Legend has it that The Golden Girls, created by Susan Harris of Soap fame, was introduced to NBC's Saturday-evening lineup in the fall of 1986 to counter criticism that the network was ignoring its older viewers (that is, those over the age of 34) in favor of younger fans. Whatever the case, not one of the leading characters in The Golden Girls was under the age of 50 -- and none of them ever acted as if they were any older than 30. Sharing the same home in a placid Miami neighborhood were outspoken divorcée and substitute teacher Dorothy Zbornak (Bea Arthur), timid, naïve widow Rose Nylund (Betty White), and another widow, the earthy, man-chasing Southern belle Blanche Devereaux (Rue McClanahan), who owned the house. (The series waited until the last episode of season one to explain how these three extremely disparate personalities ended up under the same roof; without revealing too much, the key to the girls' strong bond was as simple as cheesecake.) In the opening episode, Blanche's eightysomething mother, Sophia Petrillo (Estelle Getty), moved in with the "girls" when her retirement home burned down. Having suffered a stroke which destroyed the "tact cells" in her brain, Sophia blithely said anything and everything that came into her mind, much to the embarrassment of her daughter, but to the great amusement of the viewers. During season one, several recurring characters were introduced. The most prominent of these was Dorothy's ex-husband, Stanley (Herb Edelman), who, despite having ditched Dorothy for a much younger woman, never tired of his efforts to worm his way back into her life. Also making their earliest appearances were Dorothy and Stanley's daughter, Kate (Lisa Jane Persky), and son-in-law, Dennis (Dennis Drake); Blanche's bombastic father, "Big Daddy" (Murray Hamilton), and her selfish younger sister, Virginia (Sheree North); Dorothy's wealthy kid sister, Gloria (Doris Belack); and Rose's fiercely independent (and recently blinded) sibling, Lily (Polly Holliday). Some of these characters would make repeat visits in future seasons, though not always played by the same actors. An unqualified hit from its first appearance onward (the series was tied for seventh place in the ratings with Dynasty during its inaugural season), The Golden Girls also garnered enthusiastic praise from the critics and earned four Emmys, for Outstanding Comedy Series, Outstanding Writing, Outstanding Technical Direction, and Best Lead Actress (Betty White).
Cast & Crew
Bea Arthur - Dorothy Zbornak
Betty White - Rose Nylund
Rue McClanahan - Blanche Devereaux
Estelle Getty - Sophia Petrillo