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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Facts of Life is mild by today's standards, but contains some strong themes that might be unsuitable for younger viewers. Specific episodes deal with issues like rape, abortion, cancer, peer pressure, premarital sex, underage drinking (wine, beer, champagne), and drugs. It also contains lots of positive messages, too, including the importance of being honest, making good choices, and facing the consequences of one's actions. Even though some of the humor is a little dated, its themes are still relevant today. It's a fun choice for nostalgic adults and kids mature enough to handle it.
What's the story?
THE FACTS OF LIFE is a classic situation comedy about a group of girls coming of age at boarding school. The series, which ran from 1978-1988, features Charlotte Rae as Edna Garrett, a former housekeeper who takes on the job of housemother (and later school dietitian) at the prestigious Eastland School, a fictitious school for girls in Peekskill, New York. Among her young charges is wealthy Blair Warner (Lisa Whelchel), the outspoken Molly Parker (Molly Ringwald), and the always cheerful Natalie Green (Mindy Cohn). Also part of the group (at least initially) is tomboy Cindy Webster (Julie Anne Haddock), Nancy Olsen (Felice Schacter), Sue Ann Weaver (Julie Piekarskie), and Dorothy "Tootie" Ramsey (Kim Fields). Growing up at school is definitely fun, but thanks to Mrs. Garrett's mentorship, they also learn a lot of important life lessons along the way.
Is it any good?
The series, which is a spin-off of the hit show Diff'rent Strokes, underwent a series of transformations, most notably in its second year when Ringwald, Schacter, Haddock, and Piekarskie were written out of the series and Nancy McKeon joined the cast as Jo Poniaczek, a tough talking scholarship student from the Bronx. Later seasons also saw the addition of some now-familiar faces like Mackenzie Astin and George Clooney. The show also has the distinction of being the first television series in history to regularly feature a recurring character with a disability (Geri Jewell).
The Facts of Life is pretty mild compared to most of today's sitcoms, but it does address a variety of strong teen-related issues that are still very relevant today, including peer pressure, under-aged drinking, premarital sex, and drug use. Specific episodes also deal with some serious themes like abortion, rape, breast cancer, and death. But all of these topics are offered within the context of creating teachable moments, and usually lead to some positive and important messages.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how classic shows that aired decades ago can still be relevant and/or interesting to today's television viewers. What contemporary shows do you think will be popular and/or relevant 20 years from now? Why? Do you think The Facts of Life is still relevant today?
Teens: Which issues discussed in the show felt relevant to your life today and which didn't? What exactly makes some of the issues irrelevant?
How would life on the show be different with cell phones, computers, etc.?
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