Dorothy: We have created a poetry-writing citrus farmer who writes letters with a lavender felt pen. And Rose thinks he's the most fascinating creature on Earth. Now what do you think that says?Picture it: Miami, The '80s. A charming Slice of Life sitcom surrounding the lives of four women over fifty (although good luck getting Blanche to admit it) sharing a house. These women are:
Blanche: About Rose?
Dorothy: About the whole BUNCH of us!
Blanche: About Rose?
Dorothy: About the whole BUNCH of us!
— "Love, Rose", season 2, episode 10
- Blanche Devereaux (Rue McClanahan): A mancrazy Southern Belle socialite.
- Rose Nylund (Betty White): A ditzy rural homemaker from St. Olaf, Minnesota, a town of Ditzes.
- Dorothy Zbornak (Bea Arthur): A deadpan snarking schoolteacher from Brooklyn.
- Sophia Petrillo (Estelle Getty): Dorothy's Sicilian mother with little tact, who evidently taught Dorothy all she knows about snarkery.
The Golden Tropes:
- Accidental Bid: In "The Artist," the girls try to bid on a painting by Jasper DeKimmel, as he is dying of a rare blood disorder and they believe that his demise will increase the value of his work. At the auction, Rose fans herself with her paddle, which the auctioneer takes as a bid.
- It gets even worse—Blanche and Dorothy admonish Rose for bidding by waving her paddle...which they demonstrate. The auctioneer keeps upping their bids because of it (although since they're sitting in the front row and clearly together, he seems to be doing so deliberately at that point).
- Acquired Error at the Printer: A printing error on the ballot caused a horse to be elected as water commissioner of St. Olaf for six months.
- Acronym Confusion: Blanche's (second) middle name is Elizabeth, and she keeps a journal with her initials on the cover. Her initials spell BED, and the girls mistake it for a logbook of people she's slept with.
- Adam Westing: Lyle Waggoner as a Small Name, Big Ego and Sonny Bono as a Drunk with Power Mayor Pain in the All Just a Dream episode.
- Adaptation Distillation: In-universe example. Rose tells Blanche a long, rather excruciating story about how she won Frank Sinatra tickets during a radio station contest, and is just about to tell Dorothy the exact same story, when...Blanche: No! No! No! No! Please, I cannot bear that again! She [Rose] was listening to her car radio. Big Band, not All-Talk. There was a contest. Something about a little voice, a lucky number, a dime and a door handle, then bim-bam-boom, she won the tickets!
Dorothy: Take a lesson, Rose. That's how you tell a story.
- Adult Fear:
- In "Sick and Tired", when Dorothy shows signs of a serious illness (eventually diagnosed as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) Sophia says the worst thing in the world would be for a parent to outlive their child, that it wouldn't feel fair for the parent to go on living. In a later episode, Sophia's son Phil dies.
- When Rose is told that she might have contracted HIV. Fortunately, she didn't, but those 72 hours during which she waited for her test results were very scary.
- Blanche's fears of getting old.
- There was also an episode where Blanche had a heart problem and was afraid of dying, even giving up sex for a while.
- In "Sophia's Choice", Sophia tries to help a friend who lives in a nursing home that is badly run and underfunded. The people who can't afford somewhere better are stuck there.
- Sophia (who, at her age, is already used to going to friend's funerals) has to talk a friend out of killing herself. The friend is depressed due to loneliness and worrying about her health declining in the future.
- After Dorothy's daughter is cheated on by her husband, .
- After Show: Golden Palace, which had Blanche, Rose, and Sophia buying and operating a hotel. Dorothy appeared in one episode.
- All Gays Love Theatre: Sophia figures out Blanche's brother Clayton is gay because he sings in the shower and knows all the words to "Send In The Clowns" from Stephen Sondheim's A Little Night Music. Although, it may have also been a reference to him being a fan of Barbra Streisand (who has a large gay male following) as it is one of her more well-known songs.
- All Just a Dream: When Blanche dreams her husband had faked his death and comes back to her. The ending is a bit of a Tear Jerker.
- And Starring: "And Estelle Getty" (though in a subversion of this trope, it wasn't done to signify that Getty was a big-name star—actually, she was the least known of the four actresses when the show began).
- ...And That Little Girl Was Me: Sophia.Sophia: "That peasant girl was me. And that painter... was... Pablo Picasso."Sophia: "Rose, one of those girls was me. The other one you probably know as Mama Celeste."
- Blanche also did this in the episode "The Operation," while telling Rose about a case of stage fright she'd dealt with while performing in a dance recital with a group of twelve other girls: "They opened the curtain and the music started and twelve little girls started to dance. And one little girl wet her pants. That girl in the puddle was me."
- Aerith and Bob: Played with in an episode involving minks when Rose named some of them.Rose: We are not giving away Fluffy, Muffy, Buffy, and Joanne!Dorothy: Rose, they are non-breeding minks who eat their weight in food everyday! ...Joanne?
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: From "The Operation":Rose: Nobody likes hospitals, but there's nothing to be scared of!
Dorothy: Oh really, Rose? What about blood? What about death? What about those nighties that don't close up in the back?
- Ascended Extra: Sophia was conceived as a recurring character, but positive response to her in the pilot led to her being added to the main cast.
- Ask a Stupid Question...: Everyone, but Dorothy especially is made of this trope. To cite one of many examples:Blanche: Sophia says she has no appetite after she was stabbed in the back.Dorothy: The chef at Benihana, Rose.
- Author Avatar: Blanche's sister Charmaine Hollingsworth visits Blanche and tells her she is writing a novel, titled Vixen: Story Of A Woman. She even gives an autographed copy to Blanche. However, Blanche mistakenly thinks the book is about her. Angry and hurt, she confronts Charmaine, who explains she based the book on her own life, not Blanche's.
- Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: This was the cornerstone of Dorothy and Stan's relationship—although they went through a painful divorce brought on by Stan's philandering, they clearly still cared for one another and were willing to help each other out in times of need. There were even several episodes about the two considering getting back together, although they never did. The finale confirms this: Dorothy is being taken in a limousine to the church where she's marrying Blanche's Uncle Lucas, only for the driver to suddenly change routes and pull over. He reveals himself as Stan, who delivers a speech about how no matter what, she'll always be the only woman he truly loves.
- Babysitting Episode: The series had three. In the first, Rose, Blanche, and Dorothy run a temporary day care for the children of individuals participating in a walkathon for charity; Sophia herself participated in the walkathon. By the end of the day, all of the children have been picked up except for baby Emily, who the girls begin to fear has been abandoned. Emily's father eventually shows up and explains that he couldn't come earlier because his wife had gone into labor, and Emily is now the big sister of triplets. He says that when he phoned to explain, whoever answered the phone had muttered something about a sports award and hung up on him. Sophia says she thought he was calling from Sports Illustrated about her walkathon performance.
- In the second, the baby in question is that of a neighbor, and the girls are sitting overnight. They memorably sing "Mr. Sandman" in three-part harmony to get him to sleep. Later, the baby develops a fever, and their friend Harry the pediatrician (from Empty Nest) comes to examine him, with Blanche naturally taking advantage of the chance to flirt.
- In the third, Rose, Dorothy and Sophia take care of a baby named Danny in "The Transplant". The father, Ted, was involved in a waterskiing accident while his mother Lucy drove Ted to the hospital and so left Danny in the care of the three ladies while Blanche was visiting with her sister Virginia.
- Bachelorette Auction: The season six episode "Love for Sale" sees Dorothy participating in one for charity, being emceed by Rose. Unfortunately for her, recently-wealthy Stan shows up and ends up buying her for $500.
- Back to School: Rose in one episode, in order to get her high school diploma, with Dorothy teaching the class. Rose explains that she never actually finished high school because she developed a case of mono and was too ill to attend.
- Blanche also went back to take classes for a necessary degree for a promotion at work. While there, her professor sexually propositioned her for a passing grade.
- Bad Job, Worse Uniform: Sophia had two fast food jobs. One was "Pecos Pete's Chow Wagon," which had a western theme where she dressed as a cowgirl and had to greet customers with "Howdy Partner, how about a saddlebag of fries with that Ranch House Burger?" The other was at "Captain Jack's Seafood Shanty" where she dressed like a pirate, complete with a parrot on the shoulder.Sophia: You're embarrassed to be seen with your own mother?
Dorothy: When she's dressed like Vasco de Gama, yes.
- Bad Omen Anecdote: Inverted when Rose, hoping to keep Dorothy from remarrying Stan, tells a story about a woman from St. Olaf who, after being divorced, made major life changes in an effort to feel better about herself. Blanche thinks the story will end with the woman being alone and sad, only for Rose to cheerfully reveal that she actually found love again, became wealthy, and lived happily ever after.
- Bathroom Stall Graffiti: In "The Mangiacavallo Curse Makes a Lousy Wedding Present", Dorothy's got Blanche locked in a bathroom stall and won't let her out. As Blanche is peering over the door trying to talk to her and the others in the bathroom, Dorothy bangs on the door repeatedly with her fist, indirectly hitting Blanche as well. Then the following exchange occurs:Blanche: Dorothy, you do that one more time, I'm gonna write on this wall: "For a good time, call Dorothy Zbornak!"
Dorothy: Blanche... this is the ladies' room.
- Battleaxe Nurse: Nurse DeFarge, according to Sophia.Sophia: You've hired the angel of death from Shady Pines!
- That is, until Sophia learns Nurse DeFarge is willing to do absolutely anything to make Sophia comfortable, for the sake of her recovery. Of course, making Sophia comfy meant making life hell for the other women.
- Bedmate Reveal: After hugging George in "Mrs. George Devereaux", we hardcut to Blanche smiling in bed, her eyes closed. She rolls over in bed... and we see she's alone.
- Beware the Nice Ones: In the episode "It's a Miserable Life," Rose lashes out at one of her neighbors, Mrs. Claxton, when she finally gets fed up with her poor treatment of everyone. Rose's outburst was so shocking that it gave Mrs. Claxton a fatal heart attack!
- Rose again, when her teddy bear is held hostage. "Sometimes life just isn't fair, kiddo."
- Rose yet again, whenever there was any type of game or competition that she'd really get into. She admitted to being very competitive, and would sometimes get bitchy and downright mean.
- Blind Without 'Em and Blind Mistake: Sophia. She tended to make some rather hilarious goofs without them, such as mistaking Blanche for a black man (she was wearing very dark sunglasses at the time), and inadvertently buying condoms when she was trying to use what she thought was a payphone.
- Big Little Man: Rose dates a little person, who is also a colleague from her work. The entire episode is Rose overcoming how she feels about being seen with him, but in the end, he reveals that he can't see her anymore anyway because his very religious family doesn't want him dating anyone who isn't Jewish.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Dorothy's friend Barbara Thorndyke.
- Rose's sister Holly.
- Biggus Dickus: Rose compares her late husband Charlie's endowment to a bull's she saw as a child:Rose: "Boy, that bull would've been jealous."
- Black Is Bigger in Bed: It addresses this in an episode where Dorothy's youngest son gets engaged an older black woman. Dorothy and co. meet up with her future in-laws and Sophia asks if it's true what they say about black men in bed. Before Dorothy can admonish her for it...
- Bleak Abyss Retirement Home: A Running Gag had to do with Shady Pines, the retirement home Sophia lived at for five years.
- In another, Sophia has a friend named Lillian who was transferred to a place called Sunny Pastures, which Sophia describes as the bottom of the barrel where people get sent if they couldn't afford a place like Shady Pines. When Dorothy and Sophia go and visit Lillian, even Dorothy, who normally defends Shady Pines against Sophia's hyperbole, readily admits what Sophia mentions about Sunny Pastures was true.
- Book Ends: The series premiere was about Blanche's wedding (and Dorothy and Rose's fears of being left behind), aborted because the guy turned out to be a bigamist and scam artist, whereas the series finale was about Dorothy's wedding, which went off without a hitch (and Blanche, Rose's and Sophia's fears of being left behind, which came true).
- Bookworm: Dorothy
- Bottle Episode: A few episodes featured the girls simply sitting around the table and reminiscing about past exploits.
- Brainy Brunette: In flashbacks featuring a middle-aged Sophia and a young adult Dorothy, Dorothy's younger self had black hair.
- Brain Freeze: While visiting America, Stan's Czechoslovakian cousin Magda develops a fondness for Slurpee slushies.
- Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: Rose.
- In the episode "Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself," Dorothy confronts her fear of flying.Candy the Stewardess: Please review he information cards in your seat pockets for the safety information in the unlikely event of a mishap during our flight.Dorothy: Mishap?! What does she mean by mishap?!Blanche: She means like bad movies, or cold food, or running out of ice…Rose: Running out of gas…Dorothy: Oh my God!
- In the episode "Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself," Dorothy confronts her fear of flying.
- Broken Treasure: The episode featuring Big Daddy's funeral has Sophia inadvertently break a commemorative plate Blanche received at a ball.
- Brother-Sister Incest: How Rose claims St. Olaf was founded. Considering how smart she and other St. Olafians we've seen generally are portrayed, this isn't all that farfetched.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Rose. Bona fide Cuckoolander, and also gainfully employed at a grief counseling centre, and later, as a consumer reporter. She is also extremely knowledgeable about plumbing in "Second Motherhood", where she and Dorothy install a new toilet by themselves.
- The Butler Did It: Parodied when the girls participate in a murder mystery weekend. Rose immediately stands up and points to the waiter.Rose: The butler did it!Waiter: I'm a maître d'.Rose: Thank you. *Beat* The maître d' did it!
- Butt Monkey: Rose is Dorothy's Butt Monkey, Dorothy is Blanche's Butt Monkey, Blanche is Rose's Butt Monkey (often completely by accident), and everyone is Sophia's Butt Monkey.
Blanch: Rose, there's something I have to say to you...Just two little words, but they're probably the hardest two words in the English language for me to say.Rose: "Not tonight"?
- Blanche could actually hold her own against Sophia occasionally. Once, when she asked for advice and Sophia turned it back into an insult, Blanche said very simply, "I'm sorry, I thought that since you looked like Yoda you were also wise."
- Occasionally, Rose got in some intentional jabs at Blanche:
- Outside the main cast, Dorothy in particular is treated this way. In one episode it was revealed that she wasn't even invited to her own Sweet Sixteen party.
- California Doubling: The show is set in Miami, FL. but was shot in Los Angeles. Stock Footage of the city was used in opening credits and other scenes. The exterior of the girl's house was part of an actual studio backlot house at Disney/MGM Studios in Orlando, Florida, until the backlot ride was demolished in 2004 to make room for a new attraction.
- The Cameo: Several celebrities played themselves over the years; these included Alex Trebek, Burt Reynolds, Bob Hope, and Sonny Bono.
- Canon Discontinuity: A few instances. Possibly the most prominent was Dorothy's son Michael and daughter Kate. Even though one of the two was born when Dorothy was still in high school, and thus should have been in at least their mid-forties, both were consistently played by actors in their twenties and early thirties. As another example, there's an episode in which Rose stubbornly adopts a puppy despite a prior agreement between the housemates that they can't get a dog; yet in another episode, Blanche and Dorothy get Rose a dog from a shelter.
- An episode states that Rose, before moving in with Blanche and Dorothy, was thrown out of her apartment because she secretly had a cat and was caught; however, Rose is later shown to be very allergic to cats.
- Another instance is in one episode Dorothy states her grandmother died at 94 when she was 6. Yet, in a flashback episode Dorothy is shown with her grandmother (played by Bea Arthur) as a young woman (played by Lyn Greene), already married to Stan.
- In another instance of the many lives of Dorothy's grandmother, she also died in Sicily note and Sophia made a promise to her on her deathbed that she would marry wealthy.
- Speaking of Sophia, there was also the matter of her siblings. In the first two seasons, she said that her only living relative was her sister Angela, who disappeared after two appearances. Later in the series, she was suddenly revealed to have a brother named Angelo. She also apparently has a brother Vito who is the The Unseen, and another unseen relative named Regina who might be Sophia's sister or might be Salvatore's sister.
- Captivity Harmonica: Stan plays one when he and Dorothy must serve a period of house arrest in an infested apartment.
- Casanova Wannabe: Stan.
- Clap Your Hands If You Believe: Parodied in "Henny Penny: Straight, No Chaser." Rose, Blanche, and Dorothy play Henny Penny, Goosey Loosey, and Turkey Lurkey in a grade school production, and Rose hates the ending in which the characters are eaten by Foxy Loxy. At the conclusion of the performance, she rushes back onstage and tells the children that they can choose to save the characters if they applaud. None of the kids do it, and Rose resorts to insulting the children and threatening them with bad dreams as Dorothy and Blanche drag her off.Rose: There are monsters hiding under all of your beds!
- Clip Show: Several. A few—including "The Way We Met," "Mother's Day" and "Valentine's Day"—actually subverted the usual trend of these episodes by providing all-new vignettes.
- Cloudcuckooland: St. Olaf, Rose's hometown, making Rose the resident Cloudcuckoolander. Dorothy once referred to it as "The Cradle of Idiocy."
- Note that we never actually see St. Olaf in all its glory. The closest we come is seeing the inside of Rose's old house in one flashback sequence. The girls manage to make it to the outskirts of town in another episode; it's apparently only accessible by horse-and-buggy and by toboggan.
- Every year in St. Olaf they assemble all the children in the town square who have lied and the mayor points at them.
- Rose appears to be one of the smartest people to come out of that town (most of the time she's merely The Ditz); her interactions with other St. Olafians bear this out.
- This was mentioned as such with Rose's cousin Sven. When he mentions not knowing much about women, Blanche says, "A big strong man like you, get out of here!" He simply picks up his suitcase and leaves. When Rose chases after him saying that was just an expression, Blanche turns and says to Dorothy, "I never thought I'd say this, but I think Rose got the brains in that family."
- Oddly though, the times we've seen Rose's mother, sisters, children, and grandchildren, all of them are fairly normal and of average intelligence. Though this was before St. Olaf gradually became weirder and more bizarre due to Flanderization.
- in-universe Sicily is also portrayed as this, as well as a land of nothing but goats, animal dung, and vendettas. Sophia mentions the number two export out of her village was piano wire, but can't remember the first. As it turns out, it was ransom notes (she had a flashback in the can).
- Cloudcuckoolander: Rose, of course, but Sophia also has shades of this, mainly due to her age.Sophia: "Come on, let's go, we're late for temple!"Dorothy: "Ma, it's Tuesday. And we're Catholic."
- A funny thing about that quote is that in Real Life, both Bea Arthur (neé Bernice Frankel) and Estelle Getty (neé Estelle Scher) were in fact Jewish.
- Cool Old Ladies: More like cool middle-aged women for Dorothy, Blanche, and Rose, but Sophia played the trope very straight; despite being in her eighties, she kept up with pop culture, even owning a Game Boy in one episode.
- Compressed Vice: Rose's addiction to prescription-strength painkillers and Dorothy's gambling addiction. Neither was ever hinted at before the Very Special Episode dealing with it and neither were ever alluded to afterward.
- While we're at it, Dorothy's smoking could qualify as this, too. It was referred to in one episode (but not a Very Special Episode), wasn't hinted at before then, and wasn't mentioned afterward, either.
- Cool and Unusual Punishment: Mentioned as threats. Blanche once tells Sophia that either she goes along with Blanche's young-age pretense or she gets slapped with a big rent raise. And Sophia once makes Dorothy talk about her gambling addiction relapse with her on the threat that, if they don't right away, they'll talk in her bedroom after Sophia eats a bowl of chili.
- Dorothy threatens to cut off Sophia's Metamucil supply if she comments on the conversation between her and a failing student.
- Everybody used Rose's famous St. Olaf stories as a punishment, including Rose herself. Once, when Dorothy and Blanche try to use lame excuses to duck out on one, she threatens to follow them to their room and act out the story with shadow puppets. In another, when Sophia is considering helping a friend commit suicide, Dorothy encourages Rose to tell a story, and then after the story is over, she turns to Sophia and says, "You see what happens. You kill someone, and you end up a Rose story."
- Corpsing: Deliberately invoked by the show's crew during a Christmas episode. The plot has Blanche give the other three girls homemade calendars titled "The Men of Blanche's Boudoir," featuring pictures of some of Blanche's lovers. As a joke, some of the male members of the show's staff posed in exaggerated erotic positions while either nude or half-nude, took photographs, and filled the prop calendars with them. When the actresses rehearsed the scene and discovered the gag, they completely lost all composure.
- In-universe, while Rose is telling stories about her past. First, the "herring war" story, which was so hilarious to Dorothy and Blanche that they burst out laughing, and another time when Rose tells of the time a man known as the Aqua Midget had a crush on her; Blanche keeps making puns and Dorothy tries to stifle her, but their faces give it all away.
- The Couch
- Crossdresser: Dorothy and Sophia regularly reference Dorothy's brother Phil's penchant for wearing women's clothes. This was an Informed Attribute, however, as Phil himself was never once seen on the show - not even at his funeral, where he was apparently buried wearing women's lingerie.
- Crossover: Frequently, with Spin-Off Empty Nest, in both directions.
- Empty Nest had its own spin-off, Nurses, and all three shows aired back-to-back; this led to characters from all three programs appearing on the others.
- The Cuckoolander Was Right: There are moments when Rose ends up having a deep level of insight on situations that nobody else can solve. She even relates them to St. Olaf stories that actually do make sense in context.
- Cure Your Gays: Played with in both episodes in which Blanche's brother Clayton appears (though only Blanche tries it), as well as in "Goodbye Mr. Gordon," where Blanche and Dorothy are mistaken for a lesbian couple on a daytime TV talk show.note A man interested in Blanche claims she's only "like this" because she's never been with a "real man". If Blanche actually were lesbian, this trope would be played straight; as she isn't, it's simply Played for Laughs.
- Blanche, being Blanche, even takes it on as a new way to meet men, and gets Dorothy to play along. "Come on, Dorothy, I have to try this."
- Blanche also considers herself capable of causing men to switch teams according to how she treats them, most notably a boyfriend who proposed to her with a cheap, fake ring, and after the relationship ended, supposedly turned gay. When Dorothy argues that it's not possible to just turn gay, Blanche counters that if he had been gay before, he would have had better taste in jewelry.
- Blanche, being Blanche, even takes it on as a new way to meet men, and gets Dorothy to play along. "Come on, Dorothy, I have to try this."
- Cut a Slice, Take the Rest: In one episode, depressed Blanche puts a normal serving of lasagna on a plate, then leaves the plate on the counter and begins eating the rest from the casserole dish.
- Dating Service Disaster: Twice involving Dorothy, thanks to Sophia. The first time she's matched with a rather plain-looking man named Eddie, who has a strange magnetism about him that makes him irresistible to women (in fact, all four Girls end up attracted to him), while the second time she's matched with a white collar ex-con.
- Deadpan Snarker: Both Dorothy and Sophia. Blanche had her moments too, and so did even Rose on occasion, although Rose would always apologize or qualify the remark afterward:Dorothy: (sees Rose walking into the family room with bucket in hand) Oh Rose, was your roof leaking too?Rose: No, Dorothy, I just finished milking the cow I keep in my closet. ... Gee, with only three hours sleep, I can be as bitchy as you!
- Death by Sex/Out with a Bang: How Rose's husband died before the series. In the show itself, how another man she was dating also died!
- Blanche also intended to go out this way, and in the hallucination where they were merely frozen heads on the kitchen table, she did. According to her, she was 92 and invited over a cute tennis instructor while she was in the tub, she asked him to sponge off her back, made her move, and her last words were "Thank you baby, glub, glub, glub..."
- Department of Redundancy Department: "Well, I am stunned. Just stunned. Stunned is the only way to describe how... stunned I am."Dorothy: Just a minute, just a minute, Blanche. Are you trying to tell us... that you are stunned?
- Depending on the Writer: Many things, but especially Rose's characterization: she ranged from The Ditz to Cloudcuckoolander to Genius Ditz to merely naive as the tone of the episode and Rule of Funny dictated.
- Depraved Dentist: A perverted dentist sexually harasses Rose. Don't worry though, he gets it in the end.
- Dirty Old Woman: All four of them; if you really analyze it, The Golden Girls was possibly one of the most upfront and sexual shows on TV at the time. Blanche fit the trope most of all, to the point that even Maxim felt obliged to acknowledge her as #1 of "TV's Best Nymphos."
- One example, when Rose claims that Bob Hope is her father with no other proof than that she used to dream it, Blanche says it's strange, and wonders why Rose doesn't have a normal, healthy dream, "like sweaty Argentinean men whipping things while they ride naked on the backs of Brahma bulls." Dorothy just shoots her an odd look and reminds herself never to use Blanche's towels again.
- Dirty Communists: Stan's cousin Magda. She changes, however.
- Discriminate and Switch: In one episode, Dorothy objects to her son marrying a black woman - but only because she's twice his age. The bride expects her own mother to be upset over the age difference - but she objects because the groom is white.
- In another episode, Blanche dared to attend her prom with Benjamin, despite the scorn of others. Dorothy assumes Benjamin was black. Nope. He was a Yankee from New Jersey. The same episode involves Rose dating a dwarf, and she spends the bulk of the episode learning to accept him as he is, only to be dropped because she isn't Jewish.
- Dorothy befriends vain authoress Barbara Thorndyke, whom the others dislike intensely. To bury the hatchet, she invites the four girls and their dates to a high class establishment named the Mortimer Club; however, when Sophia's date arrives, Barbara takes Dorothy aside and explains that they'll have to go somewhere else because the Mortimer Club doesn't allow Jewish people. The fact that Barbara would support an establishment that has such a policy enrages Dorothy to the point where she snaps at Thorndyke, terminating their friendship.
- Distracted by the Sexy: Blanche occasionally distracts herself by describing an erotic scene... or a scene that wouldn't be erotic at all, if it weren't Blanche describing it.
- Blanche was so skilled at this that she was quite literally able to become aroused by a single line in the nursery rhyme "Humpty Dumpty" (specifically the one about "all the king's men").
- The Ditz: Rose, Rose, Rose...
- Although not nearly as bad as Rose, both Blanche and Sophia have their moments as well, the former due to occasionally misunderstanding anything not traditionally Southern, and the latter due to occasional bouts of senility (Played for Laughs of course).
- D.I.Y. Disaster: In one episode, Dorothy and Rose try to install a new toilet themselves after dealing with a sexist plumber. Their first attempt leads to them redoing the plumbing such that flushing the toilet makes the sink run, the spigots on the sink control the shower, etc.
- Rose eventually fixes the entire bathroom and installs the toilet with no male assistance.
- Dream Sequence: One of the staples of the show:
- "A Little Romance" had Rose debating whether or not she should continue seeing her little person boyfriend. Rose eventually has a dream where the two were getting married; this one lampshaded the dream status, and even featured noted celebrity psychic Jean Dixon.
- "Letters to Gorbachev" featured one where Rose and the girls are invited to speak in Russia's Red Square after a letter Rose sent to Mikhail Gorbachev about nuclear war left a positive impression on him.
- "Questions and Answers" had Dorothy falling asleep while preparing for her audition for Jeopardy!; she finds herself on a nightmarish version of the show where Rose is the unbeatable returning champion.
- In the two-parter "Home Again Rose", Rose has a heart attack and makes the girls promise to have their heads cryogenically frozen so they can all be friends forever. When she is wheeled into surgery, she has a dream about herself, Blanche, and Dorothy all reduced to nothing but heads and talking on the kitchen table. Sophia was part of the deal—but as she tipped the man who froze her, she ends up with the body of a twenty-something woman.
- Driven to Suicide: Sophia's friend Martha Lamont decides to kill herself after attending the funeral of her best friend Lydia, and asks Sophia to be with her when she does. She doesn't, in the end, thanks to Sophia's friendship.
- Drop-In Character: Sophia was originally conceived as one of these, but the audience loved her so much that she was brought in as a fourth housemate. Stan, on the other hand, fits the trope to a T.
- Dropped After the Pilot: The pilot gave the housemates a gay male live-in cook named Coco. When Sophia turned out to be unexpectedly popular and was made a permanent part of the cast, Coco vanished without further mention. Justified more than other examples; seeing as he was merely an employee instead of, say, a blood relative, it's entirely possible he was simply fired or let go, possibly to make room for the newly-homeless Sophia.
- Eagle-Eye Detection: Dorothy, in the episode where the girls attend a murder mystery weekend.
- Early Installment Weirdness: Blanche didn't have a Southern accent in the first episode. There was also Coco the cook, Blanche's last name being Hollingsworth (later turned into her maiden name,) and the fact that Dorothy said she was from Queens, not Brooklyn.
- Getty's portrayal of Sophia is also markedly different in the pilot, with Sophia being lot more surly and much less motherly than she becomes for the rest of the series.
- Escalating Punchline: Another tradition on the show.
Dorothy: How's the diet going, Blanche?Blanche: Oh, piece of cake!...nice, big old piece of chocolate cake. Devil's food...smothered in whipped cream, and coconut shavings...and a lobster!
- In one episode, Blanche is struggling with a diet:
- Et Tu, Brute?: One portion of the episode "One for the Money" has the girls showing up one-by-one at a dance marathon.Dorothy: [upon seeing Rose] Et tu, Judas?Rose: No, it's me, Rose. I'm just wearing my hair a little differently.
- Even Sluts Have Standards: Blanche, for all her promiscuity, will not betray a friend or go to bed with married men. Oh -- except for that one time.Blanche: Now, that was not my fault! She was pronounced dead! Those paramedics never give up.
- Or maybe not - in one episode, Dorothy was trying to wake Blanche up, and shaking her wasn't working. She then leaned over and whispered "Blanche, get up, my wife's home" and Blanch jumped up and started going through the motions of trying to get dressed and out the door, before she realized what had happened. Evidently, this was rather common event for her . . .
- Everything's Better with Cows: From the attempted Empty Nest pilotRose: I remember my first love....Sophia: Let me guess...it was a cow.Rose: Why, yes! How did you know?
- In St. Olaf, every hotel room is required by law to have a cow.
- Exact Words: In one episode, Rose attempts to become a live news reporter at the television station where she works. While she practices interviewing Dorothy, Sophia tells her that "a good reporter gets the story, no matter what." Later, Rose is sent to cover a dog show for her audition for the reporting job, and things take a turn for the exciting when an armed man shows up to rob everyone. Rose, as the only reporter on the scene, remembers Sophia's advice to get the story... and proceeds to continue to cover the dog show. Her audition tape consists of her examining and talking to the various dogs while the crook robs their terrified owners.
- In "A Midwinter Night's Dream," a two-parter, Sophia, fearing a curse that a village witch (who lived in Brooklyn) put on Dorothy as a child, must complete three tasks: "Kiss a fool, help a holy man, reveal the betrayal of a loved one." This trope comes into play for the second requirement: the rules say that Sophia has to help the holy man in some way... there's nothing stopping her from hurting him first, then helping him.
- Expy: There are many comparisons between these four and the four from Sex and the City.
- The Faceless: We never get to see Charlie, Rose's late husband. Dorothy's ex-husband Stan is a recurring character; we see Blanche's late husband George in a dream as well as meet his twin brother Jamie (played by the same actor); and Sal, Sophia's late husband, often appears in flashbacks, dreams, and hallucinations. Charlie, however, remains unseen for the entire series. We're never even given a description of him beyond "six-foot-two and broad-shouldered" (and, as noted above, apparently better endowed than a bull).
- Felony Misdemeanor:
- During Rose and Blanche's first meeting:Rose: But I'm not a stick in the mud. I can let my hair down and get crazy with the best of 'em. I eat raw cookie dough. And sometimes I run through the sprinkler and don't wear a shower cap. And at Christmas I've been known to put away more than one eggnog.
- Also, Rose's story about the bar in Tyler's Landing in the episode "Nice & Easy" - Rose, to illustrate "teenage rebellion," told a story about the time she sneaked out to a gin mill to meet a boy and ran into her church's (married) pastor having an affair. "A week later we became Lutherans," she concludes, leading Blanche to react this way:Blanche: Rose, that is not a teenage rebellion story. That is a changing religion story. That is a big who cares story! That is a why the hell tell it in the first place story!
- During Rose and Blanche's first meeting:
- Finger in the Mail: In one episode, Blanche accidentally gives Rose's childhood teddy bear to their young neighbor, Daisy, who holds it for ransom. When Blanche refuses to pay, Daisy sends one of the bear's ears in the mail.
- 555: "555-GIVE" and "555-EASY." One of them is the number of a fundraiser telethon, whereas the other is to reach Blanche during the campaign. Guess which number is for which purpose?
- Flashback: Often.
- There were several flashbacks to Dorothy and Sophia's past in Brooklyn. In a case of role reversal, Estelle Getty played Sophia's younger self and Bea Arthur played Sophia's mother.
- One episode flashes back to Rose's last birthday in Minnesota; she has a conversation with her late husband, Charlie, explaining her decision to sell the house and move to Miami.
- Flanderization: Pretty much all four main characters tended to become increasingly exaggerated in later seasons, though the extent to which they were caricatured would vary from one episode to another. It usually depended on the seriousness of the episode's tone, the importance of each character's role within it, and who wrote the episode.
- This is most notable with Blanche after season four; earlier in the series, the writers make a point of establishing that Blanche's promiscuity is something she does for her own enjoyment, and at one point lectures her niece about using sex and relationships as a crutch for low self esteem. Later seasons highlight Blanche's insecurity being at the root of her sexy behavior. The major change is when she starts self-identifying as a slut.
- Flower Motif: In-universe, Rose's parents apparently invoked this when naming their children. During the course of the series, viewers are introduced to two of her sisters, Lily and Holly. The Golden Palace also reveals another sister, Iris.
- Formerly Fit: This is a major plot point in "Blanche's Little Girl." Blanche's daughter Rebecca, who had a falling out with her mother when she left home to become a model in Paris, reaches out and wants to rekindle their relationship. It turns out, though, that Rebecca gained a great deal of weight while overseas, which Blanche has something of a hard time accepting. Her real fear, though, is that Rebecca will marry the man she brought with her—a jerk who makes constant nasty jokes about Rebecca's size. Thankfully, this doesn't come to pass.
- Four Girl Ensemble: A textbook example. Rose is the Naïve Everygirl, Dorothy is the tough, mannish Deadpan Snarker, Blanche is the promiscuous one, and Sophia is the wise Team Mom.
- It's even invoked in-universe when Rose has a hard time making friends with a coworker. She explains that everyone has to like her, as she's the "nice one," then goes to list the other girl's attributes: Dorothy is the "smart one," Blanche is the "sexy one," and Sophia is the "old one" (which Sophia herself isn't crazy about).
- Fourth Date Marriage: How Dorothy and Lucas's marriage eventually became to be. Blanche tricked them into going on a blind date with each other because his visit coincided with one of her dates so she needed to pass him off onto the others. When Dorothy and Lucas cottoned on to Blanche's deception, they set up a fake engagement in revenge, only for them to fall in love for real in the two months they kept the ruse going and got married for real in the series finale.
- Full Name Ultimatum: Used by Blanche's old mammy in the episode "Wham, Bam, Thank You, Mammy" which stops her in her tracks.
- Fun with Acronyms: Three words: "Blanche Elizabeth Devereaux." That is all.
- Gag Boobs: At least once with Blanche (air filled, they deflate).Dorothy: My rear tires have less pressure in them!
- Blanche gives Sophia a makeover for a date in one episode, which includes this trope.
- Gag Penis: Rose's husband Charlie is implied to have had one. Her parents taught her about the birds and the bees by showing her a bull's penis and testicles when she was young. The first time she saw Charlie naked on their wedding night, she thought "boy, that bull would've been jealous."
- The Gambling Addict: Dorothy's Compressed Vice in one episode, though Sophia remarks that Dorothy had been this once before as well, leading her to deep financial trouble. Sophia claims that she gets this from her father, Salvatore (as she claims: "In fact, his last words were, 'ten bucks says I don't need this oxygen tank.'"), which is a rare example of good continuity for the series. Sophia herself is no stranger to gambling, being an avid fan of the dog track. (Unsurprisingly, this was never mentioned during said Compressed Vice episode.)
- The Game Never Stopped: The episode where they go to a murder mystery party weekend with Blanche's Maltese Falcon Club, and Blanche is accused of murdering her boss.
- Game Show Appearance: Dorothy tries out for Jeopardy! in one episode. Though she aces the questions, she's passed over for the show on the grounds that she's too much of a know-it-all for viewers to "root for." However, there is a Dream Sequence in which she imagines herself on the show with Rose and Empty Nest's Charlie Dietz as the other contestants.
- There's also an episode in which all four women appear as contestants on a fictional game show called Grab That Dough!, and pretty much everything that possibly could go wrong for them in the course of the appearance does.
- Gaydar: Averted, intentionally or otherwise, in the case of Blanche. Entire episodes hinge on her total lack of it, to the point where she honestly seems to think her gay brother Clayton should continue dating women, despite his having come out of the closet.
- Genius Book Club: Blanche clearly enjoys Lady Chatterley's Lover, as she is seen reading a paperback copy of it several times throughout the series.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Plenty.
"We'll just change this to Ms. Zbornak eats shittake mushrooms."
- When one of her students injures his knee, Dorothy corrects the messages on his cast.
- In one episode, Sophia walks into the kitchen, where Blanche is looking for some batteries for her cassette player. The following exchange occurs:
- Rose describing the best sex she ever had with her late husband Charlie, during which he suffered a fatal heart attack and her confusion when he cried out "Rose! I'm going! I'm going!" This was apparently the opposite of what he'd usually say, and the opposite of "going" is. . .
- The one time Rose walked in on her parents, they were "just playing leap frog". Of course, since this is Rose, it's possible they really were playing leapfrog.
- Similar to the above, Blanche once tells of the time her Headmistress interrupted Blanche's "date". Blanche could just wave from over her date's shoulder with her foot.
- Any mention of Uncle Nunzio and his pet goat.
- In "Flu Attack," we get this exchange:Blanche: Dorothy, where's my heatin' pad?
Dorothy: (lying on the couch) How should I know?
Blanche: (Picking up a cord) Well, if this isn't it, I'd like to know what other electrical device you're using under that blanket.
- Rose once claims that she was known as the Sherlock Holmes of St. Olaf.Dorothy: Figured out which one was Shinola, did you?
Rose: The hard way.
- The Ghost: Charlie, both literally (the character is long dead) and figuratively. He's the only one of the husbands whom we never see - Stan, the only living (ex-)husband, is a Drop-In Character; Salvatore appears frequently in flashbacks and the occasional out-of-body experience; George is seen in one All Just a Dream episode, and his eerily similar younger brother visits in another episode.
- The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Shown repeatedly in a variety of situations, as all four women have at least one sister, and also have sisterly relationships between themselves. The best example of the trope being played fully straight is the relationship Dorothy had with her younger sister Gloria. Blanche also had this with her sisters Virginia and Charmaine, as the three were Too Much Alike.
- Good Parents: Dorothy, Sophia, Rose, Miles, and even Stan, who, for all of the bad that could be said about him, would do anything for Kate and Michael.
- Averted, however, with Blanche, who was very hands-off with her kids. But it's abundantly clear that she regrets this, given that she spends most of the series making up for it.
- Good People Have Good Sex: Rose explains that she and her husband Charlie, when he was alive, always had sex every night and the following morning during their entire marriage (save for one night). Seven to midnight, five to seven AM, and until noon on Sundays.Blanche: [stunned] ...good lord, no wonder you still mourn that man.
- Charlie was also implied to have physical endowment that would've made a bull jealous. Blanche has trouble believing this since Rose is so embarrassed to talk about sex. Rose explains that, to her understanding, people who talk about sex don't really do it as much as they claim. All eyes are suddenly on Blanche.
- Gratuitous Foreign Language: Rose speaking "Scandinavian" (sometimes identified as Norwegian, other times Swedish) and Sophia (and, on rare occasions, Dorothy) speaking Italian - sometimes specifically Sicilian (which, unlike Rose's "Scandinavian", is usually real, if pronounced with an obvious American accent). Blanche was even guilty of this, speaking Gratuitous Southern.
- Happily Adopted: While Rose does wonder about her biological parents, any time one of her adopted relatives shows up, she doesn't act as if they're anything less than her real family, and the subject of her adoption doesn't even come up.
- Hilarious Outtakes: It had a few.
- Historical In-Joke: Sophia made a lot of these. It's usually unclear if she's lying or joking, her memories have really been twisted by old age, or both. Among other things, she's claimed to have had affairs with Pablo Picasso (she ended it when she was offended by his portrait of her) and Sigmund Freud (Sophia recalls that he loved to drive through tunnels), to have been friends and business partners with Mama Celeste until they fought over a man, to have been a contestant on a game show called Torture that was hosted by Mussolini, to have caused the Yalta Conference (which was apparently actually convened by FDR, Winston Churchill, and Josef Stalin to determine which of them loved her the most), and to have been present at the Valentine's Day Massacre with her husband and father when their car broke down in Chicago (although she does concede that it might have just been a Valentine's Day Massacre.)
- Since the entire main cast is over 50, the others all engage in this to a lesser extent. For example, Andy Rooney wanted to have an affair with Blanche but she turned him down, and Rose's high school history teacher may or may not have been Adolf Hitler after he faked his death and was hiding under an alias. Rose's high school gym teacher openly went by Eva Braun.
- Holiday Volunteering: In the episode "Have Yourself a Very Little Christmas," Stan (once again) attempts to get the girls to invest in his business. They're not interested and instead head off to the soup kitchen to volunteer, where they find Stan in the line.
- Hollywood Dateless: Dorothy. In fact, she's probably had more love interests than Rose or Sophia.
- Hollywood Heart Attack: Sophia fakes them frequently, often in order to get through lines at drugstores faster.
- Rose has a real one. She gets better.
- Hypocrite: When Stan finds out from Dorothy that their daughter Kate had been cheated on by her husband Dennis, Stan goes on a long tirade about how disgusting and shameful it is.
- I Ate WHAT?!: In one episode Dorothy eats some snacks Rose left behind while the latter was taking care of a live chicken. Then the following dialogue happens:Dorothy: Not bad. What is it?Rose: I'm not sure. The pet store owner calls it "chicken chow."
- In another episode, Sophia recalled an event where she made a meal with "what she thought" was chicken, and we don't learn what it really was she served because Dorothy cuts her off, asking, "Oh God, it wasn't my confirmation dinner, was it?!"Sophia (reminiscing): Your pop sure made everyone laugh when he made the little feet dance!
- In "Clinton Avenue Memoirs," Dorothy and Sophia look at an old photo album and discover a picture of Sal dressed as an organ grinder. Dorothy remarks that he somehow managed to put meat on the table every night despite his low salary, then asks "Where's the monkey?" Cue a guilty look from Sophia.
- In another episode, Sophia recalled an event where she made a meal with "what she thought" was chicken, and we don't learn what it really was she served because Dorothy cuts her off, asking, "Oh God, it wasn't my confirmation dinner, was it?!"
- If You Ever Do Anything to Hurt Her...: Dorothy gives a speech to her daughter's husband (with whom she is making up with after he has cheated on her) about not being able to stand her daughter being hurt. When he promises that it won't happen again, she takes his hand and replies that if it does, that she will "break every bone in [his] hand". Stan adds, "Keep it zipped, buddy, she's not kidding."
- Ignore the Disability:Blanche: Hahaha... ahahaha... ahahaha... God I wish I was dead.
Ted: Blanche, are you nervous?Blanche: Nervous? Me? [dismissive tone] Wheelchair!
- Another in an episode where Blanche is dating a paraplegic:
- I Know You Know I Know: An interesting variation occurs; Dorothy returns home after learning the truth behind being stood up the night of her senior prom, and Sophia knows Dorothy knows, and Dorothy knows that Sophia knows she knows. Did you follow all that?
- I'm Going to Disney World: Spoken by Sophia in the episode, "Hey, Look Me Over." She goes with the "Disneyland" version (which is strange, since Disneyland is in California and they live within driving distance of Disney World).
- Actually, in one episode, Dorothy and Sophia spend a weekend at Disney World. It rained most of the weekend, but on the last day, they ride Space Mountain. The interior of the ride is shown in the last scene just before the credits.
- I Have Just One Thing to Say
- Identical Granddaughter: Bea Arthur plays Dorothy's grandmother in flashbacks (alongside a different actress playing young Dorothy).
- Improbably Predictable: Stan walks out the front door. Someone is about to say something when Dorothy cuts them short and counts down. "Three...two...one..." Stan walks back in and Dorothy shouts, "Out, Stan!" This is used to contrast a later moment in the episode when she attempts the same prediction and fails, indicating that Stan has changed.
- Inadvertent Entrance Cue: Stan frequently suffered this—Dorothy would say something along the lines of "I can't imagine anything worse," only to find Stan on the other side of the door. The other girls occasionally got in on this too:
- At the beginning of the episode where Dorothy and Stan plan to remarry, Sophia is losing to Blanche during a game of chess, and exclaims, "The game isn't over 'til the fat lady sings!" Cue Rose walking in happily singing "Singin' in the Rain". Later in the episode, Rose throws Dorothy a bridal shower and makes the guests play games, including one where a heart-shaped sticker is taken off the player's clothing every time she crosses her legs. Dorothy protests: "Who leaves their legs uncrossed all the time?" Cue Blanche walking in covered with stickers.
- In "Henny Penny: Straight, No Chaser," Dorothy, who is producing a first-grade play, finds out that her cast has all been quarantined because of a case of measles; rather than cancel, she suggests to the director that adults play the roles instead. The director is reluctant: "Where are we going to find an adult with the childish naviete to play Henny Penny?" At that point, Rose walks in and happily declares that she just saw a cloud that looks like a ball of cotton. The director: "My God, she IS Henny Penny!"
- Incompatible Orientation: Dorothy, Rose and Blanche all find Laszlo devastatingly attractive... they just aren't his type...
- In-Series Nickname: Sophia calls Dorothy "Pussycat" throughout the show, and calls Gloria "Kitten" during her appearance.
- Sophia also reveals that Dorothy's nicknames in her youth were "Bigfoot" and "Moose." Her father Sal called her "Spumoni Face" due to their secret ice cream club; Dorothy called Sal "Favorite Parent."
- Blanche has also dubbed herself "Water Lily," a term which she uses when talking to herself, and her mother also called her "Peacock" as a child.
- Less frequently, "Stickman" for Stan. But everyone—from Dorothy to Sophia to his own mother—calls him "yutz."
- Inspirationally Disadvantaged: Rose's sister Lily is blind, but believes she is able to do anything even without her eyesight. She nearly ends up setting the house on fire while cooking. Later deconstructed with her having Heroic B.S.O.D.. Reconstructed with Lily going to a school for the blind and learning to take care of herself. She's even driving by herself.
- Ironic Echo Cut: In a scene in which Dorothy, visiting the concession stand Sophia and Max (then-husband of Sophia) are running at the time, worries that the weather might cause Sophia to get sick. Sophia responds with, "Please, I haven't had a cold for 40 years!" Cue the cut, followed by Max and Sophia being sick and treated at home, while the latter moans: "This is the worst cold I've had in 40 years."
- "It" Is Dehumanizing: How Blanche in the later seasons would sometimes treat men, as if they are mere toys.
- It Is Not Your Time: Happens with Sophia, twice!
- I Was Quite a Looker: Sophia often talks like this.
- Her friend Lillian in "Sophia's Choice" directly says this line.
- Interrupted Suicide: Sophia prevents her dear friend from killing herself.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Sophia is this. A woman with an insult for everyone she meets, she also is loving to her roommates - explicitly stating that she loves Rose and Blanche as if they were her own children - and cooks for them whenever they ask. She also works for charity. Specifically, one episode shows her volunteering in a hospital, bringing cheer to the patients. Dorothy would count too; she's as snarky and cynical as her mom, but is devoted to her teaching job, socially conscious, and quick to condemn any moral wrong she perceives.
- In the episode "It's a Miserable Life," the girls hold a funeral for the curmudgeonly Mrs. Claxton, to which no one shows up, leading them to believe she really was a miserable, lonely, mean old woman. However, just before they leave, a woman shows up to pay her respects and says all of the good, philanthropic things Mrs. Claxton did anonymously. Then when the woman mentions the person she thinks is in the casket by name, it turns out she's at the wrong funeral. When she finds out who is in the casket, she smiles politely and gives it a good kick.
- "Jump Off a Bridge" Rebuttal: Dorothy attempts this on Sophia. It doesn't work.Dorothy: Ma, did you sleep with Tony Delvecchio?
Sophia: A little.
Sophia: Blanche made me do it!
Dorothy: Don't you have a mind of your own? If Gladys Goldfein told you to drink an entire bottle of Kaopectate, would you?
Sophia: Who blabbed?
- Kick Me Prank: Dorothy, being a substitute teacher, rather predictably gets this treatment.
- Lampshaded Double Entendre: Lots and lots and lots.Stan: (laying on the floor next to Dorothy's bed giggling)Dorothy: Stan, if you're doing what I think you're doing, you're in big trouble.
- Laser-Guided Karma: In "Ebb Tide," Blanche's father Big Daddy dies, but she is too obsessed with a local social event to go to visit him in his last days. She wins an expensive ceremonial plate at the event. Later, when she and Dorothy travel to Atlanta for the funeral, Sophia turns the house into a temporary bed-and-breakfast in an attempt to raise cash for a big-screen TV. During the weekend, the plate ends up broken; Rose and Sophia manage to find a new one, but it ends up costing Sophia all of the money she's made. The plate is set back in place just as Dorothy and Blanche return, and the latter, having realized how selfish and inconsiderate she has been lately, proceeds to smash it on the floor. Sophia lampshades the situation:Sophia: (looking heavenward) What is this, sarcasm?
- Let Me Tell You a Story: A favorite tool of Sophia's. "Picture it: Sicily..." Sometimes subverted when her story ends up having absolutely no connection to the matter at hand.
- "Back in St. Olaf..."
- Lipstick Lesbian: Dorothy's friend Jean from the episode "Isn't It Romantic."
- Madonna–Whore Complex: Of a sort, in "Journey to the Center of Attention", Dorothy becomes popular at the bar Blanche frequents; whereas Blanche is known for being easy and the men usually tell dirty jokes in front of her, a man chides another for attempting to make such a joke in the presence of a lady...Dorothy.
- Mama Bear: Often comes up in episodes involving the girls' children. One of the biggest examples is when Rose's daughter and Dorothy's son both visit at the same time and are caught in bed together, and Rose and Dorothy lash out at each other and protect their respective child's honor while shaming the other.
- Manipulative Bitch: Blanche, especially in the later seasons, mostly played this trope straight with her tendency to use people.
- Marshmallow Dream: Subverted.Carol: Last night, I dreamt I was eating a giant marshmallow, and when I woke up my boyfriend was gone.Man: I don't get it.Carol: It's not a joke.
- May-December Romance: Dorothy's son marries (and impregnates) a woman twice his age. Blanche briefly dates her much younger aerobic instructor, only to find out that he really is searching for a mother figure rather than a lover.
- Meaningful Name:
- If Blanche Devereaux, the vain, man-hungry, aging Southern Belle isn't a reference to Blanche DuBois, the vain, man-hungry, aging Southern Belle, I'll eat their wicker couch.
- Dorothy Zbornak, Deadpan Snarker Supreme, might have been named in honor of Dorothy Parker, Deadpan Snarker supreme.
- The name of Sophia's former retirement home is Shady Pines. When the real reason for why it was burned down is exposed in an episode, the name kind of makes sense.
- Minnesota Nice: Rose, and her entire community of St. Olaf, Minnesota, are portrayed as incredibly nice as well as being about as bright as a hockey puck.
- Mistaken for Prostitute: One episode had Blanche check the girls into a hotel which turned out to be a brothel and then the cops come to arrest them thinking them to be prostitute like the other women there.
- Mondegreen: "You would see the biggest gift would be from me/And the heart attack would say 'Thank you for being a friend'" ("And the card attached would say").
- Mood Whiplash: The episode "Break-In," season 1, episode 8. Rose is in a parking garage, still paranoid after the girls' house has been burglarized. Suddenly, she hears footsteps, and they sound like they're following her. Panicked, Rose realizes a man is running after her and runs off frantically, and ends up having to hurry down sets of stairs — but she's out of breath, and eventually has to stop for sheer fatigue. The man is right behind her, and she turns with a terrified expression on her face... and we Smash Cut to the very next scene, featuring Sophia playing Scrabble, claiming her word really exists and joking the robbers stole the dictionary, meaning it can't be disproven.
- A scene in another episode has them jump between a serious discussion about the state of the elder care system to jokes about the pictures of topless women Blanche has spread out over the coffee table (she was considering implants and was trying to decide which ones). At one point mid-line.Sophia: Why do we let this happen? Why can't we care for our elderly the way they do in Japan? Why are there seventeen sets of hooters on the coffee table!?
- A scene in another episode has them jump between a serious discussion about the state of the elder care system to jokes about the pictures of topless women Blanche has spread out over the coffee table (she was considering implants and was trying to decide which ones). At one point mid-line.
- Museum of Boredom: Rose mentions St. Olaf's "Children's Cheese Museum" in one episode.Blanche: You have a museum... where children go to look at cheese?
Rose: Hey, it beats learning about it in the streets.
Dorothy: You mean to tell me you actually had a good time at a thimble museum?
- Miles also takes Rose to a thimble museum in one episode, and mentions wanting to take her to a place called "Zipper Town" in the future. Unlike the above example, however, Rose is decidedly not impressed with either choice.
Miles: It was sew-sew. (starts laughing)
- Negative Continuity: Probably the best way to describe this show's infamous problems with keeping character details consistent. By the end, it's obvious they weren't even trying:
- Rose's family backstory. Was she left on a doorstep in a basket as a baby, or did she spend part of her childhood in an orphanage before being adopted? (They eventually try to combine those by saying she was left in a basket on the doorstep of an orphanage.)
- Dorothy's senior prom. It was said that she was stood up (although later Dorothy discovers that Sophia really just sent him away for not being dressed to her liking) but in another episode, it was said she went with Stan, even though Dorothy stated that she didn't meet Stan until a full two weeks after the senior prom. And yet another episode said she went with her brother, Phil.
- The story of Blanche's husband George's death. One version is that Blanche was out getting a pedicure when he died, after he had been comatose for a few days. Another is that she got a phone call at home from a rude, food-munching cop, who informed her that he died (presumably instantly) in a car accident, and Blanche mentions another time that a cop came to her house to let her know about George's death.
- Another is where Blanche lived and how old she was when she moved to Miami. In one episode, when talking to her daughter, she mentioned how, when she was a baby, she would have to go downstairs in the middle of the night to scream for the governess when she was crying, implying she lived at her family home of Hollingsworth Manor and her Miami home was a retirement property. However, when considering selling shares of the house to the other girls, she's initially reluctant because she claims it was the house where she raised her children.
- Even an element as simple as the characters' names are inconsistent. In the pilot, Blanche's last name is Hollingsworth. In the entire rest of the series, it's Devereaux (Hollingsworth is retconned into being her maiden name). Rose's maiden name is well-established as Lindstrom, but a notorious goof in the Bob Hope episode gives her parents the name Nylund, her married name. In two episodes, Blanche is given two different middle names, in each case strongly implied to be her only middle name: Marie and Elizabeth (the second was chosen so that her initials would form the word "B.E.D.").
- Hell, Dorothy's children are a great big continuity error. It is stated numerous times that she had to drop out of high school because she got pregnant, was married for 38 years, then divorced two years before the show began, meaning she should be 57 with a child near or over 40. Yet whenever Kate and Michael appear on the show, both are around 23 to 26.
- Rose's love interest Miles Weber is initially shown to have a grown daughter living in Miami, who does not approve of his relationship with Rose at first, because she believes he is still too vulnerable after his wife's death. Later, however, Miles is revealed to be in the witness protection program, living in Miami under an alias, and all of his relations reside in his hometown of Chicago.
- Rose mentioned almost any honor she competed for as being "her town's highest honor." She claimed this about Butter Queen, St. Olaf's Woman of the Year, and Small Curd Cottage Cheese Queen (well, after Large Curd Cottage Cheese Queen.)
- Never Win the Lottery: The girls win a significant amount of money on a scratch ticket in one episode, but Rose mistakenly leaves the ticket in the pocket of a jacket that they donate to the poor. They eventually track the jacket to a homeless shelter and pose as homeless individuals to stay there for a night and retrieve it... but decide to donate the money to the shelter instead after hearing the stories of the shelter's other occupants.
- Noodle Incident: Between Blanche's bedroom exploits, Rose's crazy childhood stories, and Sophia's "picture it" encounters in Sicily, The Golden Girls may have the most Noodle Incidents per episode in sitcom history.
Blanche: No more sitters! We're still in litigation with the last one.Sophia: She bit me first!
- The reason St. Olaf no longer holds barbecues.
- The Greyhound terminal incident.
- Rose had to transfer high schools because of a "field hockey incident."
- The 1964 Tokyo Olympics — although as Blanche puts it, "The torch got there eventually, didn't it?"
- Dorothy's favorite doll Mrs. Doolittle — her sister Gloria did something that not only broke the toy, but permanently kept Mrs. Doolittle's eyes open ("She made Mrs. Doolittle look like a morphine addict!").
- The incident with the trick-or-treaters that got Sophia's dart gun confiscated. In her defense it was dark and she was "unaware of this Ninja Turtle craze."
- When the girls are discussing getting Sophia a sitter while they go out to the class reunion, in the episode "Home Again Rose":
Dorothy: Blanche, let me ask you something... are you allowed to go back to Chattanooga?Blanche: Are you kidding? The sheriff still writes.
- It's mentioned that Blanche has been arrested for various crimes, including driving topless, in Chattanooga.
Blanche: Dorothy, when my son was five years old he nearly burned down our whole town. Since then, nothing he does shocks me.
- Blanche's sexual encounter with a man that cost him his party's nomination.
- While arguing about Michael's attempts to marry a woman twice his age, Dorothy asks Blanche how she would feel if her son were trying to do the same thing. Blanche's response?
Blanche: They are the stupidest birds....
- How a chicken once saved Rose's life.
Blanche: Let me know if you want to know anything else. I've got pictures.Agent: Yeah, so do we.
- Then of course there was the time that a man refused to sleep with Rose because she was radioactive. (One is left to wonder what the other consequences were.)
- When introduced to Blanche, a priest declares, "It's nice to have a face to place with the name." When Blanche asks for clarification, he tells her "I can't discuss anything told to me in confession," then later makes a crack in reference to her gymnastic skills.
- Blanche's promiscuity being so legendary that the Secret Service has a file on her. This is revealed when an agent visits the house to evaluate it for an upcoming visit from the President:
Blanche: I did that once! (Notices the other girls' stares) It was his birthday.
- In another, Sophia is planning to try and sell many of her family recipes, and says it's important to have exposure, and all the greats had it: Mama Celeste, Chef Boyardee, and Chef Balducci. When the others say they never heard of the last one, she remembers that he didn't have television exposure, he had indecent exposure, and says he should have stuffed the cannelloni in the traditional manner.
- Blanche does not elaborate on what she was doing with her date that put her at risk of falling and chipping a tooth when Sophia's nurse interrupted.
- When they don't understand how to work a VCR remote and play a porn movie backwards, Blanche happily points at the screen.
Dorothy: No. She wouldn't hide in the same place twice.
- Apparently Sophia has more than one relative who threw a priest out a window. Her only explanation is "that was business."
- When Dorothy was looking for Sophia after the two of them had a fight, she checks under the sink.
Sophia: Pussycat, are you doing the grocery shopping today?
- Sophia's murdered cousin: "Twenty-eight stab wounds during a block party, and nobody saw a thing."
- When she was younger, Sophia was engaged to one of her brothers for a very brief period of time, implied to stem from the two of them having to share a bed until Sophia was 17.
- from "The President's Coming! The President's Coming!"
Dorothy: Yeah. Something you want?
Sophia: Pick up a couple of chicken breasts and why don't we say 40...better make it 45 tubes of sunscreen.
Rose: Sophia, I've made that mistake before. The best thing to do is turn the oven down if you don't want the chicken to burn.
Dorothy: Rose, I don't think my mother was planning on using the suntan lotion on the chicken — what do you mean you've made that mistake before?
- What Dorothy ate for her confirmation dinner in Brooklyn (see I Ate WHAT?! above).
- No Periods, Period: Mostly averted since the girls were all at least middle-aged, i.e. either in or near, or post-menopause. However, one episode did deal with Blanche — the youngest of them — beginning to go through menopause, and this led to them relating stories of their first periods.
- Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Sophia supposedly grew up and lived in Italy for at least a quarter of her life. She has no Italian accent, not even a trace. Neither do any of her relatives who live in Italy, except for cousin Antonio and brother Angelo.
- Not What It Looks Like: Several, but the trope itself is spoken word for word by Blanche when she practices a dirty dancing routine with Rose, and is caught by Dorothy and Sophia.
Jack: Now honey, it's not what it looks like!
- In point of fact, the routine they practice is the dirty dancing routine - the one from Dirty Dancing.
- Also spoken word for word during this moment, from the episode "Till Death Do We Volley", when Dorothy's friend Trudy catches Dorothy in bed with Trudy's husband:
Trudy: Obviously! Dorothy thought I was dead, tried to comfort you, and the two of you got carried away!
Dorothy: Okay, it is what it looks like.
- Nun Too Holy: A woman posing as a nun assists a man in scamming Blanche and Sophia at a local shopping mall. This trope is directly evidenced when the nun is seen lighting a cigarette and smoking it.
- In another, Sophia, after a friend of hers who was a nun passes away, decides impulsively to join a convent. Sophia being Sophia, she fails horribly at it, getting the other nuns to gamble at cards (and cheating,) suggesting a "Monks of the Midwest" beefcake calendar to raise money, and hiding a picture of some young stud behind her photo of the Pope. Her Mother Superior gets in on it as well; when Sophia tries to butter her up, she quickly shuts her down with, "Save it, Sister Suck-up!"
- Obnoxious In-Laws
- Sophia did not get along with her son Phil's wife at all. Even at his funeral she has trouble treating her with any sort of respect. It is not Played for Laughs. She is also implied to have been no less obnoxious to Stan before the divorce than she is after.
- The one time Blanche's mother-in-law was mentioned, she was said to wish on her deathbed for Blanche to have the disease that was killing her, and according to Blanche, until George died she would always refer to her as "[George's] first wife." When she did pass, Blanche's only response was "I hope the old witch went slowly."
- Dorothy's ex mother-in-law was an interesting take. She liked Dorothy, but treated her poorly so that Dorothy would insist they not visit - Stan's mother didn't want Stan around.
- Once per Episode: One of the girls jokes about Dorothy being ugly or hopelessly single (sometimes both in one episode!), Blanche goes out with a man or talks about men, Rose does or says something stupid, and Sophia says something mean (but honest) about one of the girls.
- One Born Every Minute
- One-Person Birthday Party: Rose flashes back to a time when she celebrated her birthday alone, after the death of her husband.
- Only in Miami: None of the characters actually originate from Florida; Blanche, who grew up in Georgia, comes closest. Rose is from Minnesota. Sophia is originally from Sicily and moved as a young woman to New York, where Dorothy was born and raised.
- O.O.C. Is Serious Business: When even Dorothy doesn't have a snarky comeback, you know that something is, most definitely, wrong.
- Overly Narrow Superlative: When posing for a sculptor named Lazlo starts to drive a wedge between the girls, they confront him and make him choose. In order to get him to choose her, Blanche butters him up by saying she thinks he's the greatest Hungarian sculptor of our time. Dorothy then calls her on this, saying that if she can name two other Hungarian sculptors of any time, she will eat the statue they're standing beside.
- Pair the Smart Ones: Discussed when Miles and Dorothy talk about how people would expect them to get together because of their shared intellect and interest in literature.
- Papa Wolf: Stan, believe it or not, in the episode where it's revealed that his daughter's husband cheated on her and broke her heart.
- Parental Neglect: Blanche is strongly implied to have been a "hands-off" mother, which factors into any episode that features her children and grandchildren. She tries to reverse this tendency with one of her granddaughters, but ends up forcing her into a beauty contest she clearly doesn't want to be in.
- Perfectly Arranged Marriage: Rose's cousin Sven, in one episode.
- Perverse Sexual Lust: One episode had Rose recently breaking up from a passionate relationship with a Disney World employee. When pressed for the cause she admits she lost interest when "he took off the Goofy head."
- In an earlier Christmas episode, Blanche revealed that she had a special fixation for guys in Santa Claus suits. Dorothy's response: "You do realize that you're in the minority here."
- Blanche had a lot of these. In another episode, Rose was having a bizarre dream, and Blanche wonders why she doesn't have a normal, healthy dream, like "sweaty Argentinian men whipping things as they ride naked on the backs of Brahma Bulls." At this point, Dorothy decides she's never going to use Blanche's towels again.
- Rose admits to the girls right before a wedding that weddings turn her on, and during the episode proceeds to look for men to have sex with. She even asks "if anyone else noticed the buns on that priest!"
- Planet of Steves: Rose's old boyfriend from St. Olaf, Buzz, comes from a family where all the men are named "Buzz" to avoid confusion. Naturally, this serves to only cause confusion:Rose: Come on, Buzz!Buzz: [looks around] You're kidding, Buzz is here, too?
- Playing Gertrude: Estelle Getty was a full year younger than Bea Arthur, who played the daughter of Getty's character. The only times Getty was seen on the show without heavy age makeup were during flashback sequences to her married life in New York. One of these featured Bea Arthur (not aged with makeup, though sporting a different hairstyle) as Sophia's mother.
- Poorly Disguised Pilot: The episode "Empty Nest." The main characters of The Golden Girls only appeared in about two scenes.
- Although by the time Empty Nest debuted as an actual Spin-Off series, the original premise (a middle-aged couple whose children have grown and left) was discarded and the show was about a widower whose grown daughters moved back in with him.
- Post Robbery Trauma
- Post-Script Season/Retool: The Golden Palace
- Pregnancy Scare: In "The End of the Curse", Blanche believes that she's pregnant and spends the first part of the episode trying to work out who the father might be. She's entering menopause.
- Prenup Blowup: Stan and Dorothy, when they're planning to remarry. This ends the engagement.
- Pun: When Dorothy befriends Barbara Thorndyke, Barbara takes her to a literature-themed restaurant where the menu (which was a full-sized, hard-bound book,) was full of these. The Crepes of Wrath, The Old Man and the Seafood Salad, Dorothy had the For Whom the Stuffed Bell Pepper Tolls, and Barbara had a turkey sandwich on Catcher in the Rye Bread with a side of George Bernard Slaw, and was given Edgar Allen Poe-tatoes and The Ice Water Cometh on the house.
- Punny Name: Averted in an episode where Dorothy teaches a high school equivalency class for adults. As she reads the roster, she comes across an interesting name:Dorothy: Jim Shu..."Jim Shu?" Oh, ha ha—I get it. "Gym shoe," very funny.(A Japanese man stands up)Japanese Man: Excuse me, I am Jim Shu.Dorothy: I'm sorry, I thought you were pulling my leg.Jim Shu: I don't think I could drink that much sake!
- Racist Grandma: Sophia, Depending on the Writer; half the time she's very much this trope, and the other half she is perhaps the most tolerant and open-minded octogenarian who ever lived.
Dorothy: "Come on, honey. I'm sure Grand Dragon — I mean, uhh... Big Daddy is always with you."
- Blanche's Big Daddy is a male version. "They're admitting who into my country club?"
- An interesting take occurs in the episode "Mixed Blessings" where it's the Greta, the black mother of the fiancee of Dorothy's son, that is against their marriage because he's white; in many other situations, this would be played as downright despicable.
- The other girls (who are all grandmothers) avert this trope—particularly Blanche, who frequently defies her Southern heritage by showing an interest in African-American men. In the "Mixed Blessings" episode, she rushes to get a pencil when Greta mentions that she knows plenty of young, wealthy black men. Later, when Sophia asks if the myth about black men in bed is true, it's Blanche who immediately answers "Oh yes, definitely...oh yes, definitely, that is something I'd like to know about, too.
- Real After All: In one episode, Rose thinks she sees a UFO; skeptical Dorothy tries to convince her otherwise, but eventually admits her own belief when the military sends a representative to confirm the story. The end of the episode reveals that the craft was actually an experimental Air Force plane, explaining the cover-up; as Rose talks about her belief in the unknown, Dorothy nods off, and another set of flashing lights and strange sounds comes from the sky. It's implied that this was a real UFO.
- Played for laughs in "The Mangiacavallo Curse Makes a Lousy Wedding Present." The girls attend Dorothy's goddaughter's wedding, and Sophia reveals that the groom is the grandson of Giuseppe Mangiacavallo, a man she was originally supposed to marry in Sicily; he left her at the altar, prompting her to place a curse upon him and all of his descendants, including a provision: "May your socks always slip down into your shoes." At the wedding, Giuseppe discredits this and claims there are no curses...but as he walks away, he pulls his socks up. Cue a satisfied grin from Sophia.
- Real Song Theme Tune: "Thank You for Being a Friend" was originally a huge hit for Andrew Gold (its composer) in 1978. The show uses a cover version by a female singer.
- Really Gets Around: Blanche.Blanche: In the South, we mature faster. I think it's the heat.Dorothy: I think it's the gin.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Dorothy gives these types of speeches multiple times, most notably when she tells off Barbara Thorndyke, and also when she confronts a doctor in a restaurant who had previously told her she was just insane, and not sick.
- Rose held her own as well. She gives one to the nasty Frieda Claxton, and she also gives one to Blanche when Blanche goes too far with making Rose her personal slave.
- Reckless Gun Usage: Overcome with trauma stemming from a robbery, Rose purchases a gun and carelessly shoots it towards the front door, hearing a man's voice and thinking it was a robber (it was actually Blanche's date.) The bullet ends up hitting one of Blanche's prized vases.
- Retcon: In season 1, a whole episode revolves around Rose losing her job because the grief center where she works is shut down, and she takes a job as a waitress. In season 2, she's working there again... or working there still (or possibly working at another center.)
- Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated: A newspaper erroneously prints an obituary of Blanche. She can't believe they could print this sort of egregious misinformation. They got her age wrong!
- Reunion Show: The Golden Girls: Their Greatest Moments aired in 2003 on the Lifetime television network, which at the time was the only place The Golden Girls could be seen on television in America. Bea Arthur, Betty White and Rue McClanahan took part (Estelle Getty, by this time, was too ill to participate).
- The Reveal: A minor one in "The Artist." The girls discover that Jasper DeKimmel, a Jerkass artist, is dying, and needs a donor with a rare blood type to save his life. Dorothy, Rose, and Blanche use the opportunity to buy one his paintings, as Blanche points out that an artist's work often appreciates by a huge amount after her or his death. At the end of the episode, they're successful and call Sophia to let her know. Sophia tells them that they've wasted their money, as a donor was found with DeKimmel's blood type. The camera then pulls back to reveal Sophia herself lying in a hospital bed as she complains that all she gets for saving a man's life is "juice and a cookie."
- Roommate Com: Unusual in that the main foursome that live together are older ladies. Many episodes concerned their love lives, and all four women, whether divorced or widowed, were portrayed as dating and being sexually active.
- Rule of Three: "She'll get over it. And if she doesn't, who cares? We're going to meet Burt Reynolds!"
- Running Gag: Sophia complaining about food getting stuck in her teeth/dentures, usually corn.Sophia: Dorothy, when you get around my age two things happen. One, you get more intuitive about the weather and two, corn becomes your enemy.
Sophia: "Tall, yutz, face like a monkey's behind."
- Rose being hit with a newspaper/magazine by Dorothy and "Shut up, Rose!"
- In one episode, Rose becomes smarter and refuses to hand Dorothy a magazine until she promises not to hit her with it. Dorothy promises...and then passes the magazine to Blanche, who promptly smacks Rose on the head.
- Sophia listening to phone conversations on the extension in her bedroom and commenting on them when the girls talk.
- "Except Phil."
- Sophia reminding herself of who Stan, Dorothy's ex, is:
Dorothy: "I can't think of anything I hate more." (Stan shows up at the door) "I spoke too soon."
- The other women making fun of Dorothy's Hollywood Datelessness and unattractiveness.
- The use of an Inadvertent Entrance Cue almost every time Stan arrived, with him announcing his arrival ("Hi, it's me, Stan").
- Dorothy offering a Preemptive "Shut Up" to Sophia when she has an opportunity for a rude comment/joke, though a couple of times Dorothy went as far as covering her mouth.
- Rose being hit with a newspaper/magazine by Dorothy and "Shut up, Rose!"
- Seduction-Proof Marriage: In "Ladies of the Evening" the girls are arrested on charges of prostitution. Dorothy offers (sincerely) to explain things to the officer in private, but he takes it for a come on and says he's happily married.
- Serial Spouse: Harry, Blanche's fiance in the pilot, married multiple women without divorcing them.
- Screw Politeness, I'm a Senior!: Sophia's lack of tact is sometimes explained by Dorothy after the fact as a result of the stroke Sophia had in the past, which caused her to be placed in Shady Pines (though this is rarely referenced otherwise). The stroke and her propensity to say rude things are only fully described in the first episode; Rose expresses disapproval for some of Sophia's comments, and Blanche explains that she doesn't mind because she knows Sophia can't help it, since the stroke caused brain damage that, to put it simply, removed her politeness filter.
- The Scrooge: Rose's Charlie.Rose: Oh, Charlie was a wonderful man... but he could squeeze a nickel until the buffalo pooped!
- Rose's boyfriend Miles also went through a bout of this in one episode. He had a reason, though; he was living on a fixed income, and when he was told he was healthy enough to live to 100, he was afraid he wouldn't be able to afford it.
- Shaggy Frog Story: The trope could be renamed St. Olaf Story.
- Sophia's "Picture it. Sicily..." stories tend to end up here too.
- Shout-Out: When Dorothy is working on the kids' show, Mr.Terrific has a puppet sidekick named Kolack from Twilar. This is very likely a shout-out to Danny Thomas, who appeared on a The Dick Van Dyke Show episode ('It May Look Like a Walnut') as "Kolack from Twilo." Tony Thomas, one third of the production team, was Danny Thomas's son.
- Sleazy Politician: Gil Kessler. Played with, Gil is actually a wimp and a coward, who doesn't dare dispute accusations that he is having an affair with Blanche and won't take it back when Blanche suffers from the press hounding her and Slut-Shaming by her roommates. He explains that he's doing this because no one's ever considered him a strong-willed person before, and sleeping with her makes him seem like one.
- Standardized Sitcom Housing: The house differs slightly from the norm in that (like most Florida homes) it's only one story, and where most shows have the staircase, it has the lanai; but otherwise it fits the bill.
- Sitting Sexy on a Piano: Blanche does this in "Journey to the Center Of Attention," complete with a red dress. Of course, it fails horribly; watch to see just how. Rue McClanahan named this as her favorite musical scene.
- Social Semi-Circle: When all four women are at the kitchen table, Sophia pulls up a stool next to Dorothy rather than sitting on the camera side. There isn't even a chair on the camera's side. We're probably meant to assume that the table - and the stove, which is stage left but lined up with said table - are up against the Fourth Wall.
- Somebody Doesn't Love Raymond: Rose simply can't get past this, much to the annoyance of the coworker she keeps trying to please — and failing at it. In the end, he finally manages to get her to go away by promising to be her friend; as a pal, Rose has to do what he says, including leaving him alone, to make him happy.
- Speaks Fluent Animal: Dorothy has this ability, at least according to Rose. Dorothy talked to a mouse and helped him to escape.
- Spin-Off: Empty Nest was about Dr. Harry Weston, the ladies' neighbor. That show in turn spun off the series Nurses. The Shared Universe of all these shows naturally led to a few Crossovers.
- After The Golden Palace was canceled, Estelle Getty's Sophia became a regular on Empty Nest.
- Spiritual Successor: Sex and the City, essentially. Hot In Cleveland also shares many similarities with this series, even beyond the presence of Betty White in the main cast. See that entry for more information.
- Spot The Thread: It's relatively easy to tell that "Mrs. George Devereaux" was All Just a Dream before the ending just by viewing Dorothy's subplot, where she gets into a love triangle with Lyle Waggoner and Sonny Bono.
- Stealing from the Hotel: There's an episode where Sophia does this. She takes the towels, reaches for the Bible, but changes her mind, and attempts to get the hotel room's telephone embedded in a decorative clamshell container, but it was secured to the table. Sophia also stole from a hospital while visiting Rose, saying that they expect people to do it as in a hotel.
- In "The Case of the Libertine Belle," Sophia happily brags that she made off with a whole silver place setting during a mystery dinner. At the end of the episode, she claims that "no crimes were committed after all"...but needs help carrying her purse to the car.
- Straight Gay: Blanche's brother, Clayton. His second appearance has him bringing his equally masculine gay fiance along. Also guys the ladies take an interest in turn out to be gay a few times. And Dorothy's lesbian friend Jean doesn't display any stereotypical behavior either, but of course, all this was supposed to be the point.
- Stripper/Cop Confusion: When Dorothy nearly marries Stan a second time, they hold a bachelorette party for her and a cop comes because of a noise complaint Blanche mistakes him a stripper.
- Stuck At The Airport Plot: This series had a Flashback in one episode where Rose is stuck in the train station on Christmas and talks to another stuck lady. They talk about holiday memories and in the the end, it's revealed that the other woman's daughter was dead; she was going to visit her at the cemetery.
- Take That:
"If I wanted to take abuse like that, I would've worked on The Roseanne Barr Show!"
Dorothy: Now look, Rose, this nonsense has to stop. What we saw was not a UFO.
Rose: Well, it wasn't an airplane! Airplanes aren't that thin, or that bright.
Dorothy: Neither is Oprah Winfrey, but that doesn't make her a flying saucer.
Dorothy: I'm really sorry. I promise I'll chant "Hail Mary" until Madonna has a hit movie.
Rose: Now remember this would be better with a bigger TV.
- Don't forget:
Dorothy: Yeah we know.
Rose: And it'd be better with music.
Dorothy: We understand you.
Rose: And of course it would be better-
Dorothy: It would be better with Shelley Hack, Rose, just turn it on!
Rose (praying to God before bed): I just wanted to say I think you're doing a great job. Of course there are some things I don't understand. Like poverty... and the spokesmodel category on Star Search.
- The Talk: When Dorothy is preparing for a wedding, Sophia realizes she never gave Dorothy "The Talk". Dorothy says that she's had plenty of sex over the years, Sophia replies that she thinks Dorothy is "doing it wrong".
- Team Mom: Sophia.
- Tempting Fate: In "The Housekeeper," the girls fire their Jamaican housekeeper Marguerite, who warns them that they're "making a big mistake." As Marguerite had demonstrated apparently magical abilities before (she gave Blanche what was apparently a love potion and left a painted rock as a charm under Dorothy's bed), Rose and Blanche are convinced that she's cursed them when a string of bad luck hits. Dorothy refuses to believe this and points out that nothing that unusual has happened...cue a man in a crow suit suddenly parachuting onto their lanai.Man in Crow Suit: This isn't the Orange Bowl, is it?
Dorothy: What kept you?
- In "Bang the Drum, Stanley," Stan takes Dorothy and Sophia to a baseball game. Dorothy's happy with the empty seat by her, and comments that she usually gets stuck "next to a fat sweaty man who insists on taking his shirt off." Three guesses as to the type of guy who sits down at her side as she's saying this.
- Too Incompetent to Operate a Blanket:Rose: Oh, darn, I keep forgetting I'm not supposed to speak English! Being bilingual really gets me confused.Sophia: Ziplock bags get you confused.
- Trademark Favorite Food: Cheesecake for all the women, although Bea Arthur reportedly didn't even like it in real life.
- Trans Equals Gay: Very refreshingly averted with Phil, Sophia's cross-dressing son. He was happily married to a woman for years, and had many children with her—he just happened to like dressing up in women's clothing (something his wife supported, as it made him happy). It's discussed in the episode where Phil dies; Sophia suggests that Phil might have been "queer," and Blanche corrects her, pointing out that the correct term is now "gay." Sophia counters this by pointing out that Phil was "a six-foot-three, two hundred pound man with kids."
- Transatlantic Equivalent: The UK's Brighton Belles in 1993. It was not successful.
- Transsexual: Gill Kessler turned out to have been born a woman...and an Italian.
- Trigger: Played for Laughs when Rose and Blanche are rehearsing their roles as nuns in The Sound of Music. Rose says "The Nazis are coming! The Nazis are coming!" and Sophia bursts through the door in a panic telling everyone to hide in the basement.
- Tsundere: Arguably, Dorothy.
- Don't forget Rose's mood swings in the episode "High Anxiety."
- Undesirable Prize: The girls go through a lot of trouble to fly to California to be on the fictional game show Grab That Dough!, so they decide to split up in increase their chances of winning. Rose and Sophia lose, and each take home $100. Blanche and Dorothy win, and bet their cash on a mystery prize. After showing them Window 1 (new living room furniture) and Window 2 (a sports car) they open Window 3 and show them their prize... an electric skillet. And a lifetime supply of soup.
- Unexpected Positive: Dorothy takes a hearing test to show Sophia it's no big deal. Sophia does not need a hearing aid; Dorothy does.
- The Unintelligible: Vincenzo in "Rose's Big Adventure".Sophia: [translating what Vincenzo says] Before we begin... let's make one thing clear. ... I am in charge. ... I am the boss. ... I am the master. ... I am the walrus.
Dorothy: Ma, either your Italian is rusty or he's the world's oldest hippie.
- Vague Age: All of the girls, to varying extents. Sophia was in her early 80s for the entire seven-year run. Dorothy was about 60 (and consistently over 60 in later seasons). Rose was 55 in the first season, but her age was hard to pin down after that. But Blanche was the most famous example - nobody ever figured out her actual age. She usually claimed to be around 40, and in one episode where the girls tried to find out, she said 42 - which was presented as an obvious lie. They discover that even her birth certificate has been blanked "by order of the Governor." She seems to be younger than the rest of the girls (Rue McClanahan was in fact ten years younger than the other three), and is still fertile when the show starts (hitting menopause in an early episode), so 50-ish seems about right. The Mother's Day episode mentions that she was a senior in high school in 1949.
- Values Dissonance: For all its progressive approaches to things like AIDS and homosexuality, there are a few things that come across differently nowadays where (perhaps ironically, for a show centering on the lives of women) feminist and women's issues are concerned. It's both in-universe and meta, since the girls would have grown up around the 1940's and 50's.
Rose: Maybe we should sign Mary up for some natural childbirth lessons.Dorothy: You know, that's not a bad idea! I wish I'd known about them when I was pregnant. I didn't know what to do, except scream at Stan never to touch me again, and call him every name in the book.Rose: Rough labor?Dorothy: Rough conception.
- Blanche cheerfully mentions several relationships she had as a teenager with older, middle-aged men, including one with the father of one of her fellow cheerleaders, and it's presented as just Blanche being her energetic, oversexed, egocentric self, just younger and sillier. Today, that's considered statutory.
- Dorothy describes her first time with Stan a few different ways: being unconscious and waking up to him carving a notch in his dashboard after being drugged (and her mother says she never believed it), or being coerced because Stan said he was being shipped off to Korea and "it would mean so much", and various jokes about Stan being a bad lover in general, but Dorothy always ends up pregnant at 16 from her first time with Stan, in the backseat of his car, and it was terrible for her. In the show, it's played for laughs, but today, we call that date rape.
- When Rose loses her job at the grief center, she struggles to find a new one, and eventually settles on applying as a hospital administrator with nothing on her resume but a community college degree in home economics and 32 years as a housewife, and with some careful rephrasing, Dorothy declares it fit for submission, and now Rose's biggest hurdle is... ageism. In today's much more competitive and narrow job market, the idea of anyone with Rose's qualifications even managing to get an interview, much less the job, seems much more like a dream than a possibility.
- The Vamp: Blanche.
- Very Special Episode: Numerous, and not exactly unusual for a show of its time.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Dorothy and Stan typically have this interaction with one another; despite Dorothy's anger at Stan, and Stan's ineptitude, the two do care about one another. In the series finale they even acknowledge that they love each other.
- Wacky Cravings: Played with in a scene where Rose is talking to a pregnant neighbor girl:Rose: Now you come into the kitchen with me, honey, I'll get you some pickles and ice cream.Mary: Oh, no thanks, I don't have any strange cravings yet.Rose: ...strange?
- What Could Possibly Go Wrong?: The young Sophia says this to Salvatore in a flashback when he asks her why Phil is dressed in Dorothy's clothes. Phil turned out to be a cross dresser.
- What the Hell, Hero?: When Rose is waiting for the results of her AIDS test, she tells Blanche that this shouldn't be happening to her because she's a good person. Blanche angrily informs Rose that AIDS is not a disease that discriminates between good people and bad, and it's "not God punishing people for their sins". Granted, Rose had been very badly frazzled by the ordeal and the waiting, but Blanche was justifiably angry because Rose made it sound like this situation should have been happening to someone like Blanche and not her.
- What You Are in the Dark: An implied version in "The Artist." Sophia fully supports the girls' plan to purchase an original Jasper DeKimmel painting due to his imminent death (which only they know about, thanks to Sophia herself volunteering at the hospital where he's being treated), and even encourages them when they start to have doubts; she explains that since the doctors can't find anyone with DeKimmel's rare blood type, they might as well use the opportunity. However, once she learns (off-screen) that she is a match, she ultimately decides to make the donation, presumably deciding that as long as she was able to help, she had to do so.
- Whole Episode Flashback: Several.
- Wholesome Crossdresser: Dorothy's brother Phil.
- Blanche's baseball-playing boyfriend Stevie, in the final season episode "Where's Charlie?", becomes one after Blanche makes him wear lingerie while playing for her own enjoyment.
- World of Snark: Usually Dorothy and Sophia. Most of the time, Rose asks a stupid question and Dorothy gives her a sarcastic answer. Although, even Rose and Blanche have a snark moment or two in some episodes.
Rose: "No, Dorothy, I just finished milking the cow I keep in my closet! [beat] Gee, with only 3 hours of sleep I can be as bitchy as you!"
- In one episode, Rose walks out of her room carrying two buckets in her hands and Dorothy asks if the ceiling in her room is leaking, too.
- Writers Cannot Do Math: In spades, but the biggest example is this: Throughout the series, Dorothy stated that she and Stan (who got married in their teens because she was pregnant) had been married for 38 years, and divorced two years before the beginning of the series. Her son, Michael, varies in age between 23, 29, and 30 (and not in that order, either!), while the two actresses who play her daughter Kate appear to be no older than their late twenties.
- There were various indications that Dorothy and Stan had married in the late 1940s or even the early 1950s when Dorothy became pregnant; the series starts two years after their divorce in 1985, not quite the full 38 years as was consistently stated by Dorothy.
- The most egregious instance of this Continuity Snarl comes in season three when a now 23-year old Michael becomes engaged to 44-year old Lorraine; the resulting dilemma is hilariously misplaced when one considers that Michael cannot possibly be this young given the aforementioned facts, and his having apparently become six years younger since his last appearance in season two.
- Writer on Board: Creator Susan Harris was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and gave it to Dorothy to raise awareness about it, and probably so she could have Dorothy ream out a doctor who said she was just "getting old.