1 9 7 9 – 1 9 8 8 (USA)
209 x 30 minute episodes
This spin-off from the popular NBC comedy Diff’rent Strokes originally focused on Mrs Garrett, who had been the Drummonds’ beloved housekeeper prior to taking a job as housemother at the prestigious Eastland school, a posh prep school for girls in New York.
Mrs Garrett (Charlotte Rae) was kind and understanding, serving as both confidante and surrogate parent to the girls in her charge, who at the start of the series ranged in age from 11 to 15.
Blair Warner (15) was wealthy, attractive, and spoiled; Nancy Olson (14) was well-rounded; Sue Ann Weaver (14) was cute and boy-crazy; Tootie Ramsey (11) was the resident gossip; and Natalie Green, the other principal student, was plump and impressionable. The headmaster at Eastland was Mr Bradley.
The original first season cast included a young Molly Ringwald before her Brat Pack movie days.
As the seasons passed, the series evolved. In 1980 Jo Polniaczek, a 16-year-old street kid from the Bronx joined the cast.
In 1983 Mrs Garrett left Eastland and opened her own gourmet food shop in nearby Peekskill, New York, called “Edna’s Edibles”. Blair and Jo (who were now attending college) and Tootie and Natalie (still at Eastland) moved in with her.
In 1985 fire destroyed the shop and Mrs Garrett and the girls rebuilt it into a completely new business, an updated version of a 1950s malt shop called “Over Our Heads.”
Cloris Leachman replaced Charlotte Rae when she departed after six seasons.
The show was cancelled in 1988 because of declining ratings with each of the girls going out into the world as young women; Natalie became a writer in New York; Tootie became engaged to football player Jeff Williams and enrolled in the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA) in London; while Jo married musician Rick Bonner and began a career as a businesswoman.
Blair underwent the biggest change of all. In the final two episodes, she saw her beloved Eastland School fall into bankruptcy, so she bought it and turned it into a co-ed institution.
This move was designed to spawn a spin-off series, but NBC turned it down.
Two made-for-TV movies were also produced; Facts Of Life Goes To Paris (1982) and Facts Of Life Down Under (1987).
George Clooney made an early TV appearance as handyman, George Burnett (pictured).
Dorothy “Tootie” Ramsey
Sue Ann Weaver
Headmaster Steven Bradley
Mr. Charles Parker
Beverly Ann Stickle