Jimmy Kimmel and Lear recreate classic episodes of “Facts of Life” and “Diff’rent Strokes” starring Kevin Hart, Damon Wayans, Snoop Dogg, Jennifer Aniston, Kathryn Hahn, Gabrielle Union, Jon Stewart and more!
For the third time, Jimmy Kimmel partnered with the now 99-year-old Normal Lear to recreate two episodes from his classic lineup of sitcoms. This time in the spotlight were “The Facts of Life” and “Diff’rent Strokes.”
Like many of Lear’s shows, the two were connected, with Ann Dowd pulling double duty as Edna Garrett, the Drummond family housekeeper from “Strokes” who moved over to “Facts” to headline her own show.
Much was made prior to the premiere of these specials of the decision to cast full-grown adults in roles made famous by children, but the whole thing actually worked pretty well. It helped that everyone cast around Kevin Hart’s Arnold was significantly taller than him, but what really sold it were the performances themselves..
Still, we cracked up at Damon Wayans (playing his 13-year-old brother Willis) ad-libbing that “even though he looks 45, he’s just 8” about his scene partner. Hart got the last laugh, though, and in fact the last laugh of the night with a killer ad-lib of his own.
Crawling into bed with his big brother, Hart’s Arnold asked Willis, “How come Vernon always smells like weed?” Willis’ friend featured throughout the episode, brought to life by Snoop Dogg, who actually held down the role like a pro.
It was just one of the delightful casting decisions made throughout the night. Earlier, fans got a huge kick out of Jon Stewart’s surprise role as a kid wearing dental gear that was made fun of and used by the girls of “Facts” before they learned their important lesson about compassion.
In particular, Jennifer Aniston’s Blair had to face her own teenage insensitivity at the hands of Dowd’s Mrs. Garrett, with a healthy does of humility for Allison Tolman’s Natalie, too. But the real showstopper for many online was the surprise appearance of three of the O.G. “Life” girls.
Lisa Welchel was first out, with the original Blair performing the show’s iconic theme song before being joined by co-stars Mindy Cohn (Natalie) and Kim Fields (Tootie). And so, the first thing Twitter noticed was that Welchel looks virtually unchanged from her days on “Life,” meaning she looked younger than most of the adults in the recreation cast.
Below are all the moments that got fans talking on Twitter as they took in this fun live event, even if it wasn’t tackling issues as big or serious as the first two explorations featuring “All in the Family,” “The Jeffersons” and “Good Times.”
Norman “Potty Mouth” Lear
Known for generating plenty of controversy through his years as a television producer, Norman Lear wasted no time getting all the attention right at the top of this show by dropping an unscripted and unplanned f-bomb on live television. When Jimmy Kimmel asked him for some life advice, Lear said, “When something is over it is– you used the word, so I will, it’s f—— over.” He then realized, “Oh, but you didn’t do it on camera!” Thankfully, the tape delay was on, but even had it not been, who would really complain about that?
The Immortal Lisa Welchel
Some people just have this ability to defy aging — Denzel Washington and Paul Rudd know a thing or two about that — and Lisa Welchel is definitely one of those people. After being out of the spotlight for awhile, Welchel first stunned fans with her ageless beauty when she joined the cast of “Survivor” in 2012 and another decade on, she still looks exactly the same!
Any time you go live, there are going to be moments where things go a little off the rails. In comedy, the most common instance of this is when the cast breaks. And just like on “Saturday Night Live,” this audience was waiting for it and loved it every single time it happened. Probably the most egregious (and charmingly sweet) offense came between Kathryn Hahn — chewing up scenery per usual as Jo — and Jennifer Aniston couldn’t keep it together anymore. Add to that some of the cast ad-libs that no one saw coming and it was clear everyone was having a blast!
It was wonderful seeing Todd Bridges back on the familiar set that made him a star, but unlike the trio of beautiful women who helped ring in “The Facts of Life,” Bridges had no one to stand beside him. As he pointed out, all of his original co-stars have since passed on, including Gary Coleman, Charlotte Rae, Conrad Bain and Dana Plato. There was a poignancy in him standing there alone, but also a powerful love and respect.
Alfonso Ribeiro’s Radical Retro Ads
As always, one of the biggest treats of these “Live in Front of a Studio Audience” events are the fake retro ads that we get for ABC programming. But they’ve also gotten actual sponsors in on some of their ads in the past, and this time around we got the connecting theme of Alfonso Ribeiro, mashing up several classic ’80s ads to create truly bizarre moments that had us hungry, turned on and laughing all at the same time.
Kevin Hart’s Kid at Heart
Obviously, it’s the role he’s playing portraying an 8-year-old kid, but fans were loving how all in Kevin Hart was in bringing Gary Coleman’s Arnold to life. Particular highlights were when he literally climbed up on Mr. Drummond’s (John Lithgow) lap and toward the end when he slowly lowered himself out of his upper bunk bed. The physical comedy alone he brought to the role was out of this world — and props to Lithgow, who actually picked up and carried Hart through the kitchen at one point.
Pulling double duty throughout the night, though she had far less to do on the “Strokes” episode, Ann Dowd was a far cry from her “Handmaid’s Tale” role. Instead, she immersed herself flawlessly into Charlotte Rae’s vocal tics, delivery, physicality and mannerisms. In other words, the Emmy winner truly became Mrs. Garrett in an immersive performance that did not go unnoticed or underappreciated. She was the glue that held the night together.