Television golden2

Published on May 23rd, 2016 | by Ian Goodwillie

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The Golden Girls

Is it strange to look at The Golden Girls? Funko doesn’t think so. It was a trailblazing sitcom with a premise that’s still unique today.

It’s hard to deny the success of Funko. Multiple toy lines with dozens upon dozens of licenses, including the virtually unstoppable Pop! Vinyl line. People wait for announcements like they’re test scores being posted on a wall in an 80s school comedy. And recently they showed off the first look at a Pop! Vinyl line that turned a few heads.

Was it a huge movie franchise? No.

Was it a triple A video game developer? Not at all.

Was it a new comic book line? Certainly not.

Well, if it was none of these options who could it have possibly been? The Golden Girls. That’s right, the first images of a Pop! Vinyl line of toys based on a sitcom that’s been off the air since 1992 about four older women living in a house in Miami together lit up the internet. And I’m not surprised in the least. People loved that show when it was on the air and still do. It was amazing. But why is it still something that people cling to almost 25 years later? It’s just another sitcom, right? Wrong.

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The Golden Girls hit the air in 1985 with not just an all female cast but cast of older actresses. That alone makes it unique. If you ignore the age difference in their respective actresses, it was Sex and the City before Sex and the City was a thing. In an age where we’re still fighting to diversify the faces that dominate our media, here’s a show that debuted more than three decades ago that features an all female cast. And it was hilarious. And it was ratings gold. It is proof that women, at any age, can be funny and that audiences want content that features them. If it was remade today, they’d probably cast a group of actresses under the age of 30 no matter how much of a mistake that would be. It is the funny women in front of the camera that give this show such an endearing legacy.

Bea Arthur as the perpetually grumpy divorcee Dorothy Zbornak.

Estelle Getty as Dorothy’s mother, Sophia Petrillo, the wise cracking old crank.

Rue McClanahan as the quick witted Southern belle and sexually liberated Blanche Devereaux.

Betty White as Rose Nylund, a folksy Norwegian American who grew up on a farm in Minnesota.

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These four women comprise what is undeniably one of the best ensemble casts to ever appear on a sitcom. They play off each other beautifully, each one of them driving the comedy in their own unique style while still complementing the others. Together, they are amazing.

The true brilliance of this comedy is in how doesn’t date itself when you watch reruns. A lot of sitcom comedy relies on contemporary pop culture references to make it funny and relevant. The problem is that said relevance is pretty much gone a decade later when those references are no longer part of the active cultural zeitgeist. The Golden Girls certainly had its share of contemporary pop culture references but it also managed to rise above that, to make the comedy something relevant no matter what era you watch it in. The scenario playing out in this show is one you can easily see happening at any time.

Rose’s stories are insane and funny no matter what year it is. Blanche’s adventures are always hilarious. And the biting wit of both Dorothy and Sophia never ceases to amuse.

The stories themselves, while still serving up some sitcom tropes, are surprisingly fresh thanks to the unique cast. This show is about four, older unmarried women, three widows and one divorcee, who live together. It is a far cry from the usual sitcom cast make up. Most sitcom casts are younger people trying to figure out life. The Golden Girls is about older women with a lifetime of experience behind them trying to re-figure out life. By its nature, this show could not explore the well mined sitcom tropes its predecessors, contemporaries, and successors repeat ad nauseum. It had to forge new ground and found timeless comedy because of it.

I feel like there’s a lesson for network executives in that.

The Golden Girls is one of those few shows that best exemplify what the sitcom format is capable of when that format is done correctly. You have a solid ensemble executing funny premises brilliantly, giving us unique stories that could only exist in a show with these characters played by that cast.

Now, if you’ll excuse me I need to go pre-order some Pop! Vinyl figures.

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About the Author

Ian Goodwillie

is an established freelance writer, a regular contributor to both Prairie books NOW and The Winnipeg Review. He also writes two blogs that very few people pay attention to, a Twitter feed no one follows, and film scripts that will never see the light of day. He is very fulfilled by his career choice.



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