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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 Bea 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 Buena Vista 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.[1] 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.[2][3] The series also ranked among the top ten highest-rated programs for six out of its seven seasons.[4] In 2014, the Writers Guild Of America placed the sitcom at #69 in their list of the "101 Best Written TV Series Of All Time".[5]

Series overview[]

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 (Rue McClanahan), who was joined by fellow widow Rose Nylund (Betty White) and divorcée Dorothy Zbornak (Bea Arthur) after they both responded to a room-for-rent ad on the bulletin board of a local grocery store. In the pilot episode, the three were joined by Dorothy's 80 year-old mother, Sophia Petrillo (Estelle Getty), after the retirement home where she lived burned down.[6][7] Initially, the women had a gay cook named Coco (Charles Levin) who lived with them, but the character was never seen again after the pilot episode.[8]


After six consecutive seasons in the top 10, and a 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. 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 finale ranked at #17 of most-watched finales..[9]


Main characters[]

  • Bea Arthur as Dorothy Zbornak, a substitute teacher. 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've had 3 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's implied they had 3 children but sometimes stated they only had 2. Michael and Kate were repeatedly shown as being in their 20's 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.
  • Betty White as Rose Nylund, a Norwegian American from the small farming town of St. Olaf, Minnesota. 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, until he was relocated by the Federal Witness Protection Program.
  • Rue McClanahan as Blanche Devereaux, a Southern belle employed at an art museum. 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 late husband, George. 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.
  • Estelle Getty as Sophia Petrillo, Dorothy's mother. Born in Palermo, Sicily, Sophia moved to New York after fleeing an arranged marriage to Guido Spirelli. She later married Salvatore 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.

Recurring characters[]

  • Herbert Edelman as Stanley Zbornak, Dorothy's cheating, freeloading ex-husband who first appears in the second episode of Season 1, and appears in 26 episodes total throughout the series.
  • Harold Gould as Miles Webber (Nicholas Carbone), Rose's professor boyfriend who appeared in 14 episodes, starting in Season 5. 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 Rebecca 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 Salvatore 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 as 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 as Stan’s psychiatrist, Dr. Richard Halperin, appearing in three episodes in season 7.

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.
  • Kristy McNichol and Dinah Manoff as Barbara and Carol Weston, respectively, appeared throughout the run of The Golden Girls. Carol dated Stanley Zbornak's psychiatrist in one episode and crashed Blanche's party in the episode "Moonlight Madness".



"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"
—Syndication executive Warren Littlefield about reading the series pilot.[10]

Ideas for a comedy series about older women emerged during the filming of a television special at Syndication's Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, California, in August 1984.[10] Produced to introduce the network's 1984–85 season schedule, two actresses appearing on Syndication 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.[11] Syndication 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.[10]

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.[10] While they had doubts whether Harris, who initially had planned to retire after the ending of their ABC series Soap,[12] 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.[10] 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,[13] Littlefield was impressed when he received Harris' pilot script and subsequently approved production of the pilot.[10] The Cosby Show director Jay Sandrich, who had previously worked with Harris, Witt, and Thomas on Soap, agreed to direct.[14]


Hired to film the pilot, veteran 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 cancelled by Syndication. 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.[8][10]

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.[8] 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.[10] 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.[15] 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."[16]

Years after the show, it emerged that Bea Arthur and Betty White were not fond of each other. Some speculated this may have been because Betty White won the first Emmy for the show. However, in interviews, Betty White indicated that their conflict was due to a fundamental personality conflict with Bea Arthur becoming easily irritated by Betty White's positive, perky demeanor.[17]

Writing and taping[]

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.[18] 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.

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).[19]

Exterior and interior sets[]

The house's address was mentioned as being 6151 Richmond Street, Miami.[20] 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,[21] 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.

[citation needed]

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.[22] 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 conflict or 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.[23] 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.[24] Though the writing was mostly comical, dramatic moments and sentimental endings were included in several episodes.


Critical reception[]

An immediate runaway hit, The Golden Girls became a Syndication staple on Saturday nights.[25] The show was the anchor of Syndication'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,[26] elder care and homelessness, AIDS, and discrimination against people with HIV, US immigration policy, death, and assisted suicide.[27]

U.S. standard ratings[]

Seasonal rankings (based on average total viewers per episode) of The Golden Girls on Syndication.

Season Episodes Season premiere Season finale TV season Rank Households
1 25 September 14, 1985 May 10, 1986 1985–86 #7[28][29] 18,726,200
2 26 September 27, 1986 May 16, 1987 1986–87 #5[30] 21,413,000
3 25 September 19, 1987 May 7, 1988 1987–88 #4[29] 19,314,800
4 26 October 8, 1988 May 13, 1989 1988–89 #6[31] 19,345,600
5 26 September 23, 1989 May 5, 1990 1989–90 #6[32] 18,512,100
6 26 September 22, 1990 May 4, 1991 1990–91 #10[33] 15,361,500
7 26 September 21, 1991 May 9, 1992 1991–92 #30[34] 12,065,100

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 three shows, along with All in the Family and Will & Grace, where all the principal actors have won at least one Emmy Award.

As a tribute to the success of The Golden Girls, all four actresses were later named Disney Legends.[35]


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.[36]

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).[37] The show never approached the popularity or acclaim of the original, and ranked 57th in the annual ratings. Reportedly a second season was approved before being cancelled the day before the fall schedule was announced.

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 8, airing the series in between the conclusion of the final season and the syndicated roll-over to Season 1.

Empty Nest[]

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 faces empty nest syndrome after their three adult daughters moved out.[38] 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.[39] 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.


Empty Nest launched its own spin-off in 1991 set in the same hospital where Dr. Weston worked. The series starred Stephanie Hodge and a set of other young female and male nurses the setting played in Miami 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". 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 department manager 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.[40] 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).

Foreign versions[]

  • Greece: Chrysa Koritsia: In 2008, Greek broadcaster ET1 premiered a Greek remake titled Chrysa Koritsia ("Gold[en] Girls"), which features the four women in Greece.[41] 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 has been airing since 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 the fall of 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."[42]
  • 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.[43]
  • Russia: Bolshie Devochki: A Russian remake was broadcast in 2006, titled Bolshie Devochki, 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 cancelled after only thirty-two episodes.[44]
  • 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.[45] 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).[46] The series premiered on September 13, 2010 with success.[47] 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.[47]
  • 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.[48] 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 cancelled after six weeks due to low ratings, with the final four episodes airing more than a year later.


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  42. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPYq7bmpldw
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External links[]