Among the many valuable lessons taught by The Facts of Life, one of the most gay-loved TV series in history, is one in the lyrics to it’s irresistible theme song: “you take the good, you take the bad.” Here’s some good you can take: The long-running sitcom about a motley group of girlfriends at a prestigious Peakskill, NY boarding school as they navigate the curvy road to adulthood under the watchful eye of their housemother maintains its appeal 35 years after its premiere. Now you can relive all those moments with Blair, Tootie, Natalie and Jo with the release of The Facts of Life: The Complete Series on DVD. The 26-disc set also includes a 2014 cast reunion at The Paley Center, the two made-for-television films that had the gals visiting Australia and Paris, as well as numerous other bonus features. The lavish boxed set will be officially released January 13, 2015 but eager holiday shoppers can order it here and it will ship December 16. The popular series, which helped launch the careers of several future superstars, such as George Clooney, Helen Hunt, Juliette Lewis and Molly Ringwald, was also a pioneering one with its depiction of a teen lesbian and was the first to feature a recurring character with cerebral palsy (comic Geri Jewell, who came out as lesbian in 2011).
Scroll down for an update on the actresses who played these iconic TV characters.
Mindy Cohn (Natalie Green)
Cohn starred as the full-figured and forever upbeat Natalie for all eight seasons. The actress has appeared on numerous other television series, including 21 Jump Street and Suddenly Susan and earned a Daytime Emmy nomination for voicing Velma in What’s New, Scooby Doo? She further endeared herself to gay audiences with her role as the ultimate “fag hag” in the 2010 feature comedy Violet Tendencies and recently appeared on Hot in Cleveland and Bones.
Kim Fields (“Tootie” Ramsey)
Before playing rollerskating Tootie, Fields was already a TV veteran, having appeared on numerous series including a turn as Janet Jackson’s pal on Good Times. The actress had another long-running, female-driven hit in Fox’s Living Single and briefly performed rap music with a group called Impromp2. Today, she occasionally directs TV sitcoms and is the married mother of two children.
Nancy McKeon as Jo Polniaczek
McKeon joined the series as tough-talking tomboyish Jo during the second season and was an immediate hit with fans. McKeon starred in several made-for-TV movies throughout the 1980s and 1990s and was nearly cast as Monica on Friends. She headlined Lifetime’s police drama The Division from 2001-2004 and now lives in Austin, Texas with her husband and two daughters.
Lisa Whelchel as Blair Warner
The actress began her career as a Mouseketeer on The New Mickey Mouse Club before being perfectly cast as preppy, sometimes snooty rich girl Blair. Whelchel was nominated for a Grammy for her 1984 Christian pop album and made it to the finale of Survivor: Philippines in 2012. Today, she’s the divorced mother of three, still acts from time to time and is in demand as a motivational speaker.
Charlotte Rae (Edna Garrett)
The veteran actress began her career in the 1950s and had appeared on countless TV series and films such as Hair before playing the daffy housemother Edna Garrett. After she left the series in 1986 (Oscar-winner Cloris Leachman took over as Edna’s sister Beverly on the series) Rae continued to stay busy on TV and in film, including playing an older woman who has a fling with Adam Sandler’s character in the comedy You Don’t Mess With the Zohan. In 2013, Rae made headlines when she revealed that her 25 marriage had ended in divorce after her husband told her he was gay.