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"The Golden Girls" The Complete First Season DVD Review

Buy The Golden Girls: The Complete First Season from Amazon.com The Golden Girls: Season One (1985-86)
Show & DVD Details

Regular Directors: Terry Hughes, Jim Drake, Paul Bogart

Regular Cast: Beatrice Arthur (Dorothy Zbornak), Betty White (Rose Nylund), Rue McClanahan (Blanche Devereaux), Estelle Getty (Sophia Petrillo)

Recurring Characters: Herb Edelman (Stan Zbornak)

Notable Guest Stars: Charles Levin (Coco), Lisa Jane Persky (Kate Zbornak), Harold Gould (Arnie), Peter Hansen (Dr. Clayton), Alex Rocco (Glen), Billy Jayne (David), Ralph Manza (Augustine Bagatelli), Brent Collins (Dr. Jonathan Newman), Jeane Dixon (Herself) Billy Barty (Edgar Lindstrom), Christine Belford (Kirsten), Bridgette Andersen (Charley), Hallie Todd (Lucy), Robert Picardo (Dr. Revell), Bill Quinn (Priest), Jerry Hardin (Prof. Cooper), Dom Irrera (Waiter), Polly Holliday (Lily Lindstrom), Murray Hamilton (Big Daddy Hollingsworth)

Running Time: 616 Minutes (25 episodes) / Rating: TV-PG
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Broadcast Ratio) / Dolby Surround 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: English; Closed Captioned

DVD Release Date: November 23, 2004
Season 1 Airdates: September 14, 1985 - May 10, 1986
Three single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9); Suggested Retail Price: $49.99
Six-sided fold-out Digipak with cardboard slipcover

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Page 1: Show Discussion, Disc 1, and Disc 2
Page 2: Disc 3, Video/Audio, Bonus Features, Menus & Packaging, and Closing Thoughts

By Aaron Wallace

Centered around four single women, three in their golden years, one in her eighties, "The Golden Girls" stands in stark contrast to the typically youth-driven sitcom. Instead of a well-rounded family or young group of friends, this show highlighted the perspective of four bold, independent, and sexual women, characters with whom aging women (and even men) could relate. Though much of the world may see them as "old," they see themselves as anything but. Inside, they feel young, useful, and full of purpose. In the first season of the show, this message is especially potent.

Blanche Devereaux, prideful and at times overbearing, is the vivacious beauty of the home. Exceptionally southern and exceptionally promiscuous, her love for men is her most apparent characteristic. Unfortunately, the need to play on this trait for jokes leads to her character coming off as rather one-dimensional in the first season (with a few exceptions), a problem that would dissolve as the show progressed.
When her husband died, she was left alone but wealthy and now lives her life as a single woman working in a museum. As the owner of the home in which the girls reside, plotlines often tend to gravitate towards Blanche. Rue McClanahan does a wonderful job bringing the character to life.

Dorothy Zbornak plays the part of the "straight man," so to speak, her more serious demeanor coupling with her abundant sarcasm to balance out the other girls' absurdities. Because of this, though, her humor seems a bit forced at times, utilizing obvious set-ups for other characters' jokes. Dorothy is played by Beatrice Arthur (commonly referred to as "Bea"), already a sitcom veteran, having starred in "Maude" in the 1970s. Bea's facial expressions are staples of the show. Her character is a single mother and daughter at the same time. Her husband, Stan, left her for a younger woman, and she now works as a school teacher. Like Blanche, plotlines tend to underscore Dorothy as a more central character than Sophia and Rose, especially as the show progresses.

The "Golden Girls" title screen. The girls gather around the table for some late night cheesecake.

Rose Nylund is the loveable but dim-witted poster child of St. Olaf, Minnesota, a rural town full of hilariously ridiculous stories. Compassion is her defining characteristic, and it is often she who is seeking to soothe disagreements in the rest of the strong-headed household. She very much loved her husband, Charlie, who died of a heart attack, and still very much mourns her loss. Her compassion and experiences are well channeled in her career as a grief counselor. Rose is brought to life by Betty White, already a sitcom legend for her roles on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and even "Mama's Family", which "Golden Girls" replaced on NBC in 1985. She masterfully balances the humor and drama that are so intricately fused in Rose's personality.

Sophia Petrillo, a feisty Italian octogenarian and mother to Dorothy, brings a little wisdom to the group. Having suffered a stroke that impaired her ability to censor her thoughts, she is often blunt and coarse. More importantly, though, is the depth with which she cares for her daughters and roommates, even if she doesn't show it. She wasn't originally intended to live in Blanche's house, but when her retirement home burned down, she needed a place to stay. Estelle Getty delivers perhaps the most impressive performance of all the leading ladies. While most viewers would swear to her age, Estelle is not even the oldest member of the cast. Extensive make-up and magnificent acting allow for a believable portrayal of an old woman who is young at heart. Unfortunately, Sophia is often treated as a sideline character in the first season, rarely getting her own plotline.

It's flu season! Rose gets some reassurement.

"The Golden Girls" is certainly a fan favorite. From its famed theme song to its recognizable house (which, until recently, was on display at the Disney-MGM Studios in Orlando, Florida as part of a tour). The show is set in Miami (leading one to wonder why the girls are almost always dressed in long-sleeve shirts and pants) and makes strong use of its setting, in terms of both location and time. References to current events and pop culture are a staple of each and every episode. Unfortunately, they date the show quite a bit at times, especially in these earlier episodes, which are now nearly twenty years old. Readers of this site will also likely enjoy the numerous references to Disney throughout the show.

Unlike many series' debut seasons, "The Golden Girls" doesn't struggle at finding itself in its first season. The characters are instantly well-defined and the humor instantly hilarious, perhaps contributing to its initial success (the show was a hit). However, the first season does heavily rely on visiting friends and families to propel a plot, with visitors stopping by in nearly every episode. A stronger focus on the target audience, aging America, is more evident in this season than in those to follow as well. Despite these patterns, though, the first season almost entirely avoids becoming formulaic or jaded.

After years of anxious waiting by fans, the premiere season is now finally presented on DVD in its entirety with an overall sound presentation, despite a lack of substantial bonus features.

A star () denotes my ten favorite episodes from the season.

Blanche's ill-fated wedding in "The Engagement." Arnie's moving too fast for "Rose the Prude." Blanche dines with her sister in "Transplant."

Disc 1

1. The Engagement (The Pilot) (24:45) (Originally aired September 14, 1985)
In the pilot episode, first aired on the date of my birth, Blanche surprises her roommates by announcing that Harry, her boyfriend of one week, has proposed. As she contemplates her response, Dorothy and Rose reflect on their lives, successfully defining the strong personalities of each main character. The girls employ a gay housekeeper and cook in this episode, who was dropped from the show afterwards.

2. Guess Who's Coming to the Wedding? (24:44) (Originally aired September 21, 1985)
Dorothy's daughter, Kate, pays her mom a visit and announces that she plans to marry a podiatrist named Dennis. Dorothy is thrilled until Kate requests that her father, Stan, who left Dorothy for a younger woman, be invited to the wedding.
Dorothy reluctantly agrees to extend an invitation, but when Stan arrives, she has difficulty in coping with his presence. This episode lays the foundation for the humorous love-hate relationship between Dorothy and Stan that would continue throughout the course of the show. Meanwhile, Rose guards her cheese balls from a hungry Sophia.

3. Rose the Prude (24:47) (Originally aired September 28, 1985)
Blanche talks a hesitant Rose into accompanying her on a blind double date. Things go sour for Blanche, but when Rose hits it off with her date, Arnie (played by Harold Gould, who would return to the show years later, again as Rose's ongoing love interest, but as a different character), things quickly escalate. He invites Rose on a cruise, where she must confront sexuality for the first time since her husband's death.

4. Transplant (24:43) (Originally aired October 5, 1985)
Having hated her sister since childhood, Blanche is dismayed to learn she plans to pay a visit. The two compete with each other in full force, but when her sister reveals the true reason for her visit, Blanche is left with a very difficult decision to make.

Blanche's grandson and his hooligan friends crash "On Golden Girls." Bowling brings out "The Competition." The girls are robbed in "Break-In"! What better opportunity for a coke joke?

5. The Triangle (24:45) (Originally aired October 19, 1985)
Dorothy and Blanche both have their eyes on Sophia's new doctor. Blanche agrees to back down and let Dorothy date him, but when the doctor makes a pass at Blanche behind Dorothy's back, the two are hurled into a bitter feud. This episode brings us the first of Rose's many stories from her home of St. Olaf, Minnesota as well as Sophia's famous "picture this" tales from Sicily.

6. On Golden Girls (24:44) (Originally aired October 26, 1985)
Blanche's grandson, David, is coming to stay with the girls for two weeks. When Blanche can't find him at the airport until the police escort him to her, she realizes she's in for more than she bargained for. David's bad attitude gives the girls cause to rally together and try to teach him a lesson in respect.

7. The Competition (24:36) (Originally aired November 2, 1985)
The girls enter a bowling competition, but the question is who will partner with whom? It all starts out in good fun, but as Rose's competitive edge runs amuck, betrayal and feuding ensue. Meanwhile, Sophia's former fiancι is in town and wants to see her for the first time in decades.

8. Break-In (24:09) (Originally aired November 9, 1985)
The girls return home to find the house ransacked and robbed. Blanche is especially distraught to find that her mother's beloved jewelry is missing. The girls begin to investigate varying forms of security, but Rose is consumed by paranoia, letting it get the best of her until things get out of hand.

"Blance and the Younger Man" Trouble for Sophia in "The Heart Attack." Dorothy and sister shack up for the night in "The Custody Battle."

Disc 2

9. Blanche and the Younger Man (24:46) (Originally aired November 16, 1985)
Rose's mother (played by Jeanette Nolan, known for her voice acting in several of Disney's animated classics) comes to spend a week with her daughter, but grows increasingly frustrated with Rose's patronizing attitude towards her. A much younger man asks Blanche on a date, boosting her confidence to an unhealthy level.

10. The Heart Attack (24:45) (Originally aired November 23, 1985)
Sophia feels some discomfort which quickly becomes call for alarm as she suspects she's having a heart attack. The paramedics are immediately called, but a fierce storm outside has downed trees on the road, blocking their path.

11. Stan's Return (The Return of Dorothy's Ex) (24:36) (Originally aired November 30, 1985)
Stan needs Dorothy to sign off on paper work for property they acquired during they marriage, but when they meet for lunch, the old flame may be relit.
Meanwhile, the girls plan a vacation without Sophia. Simone Griffeth, who plays Stan's new wife in this episode, also co-starred with both Bea Arthur and Herb Edelman in previous sitcoms.

12. The Custody Battle (24:45) (Originally aired December 7, 1985)
Dorothy's sister is visiting for the week, but when she asks to leave with a bit more than she came with, Dorothy is troubled. Blanche and Rose audition for Macbeth and Blanche is sure she's landed the lead female role, but the casting doesn't go quite as she expects.

13. A Little Romance (24:23) (Originally aired December 14, 1985)
In one of the season's more elaborate and illustrative episodes, Rose clues her friends in on her new relationship with a psychiatrist, but is hesitant to let them meet him. When Rose's doctor boyfriend turns out to be a little person, the housemates have trouble containing their amusement.

Dorothy gets H and H with a married man in "That Was No Lady." Rose and Dorothy opt for pastels. Dorothy and her mother play a little chess in "Nice and Easy."

14. That Was No Lady (24:20) (Originally aired December 21, 1995)
Dorothy has finally a found a relationship in which she can be happy. The only problem is that the man she's with is married! Dorothy now must decide whether or not to continue the relationship, and her friends offer conflicting advice. Meanwhile, Blanche wants to sell her old car to Rose so that she can buy a new one.

15. In a Bed of Rose's (24:44) (Originally aired January 11, 1986)
Rose sneaks a man into the house late at night. She manages to hide his presence for the night, but when Sophia discovers him the next day, there's a chilling surprise for the girls, especially Rose.

16. The Truth Will Out (The Will) (24:15) (Originally aired January 18, 1986)
Rose's daughter and granddaughter are visiting so that they can review Rose's will. When her daughter demands an explanation for a large sum of missing money, Rose must confront a lifetime of deception.

17. Nice and Easy (24:44) (Originally aired February 1, 1986)
Blanche's 20-year-old niece Lucy (played by a very young Hallie Todd, who would later go on to star as Lizzie's mom in "Lizzie McGuire") comes to stay with her aunt, but doesn't spend much time at the house. Instead, she's sleeping with a different man every night. While Blanch is certainly no pillar of virtue in terms of sexuality, she must risk her relationship with her niece to teach her a lesson.

Rose's boyfriend is not short...on charm. The colorful '80s food shopping experience.

Continue to Page 2 >>

Order The Golden Girls: Season One DVD from Amazon.com

Page 1: Show Discussion, Disc 1, and Disc 2
Page 2: Disc 3, Video/Audio, Bonus Features, Menus & Packaging, and Closing Thoughts

UltimateDisney.com | DVD Review Index | Disney / Buena Vista TV Shows Page | Search UltimateDisney.com

The Golden Girls on DVD: Season 1 • Season 2 • Season 3 • Season 4 • Season 5 • Season 6 • Season 7 NEW!

Reviewed November 22, 2004.