The Watchman: ‘Facts of Life’s Blair for Hire on MeTV, ‘Murder for Hire’ on Oxygen

MeTV, home of vintage shows such as Cheers and Charlie’s Angels, debuts its first original series, Collector’s Call, April 7. Hardcore collectors of pop-culture memorabilia share their funky, far-out stuff.

Lisa Whelchel hosts.

You remember Lisa Whelchel. She played rich girl Blair on The Facts of Life. Whelchel said she wasn’t looking for showbiz work, but hosting Collector’s Call just sounded like too much fun. “I would do this and not even be paid for it,” she said.

You may have seen Whelchel on Survivor in 2012. She describes Survivor as “excruciating.” Contestants are hungry and their emotions are all out of whack. Bugs are everywhere. “It’s exhausting on every level,” she said.

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The Collector’s Call collectibles include first-edition Harry Potter books with handwritten notes from J.K. Rowling, the telephone used on The Dick Van Dyke Show and strands of George Washington’s hair. “It’s hard to not be impressed, and a little bit curious, about anybody who has locks of a president’s hair,” Whelchel said.

Appraisers put a value on the collections, and attempt to get the collector to sell.

Before the premiere, MeTV offers a three-hour marathon of Whelchel’s favorite Facts of Life episodes. A life coach, Whelchel recalls her Blair days fondly. “That was an amazing experience,” she said. “We all really got along — there wasn’t a lot of backbiting.”

Also debuting April 7 is a Dick Wolf show about contract killings. Murder for Hire “showcases some of the most fascinating murder for hire cases ever caught on tape,” according to Oxygen.

Rod Aissa, Oxygen executive VP, original programming and development, said he thought the show would depict hits on mafia types and spies. Instead, it’s “housewives, wealthy bankers, military officers and even grandmothers,” according to Oxygen.

The hits might be about money, child custody or other issues that blow up relationships. Undercover operations unearth the dirty deeds. “It’s real stories of real relationships gone bad,” Aissa said.

One such real tale involves a New Jersey podiatrist having an affair. He and his girlfriend hire a local businessman to kill the wife, and the would-be hitman goes undercover to nail the couple. “You can’t write this — this happened!” said Aissa.

It’s the third Oxygen series for Wolf. “Viewers will be stunned when they understand the lengths to which aggrieved parties go to get revenge,” Wolf said.

Murder for Hire mentions a big increase in contract hits across the U.S. Aissa can’t say why more people are ordering up murders, but he does mention what seems to be “a new level” of rage out there. “Angry people who will do anything they have to,” he said, “to save what they have.”

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.