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Category:    Home > Reviews > TV Situation Comedy > The Facts Of Life – The Complete Fifth Season (1983 – 1984/Shout! Factory DVD)

The Facts Of Life – The Complete Fifth Season (1983 – 1984/Shout! Factory DVD)

Picture: C     Sound: C+     Extras: D     Episodes: C+


Spun off from Diff'rent Strokes at the end of its first season, The Facts of Life has never gained the same amount of pop culture reverence as its originator, but did manage to hold on slightly longer than that program - running for a total on nine seasons.  The show changed gradually over time – starting out with a larger cast, then dropping several members (including a young Molly Ringwald, who is the only cast member to have a film career of any kind) and adding the tomboyish character, Jo (Nancy McKeon).


Charlotte Rae plays Mrs. Garrett, a former maid for Mr. Drummond on Diff’rent Strokes, who left for what she hoped would be a more fulfilling job at Eastland School for Girls, as a housemother.  Starting with the second season, she was given a promotion to school dietician, which lasted up until Season Five.  It's at this point we see Mrs. Garrett deciding to set up shop with Edna's Edibles, keeping the girls living above the store, and on hand to help out.


Here were several fictional characters more worth watching than gutted-out real life human beings that we see on “reality TV” these days.  Each week, there would be a new situation (usually funny, but sometimes serious), that the four clashing personalities would take on.  Not that the show was always brilliant - with social issues giving way to more bad 1980s humor in the later seasons - but the show was still good at this point and it holds up better than you might expect.


The 1.33:1 image was (as always) shot on professional analog NTSC videotape and looks alright for its age, though maybe some work could be done on these copies.  The show was colorful and relatively well-lit, which was typical of sitcoms until shows like this were replaced by much phonier looking fare by the mid-'80s that seemed increasingly stage bound and somehow more plastic.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 sound is surprisingly listed as stereo, which is not necessarily how the show was recorded, but sounds fine for its age.


Unfortunately, Shout! Factory hasn't included any extras on this set.  If you're looking for any retrospectives on the cast's experiences during the run of the show, your best bet is to take a look at the collection of the First and Second Seasons, which had some cast interviews included as bonus content.


Although not my thing, The Facts of Life isn't a bad program, and still holds quite a following among retro-TV junkies.  Hopefully Shout! will continue to schedule of releases, as Sony, the original distributor of the DVDs, dropped out after their release of the Third Season.



-   David Milchick


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