Sunday, January 15, 2017

Remembering When Eastland School for Girls Went Coed on "The Facts of Life"

I've written elsewhere that I've been binge-watching the final two seasons of "The Facts of Life" since Christmas. I finished up with the ninth and final season of this long-running sitcom -- and I was reminded of how it fizzled in the end. "The Facts of Life" ended with a two-part episode that attempted to launch a new sitcom starring Lisa Whelchel as Blair and a new generation of co-ed students at Eastland School.

The first episode -- titled "The Beginning of the End" -- informed us that Eastland School was closing. Most of the girls are disappointed in a nostalgic way, but these young women are busy with their new life journeys. Natalie has moved to New York City to learn how to become a starving writer. Jo just got married and is moving out to live with her new husband. Tootie is engaged, but also off to join an influential acting troupe.

Only Blair is ready to do something about Eastland. She cashes out her trust fund and purchases the failing school. Keep in mind that the school has already announced that it is closing. They don't have enough students to remain solvent. The headmaster has quit without notice. The teachers are all searching for new sources of employment. In other words, this wasn't one of Blair's wisest purchases.

The second episode -- titled "The Beginning of the Beginning" -- does three things. First, it installs Blair Warner as headmaster at Eastland School. Second, it addressed the declining enrollment by allowing boys to enroll at Eastland School. Third, it introduced a new core group of girls for the house (one snob, one loner, one everygirl, and one younger girl who's obsessed with her tiny breasts).

Let's get something clear. The way that the boys enrolled at Eastland made no sense at all. A large gang of boys descended on the dorm in the middle of the night -- mid-semester -- with no previous planning on where they would sleep, who they are, or what classes that they would be taking. Even worse, they pretty much showed up immediately after Eastland's board agreed to go coed. Can you imagine the amount of public rebranding that it would take to notify the existing students and parents that a group of boys were going to be enrolling? Not to mention the amount of recruitment that it would take for them to get the parents of male students with enough money to enroll at Eastland? At this rate, I can only assume that boys whose parents have the money and lack of attention to dump their sons unceremoniously on a boarding school's campus in the middle of the night are all going to be borderline delinquent underachievers.

The show ends with Blair making some inroads with the new core group of girls just in time to briefly run home and pose for a picture with all of her friends (minus Natalie, who couldn't be bothered to show up for the final episode of the program).

Looking back, it's interesting to see some of the young actors who would have starred in "The Facts of Life 2.0." There was Meredith Scott Lynn as the snobby princess (AKA Ashley Payne):

And Juliette Lewis as the depressed loner who's trying to get kicked out of Eastland so that she can save her parents' marriage:

And a very young Mayim Bialik during her pre-"Blossom"/pre-"Big Bang Theory" days:

And, of course, young Seth Green rocking that Nellie Olsen look that had the guys rocking back in 1988:

And that's how "The Facts of Life" ended its nine year televised history.

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