Golden Girls, The


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About

The opening line of the popular song "Thank You for Being a Friend" not only became the weekly thematic prelude to the situation comedy, The Golden Girls, it also came to represent the sensibility which sprang from the heart of this delightful program. With The Golden Girls NBC brought to television one of the first representations of senior women coming together to create a circle of friends that functioned as a family. The program centered around four main characters: Dorothy Sbornak (Bea Arthur), a divorced school teacher; Sophia Petrillo (Estelle Getty), Dorothy's elderly, widowed mother; Blanche DeVereaux (Rue McClanahan), a widow and owner of the Miami home in which all of the women lived, and Rose Nylund (Betty White), a widow and an active volunteer in the community. Aside from the mother-daughter relationship between Dorothy and Sophia, no other family relations existed between the women, yet they shared their daily lives, dreams, fears, and dilemmas as a unit. The group life of the characters enabled expression of diverse opinions and approaches to problems the women faced as individuals.

The south Florida setting added a warmth and lightness to the show, reflected in the tropical furniture and clothing favored by the women. The vivid colors and the light that flooded the production visually represented the vibrance of the lives of the characters.

Though all of the women were late-middle aged or beyond, they were presented as full of life, working, capable, and energetic. Even Sophia, the elderly mother was often in plays, taking trips, having dates, and doing charity work. Blanche, the youngest of the golden girls, known for her fondness for men, enjoyed her reputation for wild sex. (Though Blanche's sexual adventures were always a topic of conversation, they were never actually portrayed on the program). Rose, the storyteller of the group, boasted about her roots in St. Olaf, Minnesota and was painted as much more conservative than the passionate Blanche. Much of the comedy in the program stemmed from the absurdity of Rose's stories of her "simple" hometown. These rambling narratives were often utterly inane, but eventually, after the no-nonsense Dorothy shouted in frustration, "the point, Rose, get to the point!", the story would offer warm-hearted advice or a perceptive viewpoint on the problem at hand. Sophia often aimed her sharp and sarcastic wit at Rose's stories, making fun of her in a critical, but kind, way. Dorothy, the working school teacher and the voice of reason, generally played against the more extreme, often comical perspectives of the other women. Despite individual eccentricities, each woman was wise in her own way and each valued the others' experiences and sage advice. Each played her part in the maintenance of friendships and family bonds that resulted from their cohabitation.

The Golden Girls valued women and put special emphasis on the importance of women's networks friendships, and experiences. The series was big enough to showcase the concerns and escapades of four distinctive, aging women, yet balanced enough to combine the individual experiences into a positive picture of four senior citizens functioning together to make the most of life.

Despite the success of the program, NBC dropped The Golden Girls from the prime time line up at the end of the 1992 season. CBS picked up the program, but Arthur refused to make the move. The new network changed the show into The Golden Palace, and set it in a hotel run by Blanche, Rose and Sophia. It was a failure, and after its swift cancellation, the character Sophia returned to NBC to do occasional walk-ons on Empty Nest, a Golden Girls spin-off.

-Dawn Michelle Nill

CAST

Dorothy Zbornak...................................... Bea Arthur  

Rose Nylund.......................................... Betty White

Blanche Devereaux......................... Rue McClanahan  

Sophia Petrillo...................................... Estelle Getty

PRODUCERS

Paul Junger Witt, Tony Thomas, Susan Harris

PROGRAMMING HISTORY

180 Episodes

NBC

September 1985-July 1991   Saturday 9:00-9:30

August 1991-September 1992   Saturday 8:00-8:30

FURTHER READING

Gold, Todd. "Golden Girls in Their Prime." Saturday Evening Post (Indianapolis, Indiana), July-August 1986.

"Golden Girls Gets Golden Price in Syndication." Broadcasting (Washington, D.C.), 6 June 1988.

Kaler, Anne K. "Golden Girls: Feminine Archetypal Patterns of the Complete Woman." Journal of Popular Culture (Bowling Green, Ohio), Winter 1990.

Walley, Wayne. "Golden Girl of Sitcoms; Susan Harris Helps Tv Catch Up to Real." Advertising Age (New York), 30 January 1986.

Waters, Harry F. "A New Golden Age; The Over-55 Set Flexes its Wrinkles on Prime Time." Newsweek (New York), 18 November 1985.

Highlights
Rue McClanahan on first getting the script for The Golden Girls
01:12
Betty White on how the cast complemented each other on The Golden Girls
00:29
Beatrice Arthur on her favorite Golden Girls episode (with Sonny & Cher parody) "An Illegitimate Concern" (airdate: February 12, 1990)
00:57
Jay Sandrich on his role in casting Betty White (originally as "Blanche") and Rue McClanahan on The Golden Girls
02:40
Betty White on the original script and casting of The Golden Girls
01:36
Winifred Hervey on enjoying writing for Bea Arthur on The Golden Girls
02:12
Who talked about this show

Beatrice Arthur

View Interview
Beatrice Arthur on her favorite Golden Girls episode (with Sonny & Cher parody) "An Illegitimate Concern" (airdate: February 12, 1990)
00:57
Beatrice Arthur on how she got the role of "Dorothy" on The Golden Girls
01:19
Beatrice Arthur on her character, "Dorothy," on The Golden Girls
01:18
Beatrice Arthur on working with Estelle Getty and the fun she had with her character on The Golden Girls
02:31
Beatrice Arthur on leaving The Golden Girls
01:13

Larry Auerbach

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Larry Auerbach on representing Beatrice Arthur
02:37

Ken Berry

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Ken Berry on guest-starring on The Golden Girls
00:54

Paul Bogart

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Paul Bogart on his negative experience as director and supervising producer for the first few episodes of The Golden Girls
02:38

Betty White with Emerson College

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Betty White on playing "Rose Nylund" on The Golden Girls
06:21
Betty White on working with Estelle Getty as "Sophia Petrillo" on The Golden Girls
01:51

Bill Dana with Emerson College

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Bill Dana on his guest shot on The Golden Girls, where he got his biggest laugh
03:21

Bill Dana

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Bill Dana on his recurring role as "Uncle Angelo" on The Golden Girls and the biggest laugh he ever got, which was on that show

Elinor Donahue

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Elinor Donahue on appearing on The Golden Girls
00:41

Michael Eisner

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Michael Eisner on the development of The Golden Girls and the role Estelle Getty played in making the women seem "young"; on finding the audience "you can't kill a good show"

Richard Frank

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Richard Frank on developing The Golden Girls
07:49

Betty Garrett

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Betty Garrett on guest-starring on The Golden Girls
01:04

Winifred Hervey

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Winifred Hervey on writing for The Golden Girls
00:51
Winifred Hervey on the pilot episode of The Golden Girls
00:21
Winifred Hervey on being story editor/story consultant on The Golden Girls
01:29
Winifred Hervey on the diversity of the staff on The Golden Girls
00:25
Winifred Hervey on the development of the characters on The Golden Girls
00:45
Winifred Hervey on her creative freedom on The Golden Girls
00:53
Winifred Hervey on the cast of The Golden Girls and writing for the characters
01:28
Winifred Hervey on censorship on The Golden Girls
01:06
Winifred Hervey on storylines on The Golden Girls and the relationship between actors and writers
01:48
Winifred Hervey on writing for each character on The Golden Girls
01:08
Winifred Hervey on enjoying writing for Bea Arthur on The Golden Girls
02:12
Winifred Hervey on working with Susan Harris on The Golden Girls
02:12
Winifred Hervey on the writers' room of The Golden Girls
02:09
Winifred Hervey on her favorite episodes of The Golden Girls
02:58
Winifred Hervey on winning her first Emmy for The Golden Girls
01:27
Winifred Hervey on the legacy of The Golden Girls
01:00
Winifred Hervey on leaving The Golden Girls
01:03

Arnie Kogen

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Arnie Kogen on writing for the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards
03:12

Hal Linden

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Hal Linden on guest-starring on The Golden Girls
02:03

Warren Littlefield

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Warren Littlefield on the creation of The Golden Girls
06:52
Warren Littlefield on the appeal of The Golden Girls
04:05

Christopher Lloyd

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Christopher Lloyd on the storytelling on The Golden Girls and the six-scene format
01:58
Christopher Lloyd on why The Golden Girls was a ground-breaking show and its influence on future sitcoms
02:59
Christopher Lloyd on his first writing job on The Golden Girls and how he got the job; the writing process on that show; coming up with story ideas
Christopher Lloyd on some of the racier topics dealt with on The Golden Girls: sex, interracial dating, etc
01:05
Christopher Lloyd on his favorite Golden Girls episodes: "Second Motherhood"
03:22
Christopher Lloyd on writing for the different characters on The Golden Girls; on writing for older women
01:23

Chuck Lorre

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Chuck Lorre on writing spec scripts of The Golden Girls
00:08
Chuck Lorre on writing a spec script for The Golden Girls featuring Betty White
02:58

Rue McClanahan

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Rue McClanahan on first getting the script for The Golden Girls
01:12
Rue McClanahan on the switch to her playing "Blanche" on The Golden Girls (the role originally intended for Betty White)
00:52
Rue McClanahan on convincing Bea Arthur to be in The Golden Girls, and how the casting then fell into place
00:54
Rue McClanahan on the real-life interactions of the stars of The Golden Girls
02:44

Rita Moreno

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Rita Moreno on appearing in The Golden Girls episode which was a pilot for the spinoff Empty Nest
04:35

Gail Parent

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Gail Parent on writing for Rue McClanahan as "Blanche Devereaux" on The Golden Girls
01:31
Gail Parent on joining the writing staff of The Golden Girls
06:57
Gail Parent on her evolving role on The Golden Girls
02:28
Gail Parent on writing for Beatrice Arthur as "Dorothy Zbornak" on The Golden Girls
02:26
Gail Parent on writing for Betty White as "Rose Nylund" on The Golden Girls
01:28
Gail Parent on writing for Estelle Getty as "Sophia Petrillo" on The Golden Girls
02:50
Gail Parent on writing a balance between the four leads on The Golden Girls
01:14
Gail Parent on pushing the boundaries on The Golden Girls 
02:06
Gail Parent on her favorite Golden Girls moments
04:30
Gail Parent on being nominated for Emmys for The Golden Girls
01:49
Gail Parent on the end and legacy of The Golden Girls
01:59

Jay Sandrich

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Jay Sandrich on his role in casting Betty White (originally as "Blanche") and Rue McClanahan on The Golden Girls
02:40

John Shaffner

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John Shaffner on set decoration on the pilots for The Golden Girls and Amanda's
05:26

Jack Shea

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Jack Shea on directing The Golden Girls and working with the ensemble of Bea Arthur, Betty White, Rue McClanahan, and Estelle Getty
02:35

Jeffrey Tambor

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Jeffrey Tambor on guest-starring on The Golden Girls
01:46

Tony Thomas

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Tony Thomas on how The Golden Girls came about
05:15
Tony Thomas on casting The Golden Girls
01:10
Tony Thomas on the cast of The Golden Girls
05:43
Tony Thomas on battles with Standards and Practices over The Golden Girls
00:59
Tony Thomas on favorite episodes of The Golden Girls
03:10
Tony Thomas on The Golden Girls going off the air
01:35

Dean Valentine

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Dean Valentine on Touchstone Television's relationship with Witt/Thomas Productions, producers of The Golden Girls and Blossom
04:08

Betty White

View Interview
Betty White on how the cast complemented each other on The Golden Girls
00:29
Betty White on the original script and casting of The Golden Girls
01:36
Betty White on Rue McClanahan
00:36
Betty White on The Golden Girls director Terry Hughes
00:50
Betty White on The Golden Girls creator Susan Harris
00:37

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