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The Golden Girls is perhaps one of my favourite American comedies mostly because most of the humour in it is based on wit rather than silliness and foul language. Whilst it is perhaps a little dated in some of the references used (political and the news) for me it is still as funny as it was when I first watched it years ago. If my memory is correct this was originally shown on channel 4. This set of discs contains all 25 episodes from series 1. It is available from amazon for £9.75.
The main characters, all of whom have lost their husbands (three widows and one divorcee) share a house and the series focuses on them getting on with their lives, which is not always smooth running. Disastrous (at times) love lives, arguments not to mention the clashes of their outlook on their lives.
Dorothy Zbornak (Bea Arthur): Dorothy works as a substitute teacher and is recently divorced from her husband who left her for an air hostess half her age. Although she is seen as rather bitter she is a strong friend to the others. One of the best things about her character is that it is if she could turn a person to a pillar of salt with a single look, an essential skill for any teacher. She is perhaps the voice of reason in the house and is by far the most sensible of the four. Dorothy is frustrated, at times, by her housemates and gets through with sarcasm and Stan (her ex-husband) hating.
Sophia Petrillo (Estelle Getty): Sophia is my favourite character in the series. Born in Sicily, which the others are never allowed to forget, she is Dorothy's mum (despite Estelle actually being a year younger than Bea) and at the start of the series it is revealed that she had recently had a stroke and has been living in a retirement home, which partly burnt down. She moves in with her daughter and the other two. Despite her small stature you know if you pick an argument with her you will always lose. Sophia has a razor sharp wit and says exactly what she thinks (this is claimed to be as a consequence of her stroke as she 'lost' the ability to censor what she says). She freely gives advice to all the others and despite being Dorothy's mum she treats the other two as if they were also her daughters.
Blanche Devereaux (Rue McClanahan): Blanche sees herself as a southern belle and owns the house they all live in. She works at an art museum and lost her husband after he was involved on a car accident. She is seen, by the others, as a man eater and Blanche hates being without a man. Whilst she can be self-involved when the chips are down she does prove herself to be a strong friend to the others.
Rose Nylund (Betty White): Rose moved to Miami after losing her husband who died 'with his boots on' (sorry for the euphemism but is there a better way of putting it?). As the series starts she is working as a grief councillor and can, at times, irritate the other two with her rather strange long winded stories about her home town (or should that be long winded stories about her strange home town?). Despite them being long winded there is always a point to them and can be used as a way of giving advice. Rose is perhaps seen as the least intelligent and most naive of the four but is perhaps the most caring of others.
I did enjoy watching this series again and let's face it we have all met or know someone who is like at least one of these characters. For me that is Sophia as my gran always used to say what she thought, and not quietly either.
The writing is excellent but at times, going by the reactions of the cast, I do wonder if they go off script at times. Some of the comedy does come from the timing of the one liners particularly those delivered by Getty and the reactions to the cast to them. Also there is the relationship between Dorothy and Sophia which despite them being very close and mother and daughter they argue like cat and dog. The humour is aided by the massive difference in the characters respective heights. Arthur being 5'10" and Getty being 4'10". Rue McClanahan added the southern accent to her character herself. If you had not heard Rue in interviews or in other programmes this accent is so well done you would not know it was put on.
The stories that both Rose and Sophia tell have their own humour attached. Rose's, due to her overly honest nature are most probably all true despite the fact that the sound like utter nonsense and as far-fetched as anything. Sophia's on the other hand you never quite know if they are true or not but her delivery does make them sound convincing.
The main set is the house they all live in particularly the open plan kitchen dining room. Despite this being a studio set it is well made and the décor used whilst inside does look like you are inside a real house. The outside is another matter as it is an obvious back cloth and the palm trees do look rather fake.
There are a few continuity errors in the series with the large Chinese vase which was smashed in one episode only to reappear two episodes later and Rose's home town changing from Little Falls in one episode to St Olaf in all the others. Then there is the mystery of the vanishing housekeeper/cook who is there in the first episode but he does not appear in any of the others. I can only assume that this was to share the lines around fewer people. Sophia appears, in some episodes, to have taken over as the main cook in the house.
The bonus features is a fashion commentary done by Joan and Melissa Rivers. For me this is unfunny and is unnecessary. It should not have been added to the DVD, no scratch that it should never have been made. Awful, awful, awful.
You can also change the spoken language to Italian, German or Spanish.
Despite perhaps a few dated references the comedy still works well and it is still, for me, far better than many of the American so-called comedies that several people rave about today. The writing timing and delivery all come together well. Now to buy and watch series 2.