‘The Facts of Life’: At Just Over 200 Episodes, the Show’s Finale Set an NBC Record

The Facts of Life was a popular sitcom that ran in the ’80s. The series had broad comedy, which provided its audiences with punchlines from hilarious characters.

The TV show aired for 200 episodes before wrapping up its storylines, making it one of NBC’s longest-running shows. With over nine seasons, The Facts of Life set an NBC record that Cheers and Friends have since topped.

‘The Facts of Life’ was spawned from another hit show

Nancy McKeon as Joanne 'Jo' Polniaczek, Kim Fields as Dorothy 'Tootie' Ramsey, Mindy Cohn as Natalie Green, Lisa Whelchel as Blair Warner
Nancy McKeon as Joanne ‘Jo’ Polniaczek, Kim Fields as Dorothy ‘Tootie’ Ramsey, Mindy Cohn as Natalie Green, Lisa Whelchel as Blair Warner | Paul Drinkwater/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

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The Facts of Life was a show that began thanks to another hit show. Diff’rent Strokeswas a popular show that featured a millionaire Phillip Drummond who adopted his dead housekeeper’s Black children. The show was famous for its punchlines and the character’s antics.

Mr. Drummond had a housekeeper called Edna Garrett, who inspired the show’s producers to create a spinoff that would focus on her. In The Facts of Life, Mrs. Garrett becomes a housemother of a dormitory in Eastland School.

She has several girls under her care, but the most prominent ones are the youngest gossipy Dorothy Ramsey, who also went by Tootie, the spoiled rich girl Blair Warner and Natalie Green. The producers introduced The Facts of Life as a backdoor pilot in Diff’rent Strokes’ last episode of its premiere season.

The episode was called ‘The Girls’ School,’ and its script involved Mr. Drummond’s daughter Kimberly asking Mrs. Garrett to sew her a costume for a student play for their school. Kimberly explains that their dorm’s housemother had recently quit. Mrs. Garrett helps Kimberly put on a successful play and also assists Nancy Olsen with her boyfriend-obsession problem.

Mrs. Garrett impresses everyone, and she is asked to stay. She, however, declines, stating that she would rather keep working for the Drummonds. Although Kimberly is a significant part of the episode, she doesn’t crossover to the spinoff show involving Mrs. Garrett.

The show’s ratings never wavered thanks to its constantly changing format

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Gauging a successful show can be difficult. Today some shows fail to attract a wider audience but remain successful because of a small loyal following. Some of these shows may never get excellent Nielsen ratings but will still be considered successful shows anyway.

When The Facts of Life was on the air, audiences had limited viewing options. This meant that the standards for success were more straightforward. If a show received good ratings, it stayed on the air for a longer time. If the ratings faltered or declined, there was a likelihood of its cancellation.

The Facts of Life had consistent ratings. Televisionhits.com reports that The Facts of Life ranked among the top 40 sitcoms in eight seasons. This statistic may not seem impressive considering The Facts of Life never finished in the top 10 categories, but it managed to create a consistent audience that saw the show remain on air for nine seasons.

The Facts of Life was also able to stay on the air for as long as it did because it underwent some format changes throughout the years to keep the storylines and characters fresh. The various format changes seemed to do the trick as the audience had an intense loyalty to the show, and its popularity never wavered over the years.

‘The Facts of Life’ set an NBC record

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Most times, a show’s success is measured by how long it stays on the air. The Facts of Life lasted almost a decade and managed to get solid ratings all the time. Mental Floss reports that by the time The Facts of Life was airing its finale episode, the show had run for a total of 201 episodes.

The show even outlasted its parent series Diff’rent Strokes by 12 episodes, setting an NBC record at the time for the network’s longest-running show. Frasier, Friends, and Cheers have since surpassed the show’s record.