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This week, September 14th to be exact, iconic American sitcom ‘The Golden Girls’ turned 31 (the above paragraph is a bastardisation of the theme song “Thank You for Being a Friend” by Cynthia Fee). One of the funniest shows ever to grace the small screen and one of the best sitcom casts ever ‘The Golden Girls’ holds a special place in many people’s hearts including yours truly.
The show chronicles the lives of four older, single women living in Miami: sarcastic substitute teacher and divorcée Dorothy Zbornak (Beatrice Arthur), small town widow Rose Nylund (Betty White), man hungry Southern belle Blanche Devereaux (Rue McClanahan) and Dorothy’s elderly and sharp-tongued Sicilian mother Dorothy Petrillo (Estelle Getty). Each actress and character had their own brand of humour and it all came together for a hilarious show.
For this post we will be counting down 13 facts, some borrowed from this great article by mentalfloss.com, which you may or may not know about ‘The Golden Girls’. Here we go:
#1 A prolific TV show creator
The show was created by television comedy writer and producer Susan Harris. She has created 13 TV series including hits like ‘Benson’ and ‘Soap’. Harris suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome and in a two part episode “Sick and Tired” she wrote about Dorothy dealing with the condition.
#2 The almost gay character
The show’s pilot was to feature a gay character, a cook named Coco. But as writers found that most of the interaction between the ladies was in the kitchen they felt that Coco would distract from that. And when Sophia’s character was changed from a guest star to regular he was deemed unnecessary.
#3 Los Angeles for Miami and clip on earrings
The setting of the show may have been Blanche’s home at 6151 Richmond Street, Miami, Florida but the early exterior shots was of a house in Los Angeles. Another tidbit is that Arthur’s ears were not pierced and the large earrings she wore as Dorothy were clip ons.
#4 A healthy run and multiple awards
The show ran for seven seasons from September 14, 1985 to May 9, 1992 and won several awards including the Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series twice and three Golden Globes for Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy. Each of the four stars won Emmy awards from multiple nominations and the show was among the top 10 highest rated shows for six of its seven seasons.
#5 Almost no Bea Arthur
The show ended when Arthur decided not to continue with itand in the finale her character Dorothy marries Blanche’s uncle Lucas Hollingsworth and relocates to Atlanta. But did you know that Arthur was almost never on the show in the first place?
Firstly NBC was against casting her despite Harris writing the character Dorothy with the actress in mind, having worked with her on previous sitcom ‘Maude’. According to audience testing Arthur was recognisable but not lovable due to the Maude’s character’s liberal leanings. And secondly McClanahan had to telephone Arthur to convince her to take up the role.
#6 With love from the Queen
Queen Elisabeth II was a huge fan of the show and the cast performed for her live in 1988 at the a Royal Variety Performance in London. They did two kitchen table scenes though there was a bit of censoring as not to offend royal sensibilities.
#7 The show had two spin-offs
The show had not one but two spin-offs. One ‘Empty Nest’, began in 1987 while the show was still on the air and focused on married couple and ‘Golden Girls’ neighbors George and Renee Corliss dealing with empty nest syndrome following the departure of their three adult daughters. Characters from each show would appear on the other including Sophia making a number of appearances on ‘Empty Nest’.
When ‘Golden Girls’ wrapped in May 1992 a continuation ‘Golden Palace’ was launched. This spin-off showed Rose, Blanche and Dorothy as hotel operators and also featured Cheech Marin and Don Cheadle. But this show could not hold a candle to the original and replaced the organic comedy and chemistry with gags and gimmicks. It was mercifully canned after one season.
#8 There was a stage production with men in drag
Ever dreamed of seeing a stage version of the show with an all male cast in drag? No? Well that was what happened with the off-Broadway production The Golden Girls: Live in the summer of 2003. The production ended because the producers could not secure the rights and were ordered to cease and desist.
#9 There were foreign remakes in 7 countries
As evidence of the international appeal of the show it has been remade in seven countries: ‘Los Años Dorados’ in Chile, ‘Chrysa Koritsia’ in Greece, ‘Golden Girls’ in Netherlands, ’50 Carats, O Di Ba’ in Phillipines, ‘Bolchi Devochki’ in Russia, ‘Juntas pero no revueltas/Las chicas de oro’ (“together but not mixed/Golden Girls”) in Spain and ‘The Brighton Belles’ in the UK.
#10 Estelle Getty was the second youngest “girl”
Returning to the cast Getty may have played the eldest character on the show but she was the second youngest of the four and a year younger than Arthur who played her daughter. The makeup department spent 45 minutes to age up Getty to make her appear much older than she was.
White was actually the eldest of the cast being born in January 1922 and 63 when the show began. She was just a few months older than Arthur who was born in May 1922. Getty was the third eldest being born in May 1923 and 62 when the show began while the youngest was McClanahan who was born in February 1934 and just 51 when ‘The Golden Girls’ started.
#11 Getty’s stage fright
Continuing with Getty she reported during a 1988 interview that she would suffer with severe stage fright and as the least experienced of the actresses felt intimidated by Arthur and White who had been on television for years. She had also worried that the audience would find out that she was not as talented as they were. She did not have anything to worry about though as Sophia is a beloved character which is thanks to her wonderful performance and also the great writing.
#12 There is a real St Olaf
One of the best aspects of the show was Rose’s colorful stories about her life in the rural town of St Olaf, Minnesota. While that town, a Norwegian farming settlement in northern Minnesota, was fictional there is a St Olaf in western Minnesota. Unfortunately there are no residents that can rub their legs together and make sounds like a cricket.
#13 White is the last surviving ‘girl’
Though internet trolls have been fake killing her for years Betty White is still alive and going strong at 94. From 2010 to 2015 she found success with another sitcom ‘Hot in Cleaveland’ and won two consecutive Screen Actor Guild Awards as well as an Emmy nod.
Of the four actresses White is the only one still with us after the others died one after the other in three consecutive years. We first lost Getty in 2008 when she died from Dementia on July 22, 2008, three days before her 85th birthday. Then we lost Arthur in 2009 when she died from cancer and finally McClanahan in 2010 from a brain hemorrhage.
Though these actresses may be gone the fantastic work they did and iconic characters they created will always live on. You ladies were (and in White’s case still are) truly golden.
So are you a fan of ‘Golden Girls’ and if so who was your favorite character? Feel free to comment below and if you enjoyed this article you can share with your peeps. Sharing is caring.
For more TV nostalgia you can check out My Top 20 Sesame Street Songs here and My Top 4 Coolest Weird Al Factoids here. And for more great TV/Movie lists you can check back redmangoreviews Monday to Saturday for new posts and follow me on Twitter @suprememango012 for updates and other cool stuff.
Julien is outie like a navel. l8rs