ABC's third Live in Front of a Studio Audience special will include former The Daily Show anchor Jon Stewart's first performance in a role other than himself in two decades. Stewart will star in a recreation of a Facts of Life episode during the 90-minute special, which also includes a performance of a Diff'rent Strokes episode. Stewart's role remains a mystery, but he will star opposite Jennifer Aniston in The Facts of Life. The show debuts on Tuesday, Dec. 7 at 8 p.m. ET.
Before the broadcast, executive producers Brent Miller and Norman Lear said Stewart was excited about joining the show. "When someone has a great idea, it's all hands on deck to go for that person," Miller told The Hollywood Reporter. "Jon happens to be represented by the same [agent] who represents Jimmy [Kimmel] and Stephen Colbert so it was an easy ask. Now, as for his decision on whether to do it, you can ask him about that but he seems excited."
The Facts of Life portion will star Aniston as Blair, Gabrielle Union as Tootie, Allison Tolman as Natalie, Kathryn Hahn as Jo, and Ann Dowd as Mrs. Garrett. ABC kept Stewart's role a secret. The Facts of Life was a spin-off of Diff'rent Strokes, and originally starred Charlotte Rae as Mrs. Garrett, Kim Fields as Tootie, Nancy McKeon as Jo, and Mindy Cohn as Natalie. The series was created by Dick Clair and Jenna McMahon, and aired from 1979 to 1988.
The Diff'rent Strokes portion of the special will also feature Dowd as Mrs. Garrett. John Lithgow will play Dr. Drummond and Kevin Hart plays Arnold. Damon Wayans will play Willis. Diff'rent Strokes aired from 1978 to 1985 and was created by Jeff Harris and Bernie Kukoff. Conrad Bain was the original Mr. Drummond, while Gary Coleman played Arnold. Todd Bridges played Willis.
Lear, who was a producer on both original shows, joins Jimmy Kimmel, Miller, Kerry Washington, Will Ferrell, Justin Theroux, and Jim Burrows as a producer on Live in Front of a Studio Audience. The special is produced by Sony Pictures Television and will be available on Hulu the day after it airs. Burrows and Andy Fisher will direct the special.
The first two Live in Front of a Studio Audience specials were big hits for ABC. The 2019 special recreated episodes of All in the Family and The Jeffersons, while the 2020 special featured episodes of All in the Family and Good Times. Jamie Foxx, Marisa Tomei, Ellie Kemper, Anthony Anderson, Sean Hayes, Kevin Bacon, Justina Machado, Andre Braugher, Wanda Sykes, Ferrell, Washington, Viola Davis and John Amos are among the stars who have participated. The first special also won the 2019 Emmy for Outstanding Variety Special (Live).
As for Stewart, he is best known for hosting The Daily Show from 1999 to 2015. He now hosts The Problem with Jon Stewart, which debuted on Apple TV+ in September. He has also been a tireless advocate for 9/11 first responders. ABC hasn't said which episode of The Facts of Life will be brought to life, so it's difficult to say which of the male roles on the show he could fill. The series also starred John Lawlor, as Steven Bradley in Season 1, and a pre-fame George Clooney as George Burnett in Seasons 7 and 8. Mackenzie Astin also played Andy Moffett, a foster child.