35 years later, we can still thank 'The Golden Girls' for being a friend

Maybe age really is just a number. When The Golden Girls debuted in September 1985, its four stars were, on average, not quite 60 years old, but they were considered "senior citizens."

Thirty-five years later, the fashions, the technology (or lack of it) and some of the attitudes may seem outdated, but in the most important ways The Golden Girls has hardly aged a day.

Thanks to syndication, cable and now streaming, there has hardly been a day when TV viewers couldn't visit Dorothy Zbornak, Rose Nylund, Blanche Devereaux and Sophia Petrillo at 6151 Richmond Street in Miami (don't Google Map it – it's a made-up address). From 1985 to 1992, The Golden Girls was a Saturday-night fixture on NBC, so much so that it never budged from its 9 p.m. time slot throughout its seven seasons on the air.




The bawdy, sassy, unabashedly straightforward – and frequently silly – quartet of past-middle-aged women never lacked an audience, but their popularity seems to have only increased in last decade. The series was always a staple of basic cable, first on Lifetime and then on the Hallmark Channel, but became a GIF-tastic, memetic pop-culture phenomenon thanks to streaming; today, you can watch any episode of The Golden Girls anytime you want on Hulu.

The perpetual appeal of The Golden Girls isn't hard to fathom: The women are aware that they're societal cast-offs, unwanted in a culture that demands conformity and propriety, and they've come to realize that it gives them an advantage – they don't need to worry about what the rest of the world thinks, either.


Their tropes are equally perfect. Dorothy is intelligent, irritable and world-weary; Rose is open-hearted, optimistic and daft; Blanche is self-centered, sexual but kind; Dorothy's mother Sophia is wise and wise-cracking. And while they might not matter to the world that turned its back on them, they mean the world to each other – an attitude that has long appealed to middle-aged gay men, who took solace in the silliness during the AIDS crisis and now often see themselves reflected in the "girls," who found a way to create their own safe community, filled with friendship.


But gay men were just the start – The Golden Girls has fans of every demographic type, and is constantly being discovered. For those looking to binge through the distinctively delightful series during these stay-at-home days, it's possible to watch it from the start, including the weirdly awkward series pilot. Then again, The Golden Girls was of a different era of television, when each season had nearly two dozen episodes. To help you break through the pastel-hued, wicker-filled clutter, here's a look at five of the very best episodes of this inimitable, groundbreaking series, all of which are available to watch on Hulu:




"Big Daddy's Little Lady"

(Season 2, Episode 6)

One of the funniest of all Golden Girls episodes finds Blanche surprised by genteel Southern "Big Daddy," who announces he's getting married to a much younger woman. McClanahan's reactions are priceless, but the episode's secondary story is what makes the episode. Dorothy and Rose enter a song-writing contest, and find that they aren't quite Rodgers and Hammerstein – though their lyrics are certainly unforgettable.

"In a Bed of Rose's"

(Season 1, Episode 15)

Sex is one of The Golden Girls' favorite subjects, and here it's the setup for a story that takes some surprising twists in 23 minutes. Unusually, this episode doesn't have a "B"-story – Rose's predicament is the focus, and Betty White received one of her three Emmys (in addition to two she won for "Mary Tyler Moore") for this episode, which manages to balance perfectly timed comedy with some genuine pathos, courtesy of character actress Patricia Morrill.

"Isn't it Romantic"

(Season 2, Episode 5)

Never seen The Golden Girls and looking for the best place to start? Here it is: Everything you need to know about each of the characters is perfectly encapsulated in this sweet and wildly funny story about Dorothy's friend Jean (Lois Nettleton) coming to visit. The catch? Jean is lesbian, and she develops a crush on Rose. When it originally aired in 1986, it may have seemed a little daring. Today, it's just hilarious.


"An Illegitimate Concern"

(Season 5, Episode 18)

Merely by virtue of having one of the best Dorothy-Rose "newspaper gags" alone (preceded by a perfectly delivered joke about the Seven Dwarfs), this one makes the cut as one of the best episodes. It's a Blanche-centric story – her mysterious admirer turns out to have a much more unexpected motive – but every one of the actresses gets a chance to shine in this consistently funny episode, the first written by prolific TV writer-producer Marc Cherry.


"The Case of the Libertine Belle"

(Season 7, Episode 2)

This lark of an episode finds the girls taking part in a murder-mystery weekend as part of a scheme of Blanche's to land a job she covets. The episode is fun on its own, with some great one-liners, but it's doubly fun to watch such well-honed characters playing roles in a different kind of story. It points to the beauty of The Golden Girls as a whole – by the show's seventh season, each character was so perfectly defined that they could be put into almost any situation and still keep viewers gloriously entertained … for more than three decades.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less