You take 'em both and there you have
The facts of life... the facts of life...
A sitcom (with some teen drama elements) on NBC from 1979 to 1988, about the heartwarming adventures of a group of female students. Initially they were students at a boarding school. In later seasons, they went to college and beyond, but kept living together under the watchful eye of Edna Garrett (Charlotte Rae), formerly of Diff'rent Strokes, and in later seasons her Suspiciously Similar Substitute sister, Beverly Ann Stickle (Cloris Leachman).
During its first season, the show had a large ensemble cast of seven girls, including one played by a very young Molly Ringwald. Starting in Season 2, though, the show was retooled. The cast was thinned down to four "core" girls, and almost nothing was ever seen again of their classmates. The canon reason for the cast change was that the four core girls were caught getting up to some illegal activities, and rather than expelling them the school placed them on probation by working with Mrs. Garrett in the cafeteria and sleeping in a spare room next to hers. Just go with it.
The main girls after the first season were:
- Blair Warner (Lisa Whelchel), the Rich Bitch turned Lovable Alpha Bitch
- Funny but insecure Natalie Green (Mindy Cohn)
- Troubled, but Cute tomboy Jo Polniaczek (Nancy McKeon)
- Tootie Ramsey (Kim Fields), the youngest gossip girl of the group (who lost her trademark rollerskates as part of the retool, but kept her braces and pigtails)
The show aired long enough to use just about every Sitcom trope in existence, including Blair's Inspirationally Disadvantaged cousin Geri, who had cerebral palsy, and many Very Special Episodes. A reunion movie, featuring the entire cast except for Nancy McKeon's Jo, aired in 2001.
You'll avoid a lot of damage and enjoy the fun of managing The Tropes of Life. They shed a lot of light:
- Acquired Situational Narcissism: In "All or Nothing," Jo is elected to Langley College's board of regents. The power goes to her head rather quickly, starting a struggle over $500,000 donated to the school for a new fancy scoreboard. Even when a cheaper scoreboard and $100,000 for scholarships are offered, Jo acts like she's being bribed. When the board votes down the $500,000 donation, Blair points out Jo turned down $100,000 in scholarships.Jo: I gave them (the students) what they wanted.Blair: What they wanted was scholarship money. And the Jo I know would have given it to them. Even if it meant staring at a stupid scoreboard.
- A Good Name for a Rock Band: Subverted in "Doo Wah," in which the girls are entered (unknowingly, at first) in a contest where the winning group gets to sing with El Debarge. Only when they make it to the final round do the girls discover that they are called Sexy Lingerie.Andy: That's what I named you!Tootie: Oh, say you didn't.Jo (shortly after previous quote): I am not going to be known as "Sexy Lingerie".
- Inverted with The Sha-La-la-la-la-la-la-la-las. By the third or fourth time someone tries to say it, it's shortened to "Sha-la-la-whatever."
- And Starring: "Nancy McKeon as Jo."
- Annoying Younger Sibling: Tootie was treated like this in earlier seasons.
- Anti-Alcohol Aesop: Tootie's older brother comes to visit and invites the girls to hang out with his friends who are drinking alcohol. While the others are concerned with his drinking problem, Tootie doesn't see any issues. It's only when they are almost in a car accident while he was intoxicated that Tootie finally realized how bad his drinking is.
- The Artifact: The girls having an adult care giver. It made sense in the early seasons since they were still kids and needed adult guidance from Mrs. Garrett. It made less sense once they became adults and there was still being cared for by Beverly Ann.
- Attempted Rape: Blair, Jo, and Natalie in separate, early episodes.
- Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Blair and Jo have many of these moments when they stop sniping. Blair nearly punches out a guy who assaulted Jo. Blair secretly helps Jo get a scholarship so that she can stay in school. Jo replaces a childhood toy of Blair's after it is ruined. Jo jumps to her defense after a disgruntled wife accuses Blair of sleeping with her husband. Blair skips a ski trip to spend Christmas with Jo, etc., etc.
- Badass Bystander: The diner waitress Bernice is the reason Tootie didn't end up a teen prostitute in "Runaway". She's not only able to secretly warn Tootie what Tootie's new New York "friends" have planned for her, they never find out it was her that made Tootie change her mind.
- Batter Up!: In "The Candidate," Natalie is going to meet with a secret political source (named "Sore Throat") at the store at midnight. Jo, Tootie and Andy hide behind the counter with baseball bats, as they were worried about Natalie being alone with a stranger at midnight. Even when Natalie pushes them into the living room, they still listen in while holding the bats. It turns out "Sore Throat" is really Blair in a kangaroo costume. It Makes Sense in Context.
- Because You Can Cope: "Geri's Cousin" is a deconstruction. The episode focuses on the arrival of Blair's cousin Geri, who has cerebral palsy. Geri hits it off with all the other girls, but Blair seems to not like her very much; she eventually confesses to Mrs. Garrett that she's envious of Geri; Blair keeps trying to impress her relatives with her apparent perfection and always gets ignored while Geri gets all the attention. Mrs. Garrett calls Blair out on being insensitive, causing Blair to realize her mistake and make amends with Geri.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Natalie could get gleefully vengeful or just plain mean if she felt betrayed. Even Blair is afraid of her.
- Big Applesauce: Takes place in Peekskill, but NYC is frequently mentioned, most of their outings end up there and three of the main cast are from there.
- Bigger on the Inside: The kitchen during the Edna's Edibles/Over Our Heads episodes was somehow able to fit in between the store and the living room despite there being no room for it. This was made even more confusing during the Over Our Heads episodes when the space behind the counter was turned into a storage room. So, now there was somehow enough space for both a kitchen and a storage room between the store and the living room.
- Big, Stupid Doodoo-Head: Society-girl Blair is trying to insult street-wise Jo:Blair: Turn blue!
Jo: [gives her a blank look then turns to the other girls] You see that? And that's the best she can do.
- Big, Screwed-Up Family: Strongly downplayed with Blair; while not every member of her family is a mess, it's obvious that the early divorce of her parents and other behavior and learned secrets had a great affect on her. The divorce itself caused her to lose her faith in God to the point that she tried everything in her power to stop her stepsister from becoming a nun. Her father and paternal grandfather have their own demons that she was either horrified or heartbroken to discover; whereas the former's relationship with her is strongly tested by the revelations that he used her as a tax shelter and was guilty of insider trading and will have to do prison time, the latter, whom she was named after, was a grand wizard of The Klan. She also gains several stepmothers and stepfathers through both of her parents' many remarriages that left her groundedless and her mother's latest husband divorced her shortly after she told her daughter that she was pregnant with his child—and that he wasn't coming back.
- Blaming the Victim: Natalie had a Near-Rape Experience that traumatized her. At the end, she goes to a self defense class in which the instructor goes into detail on how Natalie could have prevented the encounter. The way he was phrasing it comes across as if he was blaming her for not being better prepared.
- Boarding School: Eastland is a boarding school for girls, and the first half of the series takes place there.
- Break the Cutie: Happens A LOT, typically in a Very Special Episode focusing on one character.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: Season 8's "Cupid's Revenge" has Blair accusing Natalie of making up her boyfriend Snake (who was a ghost at this point), when he finally shows up at the end (but still not shown), Natalie looks at the audience and says "you'll just have to take my word for it".
- California University: Langley which is conveniently located near Eastland (so close that Natalie even takes classes at both schools at the same time in one episode) and conveniently just as good as Harvard and Yale to justify why students as smart and/or rich as the girls would choose Langley over the more well-known prestigious schools.
- Casino Episode: The B-plot for Season 7's "Atlantic City" (where the girls visit Flyman - who Jo had dated during the spring - performing at a casino) has Blair unable to win anything at the slot machines to the point where she gives up, lets an elderly woman take her spot (using the coin Blair was going to use); with the episode ending with the elderly woman hitting the jackpot only for Blair to rush in and shake the woman yelling "My money!" as the episode ends.
- Catchphrase: Blair - "I just had another one of my brilliant ideas!", "Turn Blue!"; Tootie - "Oooh, they're in troou-ble!"
- Not quite a catchphrase, but Blair had a signature whimper she would give off (always played for laughs) whenever things seemed to be going to hell.
- Celebrity Star: One example being Eve Plumb, formerly of The Brady Bunch. Also Zsa Zsa Gabor, 80s pop icon Stacy Q, El Debarge, and Jermaine Jackson.
- Chain Letter: One episode saw the girls neglect the store's upcoming health inspection because they were so involved with a chain letter. Jo also accidentally sent the money for the chain letter to the health inspector, who thought it was a bribe.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: The faculty from Season 1.
- Initially averted with the other students from Season 1, who made sporadic guest appearances during the second and third seasons after the Retool focused the show on the four main girls
- Kevin, who moved into the attic and was Brother Chucked at the end of Season Five without any explanation. In the eighth season the girls open up the attic into another bedroom, without any mention of his time there.
- In season one's "Overachiever", Natalie had a sister who spoke at career day. After the retool, she became an only child.
- Cousin Geri, who was one of the series most prominent recurring characters disappeared without any explanation after Season 5.
- Over Our Heads. In the shows's final season, the writers shifted the focus to the girls' personal and professional lives outside of the store (Blair was in law school, Jo worked at a shelter, Natalie was now a professional journalist, and Tootie got engaged) and as a result all the action now took place entirely in the house, including a new kitchen set, and the store rarely getting mentioned. Towards the end of the season, Beverly Ann decides to close the store, and convert the commercial space into separate bedrooms for Andy and Pippa.note
- Child Hater: Inverted. Jo claims children have always been uncomfortable with her, even when she was one.
- Christmas Episode: Several, including one featuring It's a Wonderful Plot.
- Continuity Nod: Mrs. Garrett's sister Beverly Ann, who joined the cast in Season 8, was first mentioned all the way back in the first season of Diff'rent Strokes.
- College Radio: Jo once filled in for a radio DJ after he got drunk and passed out. The rest of the cast come by to help her.
- Contrived Coincidence: When Andy mixes up Blair's little sister with another little girl at a movie theater costume party, the mother of the other girl takes Blair's sister to the community center where Jo just happens to be working instead of going to the police.
- Cousin Oliver:
- Andy, the foster kid, and Pippa, the Australian exchange student.
- Kelly, a latchkey thug living down the street, was a temporary Cousin Oliver.
- Credit Card Plot: "Post-Christmas Card" has Natalie fall victim when she receives a pre-approved credit card from the bank. Though responsible at first, buying only an appointment book and a pair of bunny rabbit earmuffs, she quickly loses control, running up a $1000+ bill on a new wardrobe in an effort to have a "more professional image."
- Credits Gag: Used on a few episodes later in the show's run; often for the wackier episodes. One prominent example is 3,2,1 (in which Blair and Jo are handcuffed together due to a dispute over a story on their college newscast) — as the credits roll we see someone attempting to saw the handcuff chain off.
- Darker and Edgier: While there were some adult themes in Season 1, Season 2 is where the more darker storylines began to take shape.
- Season 3 in particular really puts the girls through the wringer as they face several dramatic situations such as Blair discovering her beloved grandfather and namesake was a member of the KKK, Tootie is almost kidnapped and turned into a prostitute, Jo ruins her teacher's life with a damaging school article only to discover after the fact that the man did nothing wrong, and Natalie is attacked and almost raped by a maniac while walking home from a Halloween Party.
- Date Rape Averted: Jo, who managed to fight her way out in the nick of time.
- Is also implied to have occurred in a Season 1 episode with Blair.
- Deadpan Snarker: Jo and Natalie.
- Demoted to Extra: Mrs. Garrett during seasons 6 and 7. She was absent for a good portion of both seasons before finally leaving the series. The few times she did appear, her character had been flanderized into an absent-minded sidekick.
- George's role was reduced to recurring guest during season 8 before being put on a bus.
- Diet Episode: In season 1 Sue Ann goes on a starvation diet for a date Blair fixed her up with.
- "Do It Yourself" Theme Tune: Charlotte Rae (Mrs. Garrett) provided vocals for the season 1 theme.
- Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Jo reacts with hostility every time someone attempts to take pity on her due to her poor upbringing.
- Downer Ending:
- In Season 3 episode "Front Page" after her essay gets trashed by her journalism teacher, Jo spitefully writes a school newspaper article after hearing that the teacher was present during a drug bust. Without doing extra research, the detail that the teacher was cleared of suspicions and released that same night isn't included, resulting in the teacher losing his job. Jo tries to make up for it, but the damage to his reputation is done.
- The episode "Runaway." As Tootie ends her adventure safely when her friends come to pick her up, she leaves behind teen prostitute Kristie, who spent most of the episode trying to bring Tootie into the fold; it's implied that Kristie will later suffer at the hands of her pimp.
- The episode "With a Little Help From My Friends" has Blair and her boyfriend, Nick, missing a double date with Jo and her squeeze because the former's boyfriend is waiting up for a drug dealer. She tries to convince him to stop, but the episode ends with her locking him out of Edna's Edibles for the night and him still waiting for the man.
- "Daddy's Girl" has Blair being able to confront her father about him using her as a tax shelter, but he still refuses to give up his cheating on his taxes, is unable to make time for her and overall doesn't comprehend that what he did was wrong or why it hurts his daughter so much. Needless to say, their relationship remains strained throughout the rest of the series.
- Driven to Suicide: Most notably Season 2's "Breaking Point," where a rival of Blair's commits suicide, and all her petty jealousies no longer are important. (The girl, Cynthia, had beaten Blair for class president and was the daughter of a foreign diplomat.) In the end, Blair and her classmates figure out that for everything Cynthia had going for her, she had many demons — her parents were in the middle of an ugly divorce, because of her father's job she never stayed in one place more than a year or so, and she suffered from depression, which Blair no doubt contributed to by being nasty to Cynthia— and they realize that one never really knows what troubles the other may be going through. note Jo also mentions a Bronx friend Gloria committed suicide one day at school.
- In the last season the community center's suicide counselor wants to commit suicide due to the toll the job has taken over the years and it's up to Jo to try and convince her otherwise.
- Dude Magnet: Despite being the funny fat girl, who are often portrayed as dateless and secretly unhappy, Natalie in particular tended to have a LOT of boyfriends during the show's run and was the first girl to lose her virginity.
- The Dutiful Son: Mrs. Garrett's son Raymond, the stuffy accountant who buys her the building for Edna's Edibles. Complete with Prodigal brother, Alex, an unsuccessful musician who was always asking for money.
- Education Mama: Natalie constantly refers to her parents as these, but it mostly seems to be an Informed Attribute.
- Early-Installment Weirdness: The series was set in a dormitory at Eastland school, which housed seven girls, under the care of Mrs. Garrett as housemother. The headmaster Mr. Bradley was a regular character in the first season. The premise changed in the second season when three of these girls, and a new student Jo were put on probation, and as stated above, were forced to work in the cafeteria (becoming the show's new setting), and live in a small room next to that of newly-promoted dietician Mrs. Garrett. The show also introduced a lot more somber Very Special Episode and there was also a lot less Fanservice than before (see that entry below).
- The '80s: Pretty much one of the definitive shows of the 1980s. The show ran from 1979 to 1988 and is a time capsule of every 80s fashion trend, hairstyle, what was popular in pop culture, slang, etc. Given it ended in 1988 it also doesn't have any of the hints of the 90s that sitcoms that lasted well into the very late 80s and early 90s did. The Facts of Life was pure 1980s.
- Once they opened up "Over Our Heads" boutique it was just an explosion of sheer 'Eightiesness'.
- '80s Hair: And how. The first season was toned down with a lot of late 1970s hairstyles including Molly Ringwold sporting the Dorothy Hamill wedge. But as the 80s rolled on we ended up with more poof than a Whitesnake concert. Blair herself went through the entire decade of different 1980s hairstyles with each season her hair getting bigger. Jo started out with a very simple pulled back hairstyle before also puffing her hair out and then going for a big rockstar mullet and then later a shorter power mullet. George Clooney sported a blow-dried mullet.
- Face Death with Dignity: "Teacher's Pet" has Jo's English professor and close friend, Gail Gallagher, leave Eastland. While Jo initially believed it was because another school had offered her more money, she was really leaving due to being terminally ill and going into hospice care. Before she leaves, she assures Jo that she's accepted her fate and she'll be okay.
- Fanservice: The first season was made at the height of the "Jiggle TV" era codified by then-NBC president and CEO Fred Silverman during his previous tenure as president of ABC Entertainment, so the older girls ran around in skimpy shorts for large portions of every episode. When new producers Linda Marsh and Margie Peters arrived to do the second season Retool, they insisted on less exploitative wardrobes.
- Fell Asleep Driving: The episode "Less Than Perfect" has Blair getting into a car accident after leaving her boyfriend's house and falling sleep whilst driving. The episode entails her having to undergo surgery to repair a disfiguring scar she received from it and her feelings of regret and insecurity over the scenario.
- Female Gaze: "Have you seen my Basic Anatomy?"
- It's also the main reason Natalie watches Men's sporting events.
- One episode is devoted to Natalie insisting the shop sell a "Men of Langley" swimsuit calendar. She eventually breaks up with her swimming team boyfriend because she realizes she's dating him because he turns heads, not because there's anything in his head.
- Five-Token Band: A ruling-class White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (Blair), a working-class girl from The Bronx (Jo), a black Genki Girl from Washington, D.C. (Tootie), a happy-go-lucky nice Jewish girl (Natalie), and a middle-aged housemother from the rural Midwest (Mrs. Garrett).
- A Fool and His New Money Are Soon Parted: Jo's father once got $300,000 and blew it all in a few days.
- Foreshadowing: In "Seven Little Indians", after Tootie, Jo, and Beverly Ann discover Blair when she's been moussed to death, the scene ends with a close up of her. Though her back is turned to the audience, we can see her reflection in the mirror she's holding, its looking directly at the camera. Implying she's Faking the Dead
- French Jerk: Chef Antoine from the The Facts of Life Goes to Paris special; he makes a return appearance with his jerky family the following season.
- Downplayed with Gauguin by the time of the reunion movie.
- Four-Girl Ensemble: Of course. Blair (glamour-obsessed pretty one), Jo (tomboyish, straight-laced one), Tootie (sweet-naïve, one) & Natalie (quirky, odd one) (students/roommates).
- Funny Foreigner: In her introductory episode, Pippa and her father were such cartoony Australian stereotypes that you half-expected them to start throwing boomerangs and have pet kangaroos. Much of the humor was derived from the fact that 90% of their dialogue was Aussie slang that left everyone confused. America was obsessed with anything Australian in the mid to late 80s which probably explains the character's inclusion.
- Generation Xerox: Jamie is the spitting image of Jo when she stomps in and peels off her motorcycle. She then proceeds to get in trouble the same way Jo did. The arresting cop remembers the girls from nearly 20 years before.
- The Ghost: Nancy's boyfriend Roger.
- Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Blair's mother visits and tells Blair that she's pregnant but not going to go through with it, but Blair convinces her to keep the baby.
- Averted in an earlier episode, where Natalie fabricates an article for the Eastland paper, saying that one of the students at Eastland had secretly had an abortion; she later finds out that such an event did, in fact, occur.
- Green-Eyed Monster:
- Actually the name of an episode in which Tootie gets the part of Nellie Forbush in the school production of South Pacific, and Natalie is deeply jealous. Jo lampshades the trope by explaining what the Green-Eyed Monster does to a person.
- This ends up reversed in "Who's On First?" when Tootie gets jealous of Natalie's new boyfriend, Gil, and ends up lying about him both canceling their study date and apparently having another girl there with him. In the end, he cheats on her, ultimately ending their relationship.
- Halloween Episode: In one, the girls begin to suspect that Mrs. Garrett has been possessed by a murderous ghost who grinds up people into Bratwurst. It was all a prank by Natalie for her acting class.
- The episode where Natalie is attacked also counts. We get to see everyone in costume but not the party, as it's a Very Special Episode about self-defense.
- Happily Adopted: Natalie. She finds her birth mother in one of the earlier seasons, but still happily considers her adopted family her 'real' family.
- Hero with an F in Good: Blair could come off as so condescending, it often hurt when she was trying to be genuinely nice.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Blair and Jo are a textbook example, right down to having dialogue that could easily be used by a genuine old married couple.
- Tootie and Natalie were this long before the show began, it just didn't cause as much conflict as Jo and Blair.
- Hollywood Atheist: Blair is an atheist for most, if not all, of the series because she prayed for God to not have her parents divorced and didn't get it. Arguably ends when her sister is born.
- Hypocritical Heartwarming: The girls frequently insult each other and think little of it, but as per True Companions, insulting one of them from outside the group is not a good idea.
Jo: "Why are you getting so upset?"Blair: "He insulted you!"Jo: "But you do that all the time!”Blair: “Well, that’s different! When I do it, I know what I’m talking about!”
- After Blair’s friend Harrison assaults Jo:
- Idiot Ball: Tootie in "Let's Party". She idolizes her older brother Marshall to the point of completely covering for him after he drives drunk with her, Natalie and Blair in the car and previously bullied her friends into accepting the ride with him. Even with the evidence of his alcoholism and his ignorance over the situation, she flat out refuses to admit he did anything wrong until Mrs. Garrett had to sit her down to face the reality/gravity of the situation.
- I Have Brothers: Averted. Jo, who does traditionally "manly" things grew up an only child with a single mother. And a boyfriend.
- She does have several older, male cousins who work in a garage, though. Possibly an influence on her.
- Implied Rape: The second season has Jo going on a date with a boy who attempted to force himself on her. When explaining the incident to Mrs. Garrett, she never once said he tried to rape her.
- Informed Judaism: Natalie. It only comes up once or twice.
- Inspirationally Disadvantaged: Blair's cousin Geri, who has cerebral palsy.
- Interclass Friendship: Jo and Blair are the Vitriolic Best Buddies type. Jo comes from a single home from the Bronx while Blair comes from old money family. The two were the most likely to bicker with one another among the four girls with many jokes directed at their social status. Despite that, the two ended up being very close to one another. This was best demonstrated in a episode that had the two going back home and each of them hanging out with a old friend. At first the two were excited to get away from each other. But after learning their old friends' bad personalities, they realized internally that they were actually good friends.
- Intrepid Reporter: Natalie aspires to become a journalist. Many episodes feature her talking about her latest scoop.
- Jo was this until her big scoop got her journalism teacher fired.
- Mr. Bradley, Eastland's headmaster from season one. Even when the girls weren't doing anything mischievous or potentially dangerous, he's still unnecessarily abrasive and snarky and seems to care more about Eastland's reputation than the students themselves. Thankfully, he's gone by season two.
- Mr. Gideon, the journalism teacher from "Front Page" who singles out Jo for apparently her own good (which equates to him routinely embarrassing her in class and dismissing her efforts, in addition to giving her low grades). After she writes an ill-researched paper that tarnishes his reputation, he ends up fired.
- Jerkass Ball: All of the girls at various points during the series.
- KidAnova: Blair, remaining boy crazy yet chaste into her twenties. Partially Enforced Trope due to Lisa Whelchel's Religious beliefs.
- Lampshade Hanging: Done in a late season episode when Tootie digs up and shows off the rollerskates that were her trademark in the first season. It also occurs in the reunion movie when Natalie's fiancé expresses doubt that Mrs. Garrett can pull Thanksgiving dinner together:Natalie: Mrs. G. can do anything.Tootie/Dorothy: Didn't you watch our show?
- Laser-Guided Karma:
- One episode has high school senior Natalie taking A.P. classes at Langley College. Unfortunately, she ends up hanging out with some older, popular alumni, neglecting her duties at the shop and worst of all, talking down to her old friends. In the end, she ends up with a smaller paycheck and flunking out of the classes/school itself. When she then has to admit what happened, the other girls are quick to rub it in her face.
- Another episode has Tootie becoming obsessed with Jermaine Jackson, getting it into her head that she was special to him and throwing a fit until Mrs. Garrett caved in and took her into the city to his concert, although she had already promised to help out at a charity function. Upon sneaking into his dressing room afterwards, she gets detained by his bodyguards, the gift she made for his birthday (a clay bust of him) is ruined and she was more or less just treated as another faceless fan. She ended up slinking away back to Mrs. Garrett to go home, too embarrassed to admit what happened to her.
- Later-Installment Weirdness:
- In Season 5, after Blair and Jo graduate from Eastland, the whole main setting changes to a store Mrs. Garett obtains called Edna's Edibles (located in a mixed-use property, with Garrett and the girls moving into the residential space), and introduce a Cousin Oliver in the form of Kelly, a punk kid. Season 6 replaces her with Andy, an orphan and employee.
- Season 7 was where the biggest changes took place. A novelty store called Over Our Heads replaces Edna's Edibles as the main setting, the addition of George to the main cast, and a rerecorded theme song.
- Seasons 8 and 9 continued to add new characters, such as Beverly Ann, who becomes the girls' new housemother and Pippa, a foreign exchange student from Australia. In addition, Mrs. Garrett was Put on the Bus.
- beginning in season 7 , music cues are used . In the season 9 episode “ less than perfect” , dramatic music is played when Blair removes the bandage on her forehead.
- Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: A balloon resembling Goggle Red appeared in all episodes in the Over Our Heads Store.
- Lighter and Softer: By Season 6, the show started focusing less on serious issues and more on the girls as they were evolving as well as having more slapstick episodes.
- Lonely Rich Kid: Blair, whose snotty behavior tends to cover up her deep-seated parental abandonment issues. She has few real friends outside of the main cast.
- Loony Fan: There was an episode where Tootie was obsessed with Jermaine Jackson to the point of it overtaking everything else in her life and she cried and whined until Mrs. Garrett agreed to take her to his out of town concert. Over the protests of the other girls (who were holding a fair for a friend of Jo's and she had previously agreed to help out at). Upon getting there and having to convince the security guards to let her through (as she was the president of one of his many fan clubs and was given a free ticket to his show by his business manager), although she was excited to meet him, believed herself to be special to him and made a clay bust of him to present for his birthday, the other guards took the gift away (believing it to be a bomb; they didn't know as it was put inside a box) and twisted her arm behind her back, he himself was only able to sit down and talk with her for a few moments due to how busy he was and the same manager who called her to give her a ticket called someone else to use the same line that he used on her. And the bust was ruined due to it being placed in the shower to "defuse" it.
- Lovable Alpha Bitch: Despite more than a few snobby and ignorant moments, Blair is popular, a reliable friend, academically smart and business savvy, and has a strong set of ethics and morals she abides by (most noticeable when it clashes against her own family members' or other elite friends' less-than-savory behaviors)
- "Metaphor" Is My Middle Name: Blair says Beauty is her middle name. Natalie says hers is Latisha.
- Mistaken for Gay: In the first episode, Cindy, a rather affectionate tomboy, is accused by Blair of being, as per 1979 standards, "not normal".
- Mood Whiplash: In "A Friend in Deed," Blair discovers her mom has been hiding her breast cancer. There's a tense scene where an emotionally drained Blair implies Tootie will tell the whole school about it; Tootie stands her ground and swears on their friendship that she'd never do such a thing. They hug. A second later, Jo, back from an obviously unsuccessful job interview at the motorcycle store, bursts into the room and starts tearing it apart looking for a clock and a fuse, followed by a desperate Natalie trying to stop her.Mrs. Garrett [joking]: What are you making, a bomb? [She laughs].
Natalie: YES! YES!
Mrs. Garrett [horrified]: WHAT?!
Jo: I'm gonna roll it through their front door, and then POW! WIPEOUT! Dead Kawasakis all over the street!
Miss Downs: Now remember, Tootie, the man you love is missing in action. He may be wounded...he may be dead. And you've never told him how you feel. *beat* Hit it, Brenda!
- Also, anytime the episode ended on an emotional note only to cut to the end credits and the upbeat closing theme. Probably the worst example is "Front Page", in which Jo accidentally ruins her professor career by publishing a story about him without the full facts and the audience is treated to the lyric "you better get 'em [the facts of life] right."
- Occurs during rehearsals for the school production of "South Pacific":
- The Movie: The Facts of Life Goes to Paris; The Facts of Life Down Under - both made for TV.
- Mr. Fanservice: There really was no point to George Clooney's character in seasons 7 and 8 other than to have a hot guy hanging around the set to appeal to the show's largely female audience.
- Jo and Blair's college dorm-mate, Guy, had a memorable scene wearing only a Modesty Towel.
- Male-model-turned-actor Richard Grieco in the backdoor pilot "Big Apple Blues".
- And let's not forget the strippers in "I'm Dancing as Fast as I Can."
- Subverted in the case of Natalie's dating-service boyfriend Rex Winchester, whose good looks are totally cancelled out by his dweebie personality (including his own Catchphrase, "It works for me!")
- My Girl Is a Slut:
- In "Sex Symbol," a boy spreads some lies about Natalie's promiscuity. At first, she's offended, but when the other girls laugh at the idea of her being a sex symbol, she decides to perpetuate them just to prove she's desirable.
- Also inverted when Blair finds out her boyfriend Cliff works as a stripper to pay his way through medical school.
- New Transfer Student: Pippa, who is from Australia. Also Alex, the princess of something-in-Europe. Miko was a temporary Japanese exchange student.
- Non-Idle Rich: Blair likes to flaunt her privilege and her looks, often times bragging about how kept she is. She's actually an over-achiever who ends up becoming a lawyer.
- Not Blood Siblings: Blair and her former stepsister (portrayed by Eve Plumb) are not actually related but treat each other as genuine siblings.
- Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Jo, Blair, and Natalie all hailed from New York City, but only Jo actually sounded like it (Lisa Whelchel had a Texas twang and Mindy Cohn had a California accent). Conversely, Kim Fields had a New York accent, but Tootie was supposed to be a Washington, D.C. native.
- According to one featurette called "The Facts of Life: The Lost Girls"note ; it's suggested that with Blair's accent at least, this could have been combined with the Throw It In! trope. Lisa Whelchel mentioned in the interview that the Blair Warner character was originally written as a naive, fast-talking Texan; only for the characterization to be changed entirely after Whelchel read one line in a snotty, condescending tone just for the fun of it.
- "Not So Different" Remark:
Blair: "Why do guys act that way? One minute, they're jumping to conclusions, the next they're jumping on you."Jo: "Well, I guess when you come from the Wrong Side of the Tracks, guys think you're easy."Blair: "Listen, they think that when you come from the right side too. Heck, I own the tracks and some of them think that about me."Jo: "Boy, who would have thought? You and me with the same problem."
- After Blair's friend Harrison assaults Jo:
- An unstated lesson in "Breaking Point": Blair considers a classmate, Cynthia, to be inferior to her, but as the episode progresses, many of Blair's life experiences — moving around a lot, trouble keeping long-lasting friends, divorced parents (acrimoniously) — are those that Cynthia had been experiencing.
- Not What It Looks Like: Played for Drama in "We Get Letters". Mrs. Garrett's lifelong friend accuses her of having an affair with her late husband by confronting her with the "love letters" he purportedly wrote her. It turned out that he was a writer who specialized in poetry which the wife did not care for namely because her own father was a failed writer who usually left the family broke and he wrote Edna love poetry for his wife to gauge her reaction, leading to the misunderstanding that Mrs. Garrett was eventually able to clear up and retain the friendship. Unfortunately, Andy overheard everything out of context and told everyone what happened, leading to the others starting to look down on her and in particular Natalie, who was still angry over her father's affair from several seasons back, angrily confronting her about the misunderstanding. Andy never ends up apologizing for his mistake or informing the others the truth.
- The One Guy: George was probably the most famous (being played by a young George Clooney helped), but Andy lasted longer.
- Ryan Cassidy (brother of Shaun and David) as Kevin was the proto-George. Added to the cast at the end of the sixth season as the son of Mrs. Garrett's high school sweetheart who enrolls at Langley with the girls. After the show was retooled with "Over Our Heads", he was brother-Chucked and replaced by George.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Joanne "Jo" Polniaczek, Dorothy "Tootie" Ramsey. Natalie's boyfriend, Snake, until his name is later revealed to be Norbert.
- Out of Focus: Despite Kimberly Drummond from Diff'rent Strokes attending Eastland, she only appears in the first episode, while the rest of the series focuses on the main cast members.
- Parent with New Paramour: Jo becomes way too attached to her boyfriend's son way too fast. Blair is quick to remind her that this can be pretty traumatic for the child.
- Parental Substitute: Mrs. Garrett serves as this to most of the girls. Her sister Beverly Ann fills this role when Mrs. Garrett leaves the show, but to a lesser extent.
- Perpetual Poverty: Much is made of Jo's poverty for most of the show.
- When a later episode attempted to give the Polniacseks an incredible financial windfall, Nancy Mckeon nearly quit over the idea that Jo would suddenly become rich since it would take away the defining trait of her character and the root of her animosity with her rival/friend Blair. The writers decided to make it just a temporary situation, so that by the end of the episode everything was back to normal. (Though Jo insisted on keeping the fancy motorcycle helmet her dad bought her.)
- All of the stories of Season 3 have the girls living together in one room and doing manual labor to pay off the damage done to the school van when the girls stole it to go have some beers at a bar. Despite their parents (except Jo who is a scholarship student) paying a lot of money in tuition, the girls must endure the problems associated with living in a poorly-maintained room where the heat doesn't always work and the plumbing is sometimes broken.
- Poorly Disguised Pilot: Several, including one featuring Tootie's aunt and uncle, and another at the end of the series setting up Blair as the new headmistress of the school. In addition, the show itself started as a Poorly Disguised Pilot (the final episode of the first season of Diff'rent Strokes).
- In fact, there were no fewer than six attempted spinoffs over the course of the show: beyond the aforementioned ones featuring Tootie's mixed-marriage aunt and uncle ("Brian and Sylvia") and Blair as a headmistress ("The Beginning of the End"/"The Beginning of the Beginning"), there was "The Academy" (about four military academy cadets who were pretty much the girls' male alter egos), the cadets would then get a rare second attempt with the episode "The Big Fight", "Jo's Cousin" (which is self-explanatory), "Rumor Has It" (featuring Blair's law professor), and "Big Apple Blues" (in which Natalie joins up with a bunch of wacky twentysomethings trying to make it in New York City). Not a single one of these turned into a series.
- Practically Different Generations: Blair is in her early 20s by the time younger sister Bailey is born.
- Pretty in Mink: Blair possesses about a zoo's worth of fur coats.
- Prince Charming: Blair's steady boyfriend Cliff is a modern version of this, but she ends up falling out of love with him for an unknown reason and calls the relationship off.
- Progressively Prettier: All of the girls got hit with this (except arguably Blair, who was already noticeably pretty to begin with and made sure everyone knew it!), but Natalie in particular stood out, as later seasons viewed her as sporting make-up, cutting her hair a more flattering length and wearing clothing to suit her more shapely figure.
- Promotion to Parent: Blair acts as a surrogate parent to her little sister, who is born when Blair is 20-something. Also acted as birth coach for her mother.
- Put on a Bus: Season 8 begins with the two-parter "Out of Peekskill", in which Mrs. Garrett gets married and joins the Peace Corps to serve in Africa with her new husband.
- A tour bus in George's case. When the producers decided not to keep George Clooney on as a regular, they brought him back in season 8 and had his character quit his job and go on tour with Tootie's friend Cinnamon.
- The Quincy Punk: In "The Americanization of Miko," the writers demonstrated total ignorance about the Stray Cats. Based on the characters' dialogue—specifically, the adults' horror about this crazy new music and the girls' references to wild concerts wherein Brian Setzer evidently ate his guitar—the writers seemed to think the band put out earsplitting punk tunes rather than what really amounted to old-time rockabilly.
- Also, when troublemaker Kelly enters the cast, she claims to be a member of the (fake) local gang the Lords of Discipline, who specialize in vandalizing Edna's Edibles and dress like the guys in the "Beat It" video.
- In the episode "Let's Face the Music," Pippa joins an all-girl band. They call themselves "heavy metal," and are the farthest thing from it. The girls later fantasize about playing a fundraiser as the band, including weird wigs, key-tar, and studded leather. Still not heavy metal.
- Reaction Shot: In "Breaking Point", there is a long, panning shot of the girls' reactions whilst Mrs. Garrett receives the news via phone that their classmate, Cynthia, has passed away from her suicide attempt.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: "The First Time" - the script originally called for Blair to lose her virginity, but Lisa Whelchel refused to be involved on religious grounds (see Hollywood Atheist below). As a result - in addition to this being the only episode of the entire series in which Blair/Lisa doesn't appearnote - it was rewritten so that the Eastland girl to lose her virginity was Natalie.
- Rearrange the Song: The theme song was redone at least twice during the show's run, with the best-known opening lyrics ("You take the good, you take the bad...") debuting in Season 2.
- Religious Russian Roulette: Blair describes how this applies to her: she once prayed to God to stop her parents' divorce; He didn't, and she stopped believing in Him.
- Remember the New Guy?: Happens often—the show has a revolving door of relatives and former best friends who appear out of nowhere—but the most notable example is Blair's instant boyfriend, the starving med-school student Cliff. He is introduced in Season 5 having already endeared himself to everyone and having (apparently) received lots of free meals from Mrs. Garrett. Blair is still reeling from her stunned discovery that Cliff is working as a stripper to make ends meet while the audience is still trying to figure out whether they missed an episode.
- Replacement Flat Character: In "New York, New York," Jo and Blair visit their old friends back home. Blair hangs out with Dina Becker, who is an even bigger Rich Bitch, without a heart of gold, who doesn't lift a finger and horribly mistreats her cook. Jo meets up with Jesse, a friend from the old neighborhood who is cruel to the elderly and rampantly Hispanophobic. By the end, Jo and Blair appreciate their friendship with each other a lot more.
- Required Spinoff Crossover: The very first episode has the Drummonds from Diff'rent Strokes turn up. Arnold and Willis both return separately during the second season.
- Reunion Show: Aired in 2001.
- Revenge Is Not Justice: "Front Page" and on a lesser note "Kids Can Be Cruel"
- Reverse Cerebus Syndrome: Seasons 2-4, right after the re-tool faced the girls with some rather harsh situations (teen suicide, child prostitution, racial tensions, elopement, censorship. poverty, cancer...) that wouldn't feel out of place in a typical Norman Lear sitcom like All in the Family, Maude, or Good Times. As the characters grew up and learned to take on more responsibility, they began to play less off of hot button teen issues and more off each other's personalities.
- Rich Bitch: Blair, although she's the rare Hidden Heart of Gold subtype.
- Rube Goldberg Hates Your Guts: Would you believe this is the Trope Namer? S8's "Seven Little Indians". Good thing it was All Just a Dream, because the entire group died.
- Sexiness Score: "The Rating Game" reveals Blair has a rating system for men, and the episode has her transferring all that "data" into a computer, so she develops her own dating system. The other girls are shocked by how in-depth it is.
Jo: Kind of like hamburger meat. Prime, choice, dog food. So why are you throwing out your files? I thought they worked for you.
Blair: From now on, I'm on a computer. They're faster and I can exchange information with women all over the world.
Jo: Other women rate men the way you do?
Blair: Well, of course not as accurately. I prefer going to three decimal places, but I can use the standard 1-10 in a pinch.
Natalie: I like that. A woman who's flexible in her shallowness.
Beverly: This sounds awfully complicated. Of course, when I was dating, they only had Roman numerals.
Blair: Actually, it's quite simple. I just look at the height, weight, kind of car they drive, financial status, family background...
Beverly: That's more than I knew about my husband when I divorced him.
Tootie: Blair, how would you like it if men sat around rating you?
Blair: I'd love it!
Tootie: But it's so de-humanizing!
Blair: Not when you're a 10.
Jo: If you're a 10, I'd rate to see a 1.
Blair: Then avoid mirrors.
- Shout-Out: A couple from the reunion movie:
- In a nod to George Clooney, it's revealed that George the handyman left to pursue an acting career in Hollywood.
- Jo's absence is explained by her not being able to get leave from her job as a policewoman. Natalie comments, "Too bad, I haven't seen her in a lifetime!". Nancy McKeon was unable to join the cast for the movie as she was working on the Lifetime Cop Show The Division.
- Jo's name is a Shout-Out to Little Women, since the cast reminded the writers of the book.
- Sixth Ranger: Andy, who appeared in the second half of the show, and stayed for the rest of the series. There was also Kevin Metcalf, the son of one of Mrs. Garrett's old boyfriends. He sticks around for a few episodes and even briefly moves in with the girls but is quietly written out of the show at the end of Season 6. The next example was George the handyman, who built Over our Heads in Season 7, but left the show in Season 8.
- Smoking Is Cool: Although several episodes had Aesops relating to smoking, Rich Bitch Blair can be seen puffing on a cigarette in the pilot episode, "The Girls School." By the time the show's first true episode aired, Blair was a non-smoker (reflecting real life, as Welchel was a non-smoker).
- Slobs Versus Snobs: Again, Jo and Blair, respectively.
- Smitten Teenage Girl: "Natalie, have you been writing to prisoners again?"
- Snark-to-Snark Combat: Blair and Jo constantly snark each other.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: Just end the episode with a breakup, a death, or one of the main cast in tears? Here comes that perky theme song again! (See also the parent show.)
- Special Aesop Victim; In one episode, a Eastland student attempts suicide via pill swallowing. While she is transported to the hospital in an attempt to save her, she ends up dead in the end. While the girls are confused on why she did, its strongly implied that her unstable family life was a factor in her suicide.
- Stalker with a Crush: Roy has a crush on Jo, although this is a comedic version of the trope. Still creepy, as he kept ignoring Jo every time she made it clear she wasn't interested.
- Stereotype Flip: The writers had planned to have Blair lose her virginity to boost ratings. Lisa Whelchel decided not to go along with it because she couldn't reconcile premarital sex with her religious beliefs. Mindy Cohn, on the other hand, thought it was about time one of these women in their twenties be allowed to have sex, so she volunteered Natalie to be given the story line in Blair's place. So it was Funny fat girl Natalie who lost her virginity first rather than the more conventionally attractive and ultra-popular Blair.
- The Stool Pigeon: This was Tootie's primary function for the early seasons, and she retains it to a lesser extent as an adult. Combine her with Natalie and you get Gossipy Hens.
- "Stuck at the Airport" Plot: Blair and Jo get stuck in a podunk town bus station. Blair is pleasantly surprised to discover that the newspaper stand sells French and Italian Vogue among others.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Beverly Ann, who replaces Mrs. Garret as the girl's denmother/landlady.
- Bruce, the man Mrs. Garret marries in the 8th season, is pretty much the same character as Ted, the man Mrs. Garret was engaged to in the 6th season. Both were old flames that Edna instantly re-fell in love with and decided to marry almost immediately. She ran away with both of them, traveling with Ted and then joining the Peace Corps with Bruce, which makes one wonder why they even bothered to bring in a new character for Edna to marry when they already had Ted.
- Taking the Veil: In the two-parter episode "Best Sister", Blair's stepsister Meg decides to become a nun, which shocks her parents and disgusts Blair to the point of repeatedly trying to talk/shame her out of it. Eventually though, Mrs. Garrett gets down to the root of her true issues with it: her residual anger at God for not saving her divorcing parents' marriage.
- Teacher/Student Romance: Jo had one with her college photography instructor.
- Team Mom: Mrs. Garrett.
- Terrible Interviewees Montage: At the start of "Into the Frying Pan," Mrs. Garrett interviews contractors to rebuild Edna's Edibles after the fire. The four interviewees are asking for too much money.
- Their First Time: One popular episode in a later season involved Natalie choosing to have sex with her boyfriend for the first time.
- Thematic Theme Tune: As well as a Title Theme Tune.
- Token Minority: Tootie is the only black member of the cast. Also Natalie, who stated that she is Jewish.
- Tomboy: Cindy in season 1, Jo after.
- Tomboy and Girly Girl: Jo and Blair.
- Tomboyish Ponytail: Jo.
- Took a Level in Jerkass: The dean Mr. Parker.
- Also Cindy, Sue Ann, and Nancy who make fun of Natalie and "Homerun" Helen in "Sex Symbol".
- Translation by Volume: One episode had the girls attempting to speak to a Spanish-speaking Latina woman very loudly. She does the exact same thing to them, in Spanish.
- Trash the Set: The first episode of season 7 involves Edna's Edibles getting destroyed in a fire. It gets replaced by a new store, Over Our Heads, in the next episode.
- Troubled, but Cute: Jo, in a Rare Female Example.
- True Companions: The main cast is essentially this because they seldom see their real families or have trouble at home.
- Tsundere: Jo reacts with hostility every time she is accused of having a "sensitive side." This dies down in the last seasons.
- Very Special Episode: A never ending supply of them, really. But the most serious one was probably the episode "Breaking Point" in which a fellow student commits suicide
- Visit by Divorced Dad: Jo has a couple of these after he's released from prison. Blair also has one or two.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Jo and Blair spend most of their time sniping at each other, but they are actually best friends and will jump to the other's defense in a heartbeat.
- Who's Watching the Store?: By seasons 8 and 9, the girls are rarely ever seen working there...despite continuing to live right upstairs. Eventually they choose to close the store to utilize the space for rooms for Andy and Pippa.
- Work Off the Debt: From Season 2-4, The girls end up having to work in the kitchen to pay off damages done to the school.