Golden Girls Wiki
Advertisement
The Golden Girls opening screenshot
The Golden Girls article

Betty White as Rose Nylund
"It's like we say in St. Olaf, Christmas without fruitcake is like St. Sigmund's Day without the headless boy."

This article is incomplete. You can help the Golden Girls Wiki by expanding it.

The Golden Girls is an American sitcom created by Susan Harris. It aired on NBC from September 14th, 1985, to May 9th, 1992, with a total of 180 half-hour episodes, spanning seven seasons. With an ensemble cast starring Bea Arthur, Betty White, Rue McClanahan, and Estelle Getty, the show is about four older women who share a home in Miami, Florida. It was produced by Witt/Thomas/Harris Productions, in association with Touchstone Television. 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, making it one of only four sitcoms in the award's history to achieve this. The series also ranked among the Nielsen ratings' top ten for six of its seven seasons. In 2013, TV Guide ranked The Golden Girls number 54 on its list of the 60 Best Series of All Time. In 2014, the Writers Guild of America placed the sitcom at number 69 in their list of the "101 Best Written TV Series of All Time". Terry Tang of the Associated Press reported that the series continues to attract new fans in the 21st century and characterized it as an example of a sitcom that has aged well.

Creation[]

Ideas for a comedy series about older women emerged during the filming of a television special at NBC 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. 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 if they would be interested in delivering a pilot script for Miami Nice, instead. Their regular writer declined, so Witt asked his wife, Susan Harris, who had been semiretired since the conclusion of their ABC series Soap. She found the concept interesting, as "it was a demographic that had never been addressed," and she soon began work on it. Though her vision of a sitcom about women in their zixties differed from NBC's request for a comedy about women around forty years old, Littlefield was impressed when he received her pilot script and subsequently approved production of it. The Cosby Show director Jay Sandrich, who had previously worked with Harris, Witt, and Thomas on Soap, agreed to direct the pilot episode.

The pilot included a gay houseboy, Coco (Charles Levin), who lived with the girls. Levin had been suggested by then-NBC president Brandon Tartikoff based on Levin's groundbreaking portrayal of a recurring gay character, Eddie Gregg, on NBC's Emmy-winning drama Hill Street Blues. After the pilot, the character of Coco was eliminated from the series.

The Walt Disney Company, NBC Studios and the creators were named in a federal copyright infringement suit filed by Nancy Bretzfield claiming the show was based on a script rejected by NBC in 1980. The suit was later settled.

Storyline[]

GGtitle

The Golden Girls publicity cast photo.

The show, featuring an ensemble cast, revolves around four older single women (three widows and one divorcée) sharing a house in Miami. 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 an ad on the bulletin board of a local grocery store a year before the start of the series. In the pilot episode, the three are joined by Dorothy's eighty year-old widowed mother, Sophia Petrillo (Getty), after the retirement home where she has been living has burned down.

After six consecutive seasons in the top 10, and the seventh season at #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. Presumably, 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 2018, the finale ranked at #17 of most-watched finales.[1] Watch Golden Girls Now on Hulu and Disney + internationally

Cast[]

Main characters[]

Photograph Character Actor Description
Dorothy Zbornak Dorothy Zbornak Beatrice Arthur A divorced substitute teacher born in Brooklyn, New York City, to Sicilian immigrants Sophia and Salvadore Petrillo. After a one-night stand with classmate Stanley Zbornak, Dorothy became pregnant and married Stanley to legitimize the baby. The marriage produced two children, Kate and Michael, and the couple divorced after thirty-eight years when Stanley left the marriage for a young flight attendant.
A sardonic, introspective, compassionate, and protective substitute teacher, Dorothy moved to Miami, Florida, after her then-husband Stanley divorced her to run off with a stewardess. Along with her mother Sophia and her friend Rose, Dorothy rented a room in the Miami home of her friend Blanche Devereaux. Dorothy often acts as den mother and voice of reason among the quartet, though at times she also acted foolishly or negatively and would need her friends and family to help ground her again.
In the series' final episode, Dorothy is set up with Blanche's uncle, Lucas Hollingsworth, under false pretenses, and the two decide to pretend they're dating to mess with Blanche. However, the two end up falling in love for real and they decide to get married. After the marriage, Dorothy decides to leave Miami behind relocates to Atlanta, Georgia, with Lucas.
Rose Nylund Rose Nylund Betty White A Norwegian American from the fictional small farming town of St. Olaf, Minnesota; Rose was conceived out of wedlock by monk Brother Martin and monastery cook Ingrid Karklavoner. Ingrid died in childbirth and Rose was taken to the St. Olaf orphanage, where she was adopted by farmers Gunter and Alma Lindstrom. Rose was happily married to Charlie Nylund, with whom she had five children: daughters Kirsten, Bridget, and Gunilla, and sons Adam and Charlie, Jr. Some years before the series began, Charlie had a heart attack while he and Rose were making love and he passed away, leading Rose to develop a fear of intimacy. Upon her husband's death, she moved to Miami and lived in an apartment building, but was kicked after her landlords discovered she had a pet, leading her to move in with Blanche Devereaux.
Often naive and known for her humorously-peculiar stories of life growing up in her hometown, Rose is sweet, kind, and very competitive. Many of the jokes about Rose focus on her perceived lack of intelligence. Though she often annoys her housemates with her dim-wittedness and her long, rambling stories, Rose's loving and supportive attitude helps her friends and loved ones keep a stiff upper lip during hard times.
Rose originally works at a grief counseling center, but later switches careers and becomes assistant to consumer reporter Enrique Más at a local TV station. In later seasons, Rose becomes romantically involved with college professor Miles Webber. Their relationship continues throughout the series and briefly into the sequel series, The Golden Palace. In the series finale, Rose briefly considers moving in with her daughter Kirsten after suffering from a heart attack in the previous two-part episode "Home Again, Rose". Ultimately, she chooses to stay with Blanche and Sophia when Dorothy moves to Atlanta.
Blanche Devereaux Blanche Devereaux Rue McClanahan A promiscuous Southern belle employed at an art museum. Born into a wealthy family, Blanche grew up on a plantation outside of Atlanta, Georgia, with her two sisters, Virginia and Charmaine, and a younger brother, Clayton. Her older brother, Tad, was shipped off to a mental institution when she was young. After getting married, Blanche and her husband George relocated to Miami, where they lived in the house that the series takes place in. Their marriage produced five children: daughters Janet and Rebecca, and sons Doug, Biff, and Matthew. In the 1970s, George was killed by a drunk driver, leaving Blanche a widow.
A widow, Blanche is portrayed as self-absorbed and man-hungry, although she still mourns her husband. Similarly to Rose, Blanche has her own collection of strange stories which she shares from time to time, often tales of her rivalry with sisters Virginia and Charmaine, or of the outlandish stunts she pulled as a teenager.
Later in the series, Blanche sells equal shares of the house to Dorothy, Rose, and Sophia. In the series finale, Blanche ends up staying in the house with Rose and Sophia while Dorothy goes to live in Atlanta.
Sophia888 Sophia Petrillo Estelle Getty Dorothy's brazen, wisecracking mother. Born in Sicily, Sophia moved to New York after fleeing an arranged marriage to Guido Spirelli. She married Salvadore Petrillo, with whom she had three children: Dorothy, Gloria, and Phil, a cross-dresser who later dies of a heart attack. Initially a resident of the Shady Pines retirement home after having had a stroke prior to the start of the series, Sophia moved in with Blanche, Rose, and Dorothy following a fire at the home. Sophia never had good things to say about her retirement home, and she alluded to poor treatment by the staff many times throughout the series' run -- although, in an episode meant to raise awareness about poor-quality nursing homes, she did admit that the treatment at Shady Pines was satisfactory.
Sophia is the unspoken matriarchal figure of the group, bringing tall tales, wisecracks, delicious recipes, and a touch of motherly love to the Miami household. She is best known for her wisecracks, put-downs and brazen remarks, often commenting on Dorothy’s lack of love life, Blanche’s promiscuity, and Rose’s stupidity. The other women usually seek Sophia out for advice, which Sophia is all too willing to share, usually beginning with her catchphrase, "Picture it…" Like Rose’s stories, Sophia's parables often end with a moral from which advice can be gleaned.
In a later episode, Sophia tried to run away to Sicily after becoming the prime suspect in after making s'mores with a roommate on an illegal hotplate. In the series finale, Sophia considers moving to Atlanta, Georgia with Dorothy after she marries Blanche's uncle Lucas. However, she ends up deciding to stay behind with Rose and Blanche, setting up the transition for The Golden Palace.


Recurring characters[]

Photograph Character Actor Description
TBA Stanley Zbornak Herbert Edelman Dorothy's cheating, freeloading ex-husband, who married her to legitimize a baby concieved from a one-night stand they had in high school. The marriage produced two children, Kate and Michael, and the couple divorced after thirty-eight years when Stanley left the marriage for a young flight attendant named Chrissy. Chrissy later left Stan for a younger man, and Stan married another woman, Catherine, in Season 4, but they divorced off-screen in Season 5.
Stanley worked as an unsuccessful novelty item salesman until he became a successful entrepreneur by inventing the "Zbornie", which was a utensil used to open baked potatoes. Many of Stan's plotlines were centered around the fact that Dorothy was still bitter about their divorce and the way he left her. Attempts at reconciliation were made by both Stan and Dorothy throughout the series, particularly Episode 12 of Season 1 and Episodes 16 and 17 of Season 6. They made peace in the series finale when Stan accepted Dorothy's decision to marry Lucas Hollingsworth.
TBA Nicholas Carbone | Miles Webber Harold Gould Rose's boyfriend from Season 5 onwards. Originally an accountant named Nicholas Carbone, Miles unwittingly became an accomplice to the Chicago mafia and was able to avoid being sent to prison by testifying against them. He was then placed in the Witness Protection Program and sent to Miami, where he lived as a college professor named Miles Webber.
Gould also guest starred in the show's third episode in its first season as Arnie Peterson, Rose's first serious boyfriend after her husband Charlie's death. He also appeared in the third episode of The Golden Palace, after Rose discovered he was cheating on her..
  • Debra Engle as Blanche's daughter Rebecca Devereaux, who has a baby girl by artificial insemination and appeared in three episodes, seasons 5–7. Shawn Schepps played Rebecca in season 3, when she returns from a modeling career in Paris, overweight and engaged to a verbally abusive man.
  • Monte Markham as Blanche's brother Clayton Hollingsworth in two episodes, first when he comes out and later to introduce his boyfriend.
  • Sheree North as Virginia Hollingsworth Wylde, Blanche's sister who appeared in two episodes, first in season one then again in season five.
  • Sid Melton as Salvadore "Sal" Petrillo, Sophia's late husband, usually seen in dreams or flashback sequences who appeared in eight episodes. He also appeared 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 constantly fought, appeared in two episodes in 1987.
  • Brenda Vaccaro played Angela Petrillo, the widow of Dorothy's brother, Phil, for one episode in 1990.
  • Bill Dana as Sophia's brother and Dorothy's uncle Angelo Grisanti who appeared in seven episodes from seasons 3 to 7. Dana also appeared as Sophia's father in a season 4 episode.
  • Doris Belack as Gloria Mayston, Dorothy's younger sister who in season 1, is married to a wealthy man in California and wants Sophia to move in with her. She later lost all of her money and returns in season 7 for a 2-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 appeared in three episodes.
  • Lynnie Greene, credited as Lynn Greene; she portrayed a younger Dorothy in flashbacks in four episodes.
  • Steve Landesberg played Stan’s psychiatrist, Dr. Richard Halperin, appearing in three episodes in season 7.

The show also drew many well-known or then up-and-coming actors and actresses for single guest starring roles, such as Don Ameche, Barbara Babcock, Christopher Daniel Barnes, Ken Berry, Lloyd Bochner, Sonny Bono, Eddie Bracken, Joseph Campanella, Virginia Capers, Rosalind Cash, George Clooney, Polly Holliday, Robert Culp, Ruby Dee, the Del Rubio triplets, Jeane Dixon, Anne Francis, Johnny Gilbert, Jack Gilford, Alice Ghostley, Beth Grant, Peter Graves, Merv Griffin, George Grizzard, Jane Kapowski, Rachel Bloom, Terry McGurrin (Scaredy Squirrel), Freddie Jackson, Tony Jay, Billy Jayne, Gordon Jump, Paula Kelly, Alan King, David Leisure, Jenny Lewis, Hal Linden, Mario Lopez, Ralph Manza, Kevin McCarthy, Edie McClurg, Marian Mercer, Martin Mull, Leslie Nielsen, Jeanette Nolan, Jerry Orbach, Leland Orser, Milo O'Shea, Robert Picardo, Tony Plana, Peggy Pope, Joe Regalbuto, Burt Reynolds, Debbie Reynolds, Donnelly Rhodes, Richard Riehle, Alex Rocco, Cesar Romero, Mickey Rooney, Harry Shearer, Reid Shelton, McLean Stevenson, Inga Swenson, Jeffrey Tambor, Meshach Taylor, Jay Thomas, Alex Trebek, Dick Van Dyke, Tom Villard, Lyle Waggoner, David Wayne, and Fred Willard. Director Quentin Tarantino appeared as an Elvis impersonator in one episode.

Development[]

Creation[]

Ideas for a comedy series about older women emerged during the filming of a television special at NBC Studios in Burbank, California, in August 1984.[24] 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. 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 if they would be interested in delivering a pilot script for Miami Nice, instead. Their regular writer declined, so Witt asked his wife, Susan Harris, who had been semiretired since the conclusion of their ABC series Soap. She found the concept interesting, as "it was a demographic that had never been addressed," and she soon began work on it. Though her vision of a sitcom about women in their 60s differed from NBC's request for a comedy about women around forty years old, Littlefield was impressed when he received her pilot script and subsequently approved production of it. The Cosby Show director Jay Sandrich, who had previously worked with Harris, Witt, and Thomas on Soap, agreed to direct the pilot episode.

The pilot included a gay houseboy, Coco (Charles Levin), who lived with the girls. Levin had been suggested by then-NBC president Brandon Tartikoff based on Levin's groundbreaking portrayal of a recurring gay character, Eddie Gregg, on NBC's Emmy-winning drama Hill Street Blues. After the pilot, the character of Coco was eliminated from the series.

The Walt Disney Company, NBC Studios and the creators were named in a federal copyright infringement suit filed by Nancy Bretzfield claiming the show was based on a script rejected by NBC in 1980. The suit was later settled.

Trivia[]

  • Aired in a programming block with sister shows Empty Nest (1988-1992) and Nurses (1991-1992). All three shows were created by Susan Harris and took place in Miami, Florida. On several occasions the shows featured interwoven story lines (such as a hurricane), in which characters from all three shows would interact. In 1992 the spin-off The Golden Palace served as a sequel to The Golden Girls.

References[]

Advertisement