How can I go on without discussing one of the guiltiest pleasures to ever have graced our TV screen: THE FACTS OF LIFE. I grew up watching this show, having discovered it one autumn day in 1979. I had been following DIFFEREN’T STROKES on NBC and read somewhere that there was going to be a spinoff focusing on Kimberley’s private school pals and it would star Mrs. Garrett’s Charlotte Rae. I was already a fan of the late Dana Plato and was fervently hoping that she was going to be part of the show too. She wasn’t, but it was OK, for I bonded quite easily with the new girls, starting with Lisa Whelchel’s Blair Warner.
That first episode where she confronts Cindy about her possible lesbian tendencies showed a Blair Warner that could be bitchy as well as beautiful. A sort of pre-DYNASTY Alexis, if you will and I liked that. Oh I may not have been out of the closet, but I already new how to spot them, believe me. But before Blair could get too mean, in came Mrs. Garrett with all that warning and good advice. And thank Heaven for that, for it made Blair all the more likeable.
One that never needed too much of a sermon was Felice Schachter’s Nancy. How perfect was she, and so pretty, the perfect girl next door type. And I liked that. So much so that I decided to write her a fan letter which she acknowledged by sending me an autograph pic that I still own today. Yes, color me groupie but I don’t care. Then I graduated from Nancy to Mindy Cohn’s Natalie. Not too much on that first season, mind you. She was a bit lost with all those girls. But the minute she became center stage in season two when the producers cut most of the cast and brought in Jo, she became my favorite. She was funny, smart, sensitive and approachable. She clearly represented the one I could hang out with had she been a real person. And yes, I did write to the actress—twice, and both times she responded. And like Schachter’s, I still have her pics with me, thank-you-very-much.
I stuck with the show all the way through, even when it jumped shark in season seven as Edna’s Edible became this awful bric-a-brac gift shop. But by then, I didn’t care. They were part of my TV family. When the series ended after nine years, I was scarcely surprised. The show had run its course. But I got to admit that I kind of miss it today. Comedy on TV isn’t what it used to be. Except for MODERN FAMILY, I find them all pedestrians and unfunny. Sort of like THE FACTS OF LIFE TV movie back in 2001 (now, that one was nasty). I hope the girls still appreciate the fan base, for they will all go to their graves with the “former FACTS OF LIFE star” tag attached to their names, which considering isn’t bad at all.
Until next post—Martin