TV ladies over the age of fifty generally don’t mouth off too terribly much, and they rarely take an active interest in sex. But the spitfires in The Golden Girls took those old-fashioned gray-haired paradigms and threw them right out the window.
Blanche Devereaux was a Southern belle and a tireless man chaser. Under her roof lived housemates Dorothy Zbornak, a divorced substitute teacher whose husband had left for a younger woman; Rose Nylund, a dim-witted grief counselor who was forever rambling on about her small-town Midwestern roots; and Sophia Petrillo, Dorothy’s mom, who moved in when her retirement home burned to the ground. All except Rose had good, healthy, wisecracking mouths, though none quite as sharp as little old Sophia’s. One had to doubt that Sophia was ever demure, but the show had you believe that after she had a stroke, she was especially acid-tongued. You’d better respect your elders, because if any of them could unload insults like this lady could, you were in for it.
Between their jobs, their ex’s, their grown kids, the stream of new beaus that traipsed through their sunny Miami family room, and the comedy that came when the ladies played off of each other, there wasn’t a lot of time for bridge games or needlework. Each of the four stars won Emmys, and the show had a powerful ratings run during its seven years.
When Bea Arthur (Dorothy) left the series at the end of the 1992 season, the show left the NBC airwaves. CBS picked up Blanche, Rose and Sophia for a spin-off series called The Golden Palace (Dorothy did make one guest appearance), but it only lasted another season. After the new show was cancelled, Sophia became a regular on the Golden Girls spin-off Empty Nest, about the doctor who lived near the ladies in the original show.
Plenty of television shows had token older actors, but never had an all-senior cast cleaned up quite like this. If this was what growing old was about—good friends, wily romance and plenty of laughs—then it might not be so bad after all.
“The point, Rose, get to the point!”
USA / NBC – Touchstone – Witt- Thomas-Harris / 176×25 minute episodes 2×50 minute episodes / Broadcast 14 September 1985 – 12 September 1992
Creator: Susan Harris / Executive Producers: Paul Junger Witt, Tony Thomas, Susan Harris, Marc Sotkin
Bea Arthur as Dorothy Zbornak
Betty White as Rose Nylund
Rue McClanahan as Blanche Devereaux
Estelle Getty as Sophia Petrillo
Herb Edelman as Stanley Zbornak
Harold Gould as Miles Webber (1989-92)