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Category:    Home > Reviews > TV Situation Comedy > The Facts Of Life – The Complete Third Season

The Facts Of Life – The Complete Third Season


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



While Diff’rent Strokes is being remembered for all the disasters that befell its younger cast after the show’s cancellation after tremendous commercial heights, its spin-off The Facts Of Life lasted longer and has endured to a great extent.  Part of the reason is that it was the only show on TV with an all-female cast.  Though the first season was an up for grabs situation, the series eventually settled on four characters: Blair (Lisa Whelchel), Tootie (Kim Fields), Natalie (Mindy Cohn) and Jo (Nancy McKeon).


Still on the coattails of socially aware shows like Alice and The Jeffersons (the latter of which’s T.A.T. Communications produced this show too), the series dealt with social issues in a way that was more direct than I remembered.  The Complete Third Season was also the 1981 – 1982 season, when TV still was producing interesting shows.  Charlotte Rae played Mrs. Garrett, a former maid for Mr. Drummond on Diff’rent Strokes, who left for what she hoped would be a more fulfilling job.  In real life, Rae also lucked out by having a run as the same character for over ten years.


Each week, there would be a new situation, usually funny but sometimes serious that the four clashing personalities would take on.  Oddly, this seems more real than later similar situations (give or take good and bad jokes) from “reality TV” starting with MTV’s The Real World, with the show now being a last record of the pre-MTV generation even if fictional.  Here are several fictional characters more worth watching than gutted-out real life human beings methodically picked by computer programs and insidious psychological formulas.  It is also what is missing from most dramatic TV today.


Not that the show was brilliant, with the social issues giving way in later seasons to more bad 1980s humor, but the show was still good here and it holds up better than you might expect.  Too bad there is not enough such programming for young ladies today.  That is even with the bizarre Jermaine Jackson episode.


The 1.33 X 1 image was shot on professional analog NTSC videotape and looks OK for its age, though there is some digititis in the fine detail.  The show was a relatively well lit and colorful and typical of sitcoms until shows like this were replaced by much phonier fare by the mid-1980s.  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.  There are no extras, though you’d think the younger cast would have something new to say.  Well, maybe we’ll see that on the next set.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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