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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!

5 Comments

5 Comments

  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

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