TV Cream

TV: G is for...

Golden Girls, The

ON THE FACE of it, this early door Channel Four evening stalwart seemed nothing more than a half-hour retirement home for assorted American comediennes of a certain (or, in at least one case, uncertain) age. To wit: BEA ARTHUR and RUE MCCLANAHAN off of MAUDE, one of those ratings-busting US sitcoms that never registered on this side of the pond; one-time model turned Lucille Ball-style telly magnate BETTY WHITE, and genuine old-school borscht belt ‘try the liver’ wiseacre ESTELLE GETTY as, respectively, the put-upon, mannish divorcée, the mutton/lamb wardrobed trouser-chaser, the dozy Scandinavian and the embittered mum of the put-upon, mannish divorcée. All four lolled about in their Florida ‘condo’, gossiping about savings schemes and shagging. As with the later SEINFELD, it divided British audiences neatly down the middle: those with a native aversion to mile-a-minute wisecracks, audience-slaying references to parochial cultural institutions (“Hey, you try tellin’ that to Art Finkleman!” Cue uproar) and soapy moralistic resolutions gurned into their Bovril and switched over to Did You See..?, while the rest hung about long enough to pick up on some of the finest comic banter ever committed to slightly-too-yellow videotape, in amongst the group hugs and cheesecake sessions, delivered by a cast who’d been round the showbiz block enough times to deliver the lines with perfect timing without seeming to break a sweat. Memory somewhat tarnished by less-than-necessary later years, where the class could be seen ebbing away before your eyes, not to mention innumerable spin-offs such as THE GOLDEN PALACE (Bea marries Frank Drebin off of POLICE SQUAD and quits, leaving the others to run a hotel with CHEECH MARIN as a wacky immigrant chef – although it could have been worse, said cleaver-toting foreigner was very nearly played by ALEXEI SAYLE) and rotten British rewrite BRIGHTON BELLES. SHEILA HANCOCK, WENDY CRAIG, JEAN BOHT and SHEILA GISH sitting around talking about erections? Don’t speak till you’re spoken to, dammit!



  1. Sidney Balmoral James

    March 14, 2010 at 11:16 am

    Programme’s slickness also concealed the allegedly considerable enmity which existed between certain cast members. And didn’t Bea Arthur once appear on Sean Hughes’ show for a nano second? – a programme I have otherwise utterly forgotten apart from a scene in which Sean and Windsor Davies shared a bath of jelly.

  2. Alien Burt

    March 14, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    Bea Arthur was indeed in Sean’s Show, let’s remember her for that and not growling her way through the songs in Mame. A wish in vain, I know. Or for being mentioned in flop 90s comedy Airheads, when the rocker hostage-takers are asked for their demands, and they suggest “Let’s ask for pictures of Bea Arthur naked!”

    Anyway, Betty White’s character in this was Jessica Tate mark 2, not surprising when both The Golden Girls and Soap were created by Susan Harris. I kind of preferred Jessica, although a billion ladies of a certain age might disagree.

  3. Metal Mickey

    March 15, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    And Facebook campaign or no, kudos to Betty White (88, lest we forget) who’ll be hosting Saturday Night Live on May 8th (the weekend of the Mother’s Day in the US.)

    Golden Girls was great, at least for the first few seasons until the exponential exaggerating of the stars’ key characteristics became too much… and the studio videotape quality makes it borderline unwatchable, even on DVD.

  4. Adrian

    March 15, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    The theme tune was ace, as well..

  5. Applemask

    March 18, 2010 at 7:20 pm

    The NTSC video quality inspires nothing but cosy nostalgia to my mind. I grew up with this show first in the evenings and then running in seemingly random repeats in the afternoons after school, and it was just one of the weirdly yellow and oddly textured shows that dotted about in the daytime. Santa Barbara, Knots Landing, whichever forgotten one-season American sitcom ITV had bought in to fill the time between TV-am and This Morning (Step By Step, Hope + Gloria, archetypal late eighties concept piece Out of This World)…blurry high-saturated footage of shoulder pads and wine glasses means childhood to me.

    And on the subject of Bea Arthur, all I have to say is IT’S GOOOOODNIIIIIIGHT FRIENDS

  6. richardpd

    March 12, 2019 at 1:55 pm

    Before Sky had the spending power to snap up every half decent import, Channel 4 managed to buy up the rights to quite a few American sitcoms, even before they had even to make a big for themselves in their home market in many cases.

    With the latest repeats of Cheers, is there any chance this might be repurchased, especially as Roseanne is now out of bounds.

    As mentioned above late 1980s daytime TV was a real mixed bag of shows, with earlier in the week repeats rubbing shoulders with oddball imports, as well as the usual bored housewife & handy household tips shows Victoria Wood could turn into brilliant sketch over a cup of tea & a couple of gypsy creams.

  7. Richardpd

    March 16, 2022 at 9:57 pm

    Me & my wife liked the Channel 5 repeats during the summer of 2020, just the right thing to make the lockdown more bearable!

    They even got the continuity announcer to mention a pre-fame appearance by George Clooney in one episode.

    I’ve heard Channel 4 have now bought the rights up, but not seen it scheduled yet.

  8. Glenn Aylett

    March 17, 2022 at 12:31 pm

    Was The Brighton Belles so bad it was cancelled half way through? I think ITV must have been jealous of the huge success Channel 4 was having with The Golden Girls, they decided to create a British rival that was a disaster. Meanwhile The Golden Girls was a major success for Channel 4 well into the nineties.
    Also the theme tune, Thankyou For Being a Friend, has a more sinister history as the fake Yorkshire Ripper played it at the end of his tape to West Yorkshire Police.

  9. Richardpd

    December 15, 2023 at 11:52 pm

    It was actually hoaxer John Humble who used Andrew Gold’s original version of Thankyou For Being A Friend onto the end of his tape, though this & his well researched letters made the police think he was really the ripper, & were looking for someone with a Weirside accent.

    Still waiting for Channel 4 rescreen it.

  10. Glenn Aylett

    December 16, 2023 at 11:00 am

    On a lighter note, Channel 4 is full of American sitcom repeats in the mornings, so why not re run The Golden Girls? It was huge 30 years ago and would rate well.

  11. Richardpd

    December 16, 2023 at 3:15 pm

    Exactly! they have even dug out Cheers occasionally to add to the mix.

    It was welcome to see it again when Channel 5 were screening it during the lockdown & I didn’t have much else to do.

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