Friday, July 5, 2024

The Golden Girls: Blanche and the Younger Man


Written by: James Berg and Stan Zimmerman

Directed by: Jim Drake

Airdate: November 16, 1985

I cannot say for sure but Blanche and the Younger Man may be the first Golden Girls episode where we had an A and B plot. In other words, Blanche and the Younger Man had two stories going on versus one major story with at most a smaller one going on simultaneously. If not for the secondary plot, Blanche and the Younger Man would be a weak and sluggish episode.

Blanche Devereaux (Rue McClanahan) is surprised and delighted when her Jazzercise instructor Dirk (Charles Hill) asks her out. She grudgingly admits that Dirk is younger, though insisting that the age gap is a less than five years. This suggestion makes her housemate Dorothy Zbornak (Bea Arthur) roll her eyes and Dorothy's mother Sophia (Estelle Getty) greets this amusement.

Visiting at the same time is Alma Lindstrom (Jeanette Nolan), mother of Rose Nylund (Betty White). Rose hovers over Alma incessantly, treating her as almost an invalid when Alma is far from it. Rose's smothering of Alma reaches a breaking point after Alma opts to separate from Sophia on an outing. Bizarrely taken to a police station, Alma angrily berates Rose for humiliating her in front of strangers and treating her like a child.

Rose later goes to Alma, explaining that she is afraid of losing her mother, causing her to do what she can to prevent Alma's inevitable death. Alma comforts her daughter, telling her not to focus on the fact that she will die but on that she is still alive. As for Blanche's great springtime romance, she is devastated to learn that Blanche reminds Dirk of his mother. In the end, Blanche sees that though she may be old in years, she still has a lot of life. 

We learn a few things about our group from Blanche and the Younger Man. Dorothy comments that Alma is the same age as Sophia, making her 80 and being born in 1905. We learn that Rose's maiden name is Lindstrom, that she comes from a farming family and that she has a brother who lives in Houston. If we go by what could be Rose's age of 51 from Rose the Prude, which would make her birthyear 1934, Alma would have been 29 years old when Rose was born. It is not known what the birth order is among the Lindstrom children. We can also draw that the unnamed brother in Houston is one of the six Lindstrom brothers mention in The Competition

There is only one section usually cut from rebroadcasts. It is a continuation of Blanche's description of her potential love affair with Dirk, along with a story where she claims to have been wooed by Andy Griffith. 

I think Blanche and the Younger Man is a bad title, especially because the episode does not revolve around Blanche and her potential boy-toy. Most of the episode, and the more interesting part of the episode, is in the relationship between Rose and Alma. I think a better title would have been Mothers and Lovers. It would have described both relationships: the conflict between Rose and Alma as well as Blanche being a substitute for Dirk's mother.

For the life of me, I cannot understand why the "A" plot of Blanche and her pretty psychotic efforts at being Dirk's lover was considered better than the "B" plot of Rose and Alma. The themes of parents eventually dying are well touched on. We also get a fascinating story from Alma about her time with Ben, a younger man whom she hired as a farmhand after Rose's father died. Their relationship went from employer and employee to lovers, but once the affair ended, both accepted it.

The Alma and Ben love affair, brief as it was, would make for an interesting television movie. It also showed that residents of Rose's hometown were not the blithering idiots they would eventually become. Certainly, the Alma and Rose story, along with the Alma and Ben story, proved more interesting than Blanche and Dirk's story. It is almost sad seeing Blanche, with garish makeup, attempting to be young. 

The "B" plot of Rose and Alma is better and more interesting than the "A" plot of Blanche and the Younger Man. It is a credit to the show that Dorothy and Sophia are not out of things, especially Sophia who becomes Alma's de facto bestie. If not for Nolan and White, Blanche and the Younger Man would have been dreadful.

I do wonder though if Coco would have had designs on Dirk. 


Next Episode: Heart Attack

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