The Golden Girls is an American sitcom that originally aired on NBC from September 14, 1985, to May 9, 1992. Starring Beatrice Arthur, Betty White, Rue McClanahan and Estelle Getty, the show centers on four older women sharing a Miami, Florida home. The series was produced by Touchstone Television and distributed by Buena Vista Television.
The sitcom was originally conceived by NBC executive Brandon Tartikoff and created by Susan Harris. Tartikoff was visiting his elderly aunt one day, and saw how she and her next-door neighbor, who also was her best friend, interacted with each other. Despite their constant bickering and arguments, they were still the best of friends, and loved each other. He thought that would make a great premise for a TV show.
The Golden Girls won several awards, including the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series twice. All four stars won at least one Emmy Award throughout the series' entire run.
Originally, McClanahan was cast as Rose and White was cast as Blanche, but both actresses felt the roles were too similar to those they had played previously. White had portrayed man-hungry Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, while McClanahan had co-starred as sweet but scatterbrained Vivian Harmon opposite Arthur in Maude. Anxious not to be typecast, the two suggested they switch roles, and the producers agreed.
During its original run, The Golden Girls received 65 Emmy nominations, 11 Emmy awards, four Golden Globe Awards, and two Viewers For Quality Television awards. All the lead actresses won Emmy Awards for their performances on the show. The Golden Girls, along with All in the Family and Will & Grace, is one of the few shows where all the principal actors have won Emmy Awards.
A few weeks after their high school prom, Stanley Zbornak got Dorothy pregnant and married her to legitimize the baby. Stan and Dorothy were married for 38 years, although Stan cheated on her numerous times, finally leaving her for a young flight attendant named Chrissy, whom he met on the way to a business conference in Hawaii. As Dorothy explained in one episode, the captain on the flight told the flight attendants to "give the passengers a lei." Chrissy got confused (implying that she had sex with Stan), but she and Stan ended up marrying and living on Maui. Dorothy had two children, Kate and Michael, and a grandchild named Robbie. In the second season, an episode featuring a visit from Michael, Dorothy referred to him as being 29, which would make her 47, likely a miscalculation on the part of the writers. The following season when Michael came for a visit (in the episode "Mixed Blessings") to announce his engagement to Lorraine, Dorothy repeatedly said in one scene that Michael was only 23 and Lorraine was 44. In a season's time, Michael suddenly dropped 6 years of his life. Michael should have been 40-41 years old when that episode aired in order for Dorothy to have had given birth to him when she was 18-19 years old.
Though Dorothy and Stan were divorced, he made numerous appearances on the show (the character of Stan was portrayed by Herb Edelman), usually running to Dorothy whenever something went wrong in his life. Stan continually saw Dorothy as a comforting, reliable figure, even though he was the one who destroyed their marriage. Stan and Dorothy ended up having a one-night stand in the first season (which Stan mistakenly thought would lead to a reconciliation), and, a few seasons later, they started dating again with plans to re-marry. Dorothy called off the reconciliation on the day of the wedding when Stan asked her to sign a pre-nuptial agreement (Stan had by this time become a successful businessman). Dorothy's proud mother, Sophia, who had never quite forgiven her "yutz" son-in-law for cheating on her daughter, proudly announced to the wedding guests: "She turned him down. Remember that!"
After seven years of playing Dorothy, Bea Arthur made it clear that she wanted to leave the series. In the series' final episode, Dorothy married Blanche's uncle Lucas Hollingsworth (played by Leslie Nielsen). Stan, though saddened to see Dorothy move on to her new life without him, gave Dorothy his blessing while disguised as the limo driver who took her to the wedding.
Rose is known for being quite naive, and takes everything for its literal meaning. For example, Dorothy once mentioned that she once cut off Stan's sex, prompting Rose to ask, "You mean it grows back?" She is generally considered to be rather dumb, although she occasionally exhibits superior intelligence in certain subjects, such as plumbing (she once helped Dorothy install a new toilet and exhibited thorough knowledge of plumbing parts), and psychology (she claims that the Journal of Abnormal Psychology was published in St. Olaf and that she'd read every issue).
Rose spent the first few years of her life in an orphanage in St. Olaf. As discovered in one memorable episode, she spent much of her life convinced that Bob Hope was her biological father. Toward the end of the series run, however, she learned she had been born out of wedlock to a monk (Don Ameche) and his lover, Ingrid, who died in childbirth. Shortly after birth, as detailed by a similar episode, Rose was left on the doorstep of the unbeknownst family and subsequently adopted and raised by the large (and apparently somewhat bizarre) Lindstroms. Her adoptive father Gunter had died prior to the start of the series, but in one episode she was visited by her free-spirited adoptive mother, Alma whose maiden name was Gerkleknerbeigenhaufstetlerfrau (played by veteran star Jeanette Nolan); she later died off screen during the course of the series. Rose was one of 9 siblings (once stating that her parents loved "all 9 of us equally"); several were, like Rose, named after types of flowers. These included the two sisters who visited Rose in Miami: Lily, who was blind (played by Polly Holliday), and Holly (played by Inga Swenson), a professional musician whom Rose could not stand, as she seemed to act, as Rose once stated, "like such a jackass."
Rose was married for many years to traveling insurance salesman Charlie Nylund, who moonlighted as a horseshoe salesman, and had 5 children: three daughters (Kirsten, Bridgette, and Jeanella) and two sons (Adam and Charlie Jr.). Kirsten and Bridgette would visit their mother in Miami on more than one occasion, while Adam, Charlie Jr., and Jeanella were mentioned but never seen on the show. Rose had several grandchildren, including two granddaughters, Charley and Charlene (the former appeared on the The Golden Girls and the latter of whom visited Rose in The Golden Palace).
After Charlie's death in 1980 (he died of a heart attack while they were making love), Rose lived alone in St. Olaf for a while, and then she moved to Miami and found work at a grief counseling center. During the show's run, Charlie's pension was cut off and Rose was forced to find a more lucrative job, ending up as the assistant to consumer reporter Enrique Mas at a local TV station. Over the course of the series, Rose also volunteered at the local hospital and worked on a number of charity projects.
In later seasons, Rose became romantically involved with college professor Miles Webber (played by Harold Gould). Rose later discovered that Miles was part of the Witness Protection Program). Webber was stated as previously being known as Nicholas Carbone, an accountant from Chicago. After a gangster named Mickey "The Cheese man" Moran faked his own death, Miles was briefly re-located to Pennsylvania as an Amish farmer named Samuel Plankmaker. Incidentally, the same actor who played Miles also played "Arnie," one of Rose's brief love interests in the first season.
When the girls sold the house and bought a hotel, The Golden Palace, Rose became its wedding consultant. She was also in charge of handling all its banquets, conferences, and affairs. While she was handling a wedding reception and setting up the special "Cow-Themed Wedding," Miles' name was found in the hotel registry several times, having checked in several times with another woman. Blanche informs Rose what she has found, Rose confronts Miles with the information, and it comes out that he's not the Miles Webber that was in the hotel registry. Miles did admit he was seeing another woman who worked in a restaurant and that he couldn't choose between them. Rose ends the relationship stating that, after all they'd been through, if he wasn't sure she's the one that he wants to spend the rest of his life with, then he'll never know. Later on, Rose finds out the bride who is having the special "Cow-Themed Wedding," which has always been Rose's dream wedding (for her and Miles), is planning to marry Miles. At the end of the episode, Rose is in the hotel kitchen looking into the banquet room during the wedding ceremony. Rose tells Blanche that she has to be there in order to say goodbye and have closure.
Rose suffered from a number of health problems during the course of the show, most notably a massive heart attack during the show's final season. In one episode, it was also indicated that Rose had been addicted to painkillers for many years, having been prescribed a drug many years earlier after a farm injury. Also, in an episode entitled "72 Hours," Rose is informed that a blood transfusion she received during a routine surgery was possibly infected with HIV. After undergoing some routine tests, and anxiously waiting for 3 days, she is determined to be HIV-negative.
In honor of the character, the real-life township of St. Olaf created the Rose Nylund Award for Civic Excellence.
The house that the ladies shared, at 6151 Richmond St., initially belonged to Blanche, who had lived there for many years with her late husband George (played in flashbacks by George Grizzard). (Later in the series, however, she sold equal shares of the house to Dorothy, Rose, and Sophia.) Blanche and George had 6 children: two daughters (Rebecca and Janet, both of whom made appearances on the show) and four sons (including Matthew, a CPA who appeared in the spin-off series The Golden Palace). Biff, Doug, and Skippy were mentioned as her sons once to Dorothy but never mentioned anything further about them. Blanche had an estranged relationship with both of her daughters. Rebecca resented her for objecting to her plans to leave school to become a model in Paris; when she returned to visit for the first time in four years, she was now overweight, which Blanche had difficulty accepting at first. Janet resents Blanche for her lack of involvement in her life growing up, a fact that Blanche laments to this day regarding all of her children. Blanche had several grandchildren, notably David (a teenage rebel who visited Miami in one episode), Sara (who visited with her mother Janet during the last season), Melissa (a young beauty-pageant contestant), and Aurora (Rebecca's infant daughter, conceived by artificial insemination in one of the series' on-going storylines). Blanche acted as Rebecca's birthing coach in the delivery and the experience helped further heal their relationship.
George Devereaux's illegitimate son, David (played by Mark Moses), the seventh Devereaux child, was discovered when the young man turned up at the house, looking for George. This led Blanche to struggle with the fact that her husband, to whom she was devoted, was unfaithful during their marriage.
Throughout most of the series, Blanche was portrayed as man-hungry, and she clearly had the most male admirers -- and stories detailing various sexual encounters -- over the course of the series. At the funeral for her husband, George (who had died when a wrong-way driver hit him head-on [There was once an episode where George was thought to be alive, but we later find out that the whole episode was just Blanche's dream. She wakes up and is comforted by the girls.]), she made a date with a man because, as Rose said, "She can't be without a man, do you know what I mean?" Sophia, in particular, had some of the best lines in relation to Blanche's over-sexed nature, referring to her as a "human mattress." When Dorothy asked Blanche how long she waited to have sex after George died, Sophia responded, "'Til the paramedics came!" It was also revealed in one episode (when the girls mistakenly think that Blanche had slept with Rose's husband Charlie due to some double-exposed film) that Blanche's middle name was Elizabeth, giving her the initials BED.
Blanche was very vain and, as a result, always tried to act younger than she was. Although it is widely believed that her exact age was never revealed (it was mentioned she even had her true date of birth removed from vital records "by order of the Governor"), in Season 3, Episode 25 entitled "Mother's Day" (Aired May 7, 1988), it is revealed in a flashback that Blanche was 17 in 1949. That would make her 53 when the series began in 1985, and 61 when the spin-off ended in 1993.
Blanche was employed at an art museum, and her boss was Mr. Allen, a very nice man, although he admitted to having an affair with his best friend's wife in an episode when Dorothy came to work at the museum, sparking jealousy in Blanche, which was an on-going trait of hers.
Sophia was put away in the Shady Pines Retirement Home by Dorothy prior to the start of the series. Sophia had suffered a massive stroke, which, on more than one occasion, was said to have destroyed the part of her brain that acted as a censor; indeed, much of Sophia's popularity comes from her humorous, and often shocking, frankness and general lack of inhibition. In the pilot episode, she came to live with the girls after Shady Pines burned down. In a later episode, Sophia tried to run away to Sicily after becoming the prime suspect in starting the fire after making s'mores with a roommate on an illegal hotplate. Sophia never had good things to say about her retirement home, and she alluded to poor treatment by the staff many times throughout the series' run (although, in an episode meant to raise awareness about poor-quality nursing homes, she did admit that the treatment at Shady Pines was satisfactory). There were constant hints in the series that she and her family back in Sicily had some mafia connections; she once stated that she had lived through "two world wars, 15 vendettas, 4 operations and two Darrins on Bewitched." In one episode, she accidentally let it slip that she knew what happened to Jimmy Hoffa.
Members of Sophia's family who appeared throughout the course of the show include: her sister Angela (played by Nancy Walker), her brother Angelo (played by Bill Dana), her daughter Gloria (played by Doris Belack and Dena Dietrich), and, in flashbacks, her husband Sal, her mother (played by Bea Arthur), and her father (also played by Bill Dana), and Dorothy herself at a younger age (played by Lyn Greene). Phil, her only son, was never seen; he died later on in the series when he suffered a heart attack (due to his obesity) while trying on large women's clothing (even in his wake, Phil is referred to as wearing women's clothing). In the episode "Ebbtide's Revenge," after her son's funeral, Sophia (with the help of Dorothy's no-nonsense personality and Rose's caring counseling expertise from her grief counseling center job) finally realized the root of her anger, broke into tears, and ended the long feud with Phil's wife Angela (played by Brenda Vaccaro). It is revealed that Sophia was angry at herself because she wondered what she had done or said to her son to make him want to be a cross-dresser, and she is finally able to reconcile with Angela after coming to the realization that she still loved him. In one of Sophia's few true emotional moments, she says, "My baby's gone." Sophia always referred to Angela as "Big Sally" because it got on Angela's nerves. Phil, Angela, and their children lived in a trailer home in Newark, New Jersey.
During the series' run, Sophia married Max Weinstock (played by Jack Gilford), Sal's business partner, and attempted to revive Sal and Max's old pizza-and-knish business at the beach, but they soon separated, realizing they were better off as friends "with occasional benefits." Throughout the series, she held a few part-time jobs mostly involving food, including fast-food worker and entrepreneur of spaghetti sauce and homemade "chuck wagon" sandwiches.
Some episodes featured flashbacks to previous episodes, or to events that occurred before the series began. These earlier flashbacks usually featured Sophia living in Brooklyn with her husband, Sal, and featured Estelle Getty without her usual wig and appearing much younger in different make-up. Unlike Estelle Getty, Bea Arthur did not play the younger version of Dorothy in some of the flashback scenes. Younger Dorothy was played by actress Lynnie Greene, instead, while Arthur appeared as Sophia's mother, Eleanor.
The Golden Girls had a loyal fan base that still exists to this day, thanks to reruns. The show was often controversial, as its main characters were 4 single older women who lived together, but were still sexually active, and up-to-date with pop culture. Mild profanity and sexual innuendo were common on the program. The effects of Sophia's stroke, which, according to Dorothy, "rendered her totally annoying" and "a complete burden", enabled the character to get away with much more than the other women.
The show often tackled topics that were not frequently aired on TV. These included: the coming out of Blanche's brother and his gay marriage, menopause, gun control, impotence, drug addiction, safe sex, Empty nest syndrome, Infidelity, Interracial marriage, racism, homophobia, Organ donation, fixed income, domestic violence, Problem gambling, suicide, cross-dressing, lesbianism, plastic surgery, child abandonment, euthanasia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, pregnancy, homicide, veganism, cocaine addiction, artificial insemination, health care, agoraphobia, homelessness, immigration, sexual harassment, Illegal Immigration, and senility. Perhaps the most controversial episode involved Rose getting tested for HIV years after receiving an untested blood transfusion.
In 1989, Marc Sotkin, previously a writer on Laverne & Shirley, took over head-writing responsibilities, and guided the show (to varying degrees) during what would be its final three seasons. Other writers, including Richard Vaczy and Tracy Gamble, previously writers on 227 and My Two Dads, also assumed the roles of show runners, and were themselves replaced in 1990 with Marc Cherry and Jamie Wooten. Mitchell Hurwitz was also a long-time member of the writing staff.
In September 1991, NBC moved the series from its comfortable 9 p.m. ET time slot to 8 p.m. NBC had trouble filling the slot since 227 vacated it in the spring of 1990. Following the change, the show fell from 10th place in the previous season to 30th.
Another feature of the series was that two different actors sometimes played supporting characters, or the same actor played two different characters. For example, two actors played Blanche's father, Big Daddy (on account of the death of the original actor), and Harold Gould played Rose's boyfriend Arnie in an early episode, and returned to play another boyfriend of Rose's, Miles. Rose's daughter Kirsten, Dorothy's sister Gloria and Blanche's daughter Rebecca, were also played by two different actors, one of whom was extremely overweight (a main plot point in one episode), the other exceptionally thin.
Starting in the beginning of March 1997, the Lifetime cable network acquired the exclusive rights to repeat the episodes in the US, which will expire in February 2009. The show remains popular in its second decade on the channel, with daily airings still attracting roughly 1.2 million viewers.
The Hallmark Channel announced that The Golden Girls will be added to their line up in March 2009.
The special featured clips of the girls' favorite comedic and musical moments from the show, including never-before-seen bloopers and outtakes, as well as interviews with executive producers Paul Junger Witt and Tony Thomas, and creator/writer Susan Harris.
Arthur also paid tribute to the late Herb Edelman, who played Dorothy's womanising ex-husband Stan, stating that he was a wonderful, funny, and very warm man, and nothing like his character in the show.
|DVD title||Release dates|
|Region 1||Region 2||Region 4|
|The Golden Girls: The Complete First Season||November 23, 2004||June 25, 2005||August 16, 2005|
|The Golden Girls: The Complete Second Season||May 17, 2005||August 1, 2005||September 19, 2005|
|The Golden Girls: The Complete Third Season||November 22, 2005||January 9, 2006||January 16, 2006|
|The Golden Girls: The Complete Fourth Season||February 14, 2006||December 6, 2007||December 4, 2007|
|The Golden Girls: The Complete Fifth Season||May 9, 2006||April 17, 2008||April 1, 2008|
|The Golden Girls: The Complete Sixth Season||November 14, 2006||November 13, 2008||December 3, 2008|
|The Golden Girls: The Complete Seventh and Final Season||February 13, 2007||TBR||TBR|
The DVDs, aside from certain episodes in Seasons Three and Five, contain the original, uncut episodes of the series, which include snippets of dialogue that do not appear in the current syndicated versions.
Lifetime, the current U.S. syndicated home of The Golden Girls, aired reruns of The Golden Palace in the summer of 2005, and starting again in December of that year. This was the first time since the end of the series that The Golden Palace was seen on American television. Until April 2006, Lifetime played the series as a "virtual" Season 8, airing the series in between the conclusion of the final season and the syndicated roll-over back to Season 1.
The following year Empty Nest debuted, starring Richard Mulligan as pediatrician Harry Weston, a widower whose two adult daughters had moved back home. One supporting actor from the original episode, David Leisure, was retained in the new series, although his character, another neighbor of the Westons', was also re-named. Although the show did not feature the same characters who had appeared in "Empty Nests", the Westons' home was the same home used in the original episode. Characters from both shows made occasional guest appearances on the other show.
Empty Nest launched its own spin-off in 1991, Nurses, set in the same hospital where Dr. Weston worked. As one of the few times in television history that three shows from the same producer, set in the same city, aired back-to- back-to-back on a single network in the same night, the three shows occasionally took advantage of their unique circumstances to create storylines that carried through all three series, such as "Hurricane Saturday". This was one of the major factors in the popularity of fictional crossovers as a television plot device in the 1990s.
After the end of The Golden Palace, Getty joined the cast of Empty Nest, making frequent appearances as Sophia in the show's final years.
The outside model used in the shots of the house in the series was part of the backstage studio tour ride at Disney's Hollywood Studios. This façade — along with the Empty Nest house — was among those destroyed in Summer 2003, as Disney bulldozed the homes of "Residential Street" to make room for its "Lights, Motors, Action!" attraction. The façade was reportedly based on a real home in or near Pacific Palisades, California. The real house was seen in the first season's exterior shots. It was after this that the model was built at Walt Disney World. The interior shots of the house, obviously a soundstage, do not make any logical architectural sense in the real world. The narrow, diagonal hallway that led to the characters' bedrooms was far too close in angle to the space of the kitchen (and the supposed location of the garage) to contain any rooms that even approach the size of those shown in bedroom scenes. In fact, during the pilot episode, Blanche's bedroom was accessed through the large opening at the front of the house, later deemed the entrance to the "lanai" patio. The doors down the hallway led to different Girls' bedrooms, depending on the specific episode as well, although Blanche's bedroom was always the last door at the end of the hall.
The house's kitchen was recycled from the short-lived Susan Harris series It Takes Two, which ran in 1982-83. After the first few episodes in season 1, the polka dot wallpaper of the original kitchen was replaced with a leafy pattern, deemed to be more "tropical" in appearance. The wall directly inside the kitchen from the door leading from the family was also shortened during the wallpaper makeover. On the British DVD release of Season 1, the wallpaper alternates between the polka dots and the leafy pattern which suggests that episodes were not recorded in the order they were transmitted - or the order of episodes was altered from transmission on TV to the DVD release, though this seems unlikely.
At some times the house only has two bathrooms: one common bathroom adjacent to the hallway, and one directly adjacent to Blache's bedroom, which does not have a bathtub. Then at other times the girls all have their own private bathrooms directly adjacent to their bedrooms.