Recap: Tootie and Natalie are off to Buffalo to visit Tootie's Aunt Sylvia and Uncle Brian. Sylvia works as a local news anchor and has promised to give the girls a tour of the TV studio, which they're super excited about. Natalie also gushes about how eager she is to meet Uncle Brian, who was on the 1976 U.S. Olympic hockey team and now coaches teenage boys in the sport. And now that that we have some background information on two superfluous characters we've never seen on the show (and will never see again), Tootie and Natalie hug Blair and Jo goodbye, then rush off to the bus depot with Mrs. Garrett.
Sylvia, a young, pretty black woman, arrives home and greets her white husband, Brian, in an annoyingly over enthusiastic manner...and her overacting only gets more cringe-inducing as the episode wears on. Incidentally, Brian is played by Richard Dean Anderson (aka MacGyver) and we soon learn that it's a really big deal that he's white, she's black, and they're married. And since I found it a little weird that the entire episode centered around some random couple living in Buffalo, I did a bit of Googling and discovered that this "backdoor pilot" was one of several lame attempts to create a Facts of Life spin-off - but was never actually developed into a series. Shocker.
Sylvia presents Brian with a bottle of champagne to celebrate their first wedding anniversary. He points out that they've been living together for two years, then asks her if she's blushing and quips, "I swear, it's hard to tell with you" and she retorts, "Watch it, pale face." OMFG, '80s TV. The two gabble for longer than is reasonably necessary about how neither of them imagined they'd be married to someone of a different race, which...is painfully clear. Sylvia's mom drops by to congratulate them on their anniversary, and Brian reminds her that she practically picketed their wedding, so she sassily retorts, "It’s a bit of a shock when you’re expecting Billy Dee and you get a vanilla hockey puck.” Badoom bah. She assures him she finally came to accept her daughter's choice of a husband, then toasts their union. Sylvia says she has some big news to share, but before she can spit it out, her father phones and asks to speak to Brian...and Brian takes the call in the bedroom. Sylvia tells her mom the big news: she's been offered a job as an anchor for the six o'clock news for a station in New York City. She's super excited about this dream job, but unfortunately there's one hitch: Brian looooves his job coaching hockey at the youth center and probably won't want to leave Buffalo. She tells her mom that this job is the opportunity of a lifetime, and she really really hopes Brian will consider moving. She then invites her mom to move to New York with them ('cause poor Brian won't be jarred enough by the abrupt move to New York), and the old woman starts cackling about how she's definitely up for it. Well d'yuh - what '80s sitcom about an interracial couple would be complete without a sassy, meddling mother-in-law to spice things up? Brian finishes his call and re-enters the living room, and Sylvia's mom congratulates them again on their one year anniversary, then wisely flees the apartment so her daughter can unleash her big news on her unsuspecting husband.
Brian asks what her big news is, so she tells him she was offered the job as the six o'clock news anchor - but leaves out the part about how the job is in New York. She says she hasn't given the station an answer yet, and Brian's all, "Wuh? Why not? Call them back this minute and accept the job!" He hands her the phone, so she starts dialing...and while she's dialing she tells him a "teeny tiny issue" about the job, which is that it's in New York. Brian immediately orders her to hang up the phone and asks her how New York became a part of the offer...and she shoots him a look of fake bewilderment and says, "That's where the job offer came from." Meanwhile, Tootie and Natalie arrive to remind viewers that they're still watching an episode of The Facts of Life - and they can hear Brian and Sylvia arguing from the hall. Tootie says this might not be the best time to announce their arrival, but Natalie thinks that maybe her aunt and uncle need a break from fighting and urges Tootie to ring the doorbell. When Brian hears the bell, he snaps, "Who is it?!" and rolls his eyes when Tootie and Natalie meekly identify themselves. Sylvia answers the door and hugs Tootie hello and gets introduced to Natalie, who's shocked to learn that Sylvia is married to a white man. She glances over at him and mumbles, "Tootie told me a lot about you...but not everything."
Sylvia shows Tootie and Natalie to the guest room. Tootie asks her if everything is OK, and she goes, "Of course. Why?" so Tootie tells her they could hear them arguing from the hall. She shrugs it off as "husband and wife stuff" then informs them that they'll all be heading out to the TV studio in ten minutes. Apparently, Brian is scheduled to do an interview during her newscast, which is part of a series on Buffalo's Talking Proud campaign. When she leaves the room, Natalie asks Tootie why she didn't tell her that Brian and Sylvia had a mixed marriage, and Tootie scrunches her face in fake confusion and goes, "What do you mean, a mixed marriage? He's not Jewish." Badoom bah. She then explains that it didn't occur to her to make a big deal out of Brian being white 'cause he's so much a part of the Ramsey family. Natalie says she's pretty shocked, despite how liberal and open-minded she is...and Tootie tells her that the most important thing is that Brian and Sylvia are deeply in love. Cue their loud arguing from the living room again. Natalie breezily says that all married couples fight, but Tootie despondently retorts, "Yeah...just before they break up." Incidentally, I found out from Wikipedia that Brian and Sylvia do end up getting divorced - but fortunately it's off camera.
Brian can't grasp why Sylvia would want to move to New York, since she's a huge celebrity in Buffalo. He smarmily reminds her that everyone's always saying how much prettier she looks in real life, and she modestly chuckles and goes, "What am I going to do with you?" She explains that she wants more than just being a local news anchor in Buffalo, then theatrically proclaims, "I want it all! I want Jane Pauley's job!" She points out that a move to New York could also be an incredible opportunity for him, particularly since the city has a ton of juvenile delinquents he could try to rehabilitate. Heh. Brian grumbles that his work with the kids at the youth center is just starting to take off, then reminds her that Buffalo is his hometown, and that the people here were very supportive of him during the time he was in training for the 1976 Olympics. Sylvia doesn't seem to give much of a rat's ass 'bout that and refers to the job offer as her Olympics. She then asks him, point blank, if he's planning to come to New York with her, and he despondently stares into space and says, "There's nothing more to say." OK. So, um...no?
Tootie and Natalie emerge from the guest room and awkwardly interrupt their argument to remind Sylvia that it's time to head over to the TV studio for her five o'clock newscast.
Sylvia gives Tootie and Natalie a quick tour of the studio, then tells them she has to go on the air in a few minutes and suggests they hang out in the control room. After they amble off, a hunched over guy named Ray (I'll assume he's the station manager) shuffles over and snarks at Sylvia for plunging a knife in his back. She looks suitably chastened and says she feels very bad for resigning from her position, and he retorts that he's mostly mad that he heard about it from the parking attendant and not her. That does seem a tad disrespectful. Sylvia tells Ray she can't talk about this right now, since she's going on the air in two minutes...but he manages to guilt her for a few more seconds just as Brian arrives to do his interview.
Sylvia begins her newscast...and the show fast forwards to her Buffalo Youth Center interview with Brian. She introduces him to viewers as her husband, and he briefly describes what the youth center has to offer. He says he's proud of the work he's done, then suddenly grimaces and says, "Hopefully whoever takes my place will do a good job." Sylvia scrunches her face in faux confusion and says, "I don't understand what you're talking about" so he's like, "Duh. We're moving to New York." Sylvia stares back at him blankly and repeats, "New York..?" as if she's never heard of the city before, then asks what will become of all the Buffalo youth who depend on him for hockey coaching. He grimly replies that he has to move because of "family business" then says he doesn't want to hold her career back. Meanwhile, the camera crew, who has no idea what the hell is going on, desperately try to catch Sylvia's attention so they can signal her to cut to commercial.
Sylvia finally remembers that she's on the air and abruptly cuts to commercial. Ray shuffles over to reprimand her for her totally unprofessional and inappropriate on air behavior, but she quickly tells him she's decided not to leave the station after all. After Ray high-fives himself and disappears into the background, Brian assures Sylvia that he can find work in New York, but she shakes her head no and says there will be other job offers and that they'll move when it's right for both of them. Brian perks up and asks, "Are you sure?" and she nods and says she can't be happy if he's miserable...and the two lean toward each other and kiss.
Up in the control room, Tootie grins and tells Natalie how much she looooves happy endings.
And that's a wrap for Season 2!
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6/25/2021 09:21:30 am
I think the divorce gets mentioned in another episode a few seasons later, when the race issue comes up, something about Natalie dating Tootie's cousin. Tootie says when her aunt and uncle got divorced, everybody was saying it's a good thing there were no children (?!)
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