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Sunday, July 21, 2024 | Back issues
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The Golden Girls

One of the drawbacks of modern cable television is the sheer number of channels available to viewers. Sorry, I just don't need an entire channel devoted to video games (G4). If I was that interested in video games I'd be playing them, instead of watching shows about them.

Another, much more horrid drawback, is the poisonous bloom of "reality" television that has afflicted society. Put aside the fact these shows are about the farthest thing from reality, do we really need countless variations of home improvement dreck and "celebrity" staged adventures to pass the time? What happened to reading a book, or playing board games, or just staring at a wall for three hours a night?

My first cable bill probably paid for about forty channels of programming, thirty-seven of which I was completely unaware of. Today I pay for at least one hundred and fifty channels of programming; I rotate between maybe ten.

The good news about this explosion in options is that certain channels air good programming. Not decent programming, not something to pass the time, but actual good television.

I don't know why, but the Hallmark Channel has become the de facto 24-hour home of the 1980's sitcom "The Golden Girls."

I hadn't seen the show in at least fifteen years. I watched it regularly when it was first-run, since back then my parents were still reluctant to actually pay for television. Looking back, who could blame them? Cable T.V. was a novelty until I was twelve or so. Anyway, the Hallmark Channel has to have aired every episode of "The Golden Girls" at least twelve times apiece. My TiVo is full of triple-thumbs-upped quinquagenarian hijinks. I watch them all.

The writing is whip-smart clever, which is very hard to find with modern sitcoms. Subtle insults, salacious escapades (thank you Rue McClanahan, even though Betty White is way hotter), the novelty of older women exclusively carrying a show for several years (one of only three sitcoms in which all the main characters won at least one Emmy Award). Plus, the show was smart enough to mix comedy with small flashes of drama, something the vast majority of sitcoms don't even attempt. Life isn't one big laugh, after all.

Every one of the actresses on the show are (or were) skilled comediennes. Bea Arthur's timing goes without saying, Betty White and Rue McClanahan's abilities to melt into character are exquisite, and Estelle Getty gets special mention for appearing as Bea Arthur's mother despite the fact that Getty was actually over a year younger than Arthur.

The show dealt with then-mildly, and some currently very, controversial subjects such as gay marriage, drug addiction, chronic fatigue syndrome (a two-parter if I remember correctly and far ahead of its time), sexual harassment, and illegal immigration, among many others.

It's rare these days to find older programming that catches your interest. Yeah, "All in the Family" and "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" will always come to mind. "Night Court" has always been a personal favorite.

The proliferation of cable programming has unearthed some real gems, and "The Golden Girls" is certainly one of the best. Give it another shot. I guarantee you wont' be disappointed.

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