The Golden Girls
|The Golden Girls|
|Created by||Susan Harris|
|Theme music composer||Andrew Gold|
|Opening theme||"Thank You for Being a Friend" by Cynthia Fee|
|Ending theme||"Thank You for Being a Friend" Instrumental|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||7|
|No. of episodes||180 (list of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Susan Harris
Paul Junger Witt
|Production company(s)||Witt/Thomas/Harris Productions
|Distributor||Disney-ABC Domestic Television|
|Picture format||480i (SDTV)|
|Original release||September 14, 1985– May 9, 1992|
|Followed by||The Golden Palace|
|Related shows||Empty Nest
The Golden Girls is an American sitcom, created by Susan Harris, that originally aired on NBC from September 14, 1985, to May 9, 1992. Starring Beatrice Arthur, Betty White, Rue McClanahan, and Estelle Getty, the show centers on four older women sharing a home in Miami, Florida. It was produced by Witt/Thomas/Harris Productions, in association with Touchstone Television, and Paul Junger Witt, Tony Thomas, and Harris served as the original executive producers.
The Golden Girls received critical acclaim throughout most of its run and won several awards, including the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series twice. It also won three Golden Globe Awards for Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy. Each of the four stars received an Emmy Award (from multiple nominations during the series' run), making it one of only three sitcoms in the award's history to achieve this. The series also ranked among the top ten highest-rated programs for six out of its seven seasons. In 2014, the Writers Guild Of America placed the sitcom at No. 69 in their list of the "101 Best Written TV Series Of All Time".
- 1 Premise
- 2 Episodes
- 3 Cast and characters
- 4 Production
- 5 Reception
- 6 Distribution
- 7 Home media release
- 8 Spin-offs
- 9 Adaptations
- 10 References
- 11 External links
The series revolves around four older, single women (three widows and one divorcée) sharing a house in Miami, Florida. The owner of the house is a widow named Blanche Devereaux (McClanahan), who was joined by fellow widow Rose Nylund (White) and divorcée Dorothy Zbornak (Arthur) after they both responded to a room-for-rent ad on the bulletin board of a local grocery store a year prior to the start of the series. In the pilot episode, the three were joined by Dorothy's 80-year-old mother, Sophia Petrillo (Getty), after the retirement home where she lived burned down.
|First aired||Last aired|
|1||25||September 14, 1985||May 10, 1986||#7||18,726,200|
|2||26||September 27, 1986||May 16, 1987||#5||21,413,000|
|3||25||September 19, 1987||May 7, 1988||#4||19,314,800|
|4||26||October 8, 1988||May 13, 1989||#6||19,345,600|
|5||26||September 23, 1989||May 5, 1990||#6||18,512,100|
|6||26||September 22, 1990||May 4, 1991||#10||15,361,500|
|7||26||September 21, 1991||May 9, 1992||#30||12,065,100|
After six consecutive seasons in the top 10, and a seventh season at No. 30, The Golden Girls came to an end when Bea Arthur chose to leave the series. In the hour-long series finale, which aired in May 1992, Dorothy meets and marries Blanche's Uncle Lucas (Leslie Nielsen), and moves to Hollingsworth Manor in Atlanta, Georgia. Sophia was to join her, but in the end, Sophia stays behind with the other girls in Miami, leading into the spin-off series, The Golden Palace.
Dorothy, after making an emotional speech and telling the girls that "I love you, always", comes rushing back in through different entrances of the house for their final goodbyes, until making her final exit, saying "You'll always be my sisters. Always", leaving the other three ladies. The series finale was watched by 27.2 million viewers. As of 2010, the episode ranked at No. 17 of most-watched finales.
Cast and characters
- Born in Brooklyn, New York City, to Sicilian immigrants Sophia and Salvadore Petrillo, Dorothy became pregnant while still in high school, resulting in a marriage to Stanley Zbornak in order to legitimize the baby. Stan and Dorothy eventually moved to Miami, but divorced after 38 years when Stan left her for a young flight attendant. The marriage produced children. According to the timeline presented, Dorothy and Stan would have had three children, with their oldest son or daughter near 40 by the beginning of the series. However, due to a lack of continuity in the writing, it is implied they had three children but sometimes stated they only had two. Michael and Kate were repeatedly shown as being in their 20s during the run of the show, thus not being old enough to be the child Dorothy got pregnant with in high school. In the series' finale episode, Dorothy marries Blanche's uncle, Lucas Hollingsworth, and relocates to Atlanta, Georgia. Arthur also played Dorothy's grandmother, Sophia's mother, in a flashback episode to when they lived in Brooklyn.
- Known for her humorously peculiar stories of life growing up in her hometown, Rose was happily married to Charlie Nylund, with whom she had five children. Upon Charlie's death, she moved to Miami. She eventually found work at a grief counseling center, though she later ended up as the assistant to a consumer reporter ("Enrique Mas") at a local TV station. In later seasons, Rose became romantically involved with college professor Miles Webber. During season six, Miles was placed into the Witness Protection Program, but returned later in the season. Their relationship continued throughout the series, and shortly into the sequel series, The Golden Palace. In season one it is stated that Rose is 55.
- Born into a wealthy family, Blanche grew up as the apple of her father's eye on a plantation outside of Atlanta, Georgia, prior to her relocation to Miami, where she lived with her husband, George, until his death. Their marriage produced six children: four sons and two daughters. A widow, Blanche was portrayed as man-hungry, and she clearly had the most male admirers—and stories detailing various sexual encounters—over the course of the series.
- Born in Palermo, Sicily, Sophia moved to New York after fleeing an arranged marriage to Guido Spirelli. She later married Salvadore Petrillo, with whom she had three children: Dorothy, Gloria, and Phil, a transvestite, who later dies of a heart attack (episode "Ebbtide's Revenge"). Initially a resident in the Shady Pines Retirement Home after having a stroke prior to the start of the series, she moved in with Blanche, Rose and Dorothy following a fire at the institution. During the series' run, Sophia married Max Weinstock, but they soon separated. Throughout the series, she held a few part-time jobs, mostly involving food, including fast-food worker and entrepreneur of spaghetti sauce and homemade sandwiches.
- Herbert Edelman as Stanley Zbornak, Dorothy's cheating, freeloading ex-husband who first appears in the second episode of season one, and appears in 26 episodes total throughout the series. He also appears in a later episode of The Golden Palace, in which he fakes his death due to troubles with the IRS.
- Harold Gould as Miles Webber (aka Nicholas Carbone, Samuel Plankmaker), Rose's professor boyfriend who appears in 14 episodes, starting in season five. Gould also guest-starred in episode three in the first season as Arnie Peterson, Rose's first serious boyfriend after her husband Charlie's death. He also appears in two episodes of The Golden Palace.
- Debra Engle as Blanche's daughter Rebecca Devereaux, who has a baby girl by artificial insemination and appears in three episodes (seasons 5–6). Shawn Schepps played Rebecca in season three, when Rebecca returns from a modeling career in Paris, overweight and engaged to a verbally abusive man. (Debra) also appears in the series finale of The Golden Palace, in which she is called upon by Blanche for an ovum.
- Monte Markham as Blanche's brother Clayton Hollingsworth in two episodes, first when he comes out in season four and later to introduce his boyfriend in season six.
- Sheree North as Virginia Hollingsworth Wylde, Blanche's sister who appears in two episodes, first in season one, then again in season five.
- Sid Melton as Salvadore Petrillo, Sophia's late husband, usually seen in dreams or flashback sequences who appears in eight episodes. He also appears as Don the Fool, a waiter at a medieval restaurant in season six.
- Nancy Walker as Angela Grisanti Vecchio, Dorothy's aunt and Sophia's sister, with whom Sophia frequently fought, appears in two episodes in season two.
- Brenda Vaccaro as Angela Petrillo, the widow of Dorothy's brother, Phil, for one episode in season six.
- Bill Dana as Sophia's brother and Dorothy's uncle Angelo Grisanti who appears in seven episodes (seasons 3–7). Dana also appears as Sophia's father in a season four episode.
- Doris Belack as Gloria Mayston, Dorothy's younger sister who, in season one, is married to a wealthy man in California and wants Sophia to move in with her. She later loses all of her money and returns in season seven for a two-part episode played by Dena Dietrich and upsets Dorothy, as she becomes romantically involved with Dorothy's ex-husband, Stan.
- Scott Jacoby as Dorothy's aimless musician son Michael Zbornak who appears in three episodes from seasons two to five.
- Lynnie Greene (credited as Lynn Greene) as a younger Dorothy in flashbacks in four episodes.
- Steve Landesberg as Stan’s psychiatrist, Dr. Richard Halperin, appearing in three episodes in season seven.
Empty Nest crossovers
- Richard Mulligan as Harry Weston, who was prominently featured in a two-episode story arc in which Dorothy suffered from chronic fatigue syndrome, and was instrumental in her proper diagnosis, being the only physician besides his referral who believed she was actually sick. Park Overall appears as Laverne Todd in a deleted scene from the same episode.
- Kristy McNichol and Dinah Manoff as Barbara and Carol Weston, respectively, appear in seasons six and seven. Carol dates Stanley Zbornak's psychiatrist in one episode and crashes Blanche's party in the episode "Moonlight Madness" (both in season 7).
|"I was running all over the house grabbing anybody who would listen. I kept reading scenes to them and saying 'God, this is brilliant [...] There's nothing trendy about this show. There are no tricks. It's a classic"|
|—NBC executive Warren Littlefield about reading the series pilot.|
Ideas for a comedy series about older women emerged during the filming of a television special at NBC's Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, California, in August 1984. Produced to introduce the network's 1984–85 season schedule, two actresses appearing on NBC shows, Selma Diamond of Night Court and Doris Roberts of Remington Steele appeared in a skit promoting the upcoming show Miami Vice as Miami Nice, a parody about old people living in Miami, Florida. NBC senior vice president Warren Littlefield was among the executive producers in the audience who were amused by their performance, and he envisioned a series based on the geriatric humor the two were portraying.
Shortly afterward, he met with producers Paul Junger Witt and Tony Thomas who were pitching a show about a female lawyer. Though Littlefield nixed their idea, he asked them if they were interested in delivering a pilot script for Miami Nice instead, but as their regular writer declined, Witt agreed to ask his wife, Susan Harris. While they had doubts whether Harris, who initially had planned to retire after the ending of their ABC series Soap, would pen another project, Harris found the concept to be interesting as "it was a demographic that had never been addressed," and she soon resumed work. Though her vision of a sitcom about women in their 60s differed with NBC's request to write a comedy about women at the age of around 40, Littlefield was impressed when he received Harris' pilot script and subsequently approved production of the pilot. The Cosby Show director Jay Sandrich, who had previously worked with Harris, Witt and Thomas on Soap, agreed to direct.
The pilot also includes the girls' gay houseboy, Coco (Charles Levin), who lived with them. Levin had been suggested by then-NBC president Brandon Tartikoff based on his groundbreaking recurring gay role, Eddie Gregg, on NBC's Emmy-winning drama, Hill Street Blues. After the pilot, the character of Coco was eliminated from the series.
Hired to film the pilot, director Sandrich would also become instrumental in the casting process for the series. Both Rue McClanahan and Betty White came into consideration as the series Mama's Family, in which the two co-starred, had been canceled by NBC. Originally producers wanted to cast McClanahan as Rose and White as Blanche. The thinking for this was based on roles they previously played; White portrayed man-hungry Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, while McClanahan co-starred as sweet but scatter-brained Vivian Harmon in Maude. Eager not to be typecast, they took the suggestion of Sandrich and switched roles last-minute.
Though Harris had created the character of Dorothy with a "Bea Arthur type" in mind, Littlefield and the producers initially envisioned actress Elaine Stritch for the part. Stritch's audition flopped, however, and under the impression that Arthur didn't want to participate, Harris asked McClanahan if she could persuade Arthur, with whom she worked previously on the CBS sitcom Maude, to take the role. Arthur flipped upon reading the script, but felt hesitant about McClanahan's approach as she didn't "want to play (their Maude characters) Maude and Vivian meet Sue Ann Nivens." She reconsidered, however, after hearing that McClanahan and White had switched roles.
Estelle Getty, who was younger than both Bea Arthur and Betty White, was the last to be cast as the elderly mother of Arthur's character. Tony Thomas spotted her playing the mother role on Broadway in Torch Song Trilogy, and asked her to audition. Getty, who went through a three-hour transformation to become Sophia, wore heavy make-up, thick glasses and a white wig to look the part. The character of Sophia was thought by the creators to enhance the idea that three retirement age women could be young. Disney's Michael Eisner explains, "Estelle Getty made our three women into girls. And that was, to me, what made it seem like it could be a contemporary, young show."
Years after the show, it emerged that Bea Arthur and Betty White were personally distant when not working. This never came across publicly in press, and both acted as consummate professionals on set as each knew the importance of the other to the overall success of the show. White has expressed nothing but love and admiration for Arthur since her death in 2009, but has indicated that their conflict was real and due to a fundamental personality clash with Arthur becoming easily irritated by White's positive, perky demeanor.
Writing and taping
The show was the first television series to be produced by The Walt Disney Company under the Touchstone Television label, and was subsequently distributed by Buena Vista International, Inc. (now Disney-ABC Television Group).
Creator Susan Harris went on to contribute another four episodes to the first season, but became less involved with the sitcom throughout its run; she would, however, continue reading all scripts and remained familiar with most of the storylines. Kathy Speer and Terry Grossman were the first head writers of the series and wrote for the show's first four seasons. As head writers, Speer and Grossman along with Mort Nathan and Barry Fanaro—who won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing the first season—gave general ideas to lower staff writers, and personally wrote a handful of scripts each season.
In 1989, Marc Sotkin, previously a writer on Laverne & Shirley and a producer on fellow Witt/Thomas series It's a Living, assumed head-writing responsibilities, and guided the show (to varying degrees) during what would be its final three seasons. Richard Vaczy and Tracy Gamble, previously writers on 227 and My Two Dads, also assumed the roles of producers and head writers. Beginning in 1990, Marc Cherry served as writer and producer, years before going on to create Desperate Housewives, which ran on ABC from 2004 to 2012.
Exterior and interior sets
The house's address was mentioned as being 6151 Richmond Street, Miami. The outside model used in the shots of the house in the series was part of the backstage studio tour ride at Disney's Hollywood Studios. This façade—along with the Empty Nest house—was among those destroyed in mid-2003, as Disney bulldozed the houses of "Residential Street" to make room for its "Lights, Motors, Action!" attraction. A hurricane that damaged the sets earlier also contributed to this decision. The façade is based on a real house in Brentwood, California, located at 245 N. Saltair Ave. and was used in the exterior shots during the first season of the show. Later, the producers built a new model at Walt Disney World in Florida.
The kitchen set seen on The Golden Girls was originally used on an earlier Witt/Thomas/Harris series, It Takes Two, which aired on ABC from 1982 to 1983. However, the exterior backdrop seen through the kitchen window changed from the view of Chicago high-rises to palm trees and bushes for the Miami setting.
The Golden Girls was shot on videotape in front of a live studio audience. Many episodes of the series followed a similar format or theme. For example, one or more of the women would become involved in some sort of problem, often involving other family members, men, or an ethical dilemma. At some point, they would gather around the kitchen table and discuss the problem, sometimes late at night and often while eating cheesecake or some other dessert. One of the other girls would then tell a story from her own life, which somehow related to the problem (though Rose would occasionally regale a nonsense story that had nothing to do with the situation, and Sophia would tell outrageous made-up stories). Some episodes featured flashbacks to previous episodes, flashbacks to events not shown in previous episodes or to events that occurred before the series began. Though the writing was mostly comical, dramatic moments and sentimental endings were included in several episodes.
An immediate runaway hit, The Golden Girls became an NBC staple on Saturday nights. The show was the anchor of NBC's Saturday line-up, and almost always won its time slot, as ABC and CBS struggled to find shows to compete against it, the most notable being ABC's Lucille Ball sitcom Life With Lucy in the beginning of the 1986–87 season. The Golden Girls was part of a series of Brandon Tartikoff shows that put an end to NBC's ratings slump, along with The Cosby Show, 227, Night Court, Miami Vice, and L.A. Law.
The show dealt with many topical issues, such as coming out and same-sex marriage, elder care and homelessness, AIDS and discrimination against people with HIV, US immigration policy, death and assisted suicide.
Awards and nominations
During its original run, The Golden Girls received 68 Emmy nominations, 11 Emmy awards, four Golden Globe Awards, and two Viewers for Quality Television awards. All the lead actresses won Emmy Awards for their performances on the show. The Golden Girls is one of four shows, along with All in the Family, The Simpsons and Will & Grace, where all the principal actors have won at least one Emmy Award.
In 1989, American syndicated reruns began airing, distributed by Buena Vista Television (now Disney-ABC Domestic Television), the syndication arm of Disney, whose Touchstone Television division produced the series.
In March 1997, the Lifetime cable network acquired the exclusive rights to repeat the episodes of The Golden Girls in the US for over a decade, until March 1, 2009. The last episode aired on Lifetime, February 27, 2009. Many episodes were edited to allow more commercials and for content. The Hallmark Channel and WE tv began airing re-edited episodes of The Golden Girls in March 2009. As of February 2013, We TV's rights expired and Viacom networks' TV Land, home to Betty White's current series Hot in Cleveland, purchased them and Logo TV.
Home media release
Buena Vista Home Entertainment has released all seven seasons of The Golden Girls on DVD in Region 1 and Region 4 with the first four being released in Region 2. On November 9, 2010, the studio released a complete series box set titled The Golden Girls: 25th Anniversary Complete Collection. The 21-disc collection features all 180 episodes of the series as well as all special features contained on the previously released season sets; it is encased in special collectible packaging, a replica of Sophia's purse. On November 15, 2005, Warner Home Video released The Golden Girls: A Lifetime Intimate Portrait Series on DVD which contains a separate biography of Arthur, White, McClanahan and Getty, revealing each woman's background, rise to stardom and private life, which originally aired on Lifetime network.
Upon the success of The Golden Girls creator Susan Harris later devised Empty Nest as a spin-off from The Golden Girls with some character crossovers. Nurses was later spun off from Empty Nest, and the shows would occasionally have special episodes in which characters from one show made appearances in the others.
The Golden Palace
After the original series ended, White, McClanahan, and Getty reprised their characters in the CBS series The Golden Palace, which ran from September 1992 to May 1993, and also starred Cheech Marin and Don Cheadle (Bea Arthur guest starred once reprising her role as Dorothy). The show never approached the popularity or acclaim of the original, and ranked 66th in the annual ratings. Reportedly a second season was approved before being canceled the day before the network announced its fall schedule.
Lifetime, which held the rights to The Golden Girls at the time, aired reruns of The Golden Palace in the summer of 2005, and again in December of that year. This was the first time since 1993 that The Golden Palace was seen on American television. Until April 2006, Lifetime played the series as a virtual season eight, airing the series in between the conclusion of the final season and the syndicated roll-over to season one.
Capitalizing on the popularity of The Golden Girls, creator Susan Harris decided to develop a spin-off, centering around the empty nest syndrome. The initial pilot was aired as the 1987 Golden Girls episode "Empty Nests" and starred Paul Dooley and Rita Moreno as George and Renee Corliss, a married couple living next to the Golden Girls characters, who face empty nest syndrome after their three adult daughters moved out. When that idea wasn't well-received, Harris retooled the series as a vehicle for Richard Mulligan and the following year Empty Nest debuted, starring Mulligan as pediatrician Harry Weston, a widower whose two adult daughters moved back home. Characters from both shows made occasional guest appearances on the other show, with the four Girls guesting on Empty Nest and Mulligan, Dinah Manoff, Kristy McNichol, David Leisure and Park Overall appearing on The Golden Girls in their Empty Nest roles. After the end of The Golden Palace, Getty joined the cast of Empty Nest, making frequent appearances as Sophia in the show's final two seasons.
Mulligan and Manoff were alumni from one of Susan Harris' earlier shows, Soap.
Empty Nest launched its own spin-off in 1991 set in Miami in the same hospital where Dr. Weston worked. The series starred Stephanie Hodge and a set of other young female and male nurses and follows their daily slumbers during worktime. As one of the few times in television history that three shows from the same producer, set in the same city, aired back-to-back-to-back on a single network in the same night, the three shows occasionally took advantage of their unique circumstances to create storylines that carried through all three series, such as "Hurricane Saturday." Starring actress Hodge left the show after two seasons. David Rasche joined the cast at the start of the second season and Loni Anderson was added as the new hospital administrator for the third season.
The Golden Girls: Live! was an Off-Broadway show that opened in the summer of 2003 in New York City at Rose's Turn theater in the West Village, and ran until November of that year. The production ended because the producers failed to secure the rights and received a cease and desist order by the creators of the original television show. Featuring an all-male cast in drag, The Golden Girls: Live! consisted of two back-to-back episodes of the sitcom: Break-In (season 1, episode 8) and Isn't It Romantic? (season 2, episode 5).
- Greece: Chrysa Koritsia: In 2008, Greek broadcaster ET1 premiered a Greek remake entitled Chrysa Koritsia (Greek: Xρυσά κορίτσια, "Gold[en] Girls"), which features the four women in Greece. Each of the characters has been Hellenized to suit the culture and modern setting. Names were only slightly changed but more for cultural reasons, as Sophia (whose first name was unchanged, as it is Greek), Bela (Blanche), Dora (Dorothy), Fifi (Rose), and Panos (Stan). The series began airing in mid-January, and features many similar plots to the original. ET1 aired a rerun of the show in the summer of 2008 and managed to take a place in the top 10 rates chart, presented by AGB Nielsen Media Research. The Greek edition features Mirka Papakonsantinoy as Dora, Dina Konsta as Sofia, Eleni Gerasimidou as Fifi and Ivonni Maltezoy as Bela.
- Netherlands: Golden Girls: A Dutch remake for the RTL 4 network stars Loes Luca as Barbara (Blanche), Beppie Melissen as Els (Dorothy), Cecile Heuer as Milly (Rose), and Pleuni Touw as Toos (Sophia). The show premiered in fall 2012, using essentially the same plots as the U.S. version, along with a Dutch-language version of the original theme song, "Thank You for Being a Friend."
- Philippines: 50 Carats, O Di Ba? A Philippine version of The Golden Girls (spin-off) aired during the early 90's by IBC 13. Starred Nida Blanca, Charito Solis and Gloria Romero.
- Russia: Bolshie Devochki: A Russian remake was broadcast in 2006, entitled Bolshie Devochki (Russian: Большие Девочки), which in English can literally be translated to: "Big Girls." The series featured renowned Russian actresses Galina Petrova as Irina (Dorothy), Olga Ostroumova as Nadejda (Blanche), Valentina Telechkina as Margarita (Rose), and Elena Millioti as Sofya (Sophia). However, the concept never caught on with the Russian viewers and the show was canceled after only thirty-two episodes.
- Spain: Juntas pero no revueltas/Las chicas de oro: In 1996, TVE launched a Spanish remake entitled Juntas pero no revueltas (Together, but not mixed) with Mercedes Sampietro as Julia (Dorothy), Mónica Randall as Nuri (Blanche), Kiti Manver as Rosa (Rose), and Amparo Baró as Benigna (Sophia). Low ratings made it disappear after one season. In 2010, another remake with the title Las chicas de oro (The Golden Girls) was announced, again on TVE, this time produced by José Luis Moreno and with Concha Velasco as Doroti (Dorothy), Carmen Maura as Rosa (Rose), Lola Herrera as Blanca (Blanche) and Alicia Hermida as Sofía (Sophia). The series premiered on September 13, 2010 with success. However, after only 26 episodes, the series was eventually discontinued after the end of the first season after receiving generally bad reviews and following dropping ratings.
- Turkey: Altın Kızlar A Turkish version of The Golden Girls was made for ATV. Starring veteran Turkish movie stars Türkan Şoray, Hülya Koçyiğit, Nevra Serezli and Fatma Girik, the show aired in 2009.
- United Kingdom: The Brighton Belles: In 1993, ITV premiered Brighton Belles, a British version of the American sitcom. The show, starring Sheila Hancock, Wendy Craig, Sheila Gish, and Jean Boht was nearly identical to Girls except for character name changes and actor portrayals. The 10-episode series was canceled after six weeks due to low ratings, with the final four episodes airing more than a year later.
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- Francisco, Butch (November 15, 2001). "A rivalry that never was". Philstar.com. Retrieved September 16, 2013.
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