Things you probably never knew about The Golden Girls

Sitcoms come and go all the time, but only a few stay with us for life. The Golden Girls is one of those shows we just can’t forget. Following the ensemble cast of four older women who share a home together, the series was a critical and commercial success. It earned multiple Golden Globe and Primetime Emmy Awards, with all four main cast members each receiving one of the latter at some point during the seven-year run.


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Since the series ended in 1992, The Golden Girls has gone on to be named in many “Best of All Time” lists for its incredible writing and acting, as well as its ability to deal with important but controversial issues. While it was on the air, the series explored LGBT+ rights, homelessness and discrimination, things that very few other sitcoms would be brave enough to touch on. Twenty five years later, we’re still discovering things about The Golden Girls that we never knew before. It’s amazing how many things can slip past when you’re lost in a show. Did you know all of these things? If not, it’s time to improve your Golden Girls trivia. You never know when it might come in handy.

Impossible age gap

Although The Golden Girls may have been a bunch of older ladies, they weren’t all the same age. That counts for both on and off screen. Estelle Getty, who played Sophia Petrillo on the series, was one year younger than co-star Bea Arthur. That might come as a bit of a surprise considering that Sophia was actually the mother of Dorothy, Arthur’s character. The makeup department did a good job there. It’s no wonder it took they spent 45 minutes working on Getty’s face before every episode.

Switching it up

Betty White is a national treasure, partly because she’s more than a one-trick pony. However, it took some work to convince producers of that at first. When she joined the series, White was cast as the wilder Blanche, but she allegedly wasn’t too happy about that. It was a similar role to ones she’d had before, such as on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and she was worried about getting typecast. Fortunately, she and McLanahan were asked to switch last-minute, and so White was given the chance to shine as the dim Rose – and McLanahan as the voracious Blanche.

Change of plans

As great as The Golden Girls was, it did have a few inconsistencies here and there. It added to the comedy of the program, although you might not have realized how many there actually were. A lot of inconsistencies surrounded the family members of the show’s four female leads. It was established early on that Dorothy had one sibling – a sister named Angela. Later on, however, this changed to being a brother called Angelo. The number of children the girls had also varied wildly.

What’s in a name?

No-one on the show had a more peculiar surname than Dorothy Zbornak. While the name may have seemed like a random decision by the series’ writers, it was actually inspired by Bea Arthur’s stage manager, Kent Zbornak. The pair had a great working relationship, and Arthur wanted to cherish that by using his surname. It’s a nice nod to their friendship, although hopefully, Kent didn’t take offense. After all, Dorothy’s ex-husband, the man who gave her the surname on the program, wasn’t the nicest of guys.

Dessert delights

The girls on the show really did love their cheesecake. In fact, the characters were such a big fan of the dessert that they ate more than 100 of them during the filming of the series. That’s a lot of cheesecake across 180 episodes. The actresses did well to keep their bodies in great shape despite all the food they had to eat on set. It’s a good thing the girls all loved the dessert, right? Well, not quite. Poor Bea Arthur actually hated cheesecake!

Reality check

Alongside being a great comedy, The Golden Girls did well to touch on real issues. One of those, in particular, was chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), something which affected the creator in real life. The episode “Sick and Tired” sees Dorothy try to seek out help for the illness, but very few doctors take her issue seriously. This is reflective of a problem that’s still prevalent in society today. It was found in 2011 that only 30% of women with these symptoms were referred to a specialist, compared to 62% of men.

Seeing double

If you ever thought that the kitchen used in The Golden Girls looked familiar, then you weren’t wrong. The set had been on TV before in another sitcom that Susan Harris had created. The series in question was It Takes Two, and it wasn’t quite the success that Harris had hoped it would be. The show only lasted one season before it was canceled, although it could have been worse. At least Harris went on to give us The Golden Girls, and the kitchen still got put to good use.

Height adjustment

Bea Arthur was a very tall woman – much taller than her co-stars. The difference in height between her and the other girls could have made the staging seem off, so producers were very strategic about where she was placed in various scenes. If the other girls were standing, she would be sitting. If three of them were at the table, Dorothy would be in the middle seat. Bea Arthur also didn’t wear heels, although that was mainly the actress’ choice. She preferred comfort over style.

Serving face

Speaking of sitting down, did you ever wonder why only three of the girls were sat at the dinner table during any one time. When the four of them were together, it would surely have made sense for them all to be at the table, no? Well, producers couldn’t do that, because then one of them would have had their back to the camera. Considering the show was filmed in front of a live studio audience, they couldn’t have one of the stars facing away from everyone like that.

A moment to remember

The girls all had their moments and episodes from the show’s run that were their favorites, but do you know what Rue McClanahan’s was? She absolutely loved the episode “Journey to the Center of Attention” where she did an incredible performance of “I Wanna Be Loved By You.” Of course, it was incredible because everything went wrong, as was often the case whenever Blanche was around. Did you know, though, that that was intentional? The producers hired a choreographer to ensure that Blanche did as badly as she possibly could.

Finding Dorothy

Casting Dorothy wasn’t simple. On the one hand, the character had been written with someone like Bea Arthur in mind. However, NBC was wary of having the actress on the show because she had a “Q” rating. This meant that audiences knew her, but didn’t necessarily like her. Even when they were convinced, Arthur herself was still hesitant. She felt the character was too similar to the one she played on sitcom Maude. Thankfully, Rue McClanahan talked her round, and Arthur agreed to play Dorothy.

Under the spotlight

It’s easy to be intimidated by your work, no matter who you are. Although the other actresses felt comfortable under the spotlight, Estelle Getty actually suffered from stage fright quite a lot. The star wasn’t as seasoned as the other girls, and as a result, she had a habit of forgetting her lines. It obviously wasn’t a massive problem, because she managed to last through all seven seasons of the show. Still, we can’t blame her. Just look at the amazing women she was surrounded by.

Must-see TV

The Golden Girls was one of the biggest series on TV during the ‘80s, but you might be surprised to know who it was popular with. Although older women were fans of the show, so too were many young girls. The cast often received letters from these viewers asking if they could live with the characters. It’s good to know that a program aimed at an older target audience can still appeal to other age ranges too. No wonder it frequently ranked in the top ten most watched shows.

Not quite Norwegian

During her time on the show, Betty White did a little bit of fibbing. Her character Rose was a Norwegian-American who hails from the small town of St. Olaf in Western Minnesota. As a result of her heritage, Rose can speak Norwegian, something that White demonstrated over the years. Only she didn’t. Betty White never learned any Norwegian. Whenever she was supposedly talking in the language, she was actually speaking gibberish. The subtitles that were used as a translation were just there to add to the comedy.

A royal fan

So many people fell in love with the Golden Girls. More than 27 million of us watched the final episode when it aired back in 1992. However, while the show picked up a legion of fans, none were quite as famous as one woman from the UK. Who was she? Queen Elizabeth II’s mother, the country’s former queen. Her royal highness was such a big fan of the show that the cast put on a special live performance in 1988 just for her.

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