You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have: “The Facts of Life.” But there’s no bad, only good — no, make that great — casting here for next week’s “Live in Front of a Studio Audience” remake of the classic 1980s sitcom.
Joining the previously announced Ann Dowd (as Edna Garrett) will be Jennifer Aniston as Blair, Gabrielle Union as Tootie, Allison Tolman as Natalie and Kathryn Hahn as Jo.
For the third installment of “Live in Front of a Studio Audience,” executive producers Norman Lear and Jimmy Kimmel are pairing the iconic late 1970s/early 1980s comedy “Diff’rent Strokes” with its spinoff, “The Facts of Life.” Both series came from Lear’s production companies during that era, Tandem Productions (originally founded by Lear and Bud Yorkin in 1958) and T.A.T. Communications, which were later folded into Embassy Communications.
“Live in Front of a Studio Audience: ‘The Facts of Life’ and ‘Diff’rent Strokes’” will air live Tuesday, Dec. 7 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC. As previously announced, the “Diff’rent Strokes” installment will star John Lithgow as Mr.Drummond, Kevin Hart playing Arnold, Damon Wayans as Willis and Dowd as Mrs. Garrett. Aniston, Tolman, Union and Hahn were announced as new cast additions on Monday night during “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”
“I cannot imagine a better group than Jennifer Aniston, Allison Tolman, Gabrielle Union, Kathryn Hahn and Ann Dowd, and I can’t wait to do their hair,” said executive producer Jimmy Kimmel.
“The Facts of Life” aired for nine seasons between 1979 and 1988. In the show, Edna Garrett leaves the Drummonds’ Park Avenue hom and becomes housemother of a dormitory at a private all-girls school in Peekskill, New York. There, she oversees the care of students Blair Warner (Lisa Whelchel), Dorothy “Tootie” Ramsey (Kim Fields), Natalie Green (Mindy Cohn) and others. After Season 1, several of the girls (including Molly Ringwald were written out of the show, and the focus narrowed to Mrs. Garrett as the school’s dietician and Blair, Tootie and Natalie as her helpers — along with Jo Polniaczek (Nancy McKeon), added as part of the revamp in Season 2.
The live special event will feature reenactments of episodes from “The Facts of Life,” created by Dick Clair and Jenna McMahon, and “Diff’rent Strokes,” created by Bernie Kukoff and Jeff Harris, and will reunite executive producers Norman Lear, Jimmy Kimmel, Brent Miller, Kerry Washington, Will Ferrell, Justin Theroux and Jim Burrows.
“Live in Front of a Studio Audience” is produced by Sony Pictures Television, Kimmelot, ACT III Productions, Gary Sanchez Productions, D’Arconville and Simpson Street. Jim Burrows and Andy Fisher are set to direct the live show.
The first “Live in Front of a Studio Audience” featured re-creations of “All in the Family” and “The Jeffersons” in spring 2019, averaging 13 million viewers. It was followed by a second edition featuring “All in the Family” and “Good Times” in winter 2019, which averaged nearly 8 million Total Viewers after 35 days of delayed viewing across all platforms. Both installments won Emmy Awards in the Outstanding Variety Special (Live).
Further editions were put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but with production protocols in place, producers were ready to bring it back.