The Facts of Life’ and ‘Diff’rent Strokes 2021 Movie Review Poster Trailer Online
This second “Live” performance of two sitcoms from the seventies is best evaluated as a nostalgic look back. “The Facts of Life” and “Diff’rent Strokes” ran almost concurrently in their day. Neither can be regarded as the apex of situation comedy, but they were successful.
“Diff’rent Strokes” never was a very good show. Its boring format featured few characters and all of them, except Arnold (Gary Coleman), were tedious. That said, the live remake made the most of its episode, primarily by strong casting. Kevin Hart’s Arnold was full of energy and he played up the physical comedy, as when he struggled to dismount from the top bunk bed. Heaven knows John Lithgow could have grabbed plenty of laughs by ignoring the dna of his character, Mr. Drummond, but he sportingly played it safe, giving the role only as much energy as Conrad Bain ever did, which is to say, not much.
“The Facts of Life” was the more enjoyable remake. Ann Dowd channeled Mrs. Garrett brilliantly, anchoring the episode. But it was Allison Tolman (as Natalie) who most embodied her character, bringing the warmth of fond remembrance to the viewer. The episode they reenacted was actually fairly good—a story about how thoughtlessness can affect others.
The Dick Clark Award for Defying Time goes to Lisa Whelchel, who could have stepped into her role as the original teenaged Blair like she had found a portal through time. It would have been bold stunt casting to let her reprise her own role, but it would have been so worth it.