The Golden Girls was a highly popular sitcom running on NBC every Saturday Night its entire seven years, from September 14, 1985 to May 9, 1992. Created by Susan Harris, the groundbreaking show brought together four strong, previously married yet still sexually active women as they dealt with often-controversial life issues.
Conceived by Brandon Tartikoff after visiting his elderly aunt and watching how she interacted with her best friend and next door neighbor, the multiple award winning show brought at least one Emmy win for each of its stars.
The four women were all divorced or widowed and became roommates when the owner of the house (Blanche) placed an ad for a roommate on the bulletin board at the grocery store. The four main characters were:
Dorothy Zbornak (Bea Arthur) divorced after a thirty-eight year marriage to Stan (Herb Edelman) who often appeared on the show. They moved to Miami sometime during their marriage and she moved in with Blanche soon after the divorce. She was raised by her Italian immigrant parents Sophie and Salvador Petrillo in Brooklyn, New York. She was a high school substitute teacher of American History and English. She had two children, Michael and Kate, and a grandson, Robbie. After seven years, Dorothy left the show by marrying Blanche’s uncle Lucas Hollingsworth, played by Leslie Nielsen.
Rose Nylund (Betty White) was a widow from a small farming community, St. Olaf, in Minnesota. The community was Norwegian-American and Rose loved telling stories about her hometown, although her roommates found she sometimes made up some of the strange tales. Rose appeared as a mild mannered naive woman who quite often took everything literally. She could appear dumb, but she knew all about such topics as plumbing and psychology.
She was married to Charlie, a traveling salesman, and they had five children and several grandchildren. She spent her early years in an orphanage and later found out the identity of her real father. She had a long-term relationship with Miles Webber played by Harold Gould.
Blanche Devereaux (Rue McClanahan) was a widow who had grown up on a Georgia plantation called Twin Oaks. She called her father “Big Daddy,” a nod to Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Man-hungry and promiscuous, Blanche was outspoken about her relationships, desires, and needs prompting many funny lines about her sexual escapades.
Particular about her looks, she was always well dressed, especially to attract the opposite sex. It is believed Blanch had six children and several grandchildren although only a couple of them appeared on the show.
Sophia Petrillo (Estelle Getty) was Dorothy’s mother. She joined the women during the first show after allegedly burning down Shady Pines retirement home while cooking s’mores over an illegal burner in her room. After experiencing a stroke, she was placed in the retirement home by Dorothy. Unfortunately, the stroke caused her to speak in a candid and unfiltered manner often to the chagrin of the recipient of her uncensored remark.
Sophia hinted of mafia connections within her Sicilian family. Various family members visited during the run of the show providing many hilarious moments.
Almost every episode showed at least one of the women involved in a problem or incident. The roommates quite often gathered around the kitchen table to talk things over, relating a story about something that happened in the past that might or might not relate to the present situation.
The series ended when Bea Arthur decided it was time for her to leave. The hour-long series finale aired May 1992. The other three stayed on in a new series, The Golden Palace that lasted only one season.
Thanks to syndication and digital media, The Golden Girls is still available, currently showing on the Hallmark Channel, WE TV, and on DVD and video. For further interesting reading, search online using each character’s name as fictional biographies are available on Wikipedia.