Friday, June 14, 2024

The Golden Girls Retrospective: An Introduction



The Golden Girls is a beloved television series, running seven seasons and maintaining a cultural hold long after it went off the air in 1992. Think of it: it has been thirty-two years since the series finale aired and the show continues to be seen in reruns, have endless merchandise and keeps gaining new fans. Such was the impact of The Golden Girls that when Betty White, the last surviving cast member, died two weeks shy of her 100th birthday, it was headline news, eliciting genuine public mourning. 

The Golden Girls has earned a place in television history. It won the Outstanding Comedy Series Emmy back-to-back and was nominated for six straight years out of its seven year run. It also is one of only four television series where all cast members won individual Emmy Awards for their performances: White, Rue McClanahan and Bea Arthur for Lead Actress, Estelle Getty for Supporting Actress. 

The show really has universal appeal, and I think I can see why. Each character has something unique about them: terminally naïve Rose Nylund (White), openly sexually voracious Blanche Devereaux (McClanahan), sarcastic Dorothy Zbornak (Arthur), blunt matriarch Sophia Petrillo (Getty). The cast blended well, at least onscreen. The characters were relatable in their problems but also in their genuine affection towards each other. 

The Golden Girls tackled serious issues ranging from age discrimination and AIDS to dementia and drug dependency, mixed in with risqué talk of sex in all its forms. This was very daring stuff in the mid to late 1980s, especially on a show built around four senior women. I think, however, that part of The Golden Girls' success is due to them being four older women. It was like listening in on randy tales from your grandmothers. 

It did not matter that sometimes their situations were outlandish or bizarre. It did not even matter that continuity was almost nonexistent. The same actors could appear in different roles, and sometimes the same roles were played by different actors. The number of children and grandchildren fluctuated wildly. Ages of the characters shifted sans rhyme or reason save for Blanche, who persistently hid or lied about her age. 

There was some continuity: the husbands or ex-husband's personalities did not change when they popped up in reality or dream sequences. Their manner of death, however, was at the writers' whim.

I have long wanted to do a Golden Girls retrospective, where I look at each individual episode, review it, give my thoughts on it and rank the 177 episodes from Best to Worst. I have reviewed one Golden Girls episode, Empty Nests, for Rita Moreno Day when she was featured for Turner Classic Movies' Summer Under the Stars series. 

As a side note and a bit of a spoiler alert: Empty Nests will find itself among the Ten Worst Golden Girls episodes list.

Now I think I am ready to plunge into the life and adventures of Miami's most famous senior citizens. 

I, at long last, begin my Golden Girls Retrospective. 

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