opening line of the popular song "Thank You for Being a Friend"
not only became the weekly thematic prelude to the situation comedy,
The Golden Girls, it also came to represent the sensibility
which sprang from the heart of this delightful program. With
The Golden Girls NBC brought to television one of the first
representations of senior women coming together to create a circle
of friends that functioned as a family. The program centered around
four main characters: Dorothy Sbornak (Bea Arthur), a divorced school
teacher; Sophia Petrillo (Estelle Getty), Dorothy's elderly, widowed
mother; Blanche DeVereaux (Rue McClanahan), a widow and owner of
the Miami home in which all of the women lived, and Rose Nylund
(Betty White), a widow and an active volunteer in the community.
Aside from the mother-daughter relationship between Dorothy and
Sophia, no other family relations existed between the women, yet
they shared their daily lives, dreams, fears, and dilemmas as a
unit. The group life of the characters enabled expression of diverse
opinions and approaches to problems the women faced as individuals.
south Florida setting added a warmth and lightness to the show,
reflected in the tropical furniture and clothing favored by the
women. The vivid colors and the light that flooded the production
visually represented the vibrance of the lives of the characters.
all of the women were late-middle aged or beyond, they were presented
as full of life, working, capable, and energetic. Even Sophia, the
elderly mother was often in plays, taking trips, having dates, and
doing charity work. Blanche, the youngest of the golden girls, known
for her fondness for men, enjoyed her reputation for wild sex. (Though
Blanche's sexual adventures were always a topic of conversation,
they were never actually portrayed on the program). Rose, the storyteller
of the group, boasted about her roots in St. Olaf, Minnesota and
was painted as much more conservative than the passionate Blanche.
Much of the comedy in the program stemmed from the absurdity of
Rose's stories of her "simple" hometown. These rambling narratives
were often utterly inane, but eventually, after the no-nonsense
Dorothy shouted in frustration, "the point, Rose, get to the point!",
the story would offer warm-hearted advice or a perceptive viewpoint
on the problem at hand. Sophia often aimed her sharp and sarcastic
wit at Rose's stories, making fun of her in a critical, but kind,
way. Dorothy, the working school teacher and the voice of reason,
generally played against the more extreme, often comical perspectives
of the other women. Despite individual eccentricities, each woman
was wise in her own way and each valued the others' experiences
and sage advice. Each played her part in the maintenance of friendships
and family bonds that resulted from their cohabitation.
Golden Girls valued women and put special emphasis on the importance
of women's networks friendships, and experiences. The series was
big enough to showcase the concerns and escapades of four distinctive,
aging women, yet balanced enough to combine the individual experiences
into a positive picture of four senior citizens functioning together
to make the most of life.
the success of the program, NBC dropped The Golden Girls
from the prime time line up at the end of the 1992 season. CBS picked
up the program, but Arthur refused to make the move.
The new network changed the show into The Golden Palace,
and set it in a hotel run by Blanche, Rose and Sophia. It was a failure,
and after its swift cancellation, the character Sophia returned
to NBC to do occasional walk-ons on Empty Nest, a Golden
The Golden Girls
Dorothy Zbornak...................................... Bea Arthur
Rose Nylund.......................................... Betty
White Blanche Devereaux......................... Rue McClanahan
Sophia Petrillo...................................... Estelle
Paul Junger Witt, Tony Thomas, Susan Harris
September 1985-July 1991
Saturday 9:00-9:30 August 1991-September 1992
Todd. "Golden Girls in Their Prime." Saturday Evening Post
(Indianapolis, Indiana), July-August 1986.
Girls Gets Golden Price in Syndication." Broadcasting
(Washington, D.C.), 6 June 1988.
Anne K. "Golden Girls: Feminine Archetypal Patterns of the
Complete Woman." Journal of Popular Culture (Bowling Green, Ohio),
Wayne. "Golden Girl of Sitcoms; Susan Harris Helps Tv Catch Up to
Real." Advertising Age (New York), 30 January 1986.
Harry F. "A New Golden Age; The Over-55 Set Flexes its Wrinkles
on Prime Time." Newsweek (New York), 18 November 1985.
Domestic Settings; Gender
Harris, Susan; Thomas,