On this day 36 years ago, NBC introduced us to the Golden Girls, our new best friends.
Who didn’t want to hang out with Blanche, Dorothy, Rose and Sophia in that nice Miami home.
So pull up a chair, get you a hefty slice of cheesecake. It’s cool to stay in your pajamas, although Blanche would be wearing a nice silk robe. Let’s talk Golden Girls.
Golden Girls Represented a Novel Concept in 1980s-Era TV
You know the story. NBC decided on a series with a novel concept. Focus on four women who are either widowed or divorced. Three of them are middle-aged. One is in her 80s. Let them do the same things the younger women do — date, travel, have sex, think about remarrying. And let it all be a comedy.
TV viewing audiences already knew three of the actresses. Bea Arthur, as Dorothy, starred in her own sit-com, Maude. Rue McClanahan, who played Blanche, the flirty southern belle, co-starred on Maude. Betty White thrived as naive Rose. But on the Mary Tyler Moore Show, White played Sue Ann, who White described as the “neighborhood nymphomaniac.” White could’ve played Blanche, but she thought the character might be too much like Sue Ann.
Estelle Getty was sarcastic Sophia, Dorothy’s mom. Picture it — she came to live with the ladies after a stint at Shady Pines. Getty was the Golden Girls newcomer. She actually was a few months younger than Arthur, her on-screen daughter. But add a wig, some glasses and a straw purse and Getty easily was believable as 80-something Sophia. Her acting career didn’t take off until she was in her 50s.
In a funny moment on the show, Sophia proclaimed that being in your 80s made you cute again. But big picture, the Golden Girls made middle-aged women prominent, beautiful and lovable again.
In Show’s Debut, Sophia Moves In, Another Character Moves On
In the debut episode 36 years ago, Sophia shows up on the doorstep of Blanche, Dorothy and Rose saying her retirement home burned down. So she moves in. And another character moves on. Coco, the cook and housekeeper, is seen in only this episode. He never returns.
The Golden Girls stayed a top 10 show for its first six years. All the women won an Emmy. Only three other sitcoms in TV history can brag that all major characters won the genre’s biggest trophy. And the series, itself, won twice for most outstanding comedy.
Throughout the seven seasons, the women addressed all sorts of social issues. But they did so in very funny ways. There wasn’t a topic they wouldn’t touch. Plus, they always solved their problems around the dinner table in the kitchen. That’s where they would have cheesecake and maybe some ice cream, too. True story, despite cheesecake being such a prominent dessert, served on the Golden Girls, Arthur hated the taste of it. Dorothy could be a contrarian.
The final episode ran May 9, 1992. It was called One Flew Out of the Cuckoo’s Nest. In it, Dorothy falls in love with Blanche’s Uncle Lucas, who was played by Leslie Nielsen. The two got married. The women knew their Golden Girls lives wouldn’t be the same with Dorothy moving to Atlanta. Dorothy comes back inside for one final hug.
The only living cast member is Betty White. But the show still lives in constant reruns on several cable networks. All we can say is this — Golden Girls, thank you for being our friend.