The Facts of Life: The First Time

I feel like The Facts of Life did not live up to it’s name because everyone on this show was a virgin until the last season when they’re all well into their twenties. And I mean obviously, this is a very personally thing that doesn’t have to happen at a certain age, I just feel like statistically it’s odd that they’re all still virgins. But honestly, they all shared one bedroom for basically forever so maybe that hampered things. It’s the late 80’s and the girls live with Cloris Leachman (for unclear reasons). Blair isn’t in this episode because Lisa Whelchel objected to the subject matter for personal reasons. The house is actually a lot more pleasant without her.

No one tapped that on The Facts of Life.

The episode starts off with Snake (Natalie’s boyfriend) showing up to take her out for their one year anniversary. He wears coveralls and makes Natalie feel unappreciated, but hey it’s all one big fake out joke and he’s got a suit underneath! That’s the kind of guy you want to lose your virginity to, am I right?  Snake is about thirty-five years old and also apparently a virgin. After a special night of romantic dining, no one wants to say goodnight, and that’s how babies are made! Just kidding, this is The Facts of Life and Natalie’s a core cast member, so you can trust that she’s well prepared.

Natalie comes home at 5 am and wakes up Tootie to tell her she lost her virginity. Then at breakfast she tries to tell Jo, but the two kids who live with him (why??) keep barging into the room and she can’t finish the story. Then it’s just Cloris Leachman (who is apparently Mrs. Garret’s sister and therefore privy to all of the intimate stuff) and the girls, so Natalie can finally brag about her night. And then they are so SHOCKED that Jo spills a pile of cereal onto the table and Cloris Leachman’s knees buckle. Then they all quietly slut shame Natalie because Cloris waited until marriage. And Tootie is waiting until marriage. And Jo won’t comment. Then everyone says that she’s probably going to get pregnant. And that’s really why this show is past it’s prime. It’s okay to have life lessons when you’re fifteen, but I’m offended that all of these adult women are commenting on another adult woman’s personal decision.

Then Snake calls and tells her that he can’t see her for a while. Because that’s what guys do. They date a girl for a whole year just to have sex with her. And then it’s all over after that! That’s a long con I just don’t believe in, but we are expected to believe this plot-line for the next ten minutes. After about 24 hours of not hearing from him, Natalie says she never should have slept with him. The she takes everything out on Jo, who won’t tell her if she was “right”or “wrong.”

Why do the Facts of Life girls live with these people??

Jo has been the only sane person in this episode, but Natalie says she’s afraid of emotions or something and that’s why she won’t judgee her choices. Ugh. So then after some yelling Jo tells her to stop feeling bad just because Snake is being a jerk. Then she says that sex made Natalie forget she was a good person before Snake. What? I’m so confused. I’m so glad I wasn’t a teenager in 1988 because I would have trusted these fools and this episode is really odd.

Anyway, Natalie finally decides that she doesn’t regret anything and it’s not her fault that Snake is being a loser. But then Snake shows up at the door! And it turns out that he’s been so emotionally affected that he avoided her for days to see if he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. So I mean I guess it’s thoughtful in the most selfish way possible. Then he says they’re heading towards marriage and Natalie is like nope. The episode cuts off here on YouTube. So I guess everything ends up okay?

Very Special Lesson: Don’t make life choices without running them by your friends and trusted older adult first. You thought you could make a reasonable decision on your own? Wrong!

Disney Episode Showdown: The Golden Girls vs. Blossom

Remember, that The Golden Girls never actually went to a Disney Park, so they are once again at a disadvantage in this competition. But everyone loves an underdog. And everyone loves The Golden Girls. The only reason that Dorothy and Sophia never go to the park (aside from one short ride on Space Mountain in the credits) is that Dorothy has really only taken her mother on a trip in order to be able to spend time with her without interruption. They basically could have found a quiet corner booth in a Miami diner and had this exact same experience.

And while the plot is strong, we do have to remember that this is a “Disney Episode Showdown” and not a “talk about going to Disney Episode Showdown.” The Golden Girls easily beat out quintessentially low-performing Step by Step because the “family takes a trip to Disney” didn’t a plot really at all. If you watched the episode, you had to sit through 40 pain-staking minutes of people following other dreams at Disney while incidentally being at Disney. The only truly Disney specific event is Flash’s quest for the world record. And maybe if that had been like the entire episode and the whole family really pulled together to work on that and like met some Imagineers and discussed theme park planning or whatever then maybe it would have been more interesting.

But instead we got to watch long montages at probably four different points in the show and that was a major plot point. The rest of the time was spent watching two boys waste all of their savings to chase girls, mom & dad complain about their lack of alone time, and the sisters attempt to win a singing competition. I mean, they could have just as easily been at Universal. But honestly, I’m not here to shit on Step by Step again. It’s just that awarding The Golden Girls plot victory over Step by Step (or even Roseanne for that matter) feels pretty justified even though The Golden Girls never went to the park.

But with Blossom it just doesn’t feel fair. I think that’s because even though the plot points on Blossom are somewhat incidental too–like would any of this really hold together as an episode without the setting, iffy–the plot points are incidental in a good way. This couldn’t work as a stand alone episode but that’s because everyone’s kind of having a personal moment at Disney. And that personal moment is somehow created or rectified by actually being at the park. We shouldn’t expect much less from the O.G. of very special episodes.

Blossom would never have had an awful fight with her boyfriend if it weren’t for the fact that he started behaving strangely because he was afraid of all of the theme park’s attractions. He wasn’t just afraid of The Matterhorn, he was freaked out by The Swiss Family Robinson Tree House. That’s how bad his fear of heights was. And it made him act like a weirdo. But like many teenagers she totally took it personally and made it all about herself. At the end of this episode she learns that it’s a stupid thing to do, and he learns it’s shady to pretend nothing is wrong when there is obviously something wrong. It’s a good lesson that they could have learned anywhere, but it’s cool that they learned it at Disney because that’s the kind of weird shit that you learn about each other at theme parks. This is a great way to integrate the setting and have a good overall plot all at the same time.

So I’m very sorry to The Golden Girls because this does conclude their time in the competition, but I would like to thank them for being a friend. And also I’d like to point out that they only lose by one point. That’s pretty badass for a couple of ladies on a soundstage.

I think their music was way better than “The Party.” And I still love those cardigans.

Point Break Down:
Blossom: Integration of Disney Setting (1 pt) + Overall Plot (2 pts)  = pts

The Golden Girls: Vacation Attire (1 pt) + Music (1 pt)= 2 pts

Very Special Winner: Blossom

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Disney Episode Showdown: The Golden Girls vs. Step by Step

If you watched The Golden Girls episode for this bracket challenge, you probably noticed that none of it is actually filmed on the Disney Park Grounds. The reason I’ve included it anyway is that I needed an even number of shows for this bracket, and it is possible to win the challenge without winning the integration of setting point.

So if you haven’t guessed already, Step by Step wins the point for integration of setting. Aside from the fact that they are winning by default, this episode actually does a good job of integrating pretty much all of the major attractions. This is done largely through extended montages that depict a family friend, Flash, trying to break a world record. He’s attempting to visit all restaurants, food carts, and rides in less than four days. He’s doing this largely because a Russian holds the current record. And this is America. The montages are way too long, but it really cool to see how two of the boys work with Disney staff to set up a base of operations for Flash. I’d like to think this is something Disney would be down for in real life. 

This episode also incorporates Downtown Disney, which we haven’t seen before in this competition. One of the 7 children in this blended family, enters a singing contest at the Neon Armadillo. It’s also because of her efforts that Step by Step wins the point for music.

But that’s where the easy points stop for Step by Step. Now, this episode is nowhere near as bad as their Hawaiian episode, but the overall plot cannot hold a candle to The Golden Girls. That’s partly because the only plot in Step by Step is the family doing random stuff at Disney and spending way too much money. The Golden Girls, however, captures all of the weird emotional baggage that can come with a family trip. In fact, the only reason that Dorothy has brought Sophia to Orlando is that she’s worried that her mom will die soon and they will not have spent enough quality time together.

Morbid. I know. But this is The Golden Girls so it’s funny. All Sophia wants to do is ride Space Mountain. But Dorothy has brought photo albums and slides and wants her mother to sit in the hotel with her for hours and tell her every single thing she was thinking in every single one of the photos. She also starts to keep a journal of Sophia’s witty one liners. This pisses Sophia off to no end, so she goes to the hotel bar and tries to have a Casablanca moment with the bar pianist. He doesn’t get the joke though so instead of playing “As Time Goes By” he plays a light-jazz version of “It’s a Small World.” When Sophia is finally ready to ditch Dorothy and go to the park herself, it rains in a torrential downpour for 24-hours straight. Luckily, Dorothy realizes she’s being a little nuts and does take her mother to Space Mountain before heading to the airport. We sort of get to see this as the end credits roll over what looks like the interior of space mountain, so that’s kind of cool. I’m also giving the Vacation Attire point to The Golden Girls because I like a woman who can dress well at any age and Dorothy is killing it. Also, I hope to own as many cozy cardigans as possible as an elderly woman, so I’m very inspired by Sophia’s wardrobe.

Point Break Down:
Step by Step: Integration of Disney Setting (1 pt) + Music (1 pt) = pts

The Golden Girls: Overall Plot (2 pts)  + Vacation Attire (1 pt)= 3 pts

Very Special Winner: The Golden Girls

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The Facts of Life: Christmas in the Big House

Okay, so for those of you who missed out on The Facts of Life, it’s a show about a group of girls who live together at boarding school and for whatever reason continue to living together well after boarding school with their dorm-mother and it’s not weird. It’s not even weird at all. And no one wants to move out. Ever. Even though there are like four twenty year-old women sharing a room. facts-of-life-christmas-in-the-big-house-01_0

Anyway, basically the girls end up volunteering on Christmas eve at a prison and everyone is super into it except for the snooty rich girl, Blair. Jo (whose particularly close to this situation because her dad is an ex-con) says that Blair is just a socialite do-gooder who only helps as long as she doesn’t have to actually interact with them. You know, she throws money at stuff.

So anyway, Blair refuses to participate in this show, but she goes with them anyway and sits “backstage” at the prison theater. Yep, this prison has a theater. It’s like the USO! Kind of…

These prisoners are like so clean cut and I don’t just mean like they look clean, I mean whoever is doing their hair in the prison barber shop is pretty great.

It’s kinda nice that the girls can’t sing very well.facts-of-life-christmas-in-the-big-house-20_0

Mrs. Garret holds a prisoner’s hand. Is that allowed? Isn’t there a no touching rule?

But the warden has promised them more and no one knows what to do! They have done the entire show! The girls want to runaway, but Mrs. Garret tells them that they are the inmates entire Christmas. Finally, Blair decides to participate after the very special speech from Mrs. Garret. Blair can sing and she’s doing it a capella because she was a mouseketeer. Then all of the inmates sing too and like agh I know they are fake inmates and this fake prison is abnormally nice, but it still makes me tear up. Then she repeats the song like seven times until the credits end. LIKE SEVEN TIMES. Does this song not have other verses??? Talk about ruining the moment.

Very Special Lesson: It’s important not to make their ears bleed when you have a captive audience.

Cheers: Thanksgiving Orphans

cheers2Sorry Friends, but Cheers has the best friendsgiving episodes ever. Why is that?(fragments for stylistic purposes) Because these people have reached the where friendship truly becomes family. The point where your friends drive you crazy just as much as any blood relative could. The point where you spend the holidays together because you have no one else to spend them with and, even though it’s awful, you would not want it any other way.

In Thanksgiving Orphans” the gang from Cheers heads over to Carla’s Screen Shot 2014-11-23 at 12.24.24 PMhouse for a Thanksgiving potluck. Things start off on the wrong foot when Norm (who is supposed to be brining the never seen wife, Vera) ends up having a huge fight with his wife and doesn’t cook the Turkey at all before arriving to Carla’s. And it’s a big turkey. And it takes forever to cook. Meanwhile, Dianne insists that they wait to eat until all of the food is on the table, so no munching on candied yams while the turkey is still cooking. This means everyone gets hangry by the end of the evening. Carla and Norm start insulting each others cooking and everything devolves into a gigantic food fight. And when Vera finally does show up to dinner, we don’t get to see her face. Dianne has hit her square in the face with a pumpkin pie that Sam narrowly dodged.

Very Special Lesson: Things don’t always have to go perfectly to have the perfect Thanksgiving.

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Very Special Thanksgiving Activity: Don’t forget to have a little fun this Thanksgiving. In my opinion, everyone should play a game. If you don’t have any standard family games, try this Thanksgiving Bingo that Jennifer Lewis at Flavorwire made a couple of years ago. But I suggest using this idea to make your own Bingo boards, so that you can make sure all of your familial quirks are represented.


Full House: The Miracle of Thanksgiving

It is Thanksgiving morning and Danny’s mom is snowed in and can’t make it out of Tacoma. This leaves the Tanner’s without any Thanksgiving food, so the men decide to take the girls out to a restaurant. But DJ will have none of it. She’s all like Thanksgiving should be spent at home! We always had Thanksgiving with mom at home! (Yep, this is one of those rare episodes where we admit the girls once had a mom and that she died tragically). Also, Joey walks around randomly saying the “Miracle of Thanksgiving” and making a trumpet noise. Was he also the voice of Face on Nick, Jr.?

DJ says that she can handle the meal because her grandma was going to put her in charge of the turkey, so she can handle the whole thing. Plus, last year her mom taught her how to make a “picture perfect pumpkin pie.” So in honor of the late Pam Tanner, the family decides to stay home and let the ten year-old cook.

The first season of this show is just so great. I still cannot understand why Joey is a necessary addition to this family, but at least when the girls were younger it made sense that they needed an extra hand (maybe). Anyway, this episode is super cute because everyone is adorable and dancing around the kitchen while setting the table.

Everything is really shaping up into an excellent Thanksgiving. Only, DJ did not remember to defrost the turkey and so they somehow end up with a frozen yet browned bird. This is amidst a large pre-dinner speech in which DJ asks Danny if her mom would be proud of her for making dinner. And how she wasn’t sure she could do it, but things really turned out great.

So how can they possible tell this little girl who is trying to impress her dead mom that the turkey she made sucks? Well, they don’t exactly…they shove the turkey back into the oven, crank it up as high as it will go, and try to purchase a turkey off of a couple of lost travelers who ask if they can use the phone. None of it pans out though, and the non-defrosted turkey catches on fire. Then Stephanie drops the “picture perfect pumpkin pie” and everything is ruined.

Danny takes DJ aside and tells her that her mom would have been proud of her for bringing everyone together to make the Thanksgiving meal because Pam knew that the important thing about Thanksgiving is family. But the really heart-wrenching stuff (and yes, I’m already tearing up by this point) happens when Jesse goes to talk to Stephanie (who is hiding in her closet because she dropped the “picture perfect pumpkin pie). At first things start off with the run-of-the-mill “everyone makes mistakes” lesson, but Stephanie is very adamant that not everyone makes “pie mistakes.” So Jesse decides to tell her a story about when he was a kid and did something very stupid to show that sometimes kids do stupid things and it is okay. He takes her to his room to show her a childhood photo album, specifically a haircut that he allowed her then ten year-old mother to give him when he was five. Stephanie feels better after hearing the story and enjoys seeing childhood pictures of her mother, but Jesse ends up being very upset by the whole interaction.

I guess it is easy to forget as the series goes on that Jesse is Pam’s kid brother and spends a lot of the first season being arguably more affected by her death than anyone else. I guess it’s less depressing on a sitcom to show the grieving brother rather than the grieving children or spouse, but nevertheless his performance is very effective. Danny and Jesse realize that they will never get over losing Pam, and that some bad feelings just stay with you. But Danny tells Jesse that it’s important for him to keep sharing his memories with their family because that is what will keep her a part of their lives and is probably the only thing that will ever make him feel better.

Very Special Lesson: Don’t let the children cook the turkey.

Very Special Activity: Share all of your great (and not so great) stories with your families this season. And if they’re driving you nuts, then you can post them here!

Very Special Movie Bonus: The ‘Burbs

I know I’ve already done a very special movie this month, but The ‘Burbs is on Netflix and I just love it. If you haven’t seen this movie then go check it out now. Tom Hanks plays a burnt-out suburbanite staycationer whose neighbor manages to convince him that the new family on the cul-de-sac are murderers. Much to the chagrin of Tom’s wife (in this case, Carrie Fisher) he and a few of the guys from the neighborhood (Bruce Dern and Rick Ducommun) decide to conduct their own guerrilla-style investigation of the new family and their creepy basement.

You’re probably thinking, this does not sound like a very special movie. You’re probably thinking, “she’s just trying to make this into a very special movie to justify watching and posting about a movie that has nothing to do with anything very special at all.”

Wrong. (Well, maybe right.) But I am going to prove to you that this is a very special movie packed with very special lessons as evidenced below:

Very Special Lesson Number One: Beware the vacation. If your job is already driving you nuts, then you need to be extra careful about how you spend your downtime. Rest and relaxation are wonderful things, but if you’re already on edge then you might use all of that unstructured time to start stalking your neighbors because you think they are running a crematorium in their basement.

Very Special Lesson Number Two: On the off chance that your neighbors actually are serial murders and running a crematorium in their basement, it is very important to be able to rely on you fellow non-psychotic suburbanites. We all need someone we can count on to run a military-grade amateur investigation in the middle of the night. We all need a friend to help us frantically search through the garbage truck for evidence. That’s what being a good neighbor means.

Very Special Lesson Number Three: Don’t do heroin. Okay, this is maybe a bit of a meta-example here, but Corey Feldman is just great in this movie. And the best part is that he’s very good at being a supporting character without being in a kids/teen movie. This could have been a great transitional moment here from child actor to regular actor. Sure, the producers probably stuck him in here to draw in a younger audience, but he really holds his own.

Very Special Lesson Number Four: Don’t doubt your friends (with whom you have just guerilla-style investigated the neighbors’ basement crematorium). Okay, so maybe it looks like you just destroyed an innocent person’s home, but they did have a 5,000 degree oven in their basement, and your dog did find a femur under their fence. I understand that we all get a little stressed out, especially if we’ve got cops surrounding our home and that old man we thought was dead has just returned home from the hospital, but that is still no reason to lash out at your best friend.

Very Special Lesson Number Five: If your significant other has just accidentally blown up the creepy neighbor’s home and nearly killed himself in the process, try to be as understanding as possible.

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The Golden Girls: High Anxiety

If you’ve watched The Golden Girls then you have probably heard a lot of crazy St. Olaf stories. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Rose hurt her back thirty years ago pulling a plow to till the soil during plantingoldengirlsg season. Ever since, she’s been taking narcotics. That’s why she’s so un-phased and stupid all the time. Rose is always on drugs. When Sophia accidentally knocks the pill bottle into the sink all of the pills go down the drain, and Rose cannot get a new prescription for two days. Things come to a head when she lashes out at a pizzeria owner who has come to the house to film a commercial starring Sophia.

“Excuse me I’m going to have to ask you to leave. I’m very upset”

                        –Rose Nyland during opiate withdrawal

The girls stage a mini-intervention and Rose agrees to quit cold turkey. She deals with this harrowing endeavor by having her friends stay up all night and playing a rousing game of Monopoly—St. Olaf style. Rose starts to waver as the night goes on and Blanche tells her that she understands how Rose feels because she tried to give up sex cold turkey after her husband died. Then she slept with her sister’s husband. Whoops. Anyway, just as Blanche finishes her story, Rose realizes that the sun is rising. She has made it threw the night without pills, and is thus free forever form addiction! Except she takes one pill later that day…so then she calls a rehab center.

Flash forward 28 days and…okay, now she is really cured!

Wait…if the only problem was that she didn’t get to take her pills for a day and got cranky…hm…that sounds like me without coffee.

Very Special Lesson: Even if you can totally afford your habit, you don’t do anything harmful to yourself or others, if you get a little cranky without your little helper then it’s time to go to the Betty Ford clinic.

Family Ties: Rain Forests Keep Fallin’ on My Head

First of all, isn’t rainforest one word? Secondly, it’s really cool that youngest child Jennifer wants to rid the family home of 80’s toxins. This was before we removed formaldehyde from our hair conditioners, people! But she doesn’t know how to accurately dispose of any of the waste.

She forces Mallory to stop using her conditioner. The results are not pretty.
She forces Mallory to stop using her conditioner. The results are not pretty.

She gets depressed and ends up talking to a parakeet about the Brazilian rainforest. Her parents try to help her relax by watching a baseball game on TV, but there is a breaking news update on the Exxon Valdez (ripped from the headlines!) and she runs upstairs on the verge of tears. Jennifer gets like super, super depressed and decides that life is pointless because the environment is in danger.

Jennifer sporting her post-industrial look.
Jennifer sporting her post-industrial look.

Her parents convince her to see the school counselor and she ends up freaking him out. By the end of their session he totally agrees with her and feels like there is nothing they can do and that life is over and depressing.Screen Shot 2014-11-15 at 9.43.07 PMScreen Shot 2014-11-15 at 9.43.15 PM

Luckily, Jennifer has two ex-hippie parents who know how to rally a depressed activist. They tell her that things seemed bleak and hopeless when they tried to save the whales. They encourage her to join Greenpeace or Sierra Club. They also use the pet parakeet to makes sure there’s no Radon in the basement.

Very Special Lesson: Don’t freak out. Join a club.

Theme Songs Performed by Actors

I was getting ready to draft a post about another 21 Jump Street episode when I was like “hold up, someone needs to give a major shout out to Holly Robinson Peete for not only starring as the incomparable Officer Judy Hoffs, but also for singing this bitchin’ theme song.” Then I proceeded to stop what I was doing and rock out to that awesome theme song, featuring Peter Deluise and Johnny Depp on backup vocals. I didn’t draft that post and instead I’m writing this post about people who starred in and sang their show’s theme song. I’ve excluded the obvious like The Brady Bunch, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, etc.

21 Jump Street performed by Holly Robinson Peete (Office Judy Hoffs)

The Facts of Life, Season 1 performed by Charlotte Rae (Mrs. Garett) 

Fraiser performed by Kelsey Grammer

Green Acres by Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor

Baywatch, closing credits, performed by David Haselhoff (that lead lifeguard, right? did they have characters?)