Clockwise from left: Sophia, Blanche, Rose, and Dorothy.
. A charming
sitcom surrounding the lives of four women over fifty (although good luck getting Blanche to admit it) sharing a house. These women are:
for seven years, with six of those seasons ranking among the Nielsen Top 10. After Bea Arthur (Dorothy) left, the three remaining women bought a hotel and continued on the
, which ran for one unspectacular season. It also
confronted numerous social issues, but with special attention paid to groups rarely covered by other programs, such as the elderly and LGBT. Throughout the years they covered topics as diverse such as homelessness, AIDS, homosexuality, transvestism, prescription pill addiction, sexual harassment, interracial love, poor elderly care, and assisted suicide. Many episodes concerned the women's love lives, and all four women, whether divorced or widowed, were portrayed as sexually active.
. These flashback episodes always centered on a theme, such as birthdays, moneymaking schemes, or bad dates.
- Accidental Bid: When Rose uses the bidding paddle to fan herself.
- 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 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."
- ...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.
- Babysitting Episode: The series had two. 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 (the stay got extended after said neighbor's water skiing accident required some minor surgery.) 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.
- 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.
You're embarrassed to be seen with your own mother? Dorothy:
When she's dressed like Vasco de Gama
- Bad Omen Anecdote: Inverted when Rose tells a story about some people from her home town in an effort to dissuade a friend from doing something. Though her friends expect a bad ending to the story to further the moral she's apparently getting at, Rose says that the people involved became quite rich and lived happily ever after.
- 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.
- Bechdel Test: Passes with flying colours; for all the talk about men, the sexy talk of guys they've romanced, still romance, and deal with on a daily basis, they still have at least one conversation per episode that is not about men.
- 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.
- Blatant Lies: Many abound; to list two, Hitler never set foot in the United States despite what Rose claims and Minnesota has absolutely no volcanoes within its geography, of any type.
- 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 once, when attempting to phone for help from a mall claimed that, "Every time I put in a dime and dialed, a condom popped out."
- 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.
- 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...
Oh yes, definitely. [beat, everyone looks at her]
...oh yes, definitely, that is something I would like to know about too. Dorothy:
Come on, Blanche, that's a stereotype. Trudy (an in-law):
Call it whatever you want, I'm just grateful it's true.
- Bleak Abyss Retirement Home: A Running Gag had to do with Shady Pines, the retirement home Sophia lived at for five years.
- Bookworm: Dorothy
- Bottle Episode
- 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!
- Broken Treasure
- 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'.
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.
- 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."
- 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.
- Captivity Harmonica: Stan plays one when he and Dorothy must serve a period of house arrest in an infested apartment.
- Casanova Wannabe: Stan.
- The Cast Showoff: Bea Arthur got to sing in a few episodes. Not to mention Betty and Rue get to show off their dancing skills.
- Clip Show: Several.
- 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 sisters, her children, and her grandchildren, all of them are quite intelligent (well, they're smarter than Rose), even her mother Alma is smart. Though this was before St. Olaf gradually became weirder and more bizarre as Rose's stories did 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: The reaction in the episode where Blanche gives the other girls calendars with erotic pictures. Apparently there really were some nude shots in there.
- Additionally, on two occasions while Rose is telling stories about her past. First, the "herring war" story, which was so hilarious to Rue and Bea that they burst out laughing, and the producers kept it in, 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. Either those two were corpsing or they faked it believably.
- 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.
- Cross Over: Frequently, with Spin-Off Empty Nest, in both directions.
- 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."
- 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 Ruleof 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.
- 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
- 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.
- Escalating Punchline
- 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?
- Even Sluts Have Standards: Blanche, for all her promiscuity, will not go to bed with married men (Oh -- except for that one time) or betray a friend.
Blanche: Now, that was not my fault! She was declared legally dead! Those paramedics never give up.
- Everything's Better with Cows: From the attempted Empty Nest pilot
Rose: 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 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!
- 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, Iris and Holly.
- 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.
- 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.
- When one of her students injures his knee, Dorothy corrects the messages on his cast.
"We'll just change this to Ms. Zbornak eats shittake mushrooms."
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Harpo Does Something Funny: In a minor example, Betty White improvised the various "Scandinavian" words her character uses.
- Hilarious Outtakes: It had a few.
- Historical Injoke: 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, 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."
- 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.
- Also in the episode "Before and After:"
Blanche: Oh, Dorothy, she's going to be all right; her doctor is a Jew.
Dorothy: Blanche, please! How is she, Doctor Jew—uh, Wallenstein.
- Another in an episode where Blanche is dating a paraplegic:
Ted: Blanche, are you nervous?
- 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).
- 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
- Incompatible Orientation: Dorothy, Rose and Blanche all find Laszlo devastatingly attractive... they just aren't his type...
- Incredibly Lame 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.
- In-Series Nickname: Sophia calls Dorothy "Pussycat throughout the show, and calls Gloria "Kitten" during her appearance.
- 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 BSOD. 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 Devlecio?
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.
- Lipstick Lesbian: Dorothy's friend Jean from the episode "Isn't It Romantic."
- 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.
- Mean Character, Nice Actor: Bea Arthur said that Herb Edelman was nothing like Stan (the character he portrayed in the series).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
: You mean to tell me you actually had a good time at a thimble museum? 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.
- 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.
- 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
- Dorothy's favorite doll
- 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":
Blanche: No more sitters! We're still in litigation with the last one.
Sophia: She bit me first!
- It's mentioned that Blanche has been banned from a certain city for an undisclosed crime and that the sheriff still keeps in touch.
Dorothy: Blanche, let me ask you something... are you allowed to go back to Chattanooga?
Blanche: Are you kidding? The sheriff still writes.
- 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: Dorothy, when my son was five years old he nearly burned down our whole town. Since then, nothing he does shocks me.
- How a chicken once saved Rose's life.
Blanche: They are the stupidest birds....
- 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: Let me know if you want to know anything else. I've got pictures.
Agent: Yeah, so do we.
- 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.
Blanche: I did that once! (Notices the other girls' stares) It was his birthday.
- 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.
Dorothy: No. She wouldn't hide in the same place twice.
- 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.
- 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:
: Now honey, it's not what it looks like! 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 an 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.
- OOC 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 man who played Goofy at Disney World. 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 show proceeds to look for men to have sex with.
- 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/Re Tool: 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.
- 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:
: 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.
- Blanche's Big Daddy is a male version. "They're admitting who into my country club?"
: "Come on honey. I'm sure Grand Dragon — I mean, uhh...
Big Daddy is always with you."
- An interesting take occurs in the episode Mixed Blessings where it's 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.
- Rage Against the Author: Twice, once when Dorothy befriends the racist high class snob Barbara Thorndyke (though in a subversion of the trope, Dorothy's problem with Barbara has nothing to do with her books), and another when Blanche's sister Charmaine writes a revealing book about a woman's sex life that Blanche perceives as being written about her.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- Rose being hit with a newspaper/magazine by Dorothy and "Shut up, Rose!"
- 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:
: "Tall, yutz
, face like a monkey's behind."
Dorothy: "I can't think of anything I hate more." (Stan shows up at the door) "I spoke too soon."
- 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.
- 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 Im 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' son.
- 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.
- 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 Cross Overs.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
: I'm really sorry. I promise I'll chant "Hail Mary" until Madonna
has a hit movie.
Now remember this would be better with a bigger TV. 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
- Team Mom: Sophia.
- Transatlantic Equivalent: The UK's Brighton Belles in 1993. It was not successful.
- 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".
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.