When I was about 11-years-old, The Golden Girls began airing on NBC, and it quickly became my favorite television show of all time. I have always marveled at The Golden Girls' universal appeal; as it airs today in endless reruns on the Lifetime channel, it continues to draw legions of new fans. I found proof of this when earlier this year I found my 31-year-old self pitted in a heated battle against a 19-year-old during "Golden Girls Trivia" on an Alaskan cruise. I won, by the way, but just barely – the 19-year-old really gave me a run for my money!
The premise of this show is quite unique: four women, including one innocent, one promiscuous, one professional, and the other full of sarcastic quips, gather regularly to dissect their lives and the opposite sex. No, it's not Sex and the City, my friends, for that didn't appear on the scene until over a decade later. The premise of The Golden Girls remains a standout because of the fact that it emphasized the fact that women over 50 could be fun, fabulous, and enjoy (gasp!) their sexual freedom. The four friends, dopey Rose, caustic Dorothy, sexy Blanche, and loud-mouthed Sophia (who is Dorothy's elderly mother), share Blanche's house in Miami. It is always interesting to experience a season of a television show on DVD; watching it in reruns on television, one is subject to the whims of the network, which does not always air episodes in order and chops them up in order to fit in more commercials. Season Four contains some of the series' most beloved episodes.
Standout episodes this season include "Rites of Spring," where the girls remember past efforts at self-improvement; be sure to watch for Dorothy and Blanche in sequined workout gear. Sophia gets married to her husband's ex business partner in "Sophia's Wedding," a two-parter that ends on a bittersweet note. Blanche has a turn in the spotlight in "Blind Date," where she dates a blind man, and "The One That Got Away," where she sees that time has not been kind to an old flame. Also be sure to check out "Foreign Exchange," more so for the sub plot where Blanche and Rose take a dirty dancing class; the scene where they dance in the living room is worth a big laugh every time.
One particularly absurd episode this season is "High Anxiety," where it is revealed that Rose has had an addiction to prescription medication for the better part of 30 years. When she runs out of pills and begins behaving erratically, the roommates become aware of the problem and band together to help her. This one is reminiscent of the episode where Dorothy's gambling addiction comes to light. It is obviously a "message" episode, but it is difficult to believe that Rose has had an addiction for 30 years and it is dealt with in one episode.
Another head-scratcher is "Brother Can You Spare that Jacket?" where the girls spend the night in a homeless shelter after accidentally giving away a jacket that holds a winning lottery ticket. Clearly, it is also a message episode, but it is rather heavy-handed in its execution, despite the fact that it is beautifully acted, as always. Sophia invests in a prizefighter who wants to be an actor in "Fiddler on the Ropes,"
One of my all-time favorite episodes of any season is "The Days and Nights of Sophia Petrillo." It could also easily be entitled "The Nectarine." Blanche, Rose, and Dorothy sit around one lazy day in their bathrobes, pitying Sophia and her seemingly empty life. All she appears to do is to go out every day to buy a nectarine. Little do they know she's standing up for senior citizens' rights at the grocery store, leading a boardwalk band to raise money for charity, and volunteering at the local hospital. In fact, it is the other three roommates who are the ones who do nothing in this episode! This one is evidentiary of the excellent writing and engrossing plots that were a hallmark of this series.
Another episode that deserves accolades is "Scared Straight," when Blanche's brother admits he is gay. Although the episode is comedic and fun, there is a serious undertone to the plot. Blanche is in deep denial about Clayton's sexuality, and Clayton is justifiably angry at his sister's inability to accept him for who he is. This marks yet another time The Golden Girls dealt honestly and realistically with the topic of homosexuality; remember the one where Dorothy's visiting girlfriend falls in love with Rose?
The season finale is the two-part "We're Outta Here," where an offer to sell the house prompts remembrances in the form of flashbacks to previous episodes, including the one where the roommates first moved in together, the absolutely hysterical dance marathon where all three get to strut their stuff on the dance floor (be sure to look for the obvious double for Rose during the dance solo), the episode when Blanche's promiscuous niece visits, and the one where Rose's cousin Sven visits and decides he is in love with Blanche.
The Golden Girls: The Complete Fourth Season is presented in full screen, and like the two seasons that came before it, it is a pleasantly surprising improvement over what one might expect when viewing it on television. The pastel and jewel-toned colors of the ladies' outfits (it was twenty years ago, people!) are incredibly vivid, and the lines are sharp and clear. The fact that this series recently celebrated its 20th anniversary is not apparent, at least in terms of picture quality. In my experience watching endless television shows on DVD, the television-to-DVD improvement of The Golden Girls ranks as one of the best.
This season is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, which is adequate, but not remarkable in terms of quality. I'm not sure that this is such a travesty, as sound quality is not always a top priority for the intended audience of this show (women of all ages). Well, let's face it, there are plenty of men who secretly like this show, too!
Although there are not a ton of extras included on this season, there are some mitigating factors to be considered, the first of which is that on Season One, the only notable extra was a featurette starring Joan and Melissa Rivers, where the two of them basically ridiculed and guffawed over the Girls' outfits. I've always enjoyed the Rivers's red carpet commentary at awards shows, but the Season One featurette was a tasteless insult to fans of the show who had waited years for the series to finally be released on DVD.
Fortunately, the releases of later seasons more than make up for the lack of decent extras on the first season, however they are still light considering the immense popularity of the show. On Season Four, there is a countdown of clips of the most memorable guest stars from this season, including cutie pie Julio Iglesias, who guest-starred as Sophia's date, Quentin Tarantino as an extra. Viewers may also recognize Henry Darrow, who played Fidel, the man Blanche and Sophia spar over in "Yes, We Have No Havanas;" he was also Cruz Castillo's father in the campy 80s soap Santa Barbara. Ellen Albertini Dow is probably better known as the cool grandma who belted out "Rapper's Delight" in the movie The Wedding Singer, and of course the season's biggest catch was…Bob Hope!
I would LOVE to see the Lifetime special that ran a few years ago included on a future release, but I doubt that will happen. That said, the fact that most DVD releases of television series have no extras whatsoever by the time season four rolls around, it's nice to see the Top 10 Guests clips on this one.
This collection is a must-own for even the most casual Golden Girls fan. Season Four showcased each "girl" at her very best, and on a show this good, even the weak episodes are pretty darn terrific.