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Kicking it old school with “The Golden Girls”

Analise Lipari | Monday, November 3, 2008

If I had to describe myself, I’d say I’m a pretty typical college kid. I’m mildly obsessed with sleep – napping, snoozing, even that nap-jerk thing you do when you’re feeling a mid-afternoon brain-fuzz. I wear sweat pants, sneakers and T-shirts on a fairly regular basis. And I usually wait to do laundry until I have four loads left and I’m running out of socks. I cook with my mom, watch football with my dad and text my sisters about “Project Runway.”

Oh, and I think I’ve seen every episode of “The Golden Girls.”

Maybe those things don’t jive at first glance. It’d be hard to picture Sophia Petrillo listening to MGMT on her iPod or swiping into the dining hall (unless she was doing the swiping). Or, for that matter, a 21 year-old Domer getting excited about time-shares in Boca Raton. Most college kids’ televisions probably run on a steady diet of MTV, the news networks and “The Office,” and most senior citizens’ dials might be switched to “60 minutes,” the news networks and “The Antiques Roadshow.”


Wrong. Because, well, I love “The Golden Girls.” I hang out with Rose, Dorothy, Sophia and Blanche all the time – albeit, courtesy of the Lifetime network and the power of reruns. I’ve watched their highs, their lows, and their obsession with cheesecake in episode after episode, and I love it.

The best way to get to know “The Golden Girls” is to do just that – get to know the four main characters: Dorothy Zbornak (Bea Arthur), Sophia Petrillo (Estelle Getty), Blanche Devereaux (Rue McClanahan) and Rose Nylund (Betty White).

The anchor of “The Golden Girls” is arguably Dorothy, a strong headed, independent divorcee with a sardonic sense of humor. Dorothy was hardly the popular girl in high school, marrying her clownish boyfriend Stanley Zbornak when she found out she was pregnant with his child. The specter of Stan (and his actual, annoying presence) haunts Dorothy through the show’s earlier seasons, but she handily tosses him aside with her signature wit.

Arthur, an alum of the groundbreaking series “Maude,” is always at the top of her game in this role.

Blanche could probably shock a teenage viewer: once called “sexy Grandma” by her granddaughter, Blanche is the resident social butterfly of the group. While Sophia and Dorothy tease her about the virtual rotating door to her bedroom, Blanche, a Southerner by birth, thinks she’s a lady. Here’s a typical exchange between the three of them:

Blanche: “What do you think of my new dress? Is it me?”

Sophia: “It’s too tight, it’s too short and it shows too much cleavage for a woman your age.”

Dorothy: “Yes, Blanche. It’s you.”

You don’t get writing like that today, folks. You just don’t.

Rose is, to be totally honest, kind of a loon – but in a sweet, caring sort of way that almost makes you forget how ridiculous she can be. A native of St. Olaf, Minn., she’s quick with a story, slow on the uptake and always a good friend.

But really, Estelle Getty’s Sophia is the star of the show. Ready with a zinger at any moment, Sophia is a tough, Sicilian woman with smarts and spunk. She’ll often start a story with the phrase, “Picture it: Sicily,” and her biting humor belies a heart of endearing gold. She’s by far the funniest cast member. Here’s an example, from after one of Sophia’s memorable life stories.

Rose: “Wow, Sophia, that was some story!”

Sophia: “Yeah – funny, touching and with a surprise ending. I wonder if it was true. Damn that stroke.”

So why regale you with details about a show that made its debut before any of us were born? (Wow, by the way.) Because it’s fun, and funny, and it’s still refreshing to watch a show in which any character over fifty isn’t immediately deemed useless.

Who knows? Someday I may be as cantankerous and as funny as Sophia Petrillo or her three housemates. (Hey, I’m also Sicilian. Anything’s possible.) In the meantime, I’ll catch the reruns on Lifetime again tonight. And tomorrow night