Monday, April 23, 2012

A Tribute to Great Television: The Golden Girls

Picture it Miami "Four women, friends.They laugh, they cry, they eat. They love, they hate, they eat.They dream, they hope, they eat. Every time your turn around, they eat.”  The Golden Girls (1985-1992) was the show about four women who come together in the twilight of their lives to live together. These four women were so brilliantly unique.  This show is the first classic comedy I am crowning because to me it is one of the most perfect sitcoms of all time.  

There was Dorothy  who was played by Beatrice Arthur who, and is lovingly referred to "Brooklyn Italian" by her roommate Blanche.  Dorothy is a substitute teacher, divorced, and one strong lady.  Blanche played by Rue McClanahan is the no so proper southern belle, picture a wannabe modern day Scarlet O'Hara.  Blanche was widowed because "No man in his right mind would leave me willingly" she jests.  Caught in the middle of these is the good-natured farmer's daughter Rose played by Betty White who hales from good ole St. Olaf Minnesota.  Rose's sweet but naive personality helps bring out lots of laughs.  Then last but certainly not least there is Sophia played by Estelle Getty.  Sophia is Dorothy's who has had a stroke which inhibits her to say exactly what's on her mind.  Together these four ladies live together, make fun of each other, support one another, and create one of the best foursomes in television history.

Looking back even now this is an impressive pedigree of women.  Beatrice Arthur was an indelible stage presence starring in multiple productions including her Tony winning role in Mame.  Arthur's most famous role prior to the The Golden Girls was the Norman Lear show Maude. As Maude Findley Arthur was a different women for television; she was outspoken, and liberal and was one of the earliest feminist characters in television history.  Arthur shared the screen on Maude with Rue McClanahan as well.  Rue played Maude's best friend Vivian a quieter less obnoxious, and more genteel character.  Rue also played a similar role in Mama's Family for a year where she played Aunt Fran.  Rue's quiet gentility was juxtaposed to Betty White's sassy ways of her niece on the show Betty White's Sue Ellen.  Betty White had a long prestigious run on television but she was known most for her role as sex kitten Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show.  In a freaky Friday situation McClanahan and White had a role reversal, one of the smartest moves for the creators of the show.  While these three where television and stage veterans Getty was a relative newcomer, but she held her own.

From eating tons of cheesecake to some pretty bad St. Olaf stories these four women held their own year after year.  They did one thing that shows today have a hard time doing, this sitcom created a show about strong older women and made them the central focus.  There were episodes about their love lives, but there were also episodes about menopause, age discrimination and the difficulties of finding a job, and many other areas.  In today's world it's rare to see such quality writing for women, especially at an older age.  Often times older women portray guest starring grandmothers, yet this show broke boundaries, and set the bar higher.    A show that simple focuses on women prior to this was not there, but without this series we would not have more recent shows like Sex and the City, Desperate Housewives, Hot in Cleveland (and many more).  Not only was the show well made, and historic, it was and still is one of the funniest shows of all time.

The laughs are non stop when you watch The Golden Girls.  Whether Rose is saying something dumb or cooking something we can't pronounce or Dorothy is dateless yet again or bantering with her mother.  Then there is Blanche and her high libido sleeping with hundreds of men, and Sophia calling her the "human luge" "slut puppy" and a "50 year old mattress."  You would think these women who are always bickering hate each other, and with their differences would not have made it seven years, but they did and they still make millions of people laugh.  Below is my favorite scene from the history of the show. Thank you for being a friend!  

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