Today, we look at how Facts of Life decided that hey, if a girls school was popular, why not a BOYS school?
This is Back Door Blues, a feature about “backdoor pilots.” Backdoor pilots are episodes of regular TV series that are intended to also work as pilots for a new series. Sometimes these pilots get picked up, but a lot of times they did not get picked up. I’ll spotlight examples of both successful and failed backdoor pilots.
December is a month of Back Door Blues! This is a special week’s worth of Facts of Life-related backdoor pilots!
CONCEPT: The Academy – Following the adventures of Stone Military Academy, a boys school nearby the all-girls Eastland
SERIES IT AIRED ON Facts of Life
At the end of Season 3, the now quite-popular The Facts of Life, about a group of friends at a private girls school, went heavy on backdoor pilots, doing back-to-back backdoor pilots in episodes 22 and 23. The first one is “The Academy,” about the nearby BOYS school, Stone Military Academy.
Jo (Nancy McKeon) has a friend at the other school, Buzz (Jimmy Baio, Scott Baio’s cousin), who is basically the Jo of his school (you know, from a poor family, at the school on a scholarship). He has lied to the others about having a beautiful debutante girlfriend, and so he begs Jo to find someone at her school who fits the profile, and so she sets him up with Blair (Lisa Whelchel). In exchange, he gets Jo a date, but her date, George (Peter Frechette), is a total jerk.
David Ackroyd plays the group’s teacher, and John P. Navin Jr. and David Raynr play Buzz’s roommates, who end up being dates for Natalie and Tootie, respectively.
Blair figures out Buzz’s scheme, but she actually DOES like him, and so she kisses him in front of the whole school to help his self esteem.
DID THE PILOT GO TO SERIES? It did not. If you thought that was going to be the end of it, though, you would be wrong.
SHOULD IT HAVE? The boys really weren’t particularly interesting, but Baio wasn’t THAT bad, so I guess it could have been okay. The setup obviously made sense, as it was just a reverse of the main show.
Okay, that’s it for this installment of Back Door Blues! I KNOW the rest of you have suggestions for other interesting backdoor pilots, so drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org (don’t suggest in the comments, as this way, it’ll be a surprise!).