The Golden Girls

Defying the TV-industry “rules” that A) no viewer is interested in watching a situation comedy with an all-female cast and B) no viewer wants to see anybody over the age of 34, The Golden Girls was one of the few sitcoms in which all of the regulars were women, and none was under the age of 50 — and it turned out be NBC’s biggest hit of the 1985-1986 season.

Set in a small Miami neighborhood, the series starred Bea Arthur as divorced substitute teacher Dorothy Zbornak; Betty White as naïve, impressionable, ingenuous widowed grief counselor Rose Nylund; Rue McClanahan as museum worker Blanche Devereaux, another widow, but hardly naïve — in fact, sex was the foremost thought in her mind at all times; and Estelle Getty as Dorothy’s octogenarian mother, Sophia Petrillo, who had lost all her “tact cells” after a stroke and thus spoke her mind at all times, much to everyone’s embarrassment.

Blanche owned the house that she shared with Rose and Dorothy, with Sophia moving in on the trio after her retirement home burned down (a conflagration which, it was revealed late in the series, she had a hand in!). From time to time, the four roommates were visited by various relatives and offspring, none of whom could be called regulars (in fact, few of these peripheral characters were ever played by the same actors more than once).

Seen on a more frequent basis were Dorothy’s ne’er-do-well former husband, Stan (Herb Edelman), who, even though he’d dumped her for a much younger woman, constantly appeared on Dorothy’s doorstep to cry on her shoulder or try to get her involved in his latest get-rich-quick scheme; and Rose’s erstwhile boyfriend Miles Webber (Harold Gould), a well-meaning nebbish who turned out to be a former Mob accountant living in the Witness Relocation Program! The series ended with a hour-long episode in which Dorothy married Blanche’s uncle Lucas (Leslie Nielsen), obliging the roommates to seek out new domiciles.

Created by Susan Harris of Soap fame, The Golden Girls debuted September 14, 1985, and ended its NBC run on May 9, 1992; the Emmy-winning series ranked among America’s ten most popular programs in every season but its last. Golden Girls also spawned two spin-offs: Empty Nest and The Golden Palace.

The Golden Girls, Monday – Friday 5.30pm & Weekend Doubles 6.20pm, on Fox Classics