Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Facts of Life: Ranking the Backdoor Pilots

As we mentioned in the latest episode and in the show notes, The Facts of Life subjected viewers to an amazing 7--let me write out as a word--SEVEN backdoor pilots, a high number even for a series that racked up an amazing 209 episodes. In fact, let me write that as a word:; Two hund--oh, never mind.

I decided to wade in and rank these prospective series based on 1) how cool they would be as regular shows 2) how compelling the premise was. I did not rank them based on quality of the actual episodes because my memory of them is hazy, and I didn't have the resources (nor the inclination) to watch all of them this week.

From best to worst, here goes (descriptions from Wikipedia):

1) "Jo's Cousin" — Another season three episode, in which Jo visits her family in the Bronx, including her cousin Terry, a fourteen-year-old girl (played by Megan Follows) going through adolescence in a family full of men. The family included actors Grant Cramer, John Mengatti, Donnelly Rhodes and D.W. Brown.

Rick's note: I have a huge problem with any prospective show about Jo's family that doesn't include the great Alex Rocco, who played her dad on FOL, but it's reasonable to assume he would have made regular appearances. The bigger concern is that Jo's family is likely...kind of annoying in anything but small doses.  So why do I rate this numero uno? Well, the main reason is it's by default (look at the rest of the list, friends), but also, I want to pretend that the actual spinoff would be named Jo's Cousin. Imagine Casey Kasem saying, ""On The Facts of Life, Jo is in hot water. Next. on an all-new Jo's Cousin, Jo's cousin has a problem of her own!"

2) Brian & Sylvia" — A season two episode in which Tootie and Natalie go to Buffalo, New York, to visit Tootie's Aunt Sylvia, a black woman (played by Rosanne Katon) who has recently married a white man, played by Richard Dean Anderson (the future star of MacGyver and Stargate SG-1). Ja'net Dubois of Good Times played Ethel, who was both Tootie's grandmother and Sylvia's mother.

Rick's note: I see nothing of interest in this except for the cast: the  sassy Willona from Good Times, the daughter from Grady, and, yeah, that white guy who was in other stuff. At least it's something different, though, unlike...

3) "The Beginning of the End/Beginning of the Beginning" — The two-part series finale sees Blair buying Eastland to prevent its closing. Blair finds that the school is in such dire financial straits that she is forced to make the school co-ed. Blair then essentially adopts the Mrs. Garrett role as she presides over the school and is forced to deal with the trouble-making students in a plot line that is highly reminiscent of the season two premiere. The new Eastland students included Seth Green, Mayim Bialik and future Oscar-nominee Juliette Lewis.

Rick's note: Ho ho! Can you imagine the tables being turned on Blair and her having to deal with a bunch of young girls who caused as much trouble as she did? Uh, actually I can, and it doesn't really sound all  that compelling, to be honest.

4) "Big Apple Blues" — A season nine episode in which Natalie spends the night with a group of eccentric young people living in a Soho loft, and decides to remain in New York to begin her life. Two of the tenants in the loft were played by David Spade and Richard Grieco.

Rick's note: Ignore the last note for a second. We'll come back to it. Bless Mindy Cohn's heart, but do we really need "Natalie On Her Own" as an ongoing series? And I don't even want to know what made those "eccentric young people" so quirky.

And, oh, yeah, Spade and Grieco pretty much disqualify this, anyway.

5) "Graduation" — This spinoff was to revolve around Blair and Jo's life at Langley College.

Rick's note: A real backdoor pilot, to my eye, should introduce a new, unasked-for character in a totally contrived situation. This just sounds like a natural spinoff idea. LAME!

6) "The Academy" — A season three episode set at Stone Academy, an all-boys military school that was near Eastland. In this episode, the girls at Eastland attended a dance with the boys from the military school. The boys included actors Jimmy Baio, Ben Marley, David Ackroyd, Peter Frechette, and John P. Navin, Jr.

Rick's note: I actually remember this, which is probably why I have it rated so low. Check out the cast. JIMMY Baio? DAVID Ackroyd? What, they couldn't find a DeLuise?

7) "The Big Fight" — A season four episode set at Stone Academy, a boys' military school. Natalie comes to visit a boy who tries to impress her with his boxing. This episode includes the same cast from the season three episode "The Academy", with the addition of '80s 'nerd' icon Eddie Deezen.

Rick's  note: Eddie Deezen alone ought to make this rate higher, but he should have been on the REAL Facts of Life, not relegated to spinoff duty. What a foil he would have made for the girls. He'd have an unrequited crush on least, it would be unrequited at first!

However, this deserves to be at the bottom because of the sheer gall of the producers to fail in the third season, then try again the very next year to get that "Stone Academy" concept over. It ain't happening, Linda Marsh and Jerry Mayer (See, I did do some research for this)!


  1. I liked Joe's Cousin best too but then The Academy second. I remember all those faces so maybe that's why. I'd say Blair's retread thrid - again cuz of the cast. "Up next on Joe's Cousin," was hilarious btw ;) And agreed her family IS annoying but I love Donnelly Rhodes.

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