‘Golden Girls’: Rue McClanahan Explained How There Was No ‘Slippage’ in Quality in Later Seasons

by Clayton Edwards
(Photo by Jim Smeal/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

We have all watched it happen. You’ll start watching a series and it’s great. Then, as time goes on, the writers run out of ideas, or the characters’ arcs are all finished. However, the show keeps going. Before long, the series hits a shark-jumping moment and things just get worse from there. Sometimes, you can stick it out. Other shows just slowly wither away in quality until they are finally canceled. One show that never had that problem was Golden Girls.

Golden Girls ran for seven seasons. Over the course of those seasons, the quality of the show stayed pretty much the same. Behind the scenes, writers and directors developed strong storylines. At the same time, the main cast delivered expert performances in every episode.

Rue McClanahan spoke to Larry King about how the show stayed consistent over the years in a 1988 interview. The year before that, she won an Emmy for her work on Golden Girls.

Why the Golden Girls Never Tarnished

During the interview, Rue McClanahan said that they had finished the third season of Golden Girls and were headed into the fourth. So, they were more than halfway through the series. For many shows, quality would have already started to wane. However, this was not true of McClanahan and her cast mates’ classic sitcom.

Larry King didn’t pussyfoot around. One of the first things he asked about Golden Girls was, “Is it more difficult, the more you go on, to get good scripts?”

McClanahan replied, “Oh no. Oh no. I don’t see any slippage.” She then added, “I think they’re just as funny as they ever were.”

King agreed. However, he pointed out that maintaining consistency for that long is hard for most shows.

With a proud smile, Rue replied, “It’s hard to do, but it can happen when you have wonderful writers.”

One thing that set Golden Girls apart, McClanahan noted, was that they used the same team of writers all the time. About once a year, she said, showrunners might buy an outside script. Then, they would hand the script over to the regular writers to polish it so that it fit perfectly with the rest of the series. However, most of the time, the series had the same team working on the stories.

So, a big part of the reason that Golden Girls was so consistently good on-screen was that they had a consistent team behind the scenes. The writers knew, loved, and developed the characters from day one. So, they knew how to keep the characters as well as the stories moving in the correct direction.