The Golden Girls (season 1)
The first season of the American television comedy series The Golden Girls originally aired on NBC in the United States between September 14, 1985 and May 10, 1986. Created by television writer Susan Harris, the series was produced by Witt/Thomas/Harris Productions and ABC Studios(Touchstone Television.) It starred Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan, Betty White, and Estelle Getty as the main characters Dorothy Zbornak, Blanche Devereaux, Rose Nylund, and Sophia Petrillo. The series revolves around the lives of three middle aged women living together in a house in Miami.
|The Golden Girls|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of episodes||25|
|Original release||September 14, 1985 –|
May 10, 1986
The first season of The Golden Girls premiered to strong ratings for NBC, ranking number one in its first week on air and number seven among all primetime programs airing during the 1985–86 primetime network season. Upon its initial airing, the show was met with critical acclaim and was the recipient of various industry awards, including three Emmy Awards and two Golden Globe awards. Warner Bros. Home Video released the first season on DVD in the United States on February 7, 2006, and in Canada on April 10, 2007.
|Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date|| Viewers|
|1||1||"The Engagement"||Jay Sandrich||Susan Harris||September 14, 1985||25.0|
Widows Blanche Hollingsworth – an art museum administrator, Rose Nylund – a grief counselor, and divorcee Dorothy Zbornak – a substitute teacher, share a house in Miami with gay housekeeper Coco. Blanche gets engaged to the man she has been dating, surprising Dorothy and raising Rose's suspicions. Dorothy's mother, widow Sophia Petrillo, a native of Sicily, comes to live in the house when the nursing home where she has been living burns down in a fire. The Engagement was the series premiere episode of The Golden Girls. The episode was directed by Jay Sandrich and written by co-executive producer Susan Harris. |
Guest stars: Charles Levin as Coco; Frank Aletter as Harry; Meshach Taylor as the cop; F. William Parker as the Minister.
Notes: This is the only appearance of Coco, the gay cook/housekeeper. This episode won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Technical Direction/Camera/Video for a Series. The episode ranked as the highest-rated program of the week, bringing in a 25.0/43 rating/share. This is the only episode where Blanche was known by the surname Hollingsworth with that surname announced by the police officer knocking at the door to announce Harry’s arrest, the Blanche character was later known by Devereaux in all subsequent episodes.
|2||2||"Guess Who's Coming to the Wedding?"||Paul Bogart||Winifred Hervey||September 21, 1985||22.5|
Dorothy's daughter, Kate, visits and announces she is marrying her boyfriend, setting up a confrontation– between Dorothy and her ex-husband Stan, a novelty salesman, who cheated on Dorothy after 38 years of marriage.|
Guest stars: Herb Edelman as Stan Zbornak; Lisa Jane Persky as Kate; Dennis Drake as Dennis.
Notes: Kate and Dennis reappeared in the second season played by Deena Freeman and Jonathan Perpich, respectively. This is Herb Edelman's first appearance as Stanley Zbornak.
|3||3||"Rose the Prude"||Jim Drake||Barry Fanaro and Mort Nathan||September 28, 1985||19.0|
Rose meets the first man she is romantically interested in since her husband died and is torn about what to do when he invites her on a cruise. Meanwhile, Dorothy and Sophia have a gin rummy marathon, with Dorothy hoping to end a 30-year losing streak.|
Guest star: Harold Gould as Arnie Peterson.
Note: Harold Gould reappeared in later seasons in the recurring role of Rose's boyfriend Miles Weber.
|4||4||"Transplant"||Paul Bogart||Susan Harris||October 5, 1985||21.8|
Blanche's sister, Virginia, comes to visit and reveals that she is dying from renal failure, and a kidney transplant is her best hope for survival.|
Guest star: Sheree North as Virginia Hollingsworth.
Note: North reprised her role as Virginia in Season 5.
|5||5||"The Triangle"||Jim Drake||Winifred Hervey||October 19, 1985||18.6|
Dorothy dates an attractive doctor who fails when he makes a pass at Blanche. When Blanche tells Dorothy the truth, Dorothy accuses her of being jealous and refuses to believe her.|
Guest star: Peter Hansen as Dr. Elliot Clayton.
|6||6||"On Golden Girls"||Jim Drake||Liz Sage||October 26, 1985||18.6|
Blanche's grandson David visits while his parents try to repair their marriage on a second honeymoon and upsets the entire household with his obnoxious, rebellious attitude.|
Guest star: Billy Jacoby as David.
Note: In real life, Billy Jacoby is the half-brother of Scott Jacoby, who played the recurring role of Dorothy's son Michael Zbornak.
|7||7||"The Competition"||Jim Drake||Barry Fanaro and Mort Nathan||November 2, 1985||19.6|
An old love interest of Sophia's, Augustine Bagatelli, visits from Sicily and the two enjoy each other's company to the point where he invites her back to Italy to visit her old friends, but Dorothy refuses to let her go. The girls all participate in a bowling tournament where Rose's competitiveness annoys the other girls and Dorothy and Sophia make a deal: if Sophia's team wins, she can go to Italy and if Dorothy's wins, she gets piece of her mother's jewelry.|
Guest star: Ralph Manza as Augustine Bagatelli.
|8||8||"Break-In"||Paul Bogart||Susan Harris||November 9, 1985||19.0|
The girls return home after a Madonna concert and find their home has been burglarized. Rose is traumatized by the experience and eventually buys a gun to defend herself. Blanche obsesses over her stolen jewels.|
Guest stars: Christian Clemenson as The Salesman; Robert Rothwell as Lester.
|9||9||"Blanche and the Younger Man"||Jim Drake||James Berg and Stan Zimmerman||November 16, 1985||23.2|
Rose's mother, Alma, visits and friction results when Rose coddles her too much. Blanche goes on an exercise frenzy when a young man in her Jazzercise class asks her out and is embarrassed when it turns out he is interested in her in a different way than she thinks.|
Guest stars: Jeanette Nolan as Alma Lindstrom; Charles Hill as Dirk.
|10||10||"The Heart Attack"||Jim Drake||Susan Harris||November 23, 1985||23.6|
After a successful dinner party, Sophia, convinced she is having a heart attack, tries to put her affairs in order. The girls become very worried when the paramedics cannot get to them because of a major rain storm.|
Guest star: Ronald Hunter as Dr. Harris.
|11||11||"Stan's Return"||Jim Drake||Kathy Speer and Terry Grossman||November 30, 1985||23.2|
Dorothy and Stan spend the night together, after he tells her that Chrissy, the young woman he divorced Dorothy to marry, left him. Dorothy sees it as an isolated incident, but Stan thinks of it as the two of them starting their relationship over.|
Guest stars: Herb Edelman as Stan Zbornak, Simone Griffeth as Chrissy.
|12||12||"The Custody Battle"||Terry Hughes||Winifred Hervey||December 7, 1985||20.3|
Dorothy becomes frustrated with Sophia's meddling in her love life, so when Dorothy's wealthy sister, Gloria visits and asks Sophia to move in with her, Sophia agrees. Blanche is furious with Rose when Rose wins the part of Lady Macbeth in a local production of Macbeth and Blanche is cast as a witch.
|13||13||"A Little Romance"||Terry Hughes||Barry Fanaro and Mort Nathan||December 14, 1985||21.9|
Rose dates a psychiatrist at the grief counseling center, but is reluctant to introduce him to the other girls. When Blanche invites him over for dinner against Rose's wishes, they find out he is a dwarf. When he tells Rose he has something important to ask her, she thinks he is planning to propose to her and is conflicted about whether to accept.|
Guest stars: Brent Collins as Dr. Jonathan Newman; Billy Barty as Edgar Lindstrom; Tony Carreiro as The Waiter; Jeane Dixon as herself.
Note: Barry Fanaro and Mort Nathan won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series for this episode. Tony Carreiro appears in a later season 1 episode as Tommy Cochrane and in a season 5 episode as The Doctor.
|14||14||"That Was No Lady"||Jim Drake||Liz Sage||December 21, 1985||19.3|
Blanche, in need of the money for a new car, loans Rose her old car, promising to sell it to her if she likes it. Once Rose buys it, it begins breaking down and is eventually stolen. Dorothy falls head-over-heels in love with a gym teacher at the school where she is teaching and is devastated when he reveals he is married.|
Guest star: Alex Rocco as Glen O'Brien.
Note: Glen O'Brien returned in season 5, played by Jerry Orbach.
|15||15||"In a Bed of Rose's"||Terry Hughes||Susan Harris||January 11, 1986||24.0|
Rose's date dies while they are having sex, and since her late husband, Charlie, also died during sex, she vows never to sleep with another man again.|
Guest stars: Richard Roat as Al Beatty; Priscilla Morrill as Lucille Beatty
Notes: Betty White won the award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series at the 1986 Emmy Awards for this episode. Richard Roat appeared in season 7 as Kendall in the episode, "The Case of the Libertine Belle".
|16||16||"The Truth Will Out"||Terry Hughes||Susan Beavers||January 18, 1986||24.2|
Rose's daughter, Kirsten, visits with her granddaughter to review estate papers and is furious with her mother when she finds Rose's late husband wasn't as much of a financial success as Rose led her to believe.|
Guest stars: Christine Belford as Kirsten; Bridgette Andersen as Charley.
Note: Kirsten was played by Lee Garlington in season 7.
|17||17||"Nice and Easy"||Terry Hughes||Stuart Silverman||February 1, 1986||22.8|
Blanche's niece, Lucy, visits and reveals herself to be even more promiscuous than Blanche. A mouse in the kitchen scares Dorothy, but she eventually gets over her fear and the mouse leaves after Dorothy asks it politely, thrilling Rose at her ability to communicate with animals.|
Guest star: Hallie Todd as Lucy.
|18||18||"The Operation"||Terry Hughes||Winifred Hervey||February 8, 1986||21.5|
Dorothy aggravates an old foot injury while practicing a tap dancing routine with Rose and Blanche and refuses to get an operation that will heal the problem because of a fear of hospitals. Eventually, a breast cancer patient convinces helps her realize how foolish she has been.|
Guest stars: Robert Picardo as Dr. Revell; Anne Haney as Bonnie.
|19||19||"Second Motherhood"||Gary Shimokawa||Christopher Lloyd||February 15, 1986||21.7|
Blanche's accepts a marriage proposal from her wealthy businessman boyfriend, but is conflicted when she learns he has two young children who come second to his work. Dorothy and rose renovate the bathroom, despite Sophia's insistence that they hire a plumber for help.|
Guest stars: Kevin McCarthy as Richard; Alan Blumenfeld as Lou.
|20||20||"Adult Education"||Jack Shea||James Berg and Stan Zimmerman||February 22, 1986||25.2|
Dorothy is determined to get tickets to an upcoming Frank Sinatra concert, but keeps getting thwarted. Blanche takes a psychology course to get a promotion at the museum where she works. When she fails the midterm exam, she asks the professor or help and he offers to give her an A if she will sleep with him.|
Guest Stars: Jerry Hardin as Professor Cooper; James Staley as Dean Tucker.
Notes: Jerry Hardin appears in a season 4 episode as Gary Tucker. James Staley appears in a season 5 episode as Dr. Manning.
|21||21||"The Flu"||Terry Hughes||James Berg and Stan Zimmerman||March 1, 1986||24.6|
Blanche, Dorothy, and Rose all come down with the flu and infuriate each other. When they each suspect that one of them has won a major award for their charity work, their competitiveness causes them all to attend despite their illness.|
Guest stars: Sharon Spelman as Dr. Richmond; William Cort as Dave; Ray Reinhardt as Harold; Marcelo Tubert as Raoul; Tony Carreiro as Tommy Cochrane; Dom Irrera as The Waiter; Silvana Gallardo as The Emcee.
Notes: Dom Irrera appears in the final episode of season 1 as The Produce Clerk. Tony Carreiro appears in
|22||22||"Job Hunting"||Paul Bogart||Kathy Speer and Terry Grossman||March 8, 1986||22.3|
The counseling center where Rose works closes and the girls become frustrated when people call the house at all hours for Rose's help. When they confront Rose about finding a new job, she says she has been a victim of age discrimination. Blanche gets a date with one of Rose's clients, but is dismayed to find out he only like fat women. Dorothy goes out with an old flame who turns out to be gay.|
Note: This episode was the second one to be produced, but was held over for later in the season.
|23||23||"Blind Ambitions"||Terry Hughes||Bob Colleary||March 29, 1986||21.8|
Rose's blind sister Lily comes to visit and begs Rose to move in with her and take care of her. The girls hold a garage sale to raise money for a new television, but find they cannot part with what they are selling.|
Guest star: Polly Holliday as Lily.
|24||24||"Big Daddy"||Terry Hughes||Barry Fanaro and Mort Nathan||May 3, 1986||21.7|
Blanche's father, nicknamed Big Daddy, visits and shocks Blanche when he says he has sold their house to start a career as a country music singer. Dorothy feuds with the girls' next-door neighbor over storm damage. |
Guest stars: Murray Hamilton as Big Daddy Hollingsworth; Gordon Jump as Leonard Barton; Peggy Pope as Gladys Barton.
Note: Big Daddy was played by David Wayne in season 2, after the death of Murray Hamilton.
|25||25||"The Way We Met"||Terry Hughes||Kathy Speer, Terry Grossman, Winifred Hervey, Mort Nathan, and Barry Fanaro||May 10, 1986||19.9|
After watching the movie, Psycho, the girls reminisce about how they came to live together.|
Guest stars: Edan Gross as little boy; Dom Irrera as produce clerk.
NBC senior vice president Warren Littlefield conceived the idea of the series during the filming of a television special aimed at promoting the new 1984–85 season lineup. The special featured a skit by Night Court's Selma Diamond and Remington Steele's Doris Roberts promoting the upcoming show Miami Vice as Miami Nice, a parody about old people living in Miami, Florida. Amused by the performance, he visualized a series based on the geriatric humor of the female performers.
Littlefield met with producers Paul Junger Witt and Tony Thomas, who were pitching a series about a female lawyer, to ask about developing Miami Nice. Witt asked his wife, Susan Harris, to write the series after the duo's original writer had declined. Harris, who was planning on retiring after Thomas and her ABC series Soap, was interested, noting that "it was a demographic that had never been addressed." Though her vision of a sitcom about women in their 60s differed with NBC's request to write a comedy about women at the age of around 40, Littlefield was impressed when he received Harris' pilot script and subsequently approved production of the pilot. The Cosby Show director Jay Sandrich, who had previously worked with Harris, Witt, and Thomas on Soap, agreed to direct.
The pilot also includes the girls' gay houseboy, Coco (Charles Levin), who lived with them. Levin had been suggested by then-NBC president Brandon Tartikoff based on his groundbreaking recurring gay role, Eddie Gregg, on NBC's Emmy-winning drama, Hill Street Blues. After the pilot, the character of Coco was eliminated from the series.
The season aired on NBC in the United States on Saturday nights at 9:00 pm EST. Harris, her husband Paul Junger Witt, and Tony Thomas were the executive producers for the season. The season featured a panel of writers. Harris and Winifred Hervey each wrote five episodes for the season. Writing duos James Berg and Stan Zimmerman and Kathy Speer and Terry Grossman each wrote three episodes for the season, while Barry Fanaro and Mort Nathan wrote five episodes, including the season finale. Liz Sage wrote two episodes, and Susan Beavers, Bob Colleary, Christopher Lloyd, and Stuart Silverman were each credited for an episode.
Directors for the season included Paul Bogart, Jim Drake, Terry Hughes, Jay Sandrich, Jack Shea, and Gary Shimokawa. Bogart directed four episodes for the season. Hughes was credited for 10 episodes, and Drake received directing credits for eight episodes. Sandrich, Shea, and Shimokawa each directed one episode for the season.
Based on their previous work on Maude and The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Rue McClanahan and Betty White were considered for the parts of Rose Nylund, the bubbly Nordic woman, and Blanche Devereaux, the sexy siren, respectively. Sandrich, who was hired to film the pilot, suggested that the women switch roles to avoid typecasting.
The character of Dorothy Zbornak was tailored toward Bea Arthur, but being unavailable at the time, the producers looked at Elaine Stritch for the role. When her audition flopped, Harris asked McClanahan to convince Arthur, with whom she costarred on Maude, to take the role. Arthur flipped upon reading the script, but was apprehensive because of McClanahan's approach, as she did not "want to play (their Maude characters) Maude and Vivian meet Sue Ann Nivens." Arthur was further convinced when hearing that White would be playing Rose and McClanahan would be playing Blanche.
The role of Sophia Petrillo, Dorothy's mother, was played by Estelle Getty, who was discovered by Tony Thomas while performing in the Broadway play Torch Song Trilogy as the mother character. Getty, being younger than Arthur and White, wore heavy make-up, thick glasses, and a white wig to age her. The character of Sophia was thought by the creators to enhance the idea that three retirement-age women could be young. Disney's Michael Eisner explains, "Estelle Getty made our three women into girls. And that was, to me, what made it seem like it could be a contemporary, young show."
Reception and accolades
The Golden Girls debuted on September 14, 1985, in its 9:00 pm Saturday-night timeslot, following a broadcast of the Miss America contest and preceding another new comedy series, 227. The debut episode garnered a 25.0 household rating and a 43 share, which translates to a reach of 21.5 million homes. It was the highest-rated program of the week, and the highest-rated premiere of a program in two years. The show also elevated the ratings for Saturday nights, which were on a steep decline in the years preceding its debut. After five episodes, the series was averaging a 21.5 household rating, landing among the top-20 highest-rated programs.
At the 38th Primetime Emmy Awards, The Golden Girls won the award for Outstanding Comedy Series. Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan, and Betty White received nominations for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, with White winning for her performance in the episode "In a Bed of Rose's". Estelle Getty received a nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. Barry Fanaro and Mort Nathan won the Emmy award for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series for the episode "A Little Romance". Susan Harris also received nomination for the award for the pilot episode. Directors Jim Drake and Terry Hughes each received a nomination for Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series for their work in "The Heart Attack" and "A Little Romance", respectively. At the 43rd Golden Globe Awards, the series won the award for Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy. The four lead actress were each nominated for the award for Best Actress – Television Series Musical or Comedy, with Getty tying with Cybill Shepherd for the award. Jay Sandrich won the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing – Comedy Series for the episode "The Engagement" at the 38th Directors Guild of America Awards. The series was also nominated at the 2nd TCA Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Comedy.
The first season was released on November 23, 2004, in North America. The set contains three discs, comprising 25 total episodes, and a fashion commentary bonus feature, in which Joan and Melissa Rivers provide a critique on the costumes worn by the main characters. The entire first season was also released in the series collection entitled The Golden Girls: 25th Anniversary Complete Collection, released on November 9, 2010.
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