TV viewers got a heavy dose of nostalgia Tuesday night when a trio of stars from “The Facts of Life” turned out for ABC’s “Live in Front of a Studio Audience” reenactment of a 1982 episode of the sitcom.
Lisa Whelchel, Mindy Cohn and Kim Fields all showed up, with Whelchel, decked out in an Eastland School uniform, singing the classic theme song at the beginning of the episode. Nancy McKeon, who played Jo on the show, did not participate.
For the actual episode reenactment, ABC tapped a few other stars to participate. Jennifer Aniston played Whelchel’s Blair, while Allison Tolman starred as Cohn’s Natalie and Gabrielle Union appeared as Fields’ Tootie. Kathryn Hahn portrayed Jo and Ann Dowd starred as Mrs. Garrett, originally played by the late Charlotte Rae. Dowd did double duty, as she portrayed Mrs. Garrett again in the evening’s other reenactment of an episode of “Diff’rent Strokes.”
“The Facts of Life” episode also featured Jason Bateman, Will Arnett and Jon Stewart in guest roles.
The reenactment of the season three episode “Kids Can Be Cruel,” went off mostly without a hitch, although Stewart did have to fight the giggles at one point in a scene with Arnett.
The original stars were thrilled with the final product.
“I think Charlotte is toasting Ann Dowd right this very moment,” Cohn told “Live in Front of a Studio Audience” host and executive producer Jimmy Kimmel.
Whelchel said returning to the show made her emotional.
“It wasn’t even being on the set,” she said. “It was a million times waiting backstage at the top of the stairs at the kitchen and walking in. That’s where it really hit me.”
Fields was also impressed with Union, even if she didn’t have to wear roller skates, like Tootie was known to do.
“I’m glad they didn’t have to put Gabrielle on some skates and the braces were a nice touch, though,” she said.
The night also featured a reference to another beloved sitcom. At the end of the episode, when Blair befriends Stewart’s nerdy character, Aniston said, “I’ll be there for you,” a shoutout to the “Friends” theme song.
The “Diff’rent Strokes” episode, taken from the hit sitcom’s first season, featured an introduction by Todd Bridges, who played Willis on the series. Kevin Hart portrayed Arnold, the role made famous by the late Gary Coleman, while John Lithgow starred as Mr. Drummond and Damon Wayans played Willis. Snoop Dogg appeared in a guest role as a friend of Willis.
The episode, which didn’t feature the character Kimberly, played by the late Dana Plato, also included Shawn Stockman and Wanya Morris from Boyz II Men singing the theme song.
Tuesday night’s festivities marked the third edition of “Live in Front of Studio Audience.” The special premiered in May 2019, with takes on “All in the Family” and “The Jeffersons.” In December 2019, a second one aired, with reenactments of “All in the Family” and “Good Times.”