At last, you no longer have to tune into 'television for women' to watch The Golden Girls! Well, for now at least, just season 1.
So, I won't keep you in suspense. This 3-disc set includes all the full-length versions of the first season, NOT the butchered syndication episodes aired in reruns to make more room for commercials. REJOICE!
Now, onto the show. As if I have to explain, Golden Girls is the sitcom that hit the airwaves in 1985, and follows the lives of four older women living together in a house in Miami. Widowed, sexually active Blanche (Rue McClanahan) has opened her home to roommates: Rose (Betty White) is the naďve widow from Minnesota, Dorothy (Bea Arthur) is the brash Brooklyn school teacher, and her mother Sophia (Estelle Getty) suffered a stroke and now has no filtering mechanism, and blurts out whatever inappropriate thing comes to mind.
Rewatching the first season in its entirety, it's pretty clear why this show was such a hit. First of all, its creators are the same people who brought us Soap in the late 1970s (one can't help but notice a variety of regulars on that sitcom appeared on this one throughout the years), so it continues the trend of pushing the envelope with subject matter that had never dared speak its name on television before. And second, it truly did give voice to an age group that was voiceless. While this show is an absolute laugh riot, and features jokes that still seem edgy for television, it also covers topics that elderly people face, from loneliness as a widow, to problems with medical bills, finding employment at an older age, and more. And despite some pop culture references being dated, the show still attracts young viewers—which is good, because younger generations seem to know nothing about the roots of pop culture. If you don't believe me, just check out the vacant looks on the faces of Americal Idol contestants next season when they are told they will be singing from the catalog of Ashford & Simpson or Billy Joel. Oh geez. Now I'M starting to sound like a Golden Girl.
Anyway, it's great to finally watch the first season in sequential order again. You can see the characters developing as we get to know them. For long time viewers, this first season will feel like a "Golden Girls for Dummies" at times, but the humor is dead on from episode one. Those who pretty much have every line of each episode memorized will also realize that the writers would later recycle some of their jokes as the audience expanded, figuring not that many people had heard the one-liners the first time around. What you will also notice is some of the differences in the first season. Sophia's very different wig. The variations on the layout of Blanche's home. Rose finally mentions in one of the last episodes of the season that she is from "St. Olaf"—before that, she only says she's from Minnesota. And Sophia hasn't quite pinned down her "Picture it, Sicily, 19XX…" dialogue yet. In the pilot episode, the girls have a gay cook named Coco who is gone without explanation in the next episode. Good decision on the creators' part, because the dynamic would have been very different had he remained. And in this first season, a lot of the painful discrepancies in family lineage is established—a big pet peeve with many of the show's fanatics—as well as recurring roles that are not played by the same actors later on. We meet Dorothy's ex-husband, Stan (Herb Edelman), later a semi-regular on the show. Blanche's two sisters, Virginia and Charlotte are well-established in the first season, as are Dorthy's siblings, Gloria and Phil. We meet Dorothy's daughter Kate & her new husband Dennis, who are played by different actors than the actors who cover those roles in a later season. Same with Dorothy's sister Gloria. Harold Gould, who in later seasons portrayed Rose's boyfriend Miles, plays a one time date as a guy named Arnie in an early episode. Dorothy dates a married man named Glenn in one of these episodes (played by Jo's dad from the Facts of Life). Glenn comes back for another episode a few seasons later (this time played by Baby's dad from Dirty Dancing). Rose's daughter Kirsten comes to visit to discuss her father's will—several years later, she returns, played by a different actress. And Blanche's Big Daddy also makes his first appearance, once again, not the same actor who appears on a later episode as Big Daddy. Ironically, it is all these little inconsistencies that give this well-adored show a flaw—one that works in its favor because it feeds the minds of ridiculous fans like myself with more useless trivia. And in what I'd say is one of its most brilliant moves, the first season ends with an episode in which the girls remember how they first ended up living together, in a sort of "flashback" episode that is actually all new footage. When the show premiered, the girls already lived with Blanche, except Sophia, who moved in on the first episode after her retirement home, Shady Pines, burned down. With this season finale, we were shown how it all started so we could find out how we got to this perfect comedic situation.
This is the original full frame presentation you saw on television. Due to it being a nearly 20-year-old show, the original picture quality wasn't up to today's standards. I'd suggest you not watch this in progressive scan. Even without progressive scan, the picture shows signs of pixilation. The image is a little too dark and blurry, and the colors are slightly too saturated, but the flesh tones are natural, and the show itself is, as always, vividly colorful. The image quality is pretty much exactly how it appears when you watch it on Lifetime four times a day. About one time per disc there is a layering pause since each disc is about 3 hours long.
This is simple Dolby 2.0 stereo. Television was just beginning to be broadcast in stereo back then, so this is nothing state of the art. For the most part, it sounds like the dialogue is centered, and the audience laughter comes from the left and right speakers.
This release is rather short on extras. Each disc offers closed caption subtitles in English. The first disc has sneak peeks, and launches right into them when you insert the disc, but you can skip them by choosing menu from your remote control. Disc 1 features a picture of Dorothy and Sophia on the label, and the disc itself contains 8 episodes. Disc 2 has a picture of Rose on the label, and the disc contains 9 episodes. Disc 3 features Blanche on the label. It includes the last 8 episodes of the season. There is episode selection, as well as a much more practical "Play All" option. The extra here is useless. Joan Rivers and Melissa Rivers spend ten minutes making bad jokes about the girls' fashions in popup video bubbles as we see different clips of the show. There's even a laugh track added in hopes of making this segment funnier. So sad. This probably would have been more humorous had it been hosted by two drag queens—I mean REAL drag queens. Each episode begins and ends with the original respective credits. The opening is one that is never used in the various versions on Lifetime, the difference being an optional shot of Rue McClanahan during her credit. It will be nice to finally see the original opening credits for each season intact as the seasons are released in full on future discs. Also, the episodes fade in and out where there was a commercial interruption. Most of the times, it's not a very fluid transition without commercials in between—but it's still so much better that there aren't any commercials.
Golden Girls still remains one of the most popular shows on television, with people of all ages. Now, at last, you can see all the moments you've been missing from season 1 when watching the edited versions on Lifetime in this 3-disc set that is a must have. Get to the end of disc 3 and you're going to want to start all over again on disc 1. Season 2 can't get here fast enough.