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The Golden Girls aired from September 1985 until September 1992 on NBC

The most popular new series of the 1985-1986 season, The Golden Girls was the first successful modern sitcom in which all of the stars were female. Even more surprising was that all were well over age fifty. It centered on four mature, single women living together in Miami, the sunny city of retirees , and enjoying their " Golden Years" to the hilt. Dorothy ( Beatrice Arthur) was the outspoken divorcee, a substitute teacher, whose strong personality often seemed to overpower her housemates. Rose ( Betty White) was a flaky, naive, soft-spoken widow given to hilarious misinterpretations of almost everything that was said in her presence. She worked, believe it or not, as a grief counselor. Blanche ( Rue McClanahan), who owned the house, was also a widow, but of a different stripe. She was lusty, man-hungry, and dripping with charm, a Southern Belle who never aged-in her own mind at least. All in their 50's and 60's, the three were joined by Dorothy's elderly mother Sophia ( Estelle Getty), who moved in when her retirement home , Shady Pines, burned to the ground. Sophia had the saltiest mouth in the house. She had had a stroke, it was said, that destroyed the " tact" cells in her brain.

Herb Edelman was seen occasionally as Dorothy's no-good ex-husband Stan, who had dumped her for a young bimbo but who now seemed to want her back. Scatterbrained Rose, for a time, had a boyfriend named Miles ( Harold Gould), who unfortunately turned out to be a former mob accountant in the Witness Relocation Program who had to leave town temporarily when his cover was blown.

In the final episode, wedding bells broke up the old gang as Dorothy married Blanche's visiting Uncle Lucas ( Leslie Nielsen). The following fall Blanche sold the house and with Rose and Sophia moved into a new series called The Golden Palace.

Golden Girls was a smash hit and highly regarded in the industry. It won ten emmy awards, including best comedy ( twice) and each of its four leads individually won the best actress or supporting actress award-one of the few times in tv history that all the regulars in a " gang" series won emmies.Created by Susan Harris, the series finished in the Nielsen's top ten in each of it's first five seasons.

A Review from USA TODAY


The Golden Girls

About golden oldies in their prime time, The Golden Girls is wonderful-the best new prime-time comedy of the fall season. Here are girls who just want to have fun. And they're not a day under 50.

Baby Boomers pay attention. Put away that Miss Clairol. Don't worry about middle-age midriff . Forget that Ringo is a grandfather. Here's reason for hope. A rich life awaits us. If we follow the example of these grand dames.

" It's wonderful dating in Miami," says Dorothy, the crisp wry divorcee of the group. " All the men under 80 are cocaine smugglers." Yes , these girls joke about men , sex, drugs-all the hip topics. They also can giggle about incontinence.

The Golden Girls has its heart in the giggles, its soul in something more serious. Every member of this ensemble cast fits like a perfect denture.

There's Bea Arthur as Dorothy; Betty White as Rose, who's sweet, sincere but a tad bitchy; Rue McClanahan as Blanche, the flighty Southern Belle; and Estelle Getty as Sophia, Dorothy's mother, who has a motor mouth and the brute personality of a Mack truck.

Prompted by aloneness, these women live together in a Miami development. They continue to work-although Sophia spends her days at the dogtrack-and they thrive on each other's company.

If the premiere episode-in which Blanche get's dumped at the alter-is any indication, The Golden Girls will also have moments of sweet sadness. Alas, that's life at any age.

Written so keenly by Susan Harris-the creator of Soap-this comedy is satisfying because it's something much more than the cheap joke. Exploring the primacy of family; the wealth of good humor, the fruits of those years that the " me generation" dreads. Golden Girls offers reassurance.

How nice for us all that women on TV have come of age, a certain age, if you will. How nice for all that these Golden Girls are not girdled by convention or cliche. Long may they live.

An Article from The New York Times


Published: September 22, 1985

When it comes to women, television has always had an obsessive love affair with youth.

Creamy skin and firm thighs are a prerequisite for leading roles. Actresses with wrinkles play the ingenue's mother or - if the actress was once a major movie star - the matriarch of a harum-scarum clan of voracious young people.

''A woman's worth is tied into what she looks like,'' says Susan Harris. ''At 82, Cary Grant could still be a romantic lead. But, on television, a woman over 50 is cast as an ax murderer.''

Miss Harris is the creator of ''The Golden Girls,'' a new NBC situation comedy (Saturdays at 9 P.M.) about two widows and a divorcee -women nearing 60 who live together in Miami - and the 80-year-old mother of the divorcee who moves in when her retirement home burns down. The most surprising thing about ''The Golden Girls'' - which stars Bea Arthur, Betty White, Rue McClanahan and Estelle Getty - is that nearly everybody is sure the show will be a hit.

The opening episode on Sept. 14 was the week's highest-rated program.

Paul Schulman, who buys $165 million worth of television advertising a year for clients, has purchased ''The Golden Girls'' for Ralston-Purina not because older people have dogs and cats but ''because younger people have dogs and cats too and 'The Golden Girls' will do extremely well with younger people.

''It's a mistake to think that younger people won't watch just because the show deals with older women,'' says Mr. Schulman. ''Who's home on Saturday night? An awful lot of people who used to be big 'Love Boat' fans and who will eat 'Golden Girls' up. When the show's being taped, audiences stand up and applaud those four terrific ladies for two minutes.''

Betty White is frightened by the rain of praise from television writers that has already landed on the heads of the golden girls. ''In all the hundred years I've been in this business, I've never seen this kind of pre-hype,'' she says. ''Well, at least they can't miss the fact we're on. We will not go down by default.''

Miss Harris, who wrote the controversial ''Maude's Abortion'' segment of ''Maude'' and created both ''Soap'' and ''Benson,'' is also scared. ''At least,'' she grins, ''it's a high-class problem to have.''

There is a second astonishing thing about ''The Golden Girls.'' The idea was not sold to NBC. It came from the network. And it came in August 1984, before CBS's ''Murder, She Wrote'' starring Angela Lansbury proved that a series that focused on a middle-aged woman could be a popular success.

''On a promotional program for our 1984 season, Selma Diamond did a one-minute sketch introducing 'Miami Vice,' '' says Warren Littlefield, NBC vice president for series. ''She said something like, ' ''Miami Nice''? It must be about a bunch of old people sitting around playing pinochle.' On television, you're always looking for the handsome, 35-year-old leading man with a sense of humor. You're looking for Magnum. And he's impossible to find. I said to Brandon, at least we could cast 'Miami Nice.' ''

Brandon Tartikoff, president of NBC Entertainment, agreed. And when two television producers, Paul Witt and Tony Thomas, came in a few weeks later to pitch an idea for a series, they were told, ''We don't like your idea. But we'll give you one. Take some women around 60. Society has written them off, has said they're over the hill. We want them to be feisty as hell and having a great time.''

''You won't put it on the air,'' was Mr. Witt's suspicious response.

He was given a commitment for 13 episodes before a single word was written.

''We knew the show would be breaking one of the basic television rules,'' says Mr. Littlefield. ''But all of our best shows scared us a bit. We propelled 'Golden Girls' because we knew there would be nothing like it on the air. And in the last year or two what has worked on television is what's different.''

Like most television writers, Susan Harris - Mr. Witt's wife and other partner - wanted desperately to get out of television and into movies. After four years of writing nearly every episode of ''Soap,'' she was so burned out physically and emotionally that she didn't write again for a year. Her husband teasingly calls her ''Creator-Deserter'' because she typically creates a show and then runs away.

''I had to write 'Golden Girls','' says Miss Harris, who is 44 years old - lithe and long-limbed in a white pullover sweater, with tawny Farrah Fawcett hair cascading around her face. ''I've never gotten excited about a network idea before, but this was compelling. I could write grown-ups. Television is always several steps behind life. When do you see passionate older people on television? Two weeks ago we were rehearsing a show in which Betty White has her first affair since the death of her husband 15 years ago. There was one scene in which she and the man passionately kiss. I don't think I've ever seen that before on television. There is life after 50. People can be attractive, energetic, have romances. When do you see people of this age in bed together? Eventually on this show, you will. It's kind of pathetic that this show is television's baby steps.''

On a recent Wednesday morning, the four stars were rehearsing a show in which Rose, the slightly dimwitted innocent played by Betty White, was being sold a clunky used car by Blanche - the vain and self-centered Southern belle played by Rue McClanahan. Unlike Rose, Blanche has rarely been without a man since her husband's death.

At the center of the episode, Dorothy - the no-nonsense schoolteacher played by Bea Arthur - was having an affair with a married man, to the horror of her 80-year-old mother Sophia, played by Estelle Getty. Sophia has suffered a small stroke which destroyed the part of her brain that censors her tongue, so she constantly blurts out what everyone else is too polite to say. Miss Arthur's Dorothy is less strident and harsh than ''Maude,'' the character with whom she is most identified. But she dominates the household because she is the smartest of the women and, according to Miss McClanahan, ''the bravest.''

''Let's face it,'' says Miss Arthur. ''Nobody ever asked me to play Juliet.''

Bare-legged in white ducks and wearing no makeup or jewelry, Miss Arthur is as brisk and commanding as her character. In a fluffy white sexy looped sweater, Miss McClanahan epitomizes hers. It is Betty White who is playing furtherest from her real persona as Rose, who makes an art of naivete. In real life, says Miss White, ''It's my disease to smart off.'' After listening to the others argue with the director Jim Drake over changing several lines in the script, she cracks, ''Hey, my father has a barn. Let's get some costumes and put on a show.''

Out of character, the three women often play off each other like a comedy team. Trying to get a line past the censor, Miss McClanahan suggests, ''She shot him in the doolollies. That's a Southern expression.'' ''She shot him in the West Indies?'' questions Miss Arthur.

''She shot him in his pajamas,'' suggests Miss White. Miss McClanahan turns and catches a loop of her sweater on a chair. ''She shot him in the loops,'' says Miss White triumphantly.

''When they're not satisfied, they worry the lines to death like a dog with a bone,'' says Mr. Drake. ''Between them, they have a hundred years of television experience.''

Miss White and Miss McClanahan worked together in the series ''Mama's Family'' in 1983. For six years, Miss McClanahan's Vivian was Maude's best friend. Miss Getty - who reached the spotlight late, as Harvey Fierstein's mother in ''Torch Song Trilogy'' - is the odd woman out. She has never done a television series or even lived in California before.

''But there is no weak link in our chain,'' says Miss Arthur. Eating a box of Milk Duds, she gestures toward the candy. ''For the first time, there isn't a dud in the crowd. A few years ago I was in a series that had me crying my eyes out, and my agent said, 'This is what television really is, Bea.' But we are four women who respect each other. It's like being back with Norman Lear. It's a joy.''

Words about camaraderie come easy. The proof is that all four women are willing to give their funniest lines away if they feel the jokes would work better in the mouth of another character. ''We'll even suggest it!'' says Miss Getty. They mesh so well that the fifth main character - a hom*osexual cook who was created to interact with the women individually -was dropped after the pilot episode Only a few years older than the other three women despite the age of the character she is playing, Miss Getty is also the only one who is married. Both Miss White and Miss Arthur have elderly, sick mothers living with them. Miss McClanahan is divorced. Miss Arthur's 25-year marriage to the director Gene Saks ended in divorce under the pressures of ''Maude.'' Miss White, who was married to the game show host Allen Ludden for 18 years, was widowed four years ago.

''Golden Girls'' will deal with aging in many ways. There are the jokes about incontinence and sagging skin. There is the moment when Dorothy sees ''an old woman's face'' in the mirror and does not recognize it as her own. There is the rush of new romance. And there is the vulnerability. When the house is robbed, Miss White's character feels vulnerable to the point of paralysis and is angry at her dead husband for having abandoned her.

''A couple of speeches Rose makes get me by the throat,'' says Miss White. ''All I have to do is substitute 'Allen' for 'Charlie,' Rose's husband.''

All four women are reveling in ''The Golden Girls.'' ''As actors, we do what's handed to us,'' says Miss Getty, ''but to be able to do something that's up your alley is icing on the cake.'' Beyond their own pleasure, they hope the show might have some consciousness-raising effects.

Miss White hopes that ''The Golden Girls'' will prove that ''you don't self-destruct after a certain age.''

Miss Getty wants it to erase ''the notion the world is Noah's Ark and no woman is worth the powder to blow her to hell with unless she's attached to a man.''

''Nonsense,'' argues Miss Arthur, ''that was taken care of 15 years ago. When I was a child, I used to question why a woman took her husband's name.'' She wants the show to demonstrate ''that middle-aged people are gutsy and juicy.''

And Miss McClanahan thinks it important to show ''that when people mature, they add layers. They don't turn into other creatures. The truth is we all still have our child, our adolescent, and our young woman living in us.''

An interview with the cast of the Golden Girls- from Entertainment Weekly ,twenty years later as the DVD is released.

Television News
The Golden Age
EW toasts ''The Golden Girls''' 20th anniversary. Reminiscing with Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan, Betty White and the behind-the-scenes team
By Nicholas Fonseca
Published on September 2, 2005

Nicholas Fonseca watches ''Days of Our Lives'' religiously and thinks washing dishes by hand is the cheapest form of therapy on earth.It's a widely accepted television dictum: Old people are neither trendy nor sexy, and young viewers definitely don't want to watch shows about them. But 20 years ago, on Sept. 14, 1985, NBC went against the industry's ageist grain and unleashed four of the sassiest seniors in TV history. The Golden Girls the brainchild of Soap creative team Susan Harris, Tony Thomas, and Paul Junger Witt was a risk for the then-resurgent NBC. Television comedy was just emerging from a creative drought (sound familiar?) and NBC was asking an all-female cast (another dicey idea) to lure fans to Saturday night (yikes!), where viewership had flagged since the '70s glory days of CBS' All in the Family, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and The Bob Newhart Show. ''Girls was the last show to bring viewers back to Saturdays,'' says The WB's Garth Ancier, who served as NBC's vice president of current comedy development from 1982 to 1986. ''It broke a lot of rules.''

Over 180 episodes, The Golden Girls followed four well-dressed women living together and sharing lots of cheesecake in a Miami home with a spacious lanai. They were led by imposing substitute teacher Dorothy Zbornak (Bea Arthur), who maintained an arsenal of withering put-downs and killer glares. Homeowner Blanche Devereaux (Rue McClanahan) was an oversexed Southern belle who refused to acknowledge her age. Betty White played Rose Nylund, a dense Pollyanna who told rambling stories about her Minnesota hometown, St. Olaf. And Dorothy's diminutive Sicilian mother, Sophia (Estelle Getty), was a former resident of Shady Pines nursing home who, because of a stroke that had destroyed the tact region of her brain, spouted riotously blunt one-liners.

The show premiered at No. 1 a rare achievement with an estimated 44 million viewers, and it resided in the top 10 for six consecutive seasons. The 10-time Emmy winner has been spoofed on Saturday Night Live and at the MTV Movie Awards, referenced on The O.C., and singled out as Sex and the City's progenitor. Its writing staff was also something of a comedy farm team: Marc Cherry now heads Desperate Housewives.

''Golden Girls is definitely the model for any female ensemble show,'' he says. ''You can trace Gabrielle right back to Blanche. She's very selfish, but you still like her because she's cute and funny.'' Longtime Girls staffer Mitch Hurwitz, meanwhile, created Fox's Emmy winner Arrested Development. ''It completely informs what we do here,'' says Hurwitz. ''The name of the rehab center that Lucille Bluth went into was called Shady Pines as a little homage.'' Adds Warren Littlefield, who was NBC's senior vice president of comedy development when Girls premiered: ''There is nothing trendy about this show. There are no tricks. It's a classic. I love going back to it.''

So do we especially now, when broadcast networks have all but abandoned Saturday-night programming. In honor of The Golden Girls' 20th anniversary, we asked the actors (except for the now-retired Getty, 82, who is ill) and the creative team behind one of television's most enduring hits to share their memories.

On an August weekend at NBC's Burbank studios in 1984, the network's stars were filming what Littlefield calls ''some bulls--- special'' to tout the coming fall slate. In a skit promoting Miami Vice, Remington Steele secretary Doris Roberts sparred with 63-year-old Night Court bailiff Selma Diamond, who kept mistaking the title for Miami Nice. The execs in the audience were amused, and they wondered if there was a series in the geriatric humor unfolding before them. Soon after, Paul Junger Witt and Tony Thomas were in Littlefield's office pitching a show about a female lawyer. He nixed the idea, but then asked if Witt's wife, Susan Harris, would be interested in fleshing out Miami Nice as a pilot instead.

HARRIS: Paul came home and said, ''There's this idea, but you're not going to want to do it.'' And I said, ''That's right. I don't want to do anything. But what is it?'' He got me when he said the words old women. It was a demographic that had never been addressed.

Harris went to work on the pilot script, which called for Dorothy to be played by a ''Bea Arthur type'' and included a fifth character, Coco, a gay male housekeeper. When he got the script, Littlefield says he was ''running all over the house grabbing anybody who would listen. I kept reading scenes to them and saying 'God, this is brilliant!''' He greenlit the pilot, and Cosby Show director Jay Sandrich who'd helmed Soap for much of its run agreed to direct the episode. Casting calls began.

MCCLANAHAN: Before I started reading it, I said, ''Ohhh, this is a winner.'' I called my agent and said I was perfect for the role of Blanche, to which she said, ''They want you to read for Rose. They want Betty White for the role of Blanche.''

WHITE: It was the best script that I'd read, maybe, in life. You get so many bad scripts sent your way in this business, so many dogs. And I shouldn't use that term because I love dogs.

Worried that McClanahan and White were being asked to play roles too similar to their previous TV personae (McClanahan played Arthur's ditzy best friend Vivian on Maude; White won two Emmys as the vampy Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show), Sandrich asked the women to consider a last-minute switch at their auditions.

SANDRICH: I said to [Rue], ''You're really wonderful, but I don't believe for a second that you're innocent. Would you read Blanche?''

WHITE: Ruesy took Blanche out into orbit where I never would have gone. She flew off like a butterfly with that role.

MCCLANAHAN: I gave [Blanche] the assurance that my sister has always had: Walk into a group of men and just lay 'em low! I was using this phony accent that sounded like a cross between British and Southern and cornball.

Producers wanted Arthur to play Dorothy, but first they saw Elaine Stritch, who recounted a disastrous tryout in her 2002 Broadway show Elaine Stritch at Liberty. ''She just didn't have her act together,'' says Littlefield. ''It was sad.'' Under the impression that Arthur didn't want to participate Arthur says she doesn't recall the specifics Harris asked McClanahan if she could persuade her old castmate to take the role.

ARTHUR: I flipped when I read the script! After all of the crap I'd been sent, here was something so bright and adult and fabulously funny. I guess they assumed that I didn't want to do it.

MCCLANAHAN: I said, ''Bea, what's the matter with you? This is only going to be the biggest hit TV has seen since I don't know when.'' And Bea said [deepening her voice], ''Ruuuue, I don't want to play Maude and Vivian meet Betty White.'' And I said, ''No! Betty's playing the Vivian and I'm the Sue Ann!'' ''Oh,'' she said, ''now, that's interesting,'' and then hung up.

Thomas, meanwhile, spotted Getty playing Harvey Fierstein's pushy mother on Broadway in Torch Song Trilogy, and asked her to try out. The TV novice nailed her audition.

THOMAS: She was frigging brilliant! I could not breathe when she read her lines.

With the cast in place, the pilot was shot in the spring of 1985.

ARTHUR: Everyone fell in love that day. I fell in love with the relationship between Dorothy and Sophia. That was one of the comic greats of all time.

WHITE: You don't get many evenings like that in this business. I still get goose bumps just thinking about it.

SANDRICH: I had to keep cutting to Bea's reactions because once she gets the camera on her and the laughs start, you just leave it there. I had to be careful not to give her too much of the show.

Producers eventually nixed Coco, who appears only in the pilot. ''It was an embarrassment of riches,'' says Harris. ''We didn't even have enough time to write for the women.'' NBC revamped its Saturday lineup and paired the series with another newcomer, 227. The block worked, grabbing huge ratings and was surprisingly popular among young viewers.

TERRY HUGHES (director, 1985-90): For kids, it was like watching a bunch of naughty grannies. A whole generation recognized their own grandmothers on that screen.

HARRIS: They especially loved Estelle. Here was a woman talking back to her daughter and giving her so much grief.

MCCLANAHAN: I got oodles of letters from kids who wanted to move in with us. My youngest fan was a 3-year-old who stopped me in an elevator. Now, you know that he wasn't catching on to the double entendres

Despite the laughs, early tapings were stressful: White and Arthur had recently lost their mothers, and Getty was beginning to forget her lines an annoyance that exacerbated her already feisty nature.

ARTHUR: Right from the beginning, Estelle had problems. We would have to give her cue cards.

WHITE: She was in trouble. She would write lines on the salt and pepper shakers so she could remember them.

MCCLANAHAN: Estelle was never happy. Something panicked her. By Friday nights, she was a nervous wreck.

The scripts, loaded with details about the ladies' healthy, sometimes ribald sex lives, weren't thrilling NBC's standards and practices department, either.

ANCIER: There was an early episode in which Rose brought a guy home and slept with him, and he died in her bed. The department sent a note saying it was unacceptable for air. They had issues with a line about the racket coming from Rose's bedroom. They said it was okay for guys to express themselves, but not women. I'll never forget Susan sitting across from them in a meeting on the set in her sunglasses, saying ''Let me get this straight: It's NBC's corporate position that women are not allowed to express themselves during org*sm, but men are?'' It was very tense.

HARRIS: Yeah, that does sound like me. My memory of this is very vague. They had their notes, but generally, we won.

In July 1986, Girls cemented its status as TV's hottest new hit by earning 15 Emmy nominations. That September, the show won awards for technical direction, writing, lead actress (White), and outstanding comedy series. (Every cast member eventually won a statuette a feat achieved by few television shows.) But the evening's joy was hampered by the competition between the four actresses and a faux pas that still haunts Harris.

MCCLANAHAN: Bea was very unhappy that she didn't win. She was fit to be tied.

ARTHUR: Oh, what bulls---! Look, we weren't ingenues. I really resent that. Oh, Jesus!

WHITE: After [I won] that night, they warned me to be careful. We just pretended that it hadn't happened.

HARRIS: It was a horrible evening. I had never been [personally] nominated for anything, so when I got the nomination for writing the pilot, it was very exciting. I was up against another GG episode [which I didn't write], but everybody kept telling me that I was going to win. And that night, Milton Berle came out, announced the nominees, and said, ''The winner is The Golden Girls!'' So I started to get up. Then he said the names of the guys who wrote the other episode that was in contention. I was stunned. Paul had to pull me back down into my seat. At the end of the telecast, all of the winners went up on stage and I was sitting in my seat, watching everyone from my show celebrate. It was appalling.

The following year, Harris finally won her Emmy (as a producer), and Girls went on to tackle such topics as AIDS, Alzheimer's disease, and chronic fatigue syndrome, which Harris suffers from. The show was such a success that in 1988 it led to the creation of Empty Nest, a sitcom starring former Soap star Richard Mulligan as a doctor who lived nearby. Eventually Hughes dubbed ''the fifth Golden Girl'' was lured away after receiving an offer to helm his first feature film. Hurwitz and Cherry joined the writing staff in Girls' final two seasons, and the humor became bawdier and more cutting. But the writers also struggled to come up with new stories for the ladies.

HURWITZ: We all became more competitive. It was about trying to top somebody else's jokes, and that was reflected in the show. But a more generous way to look at it is that it was probably a more honest depiction of what would happen in year 6 of these women living together.

CHERRY: The marching orders were not to change and the women got stuck in the same place: Rose got dumber, Blanche got slu*ttier, Dorothy got more sarcastic.

WITT: Part of it was attrition and fatigue. You look at some of the latter episodes and realize that they weren't about enough other than being funny.

Arthur apparently agreed, and in 1991 she decided it was time to hang up Dorothy's caftans for good: ''Playing those things got a little usual.'' On May 9, 1992, 27 million viewers tuned in for ''One Flew Out of the Cuckoo's Nest,'' the hour-long series finale, in which Dorothy marries Blanche's uncle Lucas (Leslie Nielsen) after a whirlwind courtship.

ARTHUR: I knew that I had to leave. I didn't want to do any more episodic television. It was in the beginning of the seventh season that I thought, We've had it. Let's leave when we're really at the height.

MCCLANAHAN: They had to give [Bea] the moon to get her to come back for a seventh year. Had she continued past that, I think we could have run for a few more years as The Golden Girls.

WHITE: I remember walking through the last season of Mary being so sad, but with The Golden Girls, it wasn't so much sadness as it was a deep realization that none of us would ever be a part of something so special again.

With the Girls' lanai closed, the three remaining actresses accepted a surprising new offer: a spin-off. On Sept. 18, 1992, Blanche, Rose, and Sophia moved into The Golden Palace, in which the trio operated a South Beach hotel. Hurwitz ran the show, which also starred Cheech Marin and an unknown named Don Cheadle. Its Friday-night premiere on CBS where it moved after NBC and Witt-Thomas-Harris Productions reportedly failed to agree on the number of episodes that would be produced notched so-so ratings, and Palace was canceled after one season.

WITT: The decision to keep going was based on keeping everyone working. We felt a responsibility. In retrospect, we didn't have as much to say as we thought we did.

MCCLANAHAN: They should have hired a new actress to replace Bea. We had a good show but nobody saw it. It was buried.

THOMAS: We were on thin ice with the whole damn premise. Every time I see Don Cheadle, I apologize.

The Golden Girls joined Lifetime's lineup in 1997 and quickly became one of the network's most popular shows; nightly airings still attract roughly 1.2 million viewers. (Last month, the network began airing The Golden Palace.) Witt and Thomas went on to produce series including The John Larroquette Show and Pearl and films like Insomnia, and they continue to develop scripts. Harris, meanwhile, is writing a play. The rest of the cast remains busy: White now appears as cantankerous Catherine Piper on ABC's Boston Legal, a role that earned her a 15th Emmy nod last year; Arthur occasionally takes her Tony-nominated show Bea Arthur on Broadway: Just Between Friends on the road; McClanahan is currently starring as Madame Morrible in the Broadway musical Wicked and is writing her autobiography, My First Five Husbands. They all agree that The Golden Girls is one of TV's all-time greatest sitcoms.

MCCLANAHAN: I knew that I was doing something revolutionary in its quality, but I had no idea of the effect that it was going to have.

ARTHUR: It was so antiestablishment that everybody loved it.

WHITE: I taste the glory each and every time I meet a fan. It's what you dream about, why you get into this business in the first place. It was the peak of everybody's career.


Here is Herb Edelman's Obituary from The New York Times

Herb Edelman, 62, A Character Actor

Published: July 27, 1996

Herbert Edelman, a Brooklyn-born character actor best known for his portrayal of archetypal New Yorkers, died on Sunday at the Motion Picture and Television Hospital in Woodland Hills, Calif. He was 62 and lived in Oxnard, Calif.

The cause was emphysema, his family said.

Mr. Edelman studied acting at Brooklyn College, and headed straight for the stage after graduating. He made his professional debut in 1961 with a touring company of the Brecht-Weill musical "The Threepenny Opera," taking the part of Walt Dreary. He appeared in both the Broadway production and the film version of "Barefoot in the Park," and in the musical "Bajour."

He was cast in "Oh Dad, Poor Dad" in Boston and toured in "Carnival" and in Murray Schisgal's "Luv." He also had a featured role in the 1968 film "I Love You, Alice B. Toklas!" with Peter Sellers.

He was in a long roster of television series, most notably the situation comedy "The Golden Girls," in which he played Bea Arthur's former husband, a role that brought him an Emmy nomination, and in "Murder She Wrote."

Mr. Edelman's marriage to Marylin Cosgrove of Middleburg, Va., ended in divorce.

He is survived by two daughters, Briana and Jacy, both of Middleburg; his father, Mayer Edelman of Brooklyn; a sister, Betty Bennett of Washington; a brother, Marvin, also of Brooklyn, and his companion, Christina Pickles of Oxnard, Calif.

Here is Estelle Getty's Obituary from the New York Times.

Estelle Getty, Golden Girls Matriarch, Dies at 84

Published: July 23, 2008

Estelle Getty, whose portrayal of a crabbily charming octogenarian on the television sitcom The Golden Girls gave new prominence to elderly characters in prime time and endeared her to viewers of all ages, died on Tuesday in Los Angeles. She was 84.

Her son Carl Gettleman confirmed her death. Ms. Getty had been suffering from Lewy body dementia, a progressive brain disease.

Long before Golden Girls Ms. Getty had been portraying maternal types of all sorts on the stage.

I am the mother, she declared in her opening line in Torch Song Trilogy, Harvey Fierstein's 1981 play about the travails of a gay man in New York City, and as a summary of her career, her character was right.

I've played mothers to heroes and mothers to zeroes, Ms. Getty wrote in her autobiography, If I Knew Then What I Know Now ... So What? (Contemporary Books, 1988). I've played Irish mothers, Jewish mothers, Italian mothers, Southern mothers, mothers in plays by Neil Simon and Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams. I've played mother to everyone but Attila the Hun.

The book was a response to Ms. Getty's sudden and resounding popularity in the most famous of her mother roles, the tart-tongued, white-haired Sophia Petrillo, oldest of the four previously married women sharing a Miami home in The Golden Girls. In the show, Sophia was the mother of Dorothy Zbornak, played by Bea Arthur who, in real life, was older than Ms. Getty.

Sophia, characterized by her bluntness and cranky lamentations about old age, treated her daughter with a kind of loving contempt, and their two roommates, the man-obsessed Blanche (Rue McClanahan), and the dim-witted Rose (Betty White), with the eye-rolling impatience of one who will not indulge the self-delusions of others. When Blanche complained that her life was an open book, Sophia witheringly replied: Your life is an open blouse.

The show ran from 1985 to 1992 and, in reruns, is still seen regularly on the Lifetime channel. Ms. Getty was nominated seven years in a row for an Emmy award for best supporting actress in a comedy series, winning in 1988. It was a remarkable coup for an actress then in her 60s who had worked for decades with almost no recognition at all.

Mr. Gettleman said in an interview Tuesday that his mother's remark was, After 50 years in the business, I'm an overnight success.

Estelle Scher (she had no middle name) was born in Manhattan on July 25, 1923, the daughter of immigrants from Poland. Her father started a glass business that was eventually taken over by Arthur Gettleman, the man she would marry in 1947. Her stage name was derived from his.

A tiny woman, under 5 feet tall and less than 100 pounds, Ms. Getty wrote in her autobiography that her interest in acting began as a child when she saw her first vaudeville show; as a young woman she tried her hand at stand-up comedy. For most of her performing life, which she spent in community theaters, small theaters way off Broadway and regional houses, she made a living as a secretary.

In 1978, after seeing The International Stud, the first installment of what would become Torch Song Trilogy, she went backstage to introduce herself to the playwright and star, Mr. Fierstein, and they became friends. Some time later, she recalled in an 1984 interview, she said to him, You're such a hotshot playwright, why don't you write a play with a mother in it, and I'll play her. That play turned out to be Widows and Children First, the concluding segment in the trilogy, and it changed her life. Rex Reed wrote in The New York Daily News that Estelle Getty is the most endearing Jewish mother to be seen on the New York stage since Molly Picon, only prettier and more believable.

The performance led to her being cast as Cher's mother in the film Mask, and it was while she was on the road with Torch Song in Los Angeles that she auditioned for Golden Girls, getting the job after she showed up for the final audition in the costume and makeup of a little old lady.

Her husband died in 2004. In addition to Carl Gettleman, who lives in Santa Monica, Calif., Ms. Getty is survived by another son, Barry Gettleman of Miami; a brother, David Scher of London; and a sister, Rosilyn Howard of Las Vegas.

Ms. Getty appeared in two Golden Girls spinoffs, Empty Nest and The Golden Palace, and acted in guest spots on a number of other series. She played Sylvester Stallone's mother in the 1992 comedy Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot.

Ms. Getty relished her late-in-life success, her son said. And she enjoyed reminiscing about more difficult times. In a 1990 interview she recalled one of her last secretarial jobs, at a company called Snap-Out Forms, where she kept her acting ambitions a secret for fear of being fired.

At Snap-Out Forms, the first day I came to work, I had an audition, and I said, Can I go for my lunch at 10 o'clock? she said. The next day I had to go someplace else. I said. Can I take my lunch at 2:30? The next day I asked if I could take lunch at 11 o'clock. The office manager said, You have the strangest eating habits of any secretary we've ever had.

Here is Bea Arthur's Obituary from The LA Times

Bea Arthur, star of 'Golden Girls' and 'Maude,' dies at 86
April 26, 2009|Claudia Luther

Beatrice Arthur, best known as the acerbic Maude Findlay on Norman Lear's sitcom "Maude" and as the strong-willed Dorothy Zbornak on the long-running "The Golden Girls," died Saturday. She was 86.

Arthur, a stage-trained actress who was a success on Broadway long before television audiences got to know her, died of cancer at her Los Angeles home.

In 1966, the tall and husky-voiced Arthur won a Tony for her performance as Vera Charles, the sharp-tongued sidekick to Angela Lansbury's Mame Dennis in the original production of "Mame" on Broadway, which was named best musical that year.

But Arthur had little experience in either film or TV when Lear spotted her singing a song called "Garbage" in an off-Broadway show, "The Shoestring Revue." In 1971, Lear brought her to Hollywood for a guest role on CBS' "All in the Family." She played Edith Bunker's loud-mouthed cousin, Maude, who tangled with Edith's equally loud-mouthed husband, Archie Bunker, from opposite sides of the political fence.

Within a year, Arthur had her own show, "Maude," which ran for six years on CBS.

In the series, Maude is living in Tuckahoe, N.Y., with her fourth husband, Walter Findlay (Bill Macy), daughter Carol (Adrienne Barbeau), a grandson and a black maid named Florida (Esther Rolle), whose sassy repartee with her boss was one of the best parts of "Maude." (Rolle's character spun off into another series, "Good Times.")

"Maude" came at the onset of the feminist movement and addressed serious issues, including infidelity, death, depression and abortion, but there were always laughs. Maude's most famous line, delivered often and with withering drollery, was: "God will get you for that, Walter."

Playing Maude earned Arthur five Emmy nominations and a statuette in 1977. Despite the show's enormous success, Arthur did not enjoy being the public face of feminism, a role she said was thrust upon her.

"It put a lot of unnecessary pressure on me," she told the Chicago Sun-Times in 2001.

After Arthur left "Maude," she returned to TV briefly in 1983 for ABC's failed takeoff of the British series "Fawlty Towers," titled "Amanda's." She returned to television in triumph in 1985 as Dorothy on "The Golden Girls," the NBC hit that ran from 1985 to 1992, twice won Emmys for best comedy and enjoyed a long afterlife in syndication.

"The Golden Girls" followed the lives of three older women sharing a household in Miami with Dorothy's widowed mother, Sophia (Estelle Getty), who had suffered a small stroke that freed her from the constraints of tact.

Much of what made the show work was the snappy mother-daughter dialogue, with Arthur as the "isle of sanity who could look at the other three characters from the audience's perspective," as producer Paul Witt once said.

The series also starred Betty White as the naive Rose and Rue McClanahan as the saucy Blanche. All four won Emmys for their portrayals; Arthur's came in 1988.

Much quieter by nature than her famous characters, Arthur often said that what she and they had in common was: "All three of us are 5-foot-9 1/2 in our stocking feet and we all have deep voices." And all, she said, tended to be "bubble prickers."

Arthur was born Bernice Frankel on May 13, 1922, in New York City, the daughter of department store owners, and was raised in Cambridge, Md. She often described herself as a shy child, but her classmates remembered her as vivacious, self-assured and funny.

Though she pined to be a June Allyson type -- small and blond and cute -- she made the most of her stature and a voice so deep that on the telephone she was often mistaken for a man. She went to New York City, where she studied at the Dramatic Workshop of the New School with the influential German director Erwin Piscator.

She also joined the famed Actors Studio, where she met her future husband, Gene Saks, who later directed Broadway shows and movies, including several film versions of Neil Simon plays.

In 1954, she got the role of Lucy Brown in the U.S. premiere of Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht's "Threepenny Opera," which opened off-Broadway starring Weill's wife, Lotte Lenya.

Arthur adored Lenya and often referred to the experience as the highlight of her life, the time that she realized "I was good, damn good."

Around that time, working in television on "Caesar's Hour" with Sid Caesar on NBC, she said she learned to be "outrageous" by doing "under fives" -- under five lines -- in sketches. During the 1950s, she appeared many times in various roles on Kraft Television Theatre.

Several years later, she created the role of Yente, the matchmaker in the original 1964 Broadway production of "Fiddler on the Roof," directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins.

Next she was part of the original 1966 production of "Mame" and became a lifelong friend of Lansbury.

"The two of us together were dynamite, you know?" Lansbury said on CBS' "Sunday Morning" in 2002. "I mean, we really managed to just take off like birds."

Although she had wanted the part of Mame, Arthur was talked into taking the gal-pal role by husband Saks, who was directing the musical. But she didn't accept being second banana quietly, using humor to make her point.

According to "Balancing Act," Martin Gottfried's 1999 biography of Lansbury, Arthur told people that the original name of the show was "Vera" and that it was changed only because composer Jerry Herman couldn't find rhymes for that name. Then she would dramatically pause, Gottfried wrote, and say, "Steve Sondheim could have."

"She was perfect for Vera," Gottfried concluded.

Indeed, when "Mame" opened on May 24, 1966, the New York Post's Richard Watts wrote that Arthur's Vera was "a portrait in acid of a savagely witty, cynical and serpent-tongued woman who is at once a terror, a scourge, the relentless voice of truth and a pleasure to have around."

And Time magazine said Arthur "delivers a line as if someone had put lye in her martinis."

When "Mame" came to the screen, Lucille Ball, who replaced Lansbury as the lead character, insisted on having Arthur as Vera, even though Arthur was upset that Lansbury had not gotten the title role.

"She was the greatest Vera Charles in the world," Ball told the Hollywood Reporter. "We wrapped the whole production around [her]."

The film, also directed by Saks and riddled with production problems, was a critical flop.

Arthur did few movies, among them "That Kind of Woman" (1959) and "Lovers and Other Strangers" (1970).

In 2002, "Bea Arthur on Broadway: Just Between Friends," a one-woman show she developed with composer Billy Goldenberg, appeared on Broadway for two months. The show also toured the U.S., Canada, Australia and elsewhere.

"I simply wanted to see if I had the guts to just come out and be myself, which is something I never felt very comfortable doing," Arthur told her audiences in the show.

In addition to performing, Arthur supported animal rights and AIDS research. She had lived in Los Angeles for many years.

Before marrying Saks, Arthur was married briefly to playwright Robert Alan Aurthur, from whom she acquired part of her stage name. "Bernice" became "Beatrice" because she always hated her given name, and she simplified the spelling of his last name.

Arthur and Saks, who married in 1950 and divorced in the late 1970s, had two sons, Matthew and Daniel, who survive her, as do two grandchildren.

Here is Rue McClanahan's Obituary from The New York Times

Rue McClanahan, Actress and Golden Girl, Dies at 76

Published: June 3, 2010

Rue McClanahan, who helped make The Golden Girls a long-running television hit playing the saucy, man-devouring Southern belle Blanche Devereaux (in one scene she made a date at her husband's funeral), died Thursday in Manhattan. Unlike Blanche, she had no trouble admitting her age, 76.

Her manager, Barbara Lawrence, said Ms. McClanahan died of a brain hemorrhage at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. She was treated for breast cancer in 1997 and had heart bypass surgery last year.

Ms. McClanahan was the youngest, by at least 10 years, of the four actresses who played the Golden Girls, well-dressed, clever-tongued, over-50 women who shared a house in Miami. The others were Bea Arthur (Dorothy), Betty White (Rose) and Estelle Getty (Dorothy's mother, Sophia). Of the four, only Ms. White, 88, now survives.

The show seized the No. 1 rating its first night, in 1985, stayed in the top 10 for six seasons and captured bundles of Emmys, one of which went to Ms. McClanahan for outstanding lead actress in a comedy series in 1987.

The show, which was canceled in 1992 but carries on, profitably, in reruns, succeeded by putting smart, funny lines in the mouths of, well, seasoned women.

In one episode, Rose, a rather dense Pollyanna, wonders if it's possible to love two men at the same time.

Set the scene, Blanche replies. Have we been drinking?

Some critics saw The Golden Girls as a progenitor of shows like Sex and the City (about four young women given smart, funny lines).

Ms. McClanahan had appeared in the sitcom All in the Family, which broke ground with topical humor, and its spinoff Maude, in which she played the best friend of the liberated, middle-aged title character (Ms. Arthur).

She also acted in movies as well as on and off Broadway. In 1970 she won an Obie for her role in the Off Broadway show Who's Happy Now?, a family drama by Oliver Hailey in which she played the father's mistress. She reprised the role on PBS in 1975.

In her autobiography, My First Five Husbands ... and the Ones Who Got Away (2007), Ms. McClanahan wrote that one of her proudest moments was getting a letter from Tennessee Williams about her performance as Caitlin Thomas, the poet's wife, in Dylan, Sidney Michaels's play about Dylan Thomas.

Your work is that rare combination of earthiness and lapidary polish, Williams wrote, that quality being utterly common and utterly noble. Frippery combined with fierceness.

But it was Ms. McClanahan's part in The Golden Girls that stands out in popular memory.

To Ms. McClanahan, The Golden Girls was special for allowing its women to be funny and many-sided, not stock figures, recognizing that when people mature, they add layers, as she told The New York Times in 1985.

They don't turn into other creatures, she added. The truth is, we all still have our child, our adolescent and our young woman living in us.

Eddi-Rue McClanahan was born in Healdton, Okla., on Feb. 21, 1934. Her first name was a contraction of her parents middle names. She dropped the Eddi when, mistaken for a man, she was drafted into military service after high school. She grew up in towns in Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana as her father, a building contractor, moved around.

She made her stage debut at age 4 in a local production of The Three Little Kittens. A character actor even then, she told People magazine.

She was offered dance scholarships to college but chose to major in drama at the University of Tulsa. She graduated with honors in 1956.

Moving to New York to study ballet and drama, Ms. McClanahan made her professional debut in 1957 at the Erie Playhouse in Erie, Pa. On a scholarship she took a four-week acting course at the Pasadena Playhouse in California, where one of her roles was Blanche DuBois in Williams's Streetcar Named Desire. She later said that her Blanche on Girls was inspired by both Blanche DuBois and Scarlett O'Hara of Gone With the Wind.

For most of the next decade she appeared onstage in New York. She originated the role of Lady MacBird in MacBird!, Barbara Garson's comic melding of President Lyndon B. Johnson's ascent to power and Macbeth. Ms. McClanahan's Broadway debut was as a prostitute in Murray Schisgal's Jimmy Shine, which starred Dustin Hoffman as an unsuccessful abstract painter.

Reviewing Who's Happy Now? in 1969, Edith Oliver wrote in The New Yorker that Ms. McClanahan's portrayal of an innocent, sunny waitress was a first-rate comedy performance that is always legitimate no hokum, nothing but truth.

Ms. McClanahan had been appearing sporadically on television and in low-budget movies when Norman Lear tapped her for a spot on All in the Family in 1972. She played half of a married couple who, after being invited to dinner, reveal that they are swingers.

Mr. Lear also cast her for a guest appearance on Maude, a part that grew into a regular role as Vivian Harmon, Maude's fluttery, unliberated friend.

Brandon Tartikoff, the president of NBC Entertainment, got the idea for Girls after seeing statistics showing that about 37 percent of Americans were at least 45 years old. He passed the concept on to Susan Harris, a television writer who had created series like Benson and Soap. She was inspired by her grandmother, who had remained active until her death at 93.

A gift from the gods, Ms. McClanahan called her placement in the series. NBC decided to cast her against the unworldly type she had played on Maude and give her the sex-charged role. Betty White, who had played the man-hungry Sue Ann Nivens on the The Mary Tyler Moore Show, was the ditsy Rose.

After The Golden Girls ended in 1992, Ms. McClanahan appeared in a spinoff, The Golden Palace. She also had roles in movies like Out to Sea, a comedy starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, and on Broadway in Wicked. Away from acting, she delivered a lecture titled Aging Gracefully and campaigned for animal rights.

Ms. McClanahan is survived by her sixth husband, Morrow Wilson; her son, Mark T. Bish; and her sister, Dr. Melinda Lou McClanahan.

Ms. McClanahan, who never tired of talking about Blanche, was wise to her. Though Sophia, the dotty mother of the witty, dominant Dorothy, could be pointed, calling Blanche Sheena, Queen of the slu*t People, Ms. McClanahan saw the character differently as a woman who mainly just talked about sex.

As for Ms. McClanahan herself, she wasn't a vamp, she told People magazine; she liked to grow tomatoes and make quilts.

Still, in her book, she offered fun in bed quotients for married and unmarried lovers. And she had a pat answer when asked if she was like Blanche: Well, Blanche was an oversexed, self-involved, man-crazy, vain Southern belle from Atlanta and I'm not from Atlanta.

To read some articles about The Golden Girls go to and and and and and and and and and

To watch some clips from The Golden Girls go to

For Tim's TV Showcase go to

For a Website dedicated to Bea Arthur go to

For a Website dedicated to Betty White go to

For a Website dedicated to everything Sophia go to

For some Golden Girls-related interview videos at the Archive of American Television go to

For two Reviews of The Golden Girls go to and

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