1 9 8 5 – 1 9 9 2 (USA)
176 x 30 minute episodes
2 x 60 minute episodes
The Golden Girls (sometimes nicknamed “Miami Nice”) centred on the lives of four mature, single women living together in Miami and enjoying their “golden years” to the fullest.
Dorothy was the outspoken divorcee, a substitute teacher whose strong personality often seemed to overpower her roommates. Rose was the flaky, naive, soft-spoken widow given to hilarious misinterpretations of almost everything that was said to her – and who worked as a grief counsellor.
Of Scandinavian lineage, Rose is the illegitimate daughter of a monk, orphaned at birth and someone for whom the world remains a puzzle.
Blanche, who owned the house, was also a widow, but lusty, man-hungry, and dripping with charm, a Southern Belle who never aged (in her own mind). Her full name was Blanche Elizabeth Devereaux – making her initials BED!
All in their 50’s and 60’s, the three were joined by Dorothy’s elderly mother Sophia, who moved in when her retirement home, Shady Pines, burnt to the ground. Aged 80 and of Sicilian descent, she had the sharpest mouth in the house.
Bea Arthur and Rue McClanahan had appeared together in Maude, the former as the star; Betty White had enjoyed an important role in The Mary Tyler Moore Show before gaining her own starring vehicle The Betty White Show; and established stage actress Estelle Getty, much younger than the person she portrayed – a grey wig and an hour in make-up added the 20 years – was the vital fourth member of the team.
Stanley Zbornak, Dorothy’s ex-husband, was seen occasionally trying to get Dorothy back after he dumped her for a young bimbo.
Scatterbrained Rose, for a time, had a boyfriend named Miles, who unfortunately turned out to be a former mob accountant in the Witness Protection programme and had to leave town temporarily when his cover was blown.
In its first five years, The Golden Girls finished in the US top ten audience ratings every time. It also won ten Emmy Awards, including two as the Outstanding Comedy Series.
A poorly conceived NBC scheduling shift in 1991 caused it to lose viewers rapidly, and at the end of that year, Bea Arthur announced she was planning to quit the series.
In the final episode, wedding bells broke up the old gang as Dorothy married Blanche’s visiting uncle Lucas and made her departure for Atlanta. The following fall, Blanche sold the house and with Rose and Sophia, moved into a new series, The Golden Palace.
The creators of The Golden Girls were also responsible for Empty Nest (1988 – 1995) and on several occasions, characters from this series appeared in Empty Nest (Notably Estelle Getty as the irascible Sophia).
There was also an unsuccessful British adaptation of The Golden Girls, called Brighton Belles (1993) starring Sheila Hancock, Wendy Craig, Sheila Gish and Jean Boht.
So popular was the US series in Britain that the four Golden Girls were invited to London to participate in a sketch, in character, in the 1988 Royal Variety Show.
Writer/Director Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs) appears as an Elvis impersonator in a 1988 episode of The Golden Girls. Still a struggling young actor at the time, Quentin’s brief moment of glory is in the episode in which Sophia gets married.