European Vacation: The Facts of Life vs. Growing Pains

Oh my gosh this episodes are so long. This makes me long for the days of two-part Hawaiian episodes. But here are some key points from each of these 90-freaking-minute long trips to Europe.

The Facts of Life: Mrs. Garret and the girls take trips, separately to Paris. Mrs. Garrett studies French cooking and the girls are supposed to be studying at one of Eastland’s sister schools. But these girls decide to runaway from the school because it’s too “rigid” and “structured” like most boarding-schools would be. But they are used to doing whatever the hell they want. Out of financial necessity (and the fact that the school has their passports) they crash with Mrs. Garrett. And she, as per usual, lets them get away with this insanity. Jo spends the entire trip trying to walk from Paris to LeMans to see car racing. She meets a random cute guy and, in what should be the beginning of an episode of Criminal Minds, hops on the back of his motorcycle and spends the night with him in a hotel, sharing a bed. But this is The Facts of Life so it is totally innocent and he’s a perfectly upstanding gentleman. Mrs. Garrett struggles to cook well enough for the French but she meets a French boyfriend and he helps her ace her test. Natalie and Tootie stalk a writer that Natalie thinks is cool. They didn’t even give Tootie her own plotline. Blair decides she can have fun by herself without trying to get guys to pick her up. And Jo, in the only remotely interesting story-arc of this 90-minute sans-laugh track drudgery, shares a chaste kiss with that perfectly upstanding gentleman. Oh and she never makes it to LeMans because he has to go back to Paris early for work and she decides she would rather be with him. Who are you, Blair?

Screen Shot 2015-11-09 at 8.39.00 PMGrowing Pains: Mike gets a job selling travel tours for a company called VaVaVaVoom. He sells so many tours (including one to Maggie & Jason) that they give him a free trip to Barcelona on a sorority tour. Maggie & Jason go to Paris at the same time that Mike goes to Barcelona and Maggie’s parents babysit the rest of the kids. The first night in paris, Maggie comes down with appendicitis and spends the rest of the trip in the hospital. She and Jason see literally nothing of Paris, but he does manage to track down the restaurant where he proposed to her. And the chef caters a romantic candlelight dinner for them in her hospital room.
Meanwhile, the travel company has gone defunct and Mike and this one other person on the sorority tour (who turns out to have thought it was some kind of history tour) are the only tour members rich enough to afford Barcelona on their own. Screen Shot 2015-11-09 at 8.37.39 PMThey contact the airline and learn that they can get some kind of value out of their otherwise worthless tickets if they can make it to Paris. So they set out across Spain hating each other in a poor-man’s When Harry Met Sally only to share a not-so-chaste kiss when they finally make it to Paris after having stolen a crap-ton of coins from a public fountain. That’s right, The Facts of Life is more chaste than a born-again yet unmarried Kirk Cameron, so you can all update your chastity rulers now. Somehow they all manage to have a good time.

Point Breakdown:
Overall Plot–This hands down goes to Growing Pains. It’s not even much of a winner but The Facts of Life was a snoozefest.
Music–Also, Growing Pains on this one. Their elevator-music soundtrack was slightly more highbrow than that of The Facts of Life. Plus, I did enjoy the meta-humor of Jason signing the Growing Pains theme song to Maggie in her hospital room, especial since Alana Thicke wrote the song.
Screen Shot 2015-11-09 at 8.25.16 PMVacation AttireGrowing Pains again. Mostly because Maggie managed to spend like 45 seconds wearing an awesome dress before she got appendicitis. And Mike and his lady friend managed to look amazing for days wandering throughout Europe and sleeping on benches.
Integration of European Setting-I’m calling this one a draw. They both have a lot of scenic pictures happening and I feel like that’s the only thing that can remotely justify the length of these episode arcs.
However, I am subtracting a point from Growing Pains because everyone is speaking Castilian instead of Catalan in Barcelona. And they’re also all speaking Castilian incorrectly. There’s even a ridiculous part in which Mike’s supposedly fluent travel buddy calls Carol, who is also supposedly fluent, and Carol says “Estás Carol.” Like what, no YOU’RE Carol, Carol. What are you saying??

Scoring Breakdown:

Growing Pains: Vacation Attire + Music + Overall Plot – Bad Spanish = 3 points
The Facts of Life: 0 points, go back to Peekskill. (But in all honesty I guess they did “integrate the European setting” so fine 1 point but it was still basically the worst thing I’ve ever seen.)

Next Week on The Very Special Blog: Blossom vs. Family Matters

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The Facts of Life: Cousin Geri

In the final installment of Very Special Summer, we travel back to Eastland where Blair Warner has an unexpected visitor. Blair has won the Eastland Fine Arts Award for the third year in a row. Apparently, she’s an excellent artist–even though we have never seen her work. But she’s very anxious about her celebration dinner because her cousin Geri is in town for a comedy show and decides to pay Blair a visit.

Blair is super weird about introducing her to her friends because Geri has Cerebral Palsy. Geri is super chill about answering all of the girls’ questions (since apparently they go to prep school but have never taken science), but Blair is obviously uncomfortable and tells them to stop bothering her cousin. Geri says, “Questions don’t hurt. Ignorance does.” And then the studio audience applauds because this is The Facts of Life and this is the kind of shit we tune in to hear!

It doesn’t take long for the other girls to realize that Blair is in a bad mood because her cousin is visiting, and they call confront her for being so rude. Jo is particularly scathing and says that Blair is “just upset because their’s a Warner out there who isn’t perfect.” It’s obviously not the case, and this blatant jerk-ness was part of what made me not like Jo when she first started on the series. Mrs. Garrett tries to get Blair to admit that she is embarrassed by Geri, but Blair denies that this is the case.

In fact, it turns out that Blair is jealous of Geri. “With her here on my night, at my school, with my friends, everything I’ve worked for just seems so silly,” she says. I mean like woah. I think I could maybe understand where Blair is coming from if she wasn’t already super spoiled and like always the center of attention. Plus, like who gives a crap if large family gatherings focus more on Geri? It’s not like Bliar and Geri are siblings and Blair is like neglected  in favor of Geri or something. I feel like being jealous of Geri is just some able-bodied privilege that really disturbs me. But Mrs. Garrett is obviously a lot more understanding than I am and tells Blair that she shouldn’t feel guilty because she’s just being “human.”

Blair doesn’t even show up to her celebration dinner–where Geri is also performing. She arrives late in the middle of Geri’s performance (which just happens to be at the portion that Geri is hoping to perform with Blair like when they were kids). And then Blair stops the act and says “Hey, did you here about the girl who never told her cousin how great she is?” And Geri is all like what…no…? Tell me… And Blair is all like, “I never told you this before, but I think you’re terrific.” And then like dammit in spite of myself I teared up!

Blair really was a snot, but this was what made her so cool in the first couple of seasons of this show. As disgusting as her behavior was, it’s probably a pretty realistic portray of even the “ugly” feelings that we humans sometimes possess and don’t like to admit to. And she ended up genuinely doing the right thing at the end. I guess maybe she’ll still be a little jealous at Thanksgiving, but that’s not Geri’s fault and having a good relationship with her should maybe make that a little easier.

Very Special Lesson: If you show up late to your awards banquet, then you’d better put on a pretty good show to make up for it.

The Facts of Life: The New Girl

This two part episode starts off the second season of The Facts of Life (in which the main cast has been reduced by like 45%). This means that Blair arrives and greets Tootie and Natalie like they are totally best friends forever, instead of treating them like the younger, lame kids. That’s what happens when everyone else your age is cut from the main cast.

The show was struggling so much, that Gary Coleman had to make a guest appearance (stealing a lobster from the school cafeteria). Also, like I knew this was a rich prep school but geez they’re serving lobster! Can I please redo high school and go to Eastland?

Anyway, the “new girl,” Jo shows up on her motorcycle covered in grease and threatening to beat-up Blair like twelve hundred times for insulting her clothing and not being able to pronounce her last name. The acting is SO bad. Like Lisa Whelchel is killing it as Blair (I forgot how cool she was at the beginning of the show). And Nancy McKeon is so insufferable as Jo. This totally reversed at the end of the series. But whatever Tootie and Natalie are the best part of this series, and I’m not even sure why were paying attention to the other people. But I guess it’s “plot” or whatever.

So then these two sixteen year old girls start arguing about who can get men easier, and in a much milder version of the plot of Little Darlings decide to hang out at a college bar and see who they can pick up. This is television in the early 80’s, ladies and gentleman. I guess the drinking age was lower then so like maybe they can hang out with some recent high-school graduates. Ugh, yeah whatever it’s gotta be creepy at the beginning, so we can have the very special lesson at the end, right?

Later that afternoon, Blair and Jo discuss their plan with Natalie and Tootie. It is so blatantly obvious that there is no one else at this school anymore because Tootie is in like the seventh-grade and I have no idea why Blair and Jo would think she’s a good confidant for their plan. Could they not get any of the girls from the last season to come back and guest star for the first couple of episodes as a transition? Or like maybe that would have been too offensive after firing them all in one fell swoop.

Natalie and Tootie insist on going along with them and threaten to tell on them if they try to keep them from riding in the stolen cafeteria van and conspicuously watching through the window near the entrance. Anyway, it turns out that Gary Coleman saw them stealing the van and told Mrs. Garrett and so they’re all screwed anyway.

It’s good that Mrs. Garrett found out because this is NOT a college bar. Everyone is like thirty-seven years old and creepy. One dude hits on Blair and Jo at the same time, but Blair gets mad because he thinks Jo goes to college and Blair goes to secretarial school.

Tootie thinks he is threatening Blair, so she and Natalie rush in and blow their cover. It also turns out that the thirty-seven year old creep is a cop, who has only been talking to them because of their fake IDs. You know, it takes a good twenty minutes of polite conversation to arrest someone for a fake ID.

Also, this means that the bar actually served alcohol to minors (either because they couldn’t spot the fake IDs or because the cop told them not to do anything like he was pulling a sting on a high level drug dealer). Either way, I think someone is losing a liquor license.

Skipping ahead to the second part of this episode, Jo and Blair kind of become friends when Jo defends Blair in lock up. Then Mrs. Garrett bails them out and tells them that they’re all expelled. The only loophole is if they agree to let her be totally responsible for them and live above the cafeteria with her. And they have to work in the cafeteria to pay for repairs to the van. And all of their parents have agreed to this. And this is not at all an implausible situation.

So they all move in together, and Blair and Jo argue more. I’m skipping through and wondering why this had to be a double episode. But I guess I spoke to soon about the absence of the original cast members because Molly Ringwald shows up in the cafeteria line to express her sympathies for their new situation. She’s had a growth spurt and I feel like she’s four inches taller or wearing some serious platform shoes. This would be her last/only guest appearance since she was like ten seconds away from becoming John Hughes’s protege. Also, is it just me or does Molly Ringwald seem like a total bitch, but the kind of total bitch you’d still want to hang out with?

Anyway, Molly Ringwald’s new mean girl friend harasses Jo, so Blair throws some pie in her face. And then Jo tries to leave. And Blair is like NO JO WE ARE FRIENDS NOW, DON’T GO! But then Mrs. Garrett comes in and starts guilt tripping Jo about how much her mother has given up for her, and Jo turns on the waterworks. So I guess Nancy McKeon is an okay actress. And then they were all friends!!

Very Special Lesson: If you break the law, break your schools van, and threaten to break your roommate’s face, you’ll end up with the best friends of your life.

The Facts of Life: Dope

Guys, we’re finishing up our first week of The Very Special Summer! How dope is that? Okay, bad pun. Anyhow, today’s episode is about marijuana. The first season of  The Facts of Life had approximately seventy-two characters, but the names you need to know for today are: Blair, Sue Ann, and Helen Hunt. Yes, that Helen Hunt. This episode guest stars Helen Hunt.

Blair gets Sue Ann into a cool clique called “The Group.” (Helen Hunt is in The Group). But they all smoke pot. Meanwhile, sixth-graders Natlaie and Tootie have a plot to crash The Group’s hangout because Tootie overheard Blair discussing their secret knock. So Tootie rolls into the room on her roller-skates under the guise that she needs to ask Sue Ann and Blair whether they prefer an 8-track or a cassette player on the new dorm stereo. The leader of The Group tells Tootie that Mrs. Garrett can buy her super expensive stereo at a very low price.

Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 10.56.12 AMWhile Blair and Sue Ann are trying to get rid of her, Tootie notices the bong and asks what it’s for. They tell her it’s for jelly beans and run her out of the room while the leader of The Group is trying to tell her what it’s really for. They freak out and want to know why she offered a twelve year-old pot, and she says she was just kidding. Then Helen Hunt starts talking about how cool pot is and Sue Ann is like hey, I might actually be down for this. But Blair realizes she actually doesn’t want to get high. She’s looking at everyone around the room and she decides that it doesn’t look like something she’d be into, so she tries to say no. When they peer-pressure her into trying it, she’s like fine I”ll just go home then, you jerks.

So then things get kind of weird. The cool girls are all like, Sue Ann we like you for you and not because of Blair so you can hang out with us all by yourself. And Blair is all like they’re lying to you so you’ll smoke with them and they really only did invite you because of me. And the cool girls are all like that’s not true. Blair is just chicken! And I would like to know in what world–especially a world where you’re selling your cool stereo to buy better pot–are you peer pressuring some chick to smoke with you? From the looks of this, I’d say they were trying to get her involved in some high stakes amphetamine ring. I feel like in the real world, they’d just be like bye and keep the pot for themselves.

The next morning Sue Ann feels a little sick. Pot hangover? She’s also very proud of her book report, which she finished all 20 pages of in 30 minutes. She asks Mrs. Garrett to read it and share her opinion. But it’s like one sentence per page and kind of weird and rhyming and ridiculous. Blair (who I think I actually did like better in the early episodes) covers for her and tells Mrs. Garrett that Sue Ann has been playing a joke. The book report is pretty funny, so it does play well as a joke and no one is none the wiser…until Tootie and Natalie come in with three bongs that they bought at the record store.

Natalie and Tootie have purchased one each for themselves and one for Mrs. Garrett. “We’re a three bong family,” Natalie says. Hahahaha. Mrs. Garrett is horrified. Of course, the girls still think they’re for jelly beans. Well, Natalie says she’s going to use hers for root beer because “it comes with a built-in straw.” [You can see why these girls got to stick around for season 2.] Mrs. Garrett asks why they bought the bongs, and Tootie tells her about seeing one when she went to visit The Group. This leads to a massive raid and those cool girls get kicked out of school. Sue Ann decides never to smoke again and Blair says, “I’m going to stick to being high on me.”

Very Special Lesson: Pot kills (your ability to write book reports).

The Facts of Life: The First Time

I feel like The Facts of Life did not live up to it’s name because everyone on this show was a virgin until the last season when they’re all well into their twenties. And I mean obviously, this is a very personally thing that doesn’t have to happen at a certain age, I just feel like statistically it’s odd that they’re all still virgins. But honestly, they all shared one bedroom for basically forever so maybe that hampered things. It’s the late 80’s and the girls live with Cloris Leachman (for unclear reasons). Blair isn’t in this episode because Lisa Whelchel objected to the subject matter for personal reasons. The house is actually a lot more pleasant without her.

No one tapped that on The Facts of Life.

The episode starts off with Snake (Natalie’s boyfriend) showing up to take her out for their one year anniversary. He wears coveralls and makes Natalie feel unappreciated, but hey it’s all one big fake out joke and he’s got a suit underneath! That’s the kind of guy you want to lose your virginity to, am I right?  Snake is about thirty-five years old and also apparently a virgin. After a special night of romantic dining, no one wants to say goodnight, and that’s how babies are made! Just kidding, this is The Facts of Life and Natalie’s a core cast member, so you can trust that she’s well prepared.

Natalie comes home at 5 am and wakes up Tootie to tell her she lost her virginity. Then at breakfast she tries to tell Jo, but the two kids who live with him (why??) keep barging into the room and she can’t finish the story. Then it’s just Cloris Leachman (who is apparently Mrs. Garret’s sister and therefore privy to all of the intimate stuff) and the girls, so Natalie can finally brag about her night. And then they are so SHOCKED that Jo spills a pile of cereal onto the table and Cloris Leachman’s knees buckle. Then they all quietly slut shame Natalie because Cloris waited until marriage. And Tootie is waiting until marriage. And Jo won’t comment. Then everyone says that she’s probably going to get pregnant. And that’s really why this show is past it’s prime. It’s okay to have life lessons when you’re fifteen, but I’m offended that all of these adult women are commenting on another adult woman’s personal decision.

Then Snake calls and tells her that he can’t see her for a while. Because that’s what guys do. They date a girl for a whole year just to have sex with her. And then it’s all over after that! That’s a long con I just don’t believe in, but we are expected to believe this plot-line for the next ten minutes. After about 24 hours of not hearing from him, Natalie says she never should have slept with him. The she takes everything out on Jo, who won’t tell her if she was “right”or “wrong.”

Why do the Facts of Life girls live with these people??

Jo has been the only sane person in this episode, but Natalie says she’s afraid of emotions or something and that’s why she won’t judgee her choices. Ugh. So then after some yelling Jo tells her to stop feeling bad just because Snake is being a jerk. Then she says that sex made Natalie forget she was a good person before Snake. What? I’m so confused. I’m so glad I wasn’t a teenager in 1988 because I would have trusted these fools and this episode is really odd.

Anyway, Natalie finally decides that she doesn’t regret anything and it’s not her fault that Snake is being a loser. But then Snake shows up at the door! And it turns out that he’s been so emotionally affected that he avoided her for days to see if he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. So I mean I guess it’s thoughtful in the most selfish way possible. Then he says they’re heading towards marriage and Natalie is like nope. The episode cuts off here on YouTube. So I guess everything ends up okay?

Very Special Lesson: Don’t make life choices without running them by your friends and trusted older adult first. You thought you could make a reasonable decision on your own? Wrong!

The Facts of Life: Starstruck

This is one of those shows that I am technically too young for but could not escape in syndication. The Facts of Life was a show about a group of girls at a boarding school. The entire series was basically a very special episode with every single show ending in some kind of big deal life lesson. I mean, they covered literally every single “ism” in the book and then some. So how have I managed to select a very special episode for this post? This episode has Jermaine Jackson.

In fact, I think this episode scripted more fans for Jermaine than he actually had in real life. Tootie (Kim Fields) is the president of the Jermaine Jackson fan club and she thinks that she and Jermaine know each other. I mean literally know each other–as in pen pals. She’s like fifteen years old but she cannot tell the difference between a rubber stamp and an actual signature. Please, I’ve known the difference ever since I received a packet of information form Gerald R. Ford for a project in the fifth grade.

Creepy cult worship activities. Can you imagine what this would have been like if he had more top 40 hits?!
Creepy cult worship activities. Can you imagine what this would have been like if he had more top 40 hits?!

But that is not the point. The point is that Tootie is delusional. Everyone is encouraging her not to be obsessed with Jermaine and so on and so forth, but no one has addressed the fact that she has essentially started the cult of Jermaine Jackson. She has a group of girls play records until midnight and then open the window and yell Jermaine’s name so that he will hear them hundreds of miles away in New York City. She is also working on a paper mache sculpture of his head that she won’t let any of the other club members touch.

Tootie gets hysterical when she cannot go to the Jermaine Jackson concert, and I mean literally hysterical. Mrs. Garret (who is basically a random woman in charge of all of these girls but like whatever do not question it) agrees to take her to the concert because she think that Tootie has had a psychotic break and she does not know what else to do to help her.

Nothing to be concerned about here...
Nothing to be concerned about here…

Is this not a school? Do they not have resources like a counselor? Or her parents? But no, it’s probably best to take her to the concert where the dude she stalks will be. Of course, she eventually gets to meet Jermaine Jackson, hang out with him, and learn a very important life lesson, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Tootie arrives at the concert and is completely shocked when she gets to Jermaine’s dressing room and realizes that he has no idea who she is. He tells her that he is too busy with his music to deal with fans. (Hahaha give me a break) She also finds out that everything she has ever read about Jermaine is essentially a lie, and frankly that is kind of sad. Tootie lives in a pre-internet world, so I guess I cannot totally blame her for believing celebrity magazines. She ends up being all sad for Jermaine because she thinks it must be hard to be famous. She ends up crying at the end of the episode and saying that he said “thank you.” I think that it’s implied that this thank you is for talking to him like a normal human event though Jermaine does not seemed stressed out at all about being a celebrity. In fact, based upon my casual observation, I’d say he’s probably the Jackson most eager to be a celebrity. Oh well, I guess Tootie learned her lesson? I mean right? No one like wants to talk to her about why she got so crazy in the first place? Guess not.

Creepy cult worship activities
Love the glitter, Jermaine.

Very Special Lesson: If you’re obsessed with a celebrity, become hysterical enough that the people who love you are scared of you and then they will take you to meet said celebrity.