Most fans agree on this: every episode of the Golden Girls was funny because of the presence of Dorothy, Blanche, Rose, and Sophia.
The classic TV series ran from 1985-92 for 177 episodes. Picking your favorite Golden Girls half hour is like selecting your favorite flavor of ice cream. It’s all good.
But there is such a thing as having a least favorite, as opposed to the worst episode. And a number of fans seem to be in agreement on this one — it’s “Empty Nests,” which ran May 16, 1987, in season two. Voters on IMDB.com gave it a 3.6 rating. And users with Episode Ninja decided it was the worst Golden Girls episode of all time. (They used the term worst, not least favorite).
So what made this Golden Girls episode, well, less golden? It was supposed to be a backdoor pilot for a spinoff called Empty Nest. And if you’re a fan of classic TV comedies from the 1980s and 90s, you know about Empty Nest. It starred Kristy McNichol, Richard Mulligan, Dinah Manoff and David Leisure. Plus, there was Dreyfess the dog. The comedy ran from 1988-95. And it told the story of a widower doctor named Harry Weston and his two grown daughters.
But “Empty Nests” on Golden Girls, as a backdoor pilot, didn’t look like what eventually NBC put on the air in 1988. Maybe fans of the Golden Girls didn’t prefer the episode because our favorite ladies weren’t seen on screen very much.
The episode looked terrific on paper. Paul Dooley portrayed Dr. George Corliss with the fabulous Rita Moreno as his wife, Renee. They were neighbors of the Golden Girls. And the couple was dealing with an empty nest. However, George couldn’t retire, although Renee was desperate for him to do so.
It was Rose (Betty White) who explained what an empty nest was to Renee.
“When I had it, I didn’t know what it was,” Rose told Renee. “I was just very depressed. By the time I figured out what it was, I was gonna tell Charlie, but he died that night.”
But Renee doesn’t think she can pester George about spending more time with her. After all, he’s doing God’s work as a doctor. Folks at the hospital referred to him as “St. George.”
Rose didn’t want George to quit his practice because he “is the only man to ever see me naked” (other than her husband). Then Rose thinks some more and says the vet also saw her without clothes. That perplexed the ladies. Why would that be? Seems the vet treated Rose’s prize chicken. And he also treated Rose for an ear ache. Dorothy asks her: “For that you got naked?” Rose, all serious, replies “I thought that was strange, too.”
See, it was a Golden Girls episode that made you smile, but maybe not as much as comparison to the other 176. NBC recast the pilot and tweaked the names of the characters before giving it a full run.
And the Golden Girls still live on every day on cable networks or streaming services.