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Before the Retooling: Nancy, Molly, Cindy, Sue Ann, Mr. Bradley and Miss Mahoney

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Season One of "The Facts of Life" discussion: all those extra girls and, oh, wow, is that Arnold from "Diff'rent Strokes"?

Edited by Wordsworth

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I know that the show really took off when Jo was added, but I do have a soft spot for the original Eastland girls, a frumpy Mrs. Garrett and the befuddled headmaster. 

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Yeah, I didn't think the first season was that bad, and I liked the idea of extended secondary characters.  It made it look more like a school than later seasons.  That said, if they hadn't retooled it we wouldn't have our iconic four girls.  And Jo was my favorite in the first few couple of seasons.  I still liked her throughout, but I liked the others equally.

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I might enjoy rewatching the first season if I could ignore that fact that Tootie was on roller skates.  That just look like old minstrel stuff to me- just this side of black face.   I am assuming the politically correct police finally put an end to that but it is still too painful for me to watch again.

Edited by MaryHedwig

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The reason for the roller skates was to make Kim Fields taller so she could better fit in the camera frame with the others. She grew up. But I'm from Italy, so, I'm not familiar with that stereotype. I only gathered the notion recently through comments.

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Right, I had heard about the roller skates myself (though just a few years ago).

 

IMO, though, no matter the extra inches they gave her, there was simply no way for TPTB to make Kim look OLDER. If you stand her next to the other girls in the first couple seasons, it's ridiculously obvious that she's nowhere near their age! I mean, I totally get that in junior high/high school kids are in varying stages of development and all that. But compared to, say, Blair, who looks like she might have four school-aged kids of her own at home...

 

Re: Jo - As much as I always enjoyed her character, I think TPTB made her a bit over the top in the beginning. (Remember our initial meeting of her? Parking her bike in the flower beds?? WTF??) Jo may have been rough and tough, but she was certainly not an idiot and definitely had the basics of human civility down pat! I think it took a good season or two before her edges were smoothed down to a more reasonable level.

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Jo may have been rough and tough, but she was certainly not an idiot and definitely had the basics of human civility down pat! I think it took a good season or two before her edges were smoothed down to a more reasonable level.

hrhr, Blair would say she has chiselled those edge to shape and made a masterpiece, and Jo would like to tell her what to do with the chisel ("The secret") ;D

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I love both versions of the show but I think they made the right decision. One because of Jo, and two because narrowing it down allowed them to keep the show on longer and focus on the same characters. I can't imagine the girls plus Sue Ann, Nancy, Molly, Cindy all living together in one spot after their Eastland days are over like they got to do with the smaller group of girls. They probably would have had to let people go once they graduated and brought new faces in. 

 

I'm glad we got to see the other girls as extras every now and then. Sue Ann was one of my favorites in the beginning along with Natalie. In fact when Nick At Nite ran this show one of the things that drew me in to watch it was they'd always put Natalie's "happy magic marker" quote in the promo.

Edited by love21

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To me, the first and second seasons feel like ENTIRELY different shows! Perhaps Version 1 might've survived, but somehow I don't think so. Unless you're really fortunate (Downton Abbey, anyone??) shows with huge ensemble casts just don't seem to make it, likely because it IS so hard to properly characterize everyone, viewers get confused, etc.

 

My 2 main peeves, though, with Version 2 is that, A, the girls were supposedly put together as a punishment. So how does that last for FOUR YEARS?? And B, more importantly, I'd think that parents paying X thousands for their daughters to go to a posh private boarding school would be a bit peeved at having them share a converted attic instead of a regular dorm, you know? Even if they claimed they liked it, etc...

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My 2 main peeves, though, with Version 2 is that, A, the girls were supposedly put together as a punishment. So how does that last for FOUR YEARS??

 

 After a year or so (maybe two) the girls had worked off their debt.  Mrs. Garrett was POed that they all couldn't wait to go back to the regular dorm and get away from each other, so she forced them to repaint the room to get it ready for the new girls (I guess another group of 4 girls wrecked a van??).  They got into a paint fight, which made them realize they missed each other but also ruined the hardwood floors.  So the girls had to move back in to pay for the refinishing.  I'm sure that didn't take as long to pay off as the wrecked van but I don't recall it being brought up again why they stayed there.

 

 

And B, more importantly, I'd think that parents paying X thousands for their daughters to go to a posh private boarding school would be a bit peeved at having them share a converted attic instead of a regular dorm, you know? Even if they claimed they liked it, etc...

 

 It's been a long time, but I thought there was a line from Mrs. Garrett that she talked to all their parents and they agreed to the arrangement to a) teach them a lesson and b) avoid the alternative, which was them being expelled.  

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Ah, ok, now I remember...it's been a while since I last watched those early episodes. Still and all, IMO, those were pretty flimsy "reasons." I think TPTB could've done a better job...perhaps just having them work together in the kitchen (Jo needed spending money, and maybe the rich girls' parents might want them to get some sense of responsibility, let's say...) They could still spend time studying together in that common area, but it wouldn't have been as staged as the actual backstory.

 

Ok, SnarkySheep, you're only about 30 years too late here...

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Season 1 will always have a soft space in my heart, if only for the thinly veiled insinuations of lesbianism that Blair throws at Cindy in the first episode.  Now *that* could have taken the show in an entirely new direction.

 

And let's not forget Helen Hunt smoking pot with Sue Ann.  (Which was a few years before Helen Hunt smoking angel dust and jumping through a second story window in an ABC afterschool special... but that's off topic.)

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The girls had to move from the dorm to the spare room near Ms. Garrett because she was basically their probation officer.   The parents agreed she would have direct supervision over them to keep them out of trouble, in order to keep the girls in the school.   

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Still and all, IMO, those were pretty flimsy "reasons." I think TPTB could've done a better job...perhaps just having them work together in the kitchen (Jo needed spending money, and maybe the rich girls' parents might want them to get some sense of responsibility, let's say...) They could still spend time studying together in that common area, but it wouldn't have been as staged as the actual backstory.

 

I didn't mind the original plotline of having them live together. And after they paid off the van damages, it made sense that they would continue living together (because they had grown to like each other.) For me, the show started to strain credibility once they left Eastland and all four girls decided to live at Mrs. Garrett's shop. I can believe that Jo would live there, because it would save money on housing. But I don't know if Natalie and Tootie's parents would be OK with them living with someone who was no longer working for the school at that point. And it didn't make sense that Blair would have continued to live in the house when she could have easily afforded an apartment nearby.

 

I did think it was amusing, though, that by the final season all four girls were in their 20's and still had a housemother (Beverly Ann.) In real life, they would all have probably needed therapy after being joined at the hip for almost 9 years!

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 Blair I could buy because her family was so distant while growing up.  The other girls and Mrs G became a second family that gave her and emotional connection she didn't have with her own family.  I agree it was a stretch having Natalie and Tootie live there though.   It would have been more logical for them to work there after school (and could have moved in when they went to college).  The worst was having Beverly Ann move in.  

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There were quite a few problems with the first season IMO, but my biggest issue was generally the wardrobe.  I don't consider myself a proude by any means, bu there was way too much skin tight clothing and short shorts for a show about fairly young teenagers.  They had them running around in their skimpy gym uniforms (tight shirts and short shorts) most of the time, which made no sense anyway if you consider that the girls were supposed to be living in New York and not in the middle of a heatwave.  Who was the show trying to appeal to anyway?  Pervy middle aged men? 

 

That was one thing the new writers and production people did away with the second they re-tooled the show fortunately.  Even if the clothes went the other direction into being downright odd and frumpy at times, I prefer that to whatever they had going on the first season.

 

Plus while I liked her at the time, girl that played Sue Anne was a dreadful actress. 

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I wonder if the show would have worked better without Beverly Ann? They were all grown ups (g-rated sex & the city) and, it would have been way more believable. I guess they thought they still needed an adult sounding board.

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I wonder if the show would have worked better without Beverly Ann? They were all grown ups (g-rated sex & the city) and, it would have been way more believable. I guess they thought they still needed an adult sounding board.

 

I always assumed they brought in Chloris because they "needed a name" to boost ratings once Charlotte left** (and they also needed an excuse for the girls to still be living together in Mrs. G's house.) But unfortunately, they didn't know what to do with her. I'm sure that's why they brought in Pippa and did the whole "Andy gets adopted" storyline - just to give her something to do.

 

One thing I did like, however, was that they didn't try to make Beverly into a Mrs. Garrett clone. TPTB recognized that Mrs. Garrett was irreplaceable, so they had her sister be a super flaky, unrealiable person. It didn't feel like Chloris was trying to replace anyone - she was her own character.

 

** I always give Charlotte credit for walking away from a hit show. That couldn't have been easy to do. If it were me, I would have stayed on until the end for the steady paycheck. But I've also read elsewhere that she was getting older and was having trouble with her lines in front of an audience, so the producers intentionally made her part smaller. She's in 13 episodes in season 7, but she only plays a major role in a few of them - in the others, she just appears in one or two scenes. In the "Sexy Lingerie" singing episode, for example, I think she just appears in the opening.

Edited by vanillamountain

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I don't have a problem with Mrs. G being left out of an episode called Sexy Lingerie

 

What?  Don't want to see the Mrs. "G-string"?

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Does anyone know which school was used in the opening credits in Season 1? It looked like a university and obviously a track & field in the closing shot. I liked the first season theme & credits.

Does anyone know which school was used in the opening credits in Season 1? It looked like a university and obviously a track & field in the closing shot. I liked the first season theme & credits.

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That was one thing the new writers and production people did away with the second they re-tooled the show fortunately.  Even if the clothes went the other direction into being downright odd and frumpy at times, I prefer that to whatever they had going on the first season.

Boy, they REALLY did away with the skimpy clothing, didn't they? :)

 

But I agree, it is a little jarring to see what are meant to be school-age girls prancing around with low-cut tops and their butt cheeks hanging out. I get the "it was the style at the time" thing, but it's to such an extreme that it HAD to have been a conscious decision made by the creators to attempt to attract an audience through titillation, which is fairly disturbing.

 

That having been said, Blair had some outfits in the first season that I would totally pay good money for (the dress that she wore to the dance in the "Is Cindy a lesbian?" episode was gorgeous. Maybe not on a 16 year-old, but gorgeous nonetheless.

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I've been watching the first two seasons on Netflix, and I think it was absolutely the right decision to reduce the cast size. I can't. stand. Mr. Bradley. The actor grates on me a bit, and it also seems like they didn't know what to do with the character. In the very first episodes, he was prone to getting flustered around the girls and Mrs. G, and in the second half, post writer's strike, he was there to be a strawman MCP. Either way, he bugged. Time spent on the girls/Mrs. G telling him where to get off was time wasted when it could have been spent on the main story.

 

Miss Mahoney is not worth mentioning, but since I just did, perhaps she was an early version of that '80s type: the prim factotum who'd love to be wild, and might get the chance, depending on the show. But that type was played much better in better shows. (Not knocking FOL as a series, just this first season. It's almost not the same show.) And I understand why they chose the core cast that they did. I like Nancy, but there just wouldn't have been anyone for her to play off of in that foursome. The others, meh, and that includes La Mol. 

 

I also remember watching the Big Deal Sex Ed episode when it was on. One bit stayed with me long afterwards. Sue Ann chirps that guys are supposed to be more experienced, and Blair swings around: "Who are they supposed to get experience with? Tinkerbell?" So I understood the concept of "double standard" before I heard the term. 

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Sue Ann chirps that guys are supposed to be more experienced, and Blair swings around: "Who are they supposed to get experience with? Tinkerbell?" 

 

 No, cougars.

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I agree that it was the right decision to retool and reduce the size of the cast after the first season.  Cindy, Sue Ann, Molly and Nancy were fairly meh.  Cindy and Sue Ann were interchangeable blondes (and competing with Blair), Molly was another Tootie, minus the roller skates and Nancy was a brunette version of Blair.  Bringing Jo into the mix was casting gold -- she was always my favorite character, followed closely by Natalie.  Not that anyone is asking but Tootie was always my least fave - - much too shrieky and whiny. 

 

I understand why the writers chose to have Blair, Jo, Natalie and Tootie being punished by sharing the attic room.  Even if the girls had dorm rooms close to each other, Jo and Blair would not have buddied up and they likely would not have associated with Tootie.  They probably wouldn't have shared many, if any, classes together so having them work in the kitchen and share living quarters was the best way to have them form the quartet. 

 

That said, I can buy that all four girls would remain at Mrs. Garrett's house and shop because they were all equal partners in the business.  What stretches credibility (I know, I know) is that they would all remain in the same bedroom in a house that surely had AT LEAST two other bedrooms.  Especially once Mrs. Garrett left.  It would have been interesting to have the girls remain and give them more "adult" storylines, without Beverly Ann, without Andy and without Pippa.  But I guess the writers and producers were still aiming for that pre-teen and teen audience (which was a mistake since the original audience would have been around the same age group as the characters.) 

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I wish I had my own talk show, just so I could use this introduction (imagine Letterman's voice):

 

"Our next guest rose to fame as part of the Brat Pack in the 80's, with hit films like Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles and the Breakfast Club.  Since then she has appeared in stage and screen, and while her current project is the upcoming Jem and the Holograms movie, she is of course best known for her star turn as the eponymous Molly in the long-running NBC television series "The Facts of Life"!  Ladies and gentlemen, Miss Molly Ringwald!"

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I caught the tail-end of the earlier seasons anti-drug episode, where Sue-Ann (?) is so out of it she puts whales in her term paper.  So Nancy Reagan.  Jo really is unlikable in the beginning.  I don't see Nat and Tootie get the same degree of treatment in the punishment ep.

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I really liked the opening credits from Season 1. Seeing the girls walking around campus looked authentic. Except they were the only ones walking around the campus. LOL!!!!! It's this huge boarding school and you only saw the cast. LOL!!! I also liked the shot of the girls around Mrs. Garrett all screaming and the final shot of them on the track strangling each other. Too funny! I've often wondered where that was all shot? It looked very New England-ish but I'm assuming it was done somewhere in LA. Anyway, I like the opening credits & theme song (minus Mrs. Garrett singing) from Season 1.

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There was a real school in upstate New York where they filmed the exteriors. That's where they found Mindy. She wasn't an actress before the show. The just liked her and hired her for the part.

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I caught the tail-end of the earlier seasons anti-drug episode, where Sue-Ann (?) is so out of it she puts whales in her term paper.  So Nancy Reagan.  Jo really is unlikable in the beginning.  I don't see Nat and Tootie get the same degree of treatment in the punishment ep.

That whole episode is GOLD. "Moby Dick was a white whale. With a big...tail." Blair's hollowed-out lipstick that she kept her joints in. Natalie and Tootie buying a bong and thinking it was for jelly beans. Helen Hunt stoned off her ass, sitting on the bed. Season one was an epic, iconic, amazing mess.

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That whole episode is GOLD. "Moby Dick was a white whale. With a big...tail." Blair's hollowed-out lipstick that she kept her joints in. Natalie and Tootie buying a bong and thinking it was for jelly beans. Helen Hunt stoned off her ass, sitting on the bed. Season one was an epic, iconic, amazing mess.

 

Don't forget the leader of "The Group" - - Tumpy!  A character named Tumpy!!  WTH?

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Don't forget the leader of "The Group" - - Tumpy!  A character named Tumpy!!  WTH?

"'Tumpy'?! What kind of name is 'Tumpy'?! "

"Beats me... Tootie."

Edited by sev
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I didn't mind the original plotline of having them live together. And after they paid off the van damages, it made sense that they would continue living together (because they had grown to like each other.) For me, the show started to strain credibility once they left Eastland and all four girls decided to live at Mrs. Garrett's shop. I can believe that Jo would live there, because it would save money on housing. But I don't know if Natalie and Tootie's parents would be OK with them living with someone who was no longer working for the school at that point. And it didn't make sense that Blair would have continued to live in the house when she could have easily afforded an apartment nearby.

 

 

vanillamountain, that's pretty much how I felt about it, too.  Once they graduated high school, the idea that Blair would be going to local Langley College with Jo was a bit of a stretch.  Jo got them kicked out of the dorm, but Blair could have gotten an apartment on her own.  To be honest, the show could have ended with Blair & Jo's graduation.  It would have been more realistic.  But we would have missed a few pretty good episodes after that.

 

My thinking is that Natalie and Tootie's parents knew Mrs. Garrett by that time and, as she had done a good job of raising their daughters the last couple of years, they were okay with the girls staying with her after that, even if she wasn't an employee anymore.

 

I do recall the events surrounding the van the same way:

 

* The girls are expelled.  Mrs. Garrett arranges for them to stay in school but she will take responsibility for them.  The parents agree to allow the girls to live with her under her supervision.

* The van is paid off, right as the girls reach the peak of irritation with each other.  Mrs. Garrett has them repaint the room for the new set of girls (I, too, was confused as to why new girls would be moving in with Mrs. Garrett.  Doesn't say much for Eastland if they're constantly having to put their students under close guard.  But, maybe, she made it up....), they get into a paint fight that will cost money to clean up, so they're stuck in the same room.  Frankly, I think the parents would all get together and pay for the repainting of the daggone room at this point.  Unless they're getting a break on room & board because their daughters aren't actually living in the school, I can't imagine why any parent would continue to pay full price for their child to go to a private boarding school when she's living in an attic with three other girls.

* This arrangement lasts until Jo & Blair graduate.  Mrs. Garrett quits her job, opens Edna's Edibles, and ends up with all four girls living in what looks like the same dumb attic room.  They live through the next few years involving the fire, Over Our Heads, Mrs. G's marriage and departure and the arrival of Beverly Ann.  There's no reason for them to be living together at all.  Shortly after Beverly Ann shows up, Tootie is out of Eastland.  There's no need for any type of adult supervision anymore.  In real life, they'd be at different schools, living their own lives.

Edited by Wordsworth

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Natalie and Tootie wanted to live with Mrs G because they were split up in different dorms at Eastland and missed each other and the rest of the girls. Blair initially turned down moving in because she didn't want to live over a kitchen (which was realistic) but changed her mind when she decided her sorority sisters were vapid. I could buy them living together in the first couple of years but after the fire it was ridiculous even for a TV show.

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Folks, please remember that this thread is specifically for "original-original cast" discussion, so any thoughts about the transition  should go elsewhere.  Thanks!

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Who is prettier, Sue Ann or Nancy?

They look a lot alike except for their hair color but I have to say Nancy is prettier by a smidge; beautiful eyes. I always thought Cindy was the prettiest though.

 

Fun fact. A few weeks ago, I was watching the making of The Outsiders movie on youtube and imagine my surprise when I saw "Sue Ann" for a few seconds in an audition scene.

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WHY FACTS OF LIFE FIRST SEASON DIDN'T SUCCEED:

Facts of LIfe First Season was the best (rocked) in my opinion it truly reflected a girls school. The first season was silly fun, innocent, fun loving. offbeat, touching, sweet, sincere and touching. At the end of each show a lesson was learned. I enjoyed that the show lacked focus and character development. Comedies are supposed to be funny, not taken seriously, offbeat, silly and provide escapism for the viewer.  I enjoy the girls, especially the older ones in their cute outfits. In my opinion, it was a horrible tragedy the show was retooled and four girls were let go. If they had to let a few actresses go the first one should have been Kim Fields, she was too young and had to be put on roller skates. The other girl that should have been let go was Mindy Cohen; she was not a professional actress and was discovered in a private school. Lets face it nobody was watching the Facts Of Life because of Mindy Cohen. My favorite was Julie Anne Haddock; so very beautiful and a very talented actress. John Lawlor in an interview several years ago pointed out Julie Anne as being a very talented actress and a hard worker. He also said Molly Ringwald was brilliant. I thought Julie Anne was the most talented followed closely by Molly Ringwald. Felice and Julie Piekarski also had talent. John Lawlor was great as Stephen Bradley.  John Lawlor was very saddened from being fired from FOL. He loved the show, the girls and the family atmosphere on the set.  I think if they kept all seven girls for another season, including John Lawlor the ratings would have gone way up. Facts of Life first season ultimate mistake was timing. The show was a late summer replacement for Hello Larry; four episodes. Who watches new TV shows in the late summer??? In addition, when they got an order for nine more episodes that were not shown until March 1980, another mistake. The network should have had new episodes for the fall when new shows come out. Finally, showing the FOL in March, with new episodes at different days and times didn't provide any continuity or regularity for the show. Yet another mistake. FOL should have been shown before Different Strokes or after Different Strokes to get a new audience. FOL then could have piggybacked off the success of Different Strokes. There were also several weeks at a time were FOL was not shown in the Spring of 1980. With all this happening FOL first season was doomed to fail. This is my opinion, because I am very partial and biased for the first season. The first season to me; represented a girls school; with young girls going through the trials and tribulations of adolescent. I will cherish the FOL first season for rest of my life. Cheers to FOL first season girls. A special shout out to my favorite FOL girl Cindy Webster played by the very beautiful and talented Julie Anne Haddock

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51 minutes ago, TGD said:

WHY FACTS OF LIFE FIRST SEASON DIDN'T SUCCEED:

... Lets face it nobody was watching the Facts Of Life because of Mindy Cohen [sic:  Cohn]. ...

I did.  Granted, I never saw the show until it was in syndication during the early 1990s, when I was giving a friend rides home from work & her roommate would have that channel on the TV.  I usually stuck around to watch because I thought Natalie was such a funny character -- I also liked Blair, but would not have watched to see anyone else (especially not Tootie!).  However, I was over 40 then & have no idea which characters/actors attracted audiences when the show commenced some 10+ years earlier.   

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On ‎7‎/‎13‎/‎2015 at 4:43 PM, Aja said:

That whole episode is GOLD. "Moby Dick was a white whale. With a big...tail." Blair's hollowed-out lipstick that she kept her joints in. Natalie and Tootie buying a bong and thinking it was for jelly beans. Helen Hunt stoned off her ass, sitting on the bed. Season one was an epic, iconic, amazing mess.

33 minutes ago, 3pwood said:

I did.  Granted, I never saw the show until it was in syndication during the early 1990s, when I was giving a friend rides home from work & her roommate would have that channel on the TV.  I usually stuck around to watch because I thought Natalie was such a funny character -- I also liked Blair, but would not have watched to see anyone else (especially not Tootie!).  However, I was over 40 then & have no idea which characters/actors attracted audiences when the show commenced some 10+ years earlier.   

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I don't know that I watched FOL "because of" Natalie, but I always liked her character. Even in the first-season eps (which, admittedly, I didn't see until reruns later on in the 80s) she was one of my favorite characters. As they say... Diff'rent Strokes. ;) 

I will say, though, that when I bought the full-series set of DVDs, I went back and watched the first season and enjoyed those eps more. I liked Nancy, which I didn't really before.

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Julie Anne Haddock was the best. She had as much or more talent than Molly Ringwald. We all know what a star Molly became. John Lawlor in an interview few years a go single out Julie Anne out as being very good actress and quite talented. Watch first episode of show Rough Housing and episode 11; Running. Mindy Cohn had comedic talent and skills. Julie Anne just didn't get the luck you need as an actress to make it. My initial point of view was my theory why FOL first season didn't make it. I do think they could have kept them all and the show would have made it. I just thought Kim because of her age and Mindy because she was not a professional actress were least deserving. But to their credit both talented and unique actresses.

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Facts Of Life first season ROCKED!!!! Seasons 2-9 not so much. Those 13 episodes from the first season are precious classics. God bless the first season girls. A special tribute to the girls that were let go: Felice, Molly, Julie and my FAVORITE the very beautiful and talented Julie Anne!!!!

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