"The Facts of Life had a simple premise. Charlotte Rae, as Mrs. Garrett, takes over as housemother at Eastland, a fictitious private girl's school located in Peekskill, New York. The cast also included a headmaster and seven young girls. John Lawlor was cast as the off beat headmaster." Casting Director Eve Brandstein wanted some new faces to television since there was no established actresses. They had a national search.
During the summer of 1979, the casting started. 15 year old Felice Schachter was the first one to be cast as "All American Girl," Nancy Olsen. Next, Creative Supervisor, Al Burton, hired Lisa Whelchel to play a 16 year old fast talking girl from Texas; however, Lisa Whelchel said her line sarcastically, which then shaped her character for the snobby and rich Blair Warner. The next girl to be cast was Molly Ringwald, as Molly Parker who was spotted as Orphan #5 on the musical Annie. "The search continued on for more girls; ironically they found 10 year old Kim Fields at the Westlake School for Girls in Belair, California, the prototype for the fictional Eastland School depicted in the series." The next girl was spotted by Charlotte Rae. Mindy Cohn had no acting experience and Charlotte asked Mindy, at her school, to be in the show. 13 year old Mindy Cohn was then cast as impressionable Natalie Green . The next two girls that were hired were 15 year old Julie Piekarski and 14 year old Julie Haddock. The casting was completed during the mid-summer of 1979 and The Facts of Life later premeired on August 24th, 1979.
The show didn't quite get the audiences attention and the criticism was very harsh. Tom Shales of the Washington Post said the show was "worthless and barren." He also predicted it would help close the NBC Network for good. Shales wasn't the only critic to critisize the show. Another critic said it was the kind of show that made his teeth grind and his right eye twitch. The show ranked at #74, almost in last. It was time for change.
In Rough Housing, at the very end, Todd Bridges spills his glass of punch on the table. Also During this season in the episode, Emily Dickenson, no one notices the similarities between Blair's poem and Dickinson's original, not even the judges of the poetry contest. One would naturally assume that an English teacher or judges of a poetry contest would notice this.
Did You Know?
Every night after each taping of the show, the girls would goto the Denny's Restaurant across the street to eat from where the show was taped. The had to quit hanging out there during season 2 because the show became much more popular and people would be in line to have the girls' sign autographs.
Charlotte Rae -- Mrs. Edna Garrett
John Lawlor -- Mr. Steven Bradley
Jenny O'Hara -- Mrs. Mahoney (4 episodes)
Lisa Whelchel -- Blair Warner
Felice Schachter -- Nancy Olsen
Julie Piekarski -- SueAnn Weaver
Mindy Cohn -- Natalie Green
Molly Ringwald -- Molly Parker
Kim Fields -- Dorothy "Tootie" Ramsey
Julie Ann Haddock -- Cindy Webster
1979 Guest Appearances
Conrad Bain (Phillip Drummond)
Todd Bridges (Willis Jackson)
Gary Coleman (Arnold Jackson)
Dana Plato (Kimberly Drummond)
2.Like Mother, Like Daughter:
Pam Huntington (Monica Warner)
Donald May (Justin Branch)
3.The Return of Mister Garrett
Robert Alda (Robert Garrett)
Robert Hooks (Mr. Ramsey)
Duane Ladage (Jason)
Greg Bradford (Steve)
8.The Facts of Love
Greg Bradford (Steve)
Vincent Bufano (Soldier)
William Bogert (Mr. Parker)
Lee Crawford (Angela)
Hillary Horan (Tumpy)
Helen Hunt (Emily)