The third edition of Live in Front of a Studio Audience aired Tuesday night with large doses of nostalgia and surprises that dominated the recreations of episodes of classic sitcoms The Facts of Life and Diff’rent Strokes.
For Facts, the episode “Kids Can Be Cruel” (original airdate March 17, 1982) focused on a rivalry between Natalie (Allison Tolman) and Blair (Jennifer Aniston) that ends up with an innocent party, Carl (Jon Stewart), caught in the crossfire. In the Diff’rent Strokes episode, “No Privacy for Willis” (original airdate February 23, 1979), sharing a bedroom is proving to be too close for comfort for brothers Arnold (Kevin Hart) and Willis (Damon Wayans).
With executive producer Norman Lear, who helped bring these series and many others to television in the 1970s and 1980s, and executive producer Jimmy Kimmel introducing the night, the special brought many great moments. Here are a handful of highlights:
Lisa Whelchel & Boyz II Men’s Theme Songs
Almost as fun as the episode recreations themselves were the theme songs performed by surprise talent and this special did not disappoint. The Facts of Life theme song sung by none other than Lisa Whelchel, the original Blair Warner, with cameos by original co-stars Mindy Cohn (Natalie) and Kim Fields (Tootie), was a great way to kick off the night. The fact that it looked as if time had stood still for Whelchel wearing her original Eastland uniform was an added bonus. For Diff’rent Strokes, Shawn Stockman and Wanya Morris from the singing group Boyz II Men belted out the theme song while walking through the Drummond penthouse apartment.
Kathryn Hahn, Kevin Hart, and More Standouts
Across the board, there wasn’t a bum note all night. In Facts, Allison Tolman captured Natalie Green’s awkward vulnerability perfectly while Kathryn Hahn brought a spunky energy to the gruff Jo bumping heads against Aniston’s prissy Blair Warner. Hands down the best performance of the night was Ann Dowd doing double-duty in both episodes as Edna Garrett. Dowd channeled Charlotte Rae’s high-pitched shaky voice and brought heart to the episode as she reprimanded the Facts girls for their lack of compassion in Facts and dishing up love to Arnold and Willis in Strokes.
Also in Strokes, Hart (even without shaving his facial hair) brought all his infectious fun energy to convincingly play eight-year-old Arnold Drummond, including a spot-on “Whatchu talking about, Willis?” He also helped elicit “aww”s’ from the audience when John Lithgow‘s fatherly Philip Drummond picked Arnold up at one point to carry him across the room and another when Arnold sat on his lap.
Jason Bateman and More Surprise Guests
The unannounced appearances of Will Arnett and Jason Bateman appearing as high school boys Dink Lockwood and Tim Holifield brought huge applause to the Facts episode but no surprise was bigger than Snoop Dogg on Diff’rent Strokes as Vernon, the friend of Willis (Damon Wayans).
Also having the sole surviving Diff’rent Strokes main cast member Todd Bridges introduce the episode was a genuinely sweet moment.
Classic Commercial Spoofs
Hats off to Alfonso Ribiero and Jennifer Beals for the several classic-feel commercials from Heinz ketchup, Kool-Aid, and Jack in the Box. An appearance by TV handyman Bob Vila in the Kool-Aid commercial was a nostalgic treat.
Who Broke During the Live Show?
During Facts, Bateman and Arnett are in the background during a scene when Bateman is seen letting a laugh out. Also, later in the episode, Stewart holds a laugh in when in a scene with the guys. And was it just us or was Hahn trying to get Aniston to break near the end when Jo tries to take the meal box away from Blair?
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