Today, we look at when (or if) you folks believe that The Facts of Life “jumped the shark.”
This is “Just Can’t Jump It,” a feature where we examine shows and whether they “jumped the shark.” Jumped the shark (coined by Jon Hein) means that the show had a specific point in time where, in retrospect, you realize that show was going downhill from there (even if, in some rare occasions, the show later course-corrected). Not every show DOES jump the shark. Some shows just remain good all the way through. And some shows are terrible all the way through. What we’re looking for are moments where a show that you otherwise enjoyed hit a point where it took a noticeable nose dive after that time and if so, what moment was that?
The Facts of Life is one of the rare occasions when a dramatic Season 2 revamp of a sitcom actually turned things around, as the decision to turn the show from a story about Mrs. Garrett (Charlotte Rae, being spun off from her Diff’rent Strokes role as the housekeeper for Mr. Drummond) being the housemother for a dormitory of an all-girls boarding school to a story about specifically four girls at the school who are forced by Garrett to room together (three returning cast members from Season 1 paired with street tough Jo Polniaczek, played wonderfully by Nancy McKeon) after they have a run in with the law. With a paired down cast of four plus Mrs. Garrett, the show became a lot more focused and the change led to a long and popular run. With the two oldest students, Jo and Blair (Lisa Whelchel), graduating, the show changed formats by having Mrs. Garrett leave the school to open up her own bakery, with the girls working for her and living above the shop. Two seasons later, with all four of the girls now graduated, the bakery burned down and the girls all opened a new gift shop alongside Mrs. Garrett. Then Mrs. Garrett left after Season 7, with her sister (played by Cloris Leachman) taking over her duties managing the store and being the mentor to the now young women. It lasted two seasons with this new format before ending after nine seasons.
So first…DID IT JUMP THE SHARK? I think so, yes.
WHEN DID IT JUMP THE SHARK I don’t think Cloris Leachman did a bad job on the series, but I think her addition to the series is probably a good of a point to pick as any. One of the deals with The Facts of Life is that it was very issue-driven, and after seven seasons, almost every “issue” had happened to the girls, sometimes twice (although it wasn’t until Season 9 that one of them finally had sex, which is kind of ridiculous, but whatever). So when there was no longer even Mrs. Garrett around, the shoe really no longer had any purpose. However, I’ll admit that it wasn’t like Season 7 was any good, either, so hey, I can be persuaded that the store burning down was the jumping the shark moment.
Let me know what you think in the comments or on social media!
Feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org for suggestions for shows for us to do in future installments!