Laura Reviews: The Facts of Life
The Facts of Life, for those who've never seen it, was one of those "Tonight, on a very special..." shows. Despite the title, it had little to do with sex. I mean, it was a teen issues show, sometimes it was about sex. But not half so much as the title would mislead you to believe.
Except for the "lost" Molly Ringwald episode(s), it was centered around four girls, Jo, Blaire, Natalie and Tootie (the comical black girl with the comical black name), and their journey of growing-uppiness through high school and later college. Sounds like your average bland 80s teen issues show, right? So how do they keep me watching, despite a distinct a much-felt lack of overt lesbianism?
Why, the answer is quite simple: Jo.
Yeah, Jo is "straight". She goes out with boys. She even wore a dress once. But in our hearts of hearts, we all know that
Jo is the biggest, flamiest flaming dyke ever!!!
Even though she never goes out with, falls in love with, or lusts after girls, nor does she mention, hint at, consider, or even discuss anything remotely close to by-definition lesbianism or bisexuality, she's still a dyke. She so is. She's tough. She's cool. She drinks beer. In the later seasons, she rides a motorcycle. Okay, I'm through with italics; but there's more, oh so much more!
All the other girls are always teasing Jo about how few boys she goes out with. She does go out with some boys, but precious few, especially compared with her femmey, social butterfly counterpart/rival, Blaire. She just doesn't care that much, and when she does go out with a boy, she generally doesn't enjoy it. Her clothes, when she gets to choose them, are generally 80s androgynous, edging on 80s male-casual/fashionable. She's sarcastic. She can't stand Blaire's fussy, femmey ways. She pals around with guys. All in all, she's just SUCH A DYKE!
Season Quality Rundown: I'm not sure what was up with that Molly Ringwald episode. I thought maybe it was the "lost" first season, but I haven't seen any more "Mollies", so I think it was probably the star-studded pilot that they ran before replacing the twenty-eight or so central girls with the four we know any love today, and running the rest of the show.
The earlier seasons, once the four main girls are established, tend to be better. After they replace Mrs. Garrett, the kindly late-middle-aged mentor type, with the harebrained Beverly Ann, it all goes downhill. However, the season just before that, which includes Mrs. Garrett, the mischievous sprat Andy and a tall horrible brown-haired man, is a bit worse, I think; my impressions of the one or two episodes I saw from that set may have been overly negative because it was my first glimpse of Andy and "Over Our Heads", the bakery/souvenir store that Mrs. Garrett sets up in the kitchen in the later seasons. Once I got to Beverly Ann, I was dulled to these horrible additions, and able to sit back and enjoy the fact that the big brown-haired man was gone.
I have no idea how many seasons TFOL ran. But I think I'll go out on a limb and say the first three seasons were probably the best.
I've far from seen all, or even most of the episodes. But at two episodes a night, I'll hopefully grow better-versed and quickly bore of it soon.