town of St. Louis. She still performs in local and region theater.)
  4. The remaining cast of Facts of Life who made the cut (Natalie, Tootie, Blair) didn't know that they had actually cut the rest of the cast until they showed up on the set for the 1st episode of the second season.
    Talk about a surprise! Actress Nancy McKeon was cast as the tomboy Jo, a scholarship student. She was cast because she could cry on cue in a Hallmark commercial. That said, in her initial audition, the scene she was given had instructions that said "Jo cries" but the director instructed her with "I know it says your suppose to cry, but don't. Try to make the audience cry instead." Nancy McKeon nailed it and was cast.
  5. The Facts of Life was the first TV show with an all female cast of characters!
    Kind of ground breaking. Even today, there aren't a lot of shows with an all female casts.
  6. The role of Natalie was specifically designed for Mindy Cohn who had no previous acting experience.
    The producers and Charlotte Rae (Mrs. Garrett) went to an all girl school in Bel-Air for research and Mindy Cohn said she'd talk to the producers because it would get her out of class (and because there were free donuts available). Charlotte Rae loved her so much and said she reminded her of a friend named Natalie. The producers wrote the character with her in mind and then cast her.
  7. Lisa Welchel was instrumental in changing the character of Blair in her audition.
    The initial character of Blair was a naive innocent Texan. But when Lisa Welchel read the part, she read one of the lines in a sneering condescending sarcastic way. The producers like the take so much they rewrote the character with her take in mind. Later a writer pitched a storyline for Blair where she discovers her father had to declare bankruptcy. Lisa Welchel said if that happened there would be personality shifts to the character of Blair down the road. So they dropped that storyline.
  8. The character of Blair, by the way, was what inspired the early web 'zine BLAIR, know for their viral hit Gay or Eurotrash.
    Blair magazine is also know for publishing the lost issue of Sassy magazine called Sissy! Before Sassy was bought out by Petersen Publishing they had compiled and written an issue. But then the corporate buyout had them firing the entire staff. The lost issue was resurrected and published by the Blair magazine folks. Fun fact: I went to Taiwanese summer camp (dubbed The Love Boat) with one of the creators of Blair magazine. Other than a few emails we never stayed in touch.
  9. Kim Fields was by far the youngest actor on the set at age 9 (the rest of the actors ranges from 13 to 16.)
    This is why they put her in roller skates for the first season. They needed her taller for the filming of the show.
  10. BTW, Tootie's mom on the show was played by Kim Field's actual mom, Chip Fields
    However Blair's mom was played by a couple of different actresses. None of which were related to Lisa Welchel.
  11. Lisa Welchel is a devout born-again Christian and this famously conflicted with a major storyline.
    Blair was suppose to lose her virginity in a very special episode of Facts of Life called The First Time. But actress Lisa Welchel was a devout born-again Christian and refused to do the story. So they rewrote the show and had Natalie lose her virginity instead. This was the only episode in the entire run of Facts of Life where the character of Blair doesn't appear at all.
  12. Two actors from Facts of Life were actually considered for the TV show Friends.
    Nancy McKeon tried out for the roll of Monica but it went to unknown actress Courtney Cox, who's biggest role previous to the Friends casting was in a Bruce Springsteen music video. Lisa Welcher was suppose to read for the role of Rachel. Her agent gave her the script and Lisa said it was the funniest pilot she had ever read. But she decided not to read because there was too much sexual content in the show and it went against her Christian morals.
  13. Cousin Geri would be the first reoccurring character on prime time TV with a physical disability.
    In a episode called Cousin Geri, they introduce Blair's cousin Geri, who has cerebral palsy. Blair seems to be embarrassed by her but it turns out she's jealous because Geri always gets all the attention because she's a comedian. It's all good in the end and they make up and perform their signature hilarious dialogue on stage together (which, in reality, shows off of how much funnier comedian Geri Jewell is matched against Lisa Whelchel).
  14. People often joke that Jo was a closet lesbian on the show but she wasn't.
    However the actress that played cousin Geri, Geri Jewell actual came out as a lesbian years later! Sadly, Geri's character was phased out of the show because the producers were scared that every episode she appeared in would seem like a "very special episode". Actress Geri Jewell was offended and stopped appearing on the show because of that.
  15. That said, in the first season of Facts of Life the character of Cindy is portrayed as a tomboy with implied lesbian feelings. Mrs. Garrett gives her advice explaining the value of being yourself.
    Sadly the lesbian issues are resolved with Cindy falling for a boy at a dance. However years later a joke was written about a boy being a sissy, implying he was gay. Charlotte Rae put her foot down and called the producer and writers and said "We do NOT make fun of people's sexuality on this show!" The joke was cut.
  16. Both Lisa Welchel and Mindy Cohn had to deal with issues of weight in the filming of the show. But with different outcomes.
    Producers were concerned that Lisa was gaining too much weight during the show. This was exacerbated by comedian Joan Rivers dubbing the show "Fats of Life" during an Emmy Awards show. They shipped Lisa off to a fat farm during filming breaks to make her lose weight. However they were also concerned that Mindy Cohn was LOSING too much weight, as her character was too closely tied with being heavier. To compensate, they made Mindy wear big baggy clothes on the show.
  17. There was a mini-reunion of the original cast from season one in an episode called "The Little Chill" that took place in Season 8.
    It brought back all the girls from season 1 EXCEPT for Molly. Molly Ringwald opted not to return. This episode was one of the highest rated episodes for that season.
  18. The classic theme song "You take the take the take them all...and there you have...the Facts of Life!" was written by Al Burton, Gloria Loring and her then husband Alan Thicke.
    You probably know Alan Thicke as the father in the family sitcom Growing Pains. But he also had a successful career as a theme song conposer, writing theme songs for Diff'rent Strokes, Celebrity Sweepstakes and the original theme song for Wheel of Fortune. In the first season of The Facts of Life Charlotte Rae and the cast members actually sing the theme song but subsequent seasons had Gloria Loring singing the song. And yes, singer Robin Thicke is the son of Alan and Gloria.
  19. When the two oldest girls graduated from Eastland school, they needed an excuse to keep them on the show. So Mrs. Garrett opened up a shop called Edna's Edibles and the girls moved in to help her with it.
    It also gave fresh and new storylines for all the girls and Mrs. G. This plot device would be used again when the shop burned down between Season 6 & 7 and was rebuilt as gift shop called "Over Our Heads". Charlotte Rae would soon leave the show a year after to be replaced by Cloris Leachman.
  20. Charlotte Rae reduced her role in the show by season 6 and 7 but finally left the show because she felt like her character had done everything she could have done within the confines of the show and because the girls were now adults and didn't need a mother figure. Her character married and ran off to Africa with her husband for the Peace Corp.
    Rae also had health issues. Right after filming The Facts of Life Go to Paris, over the summertime, she had a pacemaker put in. She didn't tell anyone about it, choosing to keep it private. As the show progressed she realized that the demands of a weekly TV show was wearing on her. So she gracefully exited even though the producers offered her millions to stay on. She did personally recommend Cloris Leachman to them as her replacement and they took her advice and hired her!
  21. The writers didn't really know what to do with Cloris Leachman's character of Beverly Ann so they basically just made up crazier and crazier stories for her to tell the girls.
    To her credit, Cloris Leachman totally pulled it off. But it was clear they didn't really know what to do with her as the girls didn't need a mother figure anymore. To solve this, they had Beverly Ann adopt the Over Our Heads worked Andy played by MacKenzie Austin. He was clearly the Cousin Oliver of the show.
  22. The show lasted two more season without Mrs. G. By the time the show ended, in season 9, it was the longest running prime time series on NBC at the time.
    NBC actually wanted to renew the show for a 10th season but a couple of the main cast (one of them being Mindy Cohn) decided season 9 should be the end. So no 10th season.
  23. The first Facts of Life TV movie was called Facts of Life in Paris (set somewhere between season 3 & 4)
    The first TV movie had the girls and Mrs. Garrett going to Paris. My only memory of the movie is Mrs. Garrett taking French cooking lessons and the chef being offended that she refused to use wine in her cooking (but my girls are underaged protested Mrs. Garrett). She later impresses the chef with her cooking skills! Of course she does. It's Mrs. Garrett!
  24. The second Facts of Life TV movie was called Facts of Life Down Under (set between season 8 & 9)
    The girls and Beverly Ann all go down to Australia. There's some sort of jewelry heist plot line but I can't remember that much about it. But I do remember that Tootie meets an aborigine Australian but actually he's actually a regular Australian bloke who is pretending to be an aborigine. Who does that?!? FYI, the movie was specifically created to compete with the finale of the high profile mini-series "Amerika" – does anyone remember that miniseries? Where the Russians take over the USA?
  25. The 3rd and final TV movie was a Facts of Life reunion movie in 2001.
    They got the classic cast back except for Nancy McKeon who was too busy working on the police drama show The Division. They made a nod to this by making the character of Jo a police officer who was too busy to come back to the reunion, so she sends her daughter instead (totally weird but whatever). Nancy McKeon was actually over the whole Facts of Life thing but was scheduled to have a cameo. 9/11 happened and grounded all travel in the US making it impossible for filming of her cameo to occur.
  26. Nancy McKeon wasn't the only actor missing from the reunion movie.
    Mackenzie Astin who played Andy Moffat wasn't in the movie. Neither was Mrs. Garrett's replacement Cloris Leachman as Beverly Ann. Nor were reoccurring characters cousin Geri or George Burnett, the handyman played by George Clooney.
  27. Yes George Clooney was part of the cast of Facts of Life. He was only in 17 episodes as the handsome handyman. He left the show to be a roadie for the singer Cinnamon (played by Stacey Q).
    But there were actually a number of pretty famous folks that appeared on the show. Helen Hunt, Jean Smart, David Spade, Mayim Bialik, Seth Green and Juliette Lewis all appeared on Facts of Life. And of course my favorite celebrity guests, Stacey Q! You can read all about Stacey Q on my list Let ME Tell You About Stacey Q
  28. There were many attempts at spinoffs from the show and nearly every season had some sort of backdoor pilot episode buried in the show. They never got any traction.
    The best ones were probably the ones that dealt with the main characters in the final season. They were going to have Natalie move to NY and live with David Spade and Richard Grieco but it didn't happen. The other one was the series finale where Blair buys Eastland school, makes it co-ed and then become a matriarchal figure much like Mrs. Garrett. The new generation of students included Seth Green, Mayim Bialik and Juliette Lewis!
  29. By the way Seth Green has a great anecdote about his time on Facts of Life.
    Seth mentions in an EW interview that he was super excited to be part of the next generation of Eastland students. During the downtime, the cast gathered to say hello to each other in a dressing room. Mindy Cohn pops her head in and says hello and then turns to leave. The rest of the cast members go back to their conversation. Mindy turns around and says "Hey Seth!" And when he turns..she flashes him! No one else see it. Seth is flabbergasted and Mindy just runs off cackling to herself!
  30. Though the show was never a rating winner, it was a consistent show despite being moved around on the weekly schedule.
    To this day, each actor from the show is still known most for their role on the show. Even Geri Jewell is know more for her role as cousin Geri on Facts of Life than her roll on prestige drama Deadwood, where she was in twice as many episodes (24 eps of Deadwood vs 12 eps of Facts of Life!).
  31. ...and there you have the Facts of Life!
    This list is dedicated to @boygirlparty @angusisley @jennifergster @jhope71 @Egghead @loriatx @cordeliane and @wonderlilly and to all the others that liked, relisted or signed the petition FACTS OF LIFE PETITION PLEASE SIGN