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 man-crazy 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:
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- Accidental Bid: In "The Auction," 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).
- Accidental Misnaming: Blanche hates her granddaughter's name Aurora and at one point refers to her as "Oreo".
- In Sophia's first letter home after joining the convent in the episode "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Sophia?", she calls Rose "Rita."
- 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.
- A-Cup Angst: The size of Blanche's breasts was a source of occasional gags, which were usually played for laughs in the context of Blanche apparently being as in denial about the size of her breasts as about her true age.Blanche: I was once told I bore a striking resemblance to Miss Cheryl Ladd. Although my breasts are perkier.Dorothy: Not EVEN if you were hanging upside down on a TRAPEZE!
Rose: I wish men could find out what it's like to have breasts, for just one day. Then they'd know how it feels to be judged by some physical trait. I mean, just because I'm built like this, you wouldn't believe how many people think I'm dumb.Sophia: Rose, you're too hard on yourself. I know people who think you're dumb over the phone.
- While this was usually Played for Laughs, the episode in which Sophia rescued her friend from an ill-equipped nursing home also featured a B plot in which Blanche was planning to undergo breast augmentation surgery, even exclaiming, "What God didn't give me, Dr. Myron Rosenzweig will!", suggesting that she had some real insecurity about the size of her breasts. Blanche eventually decided not to undergo the surgery and, in an unusual act of selflessness, donated the money she'd saved up for it to help find Sophia's friend a better nursing home.
- While the other girls liked to tease Blanche about her breasts, the better-endowed Rose expressed a mild form of D-Cup Distress in the episode in which she was sexually harassed by her dentist.
- 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.
- Rose was capable of doing this herself when she wanted to, as illustrated by the way she was able to condense the infamous St. Olaf Falling Leif story into one word: "Splat!"
- 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, she and Stan bring him outside and explain to him that loving parents such as themselves can't bear to see their children getting hurt, and do their best to try and protect them from "bullies on the playground". Even after they're already grown, seeing their children get hurt is still too much for a parent to bear.
- 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?
- After Show: Golden Palace, which had Blanche, Rose, and Sophia buying and operating a hotel. Dorothy appeared in a two-part 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.
Blanche: A gay theater director! Did you ever hear of such a thing?Dorothy: That's absolutely shocking. The next thing you know, they'll have black basketball players in the NBA.
- Blanche is upset about not being cast in the lead of a play that she and Rose both auditioned for, and Rose explains it's because the new director is gay and Blanche used to sleep with the previous director.
- In the episode "The Actor," it's hinted that Patrick, the philandering actor who romanced Dorothy, Blanche, Rose and every other woman in the cast is AT LEAST bisexual, as one of the people who raised a hand when Patrick asked who'd had "a good time" with him was a man. Could it be romancing so many women was a cover for his insecurity about his true orientation?
- 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.
- The episode also features an increaseingly aburd B-plot about Dorothy being courted by Lyle Waggoner and Sonny Bono, and a particularly absurd story about Sophia spying on the Germans. Finding out it was all part of Blanche's dream makes everything fall into place.
- All Men Are Perverts: A recurring theme of the series, and the girls have had numerous escapades involving such men who insist on making this known to them.
- All Women Are Lustful: When Burt Reynolds shows up to take Sophia to lunch, he casually asks her "which one's the slut?". Blanche, Dorothy, and Rose all raise their hands and cheerfully state "I am!".
Eduardo: Whose hair shall I wash first?Dorothy, Rose, Blanche: [lustily] Mine.Blanche: I'll go first. I'm the dirtiest.
- In another episode, the girls stop in for a haircut at what Dorothy describes as "one of those Miami Beach shops for little old ladies," and are about to leave... until they meet the handsome stylist, Eduardo.
Laszlo: Women can be so silly. They think because you are an artist you must also be a great lover.[he and the girls laugh]Laszlo: They think because you are a master in the studio, you must also be a master in the bedroom.[he and the girls laugh again]Laszlo: They think because you can work a piece of clay into a piece of beautiful art, you can also work a woman's body into fits of ecstasy and passion and total screaming abandon.[Laszlo laughs again, but Dorothy, Blanche and Rose sit there looking aroused]Blanche: Would anybody else like something cold to drink?Dorothy, Rose: I would.
- And in the episode in which they meet the Hungarian sculptor, Laszlo:
- Aluminum Christmas Trees: Many may not realize that there really is a settlement in Minnesota called St. Olaf, though it's officially categorized as a township and not a full-fledged city. More famous is St. Olaf College in Northfield, not far from the Twin Cities.
- Another factual small town to which Rose makes reference is Little Falls, located near the geographic center of the state.
- Amusing Injuries: One of the women getting her hands squeezed tightly enough to hurt.
Sophia: What do you do for a living, crack walnuts?
- The first-season episode "Guess Who's Coming to the Wedding?". Stan (in his debut appearance), attends the reception of Dorothy's daughter. For said daughter's sake, Dorothy decides to not make a scene and Blanche suggests to Dorothy to squeeze someone else's hand when Dorothy is about to lose her temper. Dorothy does just that during her daughter's reception with Blanche's hand, at one point bringing Blanche to her knees.
- Early in the third-season episode "The Artist", Laszlo visits the girls. When Rose reveals Dorothy's interest in "helping Laszlo with his work" too much, Dorothy squeezes Rose's hand painfully tight to shut Rose up.
- Late in the sixth-season episode "Blanche Delivers", Rebecca starts to have contractions. Sophia suggests for Rebecca to hold her hand during her next contraction, but the pain from said contraction causes Rebecca to squeeze Sophia's hand instead, causing Sophia pain as the result.
- Other examples: Rose being hit in the chest with a baseball in "The Housekeeper" (funny in context, plus it also apparently isn't hard enough to hurt as she doesn't really react to it), and any instance of Dorothy intentionally hugging someone tightly enough to hurt (i.e. Stan, or Kate's husband Dennis). Dorothy also hugged Rose tightly enough to cause pain in "The Pope's Ring," although it was apparently unintentional.
- 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."
- And Your Reward Is Edible:
- Dorothy and Blanche's prize for winning Grab That Dough: an electric skillet, and a lifetime supply of soup to go in the skillet.
- The trophy that Rose receives for winning St. Olaf's Woman of the Year in "Yokel Hero" is made entirely of chocolate, wrapped in gold foil.
- 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?
- Artistic License – Engineering: On closer inspection, the layout of the house at 6151 Richmond Street doesn't make a lick of sense whatsoever, not lining up to match the build of the house seen in every exterior shot. Most egregiously, the diagonal hallway leading to the bedrooms and bathroom is much too close in angle relative to the kitchen for half those rooms to exist, and the kitchen door leads directly to the garage which from outside is connected to the very end of the house, as opposed to the center as implied by the position of the door. Finally, the positions of the front and back door, as well as the lanai relative to the exterior further call the floor plan into question.
- 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.
- Attending Your Own Funeral:
- One of Blanche's stories about her youth involved her faking an accidental death because she wanted to see how many people really liked her.
- In a later episode, Sophia decides to hold her own wake for the same reason, except without the deception inherent in Blanche's story. However, it backfires when Rose forgets to mention in the invitations that Sophia isn't dead - and the guests arrive in tears and are actually mad when they learn that Sophia is in fact alive.
- 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: Three.
- "Transplant" (season 1): Rose, Dorothy and Sophia take care of baby Danny for their neighbor Ted, who was involved in a water-skiing accident. After his wife Lucy drove him to the hospital, the couple decide to leave Danny in the care of the three ladies while Blanche visits with her sister Virginia.
- "And Then There Was One" (season 2): 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.
- "Not Another Monday" (season 5): The baby in question is that of a couple from Rose's church, and the girls are sitting overnight. The baby develops a fever while they're caring for him, and their pediatrician neighbor Dr. Harry Weston (from Empty Nest) comes to examine him, with Blanche naturally taking advantage of the chance to flirt. Later they memorably sing "Mr. Sandman" in three-part harmony to get him to sleep.
- 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.
- In another episode Rose takes a Spanish class at night school to qualify for a promotion at the counseling center which requires that she become bilingual. Blanche (who initially confused "bilingual" with "bisexual") signs up too, but only because she hopes to meet a man. Both eventually drop out, Rose because "Norwegians are notoriously bad at Spanish" and Blanche because there was only one man in the whole class who caught her fancy, who was apparently gay because he "kept doodling the name 'Kenny' over and over in his notebook."
- In this episode Blanche also reveals to Rose she agreed to sleep with the Spanish teacher in exchange for test answers. This would at first blush seem to contradict the lesson she learned in the earlier episode mentioned above, but on the other hand, in this episode, Blanche was never serious about learning Spanish and was only there to meet men... so mission accomplished.
- A few episodes also have Dorothy studying for exams in order to qualify for promotions or pay raises.
- 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.Blanche: Well, way to go, Rose. You just convinced Dorothy to do exactly the opposite of what we wanted her to do!Rose: I guess that's why they took me off the suicide hotline at work!
- 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.
- Berserk Button: Blanche appears to be particularly susceptible to these when dieting. She once snapped and attempted to choke Rose upon learning that Rose had eaten her "sensible meal" of tuna quiche and diet shake.
- 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. For example, in the episode "Sister of the Bride", Rose is happy that her competition for a volunteering award is dead so that she can finally win.
- 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."
Blanche: [talking about a man she dated who had big ears] By the way, did you girls know that the size of a man's ears is directly proportional to the size of his other... bodily organs?
- In another episode...
Rose: What do you mean?
Dorothy: He had a big floppy pancreas, Rose.
- 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.
- Bizarre Taste in Food: Rose.
- Black Comedy Cannibalism: Upon smelling Rose's "Speardhoven Krispies" and when Rose offers her a taste, Dorothy remarks that they smell so foul that if they'd been offered to the Donner Party, they still would have resorted to cannibalism.
- Black Gal on White Guy Drama: Occurs in Season Three when Dorothy's son Michael becomes engaged to a woman named Lorraine. While the latter's mother disapproves since he is white, Dorothy objects because he's about half his bride's age.
- 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:
- Shady Pines, the retirement home Sophia lived at for five years. Tellingly, she moved back there after The Golden Palace was canceled.
- Sophia also 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Brain Freeze: While visiting America, Stan's Czechoslovakian cousin Magda develops a fondness for Slurpee slushies.
- Brainy Brunette: In flashbacks featuring a middle-aged Sophia and a young adult Dorothy, Dorothy's younger self had black hair.
- 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 Aesop: This example from "Till Death Do We Volley":
- Trudy: Come on, it was just a practical joke like we did in high school!Blanche: Well, some of the things we did in high school aren't necessarily appropriate when we're adults! Like staying out all night, carousing around, dating every other man you meet... [pauses] ...I'm losing credibility here, aren't I? [Rose nods]
- Dorothy killing a mosquito after declaring that "All life is valuable" in one episode.
- Broken Treasure: The episode featuring Big Daddy's funeral has a house guest inadvertently break a commemorative plate Blanche received for a ball.
- Then there's Rose shooting and destroying Blanche's vase in "The Break-In." Blanche is inconsolable - so much that she's more upset than she would have been if Rose had shot her boyfriend by mistake.
- 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.
- Bubblegum Popping: Stan and Dorothy's attorney in "Ebbtide VI: The Wrath of Stan."
- 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.
Blanche: 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.
- Caffeine Failure: In one episode Dorothy, upset with her mother for hoarding money for Dorothy's siblings Gloria and Phil while forcing Dorothy to "go without," remarks that if she had the money, she could have been living "in a swinging condo" instead of with...Dorothy: I'd better not say anything else until after I've had my coffee. [sips coffee] A SLUT AND A MORON!!!! [Blanche and Rose look hurt] Sorry, must be decaf.
- Calling Your Bathroom Breaks: From "Son-in-Law Dearest":Rose: Oh, Charlie was a wonderful man... but he could squeeze a nickel till the buffalo pooped!Sophia: Boy, I'll tell ya, there's something to be said for the power of suggestion. Excuse me. [leaves]
- Later in that same episode: Stan exclaims, "Isn't life a gas?" and Sophia has to run for the throne again.
- The Cameo: Several celebrities played themselves over the years; these included Alex Trebek, Burt Reynolds, Bob Hope, and Sonny Bono.
- Cannot Keep a Secret: Rose and Sophia both. Rose accidentally let slip that Dorothy had her ears pinned back in high school (much to Blanche's amusement). She also once revealed a secret of Dorothy's to Blanche under pressure of Blanche threatening to tickle her. And as for Sophia...Dorothy: Ma, you have a big mouth!Sophia: Come on! If I had a big mouth, do you think your one-night stand with the bug man would still be a secret?
- Casting Couch: Even sleeping with the director of the local theatre production of Macbeth couldn't land Blanche the role of Lady Macbeth; that went, inadvertently, to Rose.
- 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.
- Celebrity Lie:
Blanche: I have altered my appearance for a very important movie role.Dorothy: It's about a woman who eats her way from behind the Iron Curtain.
- Rose claimed that she was the daughter of Bob Hope in order to get him to perform for a benefit. Luckily for her, he turned out to be the old vaudeville partner of Sophia's boyfriend and showed up anyway.
- Blanche also liked to engage in this frequently. Probably her biggest case of this is when she claimed to have slept with Elvis Presley in order to convince Rose to elect her president of their newly-established Elvis fan club.
- In the most extreme example, she actually claimed to be Angie Dickinson in "Grab That Dough."
- Celebrity Paradox: Shows up a few times:
- In an early episode, the girls are suffering from a flu and argue over which soap opera they should watch; Blanche wants to see Another World. Rue McClanahan appeared on that particular soap for one season, from 1970-1971.
- In "Ladies of the Evening," Rose lists off some of the celebrities that will be attending the premiere of Burt Reynolds's new movie. Charles Nelson Reilly is on the list; Betty White made several appearances on Match Game with Reilly during the 1970s and '80s. Also, the later episode "Grab That Dough" sees the girls going on the game show of the same name, and Rose compares the host, Guy Corbin, to several other famous game show hosts of the era; one such host is Gene Rayburn, who hosted the aforementioned Match Game.
- Sylvester Stallone clearly exists in the Girls' universe, as Rose mentions Rocky IV in one episode. Stallone appeared with Estelle Getty, who played Sophia, in the infamous flop Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot
- In two different episodes, Dorothy, played by Bea Arthur, sings a few bars of songs from Fiddler on the Roof. Guess who played Yente the Matchmaker in the original Broadway production?
- 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 (a monologue, so no other St. Olafians actually appear). 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.
- Comfort Food:
Sophia: Can you believe it? My whole life, and this is the proudest I've ever been. I'm depressed. I need a cookie.
- Cheesecake - to the point where Blanche becomes alarmed in the middle of one crisis when she opens the refrigerator and there's no cheesecake. Fortunately Rose saves the day by buying another cheesecake while out shopping.
- Ironically, as has been widely reported, Bea Arthur hated cheesecake.
- Also, cookies. In particular, Blanche has been shown to be quite fond of Chips Ahoy! on more than one occasion. And in the episode "Feelings," Sophia remarks, after Dorothy refuses to cave in regarding a failing grade that would keep one of her students from playing in a crucial football game, that in all her life she's never been prouder of Dorothy...
- Cheesecake - to the point where Blanche becomes alarmed in the middle of one crisis when she opens the refrigerator and there's no cheesecake. Fortunately Rose saves the day by buying another cheesecake while out shopping.
- Comically Missing the Point: Rose. A thousand times Rose. As in this exchange from "Sophia's Wedding":Rose: Oh Dorothy, I know exactly what you're going through. I smoked for years.Dorothy: You smoked, Rose? That's like finding out Lassie was an alcoholic!Rose: Lassie was an alcoholic? I guess that explains why she always leaned to one side whenever she waved goodbye to Timmy.
- Conveniently Interrupted Document: Blanche's birth certificate. Rose tracks down it down with the hope of finding out Blanche's true age, and Dorothy and Sophia excitedly gather around as she prepares to read it... only to discover that the "Date of Birth" field reads: "Deleted by authority of the governor."
- 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. And she might not have been fond of Madonna, but apparently liked Prince...Sophia: [singing along with her Walkman and playing air guitar] Purple Rain, Purple Rain...
- All four of them have their moments of badassery: Dorothy in general isn't a woman to be screwed with due to her complete willingness to resort to her wit to put someone in their place, Blanche punches out an aggressive fisherman when he lays his hands on Rose during a protest, Rose is great under pressure, and Sophia has implied current ties to the mafia. The four even willingly assist in a police investigation on some jewel thief neighbours, using the guise of a friendly dinner to plant a bug in the neighbours' home.
- 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 sock 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."
- Cool Teacher: Dorothy is one of these - she's quite well-liked by her students, as seen in multiple episodes.
- 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.
- An episode of The John Larroquette Show had Betty White, Rue McClanahan, and Estelle Getty appearing as themselves, with White collaborating with Larroquette's character to write The Golden Girls: The Musical. The episode is a Whole Plot Reference to Sunset Boulevard.
- 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.
- And in "Mary Has a Little Lamb," it's Dorothy who helps mend the rift between Mary and her father by... telling a St. Olaf story.
- 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. And in the episode in which Clayton comes out to her, Blanche, while having lunch with her brother in a restaurant which she assumes is a gay bar, announces to the clientele that she'd be proud to have any one of them date her brother. One of the customers says, "I'd rather date you, lady," to which Blanche crows, "I've done the impossible! I've converted one!"
- 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.Blanche: [digging into the casserole dish] Nothing's wrong! Why do you ask?Dorothy: Well, as long as nothing's wrong, would you like us to defrost a loin of pork so you can scoop up the sauce?
- 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.
- Diet Episode: Several episodes invoked dieting as a plot point, most significantly "What a Difference a Date Makes" (season six), in which Blanche undergoes her annual ritual of crash-dieting in order to fit into her wedding dress. It ends up being equally hard on Rose after Rose inadvertently consumes Blanche's sensible meal of tuna quiche and diet shake as a snack.
- 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.
Trudy (Dorothy's friend): [to Dorothy, after beating her in a wrist-wrestling contest] Well, that's that. How does it feel to have your butt whipped?Blanche: Well, sometimes I find it strangely titillating, but... [notices everyone looking at her strangely] Oh. You were talking to her.
- 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").
- She once tried to invoke this with the IRS upon discovering that she was being audited—she put on an extremely revealing outfit in preparation for the representative's visit. Unfortunately, the IRS had caught on to her tactics and sent a female agent. Blanche took one look at her and said "I'll get my checkbook."
- Sometimes combined with Comically Missing the Point, as in...
- 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.
- Do Wrong, Right:Blanche: [describing a book burning in her hometown] The townspeople made a big pile of 'em out in front of the library, and they threw a torch on top. Only, Big Daddy was outraged. He fought his way through that crowd, clawed his way to the top of that pile, grabbed that lit torch, and turned to that crowd and said, "What are you people doin'? This is lunacy. You start a fire from the bottom!"
Dorothy: You know something? Maybe all this resume needs is a little punching up.Blanche: You mean exaggerate the truth, create wild and colorful stories just to impress people? Dorothy, you can't do that!Dorothy: Oh, I know.Blanche: That's MY specialty.
- From "Yokel Hero":
- Double Entendre: Enough to qualify for its own page. One particularly memorable one in the final season added an element of Food Porn (although the food being described wasn't shown on screen at the time).Dorothy: [trying to explain to Rose, in a roundabout way, how she kissed Miles] But let's say that, even though he [Miles] loves your cupcakes more than life itself, one day he decides to try somebody else's cupcakes. For lack of a better example let's say my cupcakes. And I, in a mad passionate moment, forget myself and... [voice breaking slightly] let him try my cupcakes. How would that make you feel?
Rose: I'd like to think I'd understand.
Dorothy: Oh, good, good. I was hoping that's what you would say.
Rose: I'm sorry. It's just the idea of Miles wanting to try your cupcakes.
Dorothy: Why is that funny?
Rose: No offense, Dorothy, but your cupcakes are dry and tasteless. Nobody ever likes your cupcakes.
Dorothy: My cupcakes are moist and delicious. Men LOVE my cupcakes.
Rose: Get a clue, Dorothy. Men would rather PAY for cupcakes.
- Dream Sequence: One of the staples of the show:
Dorothy: [about Rose] Returning champion? This woman is an idiot!Announcer Johnny Gilbert: Oh, really? She didn't get knocked up in high school![Rose nods triumphantly]
- "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. Also, Blanche's bedroom is shown to be at the left end of the house (where the lanai is usually shown), instead of the right.
- 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.
- A few throwaway lines indicate that Blanche either has been or would have no problem sleeping with a married man. Later on, she is emphatic that this is the one line she will not cross.
- Eat the Dog: Sophia claims their Chinese-American neighbors do this.
- End-of-Episode Silliness: Surprisingly for a sitcom of its type, averted for seasons 1-6. The final season, however, features several episodes with a "tag" scene playing over the closing credits instead of the normal music.
- Entertainingly Wrong: When Dorothy's lesbian friend Jean visits and Dorothy keeps Jean's sexual orientation secret from Blanche and Rose. Blanche begins to suspect something's up when Jean changes the subject every time the topic of men comes up in conversation. Blanche comes to the only logical conclusion:Blanche: Face it, your friend Jean... is seeing a married man!
- 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.
- Everyone Has 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, wake up, my wife's will be home any minute" and Blanche 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 a rather common event for her . . .
- Everything's Better with Cows: From the attempted Empty Nest pilotDorothy: The loss of your first love is the worst, the very worst.
Rose: I know. I remember mine...
Sophia: It was probably a cow.
Rose: How on earth did you know that, Sophia?
Sophia: Wild guess!
- 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.
- In another episode, Blanche is trying to install a hot tub, and runs into some problems with the zoning code. When she addresses them, Rose inadvertently blurts out that there are three non-family members living in the house, which is another violation costing thousands of dollars. Dorothy eventually realizes that while it's against the law for strangers to live together, it would be perfectly legal if they all served as co-owners rather than renters. Blanche is initially reluctant, but eventually agrees, signing paperwork to give the girls equal claim to the house's title and changing the rent payments to mortgage payments.
- When Sophia goes out with Tony Delvecchio in "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun... Before They Die", the following exchange takes place:Dorothy: Ma, be good.
Sophia: I promise.
[Cut to Tony and Sophia in bed together]
Tony: You're good.
Sophia: A promise is a promise.
- 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).
- Family of Choice: They frequently refer to themselves as a family throughout the series.Sophia: Kirsten, you're just upset, we all are. But you have to know these two women love her like a sister. And I love your mother like she was my own.Kirsten: Yeah, well you're forgetting one thing, though. I'm her daughter. You're not her family.Dorothy: Why does everybody keep saying that? We share our lives together.
- 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.
- First Gray Hair: A variation and aversion occurs when, in one episode, Blanche explains why there's no cheesecake in the house: "I found a gray hair." Dorothy, irritated, tells Blanche that finding one gray hair isn't a reason to eat an entire cheesecake. Blanche then explains that she found the gray hair in the cheesecake and threw it out as a result. Enter Rose, who's been out shopping and has come home with a fresh new cheesecake, explaining that the store fired an elderly baker who had refused to wear a hairnet.
- 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.
- Foreign Culture Fetish: Played for Laughs in "Sick and Tired," in which Sophia proceeds, in front of Dorothy's doctor (who is Chinese-American), to list off all the reasons why she loves the Chinese.Sophia: You're a genius. All your people are. The Chinese invented pasta, you know. We Italians take credit for it, but we just added oregano.
- 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.Blanche: Well, there must be homosexuals who date women!Sophia: Yeah! They're called lesbians.
- 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.
- Get Out: The episode "Room 7," in which the following voiceover plays out over stock footage of an interstate highway at night:Rose: [singing "The Name Game"] Let's try it now with Dorothy. Dorothy Dorothy bo-borothy, bonana-fana-fo-forothy, fee-fi-mo-morothy...[sound of car screeching to a halt]Dorothy: Get out, Rose.
- 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.
- Rose describes a dream where the cast of Peanuts won't let her play baseball with them, and ask Dorothy what she thinks it means.Dorothy: Peanuts envy?
- Rose's slow cousin, who did bird imitations.Rose: Let's just say you didn't want to park your car under their oak tree.
- When Stan informs the girls about the potato peeler he's pitching commercially (which he named "Zbornee"):Rose: What's a "Zbornee"?Dorothy: Rose, I put up with it for 38 years. You don't want to know.*Cue Stan rolling his eyes*
- From the "Henny Penny" episode:Deliveryman: Flowers for Blanche Deverucks.Dorothy: No, that's "Devereaux." It's only pronounced "Deverucks" in limericks.
- When the girls are changing diapers:Blanche: I was never any good at it [changing diapers], especially with the boys. Seems like they always had dry bottoms but wet T-shirts because I always forgot to point their little oo-hoos south.Dorothy: You know, I didn't even think about that until Michael was at least six months old.Rose: What's an oo-hoo?Dorothy: [referring to Yoo-Hoo] It's a chocolate soft drink!Rose: I've never had one.
- When breaking a friend of hers out of a rest home, Sophia claimed that she and Rose were sisters. She tells the incredulous admissions employee that if he wants a clearer picture of how that happened, he should rent the cassette of Chinatown.note
- 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.
- Also humorously averted with both Sophia and Blanche. Blanche recalls spending the evening with "the President" at the 1972 inaugural ball and awaking in his arms the next day. Dorothy, thinking Blanche meant Richard Nixon, is shocked... but Blanche was referring to the president of the local chamber of commerce, and actually expresses disgust at the idea of sleeping with Nixon. In another episode, Sophia tells a story suggesting that she had an affair with Charles DeGaulle but then clarifies she was referring to a gangster named "Charles the Mole."
- 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, and once even to get herself, Dorothy and Rose out of jail after they are arrested for trying to scalp tickets to a Frank Sinatra concert to an undercover cop.
- Dorothy tries faking one in "Bang the Drum Stanley," an attempt to expose Sophia as a malingerer. It fails.
- Rose has a real one. She gets better.
- Hot for Preacher: "Forgive Me, Father" (season two) - Dorothy develops the hots for a coworker only to discover that he's a priest, and is subsequently wracked with guilt when he tells her he's decided to leave the church. Turned out he meant he was leaving his post as a parish priest to teach at another church, not leaving the Catholic Church.
- Averted in that same episode when Blanche recalls a time she had an affair with a "man of the cloth," and Dorothy, thinking Blanche is talking about a priest, is horrified. Turned out Blanche was talking about a man of actual cloth - a fabric salesman.
- The final-season episode "The Pope's Ring", after the Pope visits the hospital where Sophia's friend Agnes is a patient, Rose mentions what beautiful blue eyes the Pope has. Sophia adds: "Yeah, all the cute guys are either married or Popes."
- How We Got Here: The first-season finale consists of flashbacks that tell the story of Blanche meeting the others.
- 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.
- Blanche chewing out Trudy for her prank in "Till Death Do We Volley" by pointing out that things we do when we're kids aren't always appropriate once we grow up - like staying out all night dating multiple men. She then realizes she's lost credibility and clams up.
- Hypocritical Humor: At the start of the episode "Have Yourself a Very Little Christmas", Dorothy names a list of aggressive acts people would do to their fellow shoppers "just for a Batman hat... but I did it anyway. I got the hat."
- I Have This Friend...: In the episode "Zborn Again," when Dorothy is trying to explain to Blanche about her renewed attraction to Stan.Dorothy: There's this person, someone I've known for quite awhile, and lately there seems to be this attraction developing, an attraction I've been trying to deny- Blanche, what are you doing?
Blanche: [backing away] It's a curse! My beauty's always been a curse! I'm sorry, Dorothy, but, like the fatal blossom of the graceful jimson weed, I entice with my fragrance but can provide no succor.
- A variation also occurs in "A Midwinter Night's Dream," when Dorothy is explaining to Rose, in a roundabout way, how she kissed Miles, using the analogy of cupcakes. This leads to one of the most hilarious double entendres of the series, which of course goes right over Rose's head.
- 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 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.
- Sophia's miracle cure for the flu in "The Blind Date" - consisting of red peppers, oregano, garlic, chicken fat and lard. A sick Dorothy and Rose force it down their throats and after Dorothy complains about how terrible it tastes, Sophia mentions it's meant to be used on a vaporizer, not eaten.
- In the earlier episode in which Dorothy, Rose and Blanche all come down with the flu, Rose makes the girls her special hot toddy recipe from her folk medicine book. We never learn what's in it exactly, but Dorothy, after taking a sip, remarks, "This stuff should have an octane rating!" Rose's reply, without a hint of irony: "I know."
- 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: Invoked by name in the episode "Till Death Do We Volley", after Dorothy pulls a prank on her friend Trudy by pretending to sleep with her husband:"Dorothy Zbornak, this is the most underhanded, sneaky practical joke anyone's ever played and I have just one thing to say: boy, have I missed you!"
- Identical Granddaughter: Bea Arthur plays Dorothy's grandmother in one flashback (alongside a different actress playing young Dorothy).
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Many of the episode titles are references to classic movies, books, or popular songs. For example: "Two Rode Together", "Like the Beep-Beep-Beep of the Tom-Tom" (lyrics from the Cole Porter standard "Night and Day"), "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun... Before They Die", and so on.
- 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: In "Ladies of the Evening," whenever Sophia complains about not being invited to meet Burt Reynolds with the others...Dorothy/Rose: She'll get over it. And even if she doesn't, who cares? We're going to meet Burt Reynolds!
Police Officer: Where are your roommates, Mrs. Petrillo?Sophia: They're not here!Dorothy: MA!!!Sophia: Don't you "Ma" me, you cheap floozy!Dorothy: Ma, you would do this to your own flesh and blood?!Sophia: You'll get over it, Dorothy. And if you don't, who cares? I'M ON MY WAY TO SEE BURT REYNOLDS!!! [leaves triumphantly clutching the tickets in her hand]
- Then, when the girls are locked up on suspicion of being prostitutes and Sophia comes to bail them out, only to learn that she's still not invited along...
- 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.
- 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.
- Joke and Receive: Rose brings a chicken into the house, saying she's a professional entertainer. Blanche scoffs at this and talks about how ridiculous it is with Dorothy while Rose is out of the room. At the end of their conversation, Blanche asks "What does she do? Play the piano?" Right then, Rose comes back in and says "She plays the piano." (It's a small piano, but she does play it.)
Rose: I'm making Scandinavia's oldest and most traditional snack: cheese and crackers.Blanche: [sarcastically] Cheese and crackers, Rose? Not eggs gaflufen? Ham and guterhoggins? Pigs in a svengabluten?Rose: No, but you sure know how to make a girl's mouth water!
- Happens several other times with regard to Rose's "Scandinavian".
- "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. 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, an expensive ceremonial plate that Blanche received for the social event 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. They have the new plate with them 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.
Sophia's Mother (Bea Arthur): Let me tell you a story. Picture it! Sicily, 1881. A beautiful young peasant girl...
- It's a skill Sophia apparently learned from her own mother, as shown in the Mother's Day flashback episode.
Sophia: Ma, not another story!
Sophia's Mother: Sophia, come closer. [slaps Sophia in the face]
- "Back in St. Olaf..."
- Lipstick Lesbian: Dorothy's friend Jean from the episode "Isn't It Romantic."
- Long Speech Tea Time: Sometimes, when Rose starts one of her many meandering stories about St. Olaf, the others feign sleep or run off to the kitchen.
- 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.
- Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Played with regarding Sophia's "Sicilian curses." In "Big Daddy" (first season), Sophia casts a curse on a neighbor for refusing to remove a tree that fell into the girls' yard during a storm, and the neighbor pooh-poohs it... until unfortunate things begin to happen to him. His wife later confesses that she was behind all of her husband's misfortunes (except for the boil on his behind, which was purely coincidental). However, in "The Mangiacavallo Curse Makes a Lousy Wedding Present," her curse on Giuseppe Mangiacavallo seems to work without any extra help... although it apparently took decades to take effect.
- 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.
- Also, "blanche" means "white" in French - an ironic commentary about the character given that white is a color associated with purity and virginity. Plus, her sister's name is Virginia.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The syndicated edits currently aired on TV Land and other cable channels insert a commercial break right after Rose's terrified expression, however, changing the Smash Cut to a Cliffhanger.
- 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 flashback in the Valentine's Day episode jumps from a sweet moment of Sophia's husband giving her chocolates that he prepared when they left on their trip days ago, to them hightailing it out of there because the wall Sophia's father peed on was right next to St. Valentine's Day Massacre.
- 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)
- My God, What Have I Done?: Blanche got this big time in the episode about Big Daddy's death. First when she realizes she passed up her last chance to see her father alive so she could be the belle of the Citrus Ball, and then when she refuses to attend the funeral after her sister Virginia calls her out for her selfishness and has to regretfully settle for a brief graveside farewell.
- 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.)
- An early episode had Dorothy and Sophia playing cards for money. Later on, in "All Bets Are Off", Dorothy is revealed to have a gambling addiction and isn't supposed to do any gambling at all.
- Never Mess with Granny: By the end of the series, all four Girls were grandmothers (or in Sophia's case, a great-grandmother)...and all four repeatedly proved that they were not to be trifled with.
- Dorothy probably got this the most: in one episode, she calmly tells the prejudiced Barbara Thorndyke to "go to Hell." In another, she gives an epic "The Reason You Suck" Speech to a doctor who misdiagnosed her Chronic Fatigue Syndrome by insisting that she was just getting old and needed a makeover.
- Rose may have been a kind person...but there's a reason Beware the Nice Ones is a trope. She once saved a teddy bear that a Bratty Half-Pint was keeping from her by ripping said bear from the girl's arms and shoving her out the door. Rose also stood up to notorious grump Frieda Claxton and told her to "drop dead"—unfortunately, poor Frieda was so stunned by Rose's outburst that she did.
- Though Blanche hated the idea of being a grandmother (it made her feel old), she still showed her mettle when necessary. During a protest to save dolphins from tuna fishermen, she laid a guy flat with a single punch; she once hit a home run without even trying at the batting cages; and she wasn't afraid to lay down the law with her children when she saw that her grandson was being neglected.
- And, of course, Sophia was probably the least afraid to get her hands dirty. She smacked Blanche's unruly grandson across the face when he mouthed off to her, and, upon discovering that her boyfriend was cheating on her, laid into him with her purse (she had some backup from her sister Angela on that one).
- Never Say That Again: Both of the series' primarily storytellers got this one.
Rose: It's like something that happened back in St. Olaf...Dorothy: Oh Rose, STOP! Rose, why is it that whenever any of us makes an observation, the first thing we hear out of you is "Back in St. Olaf"? Did it ever occur to you that we might be sick and tired of hearing, "Back in St. Olaf... back in St. Olaf... back in St. Olaf"?!Rose: Gee, no. That never occurred to me... I'm sorry.Dorothy: Oh, that's all right.Rose: Back in that town whose name you're tired of...Dorothy: ROSE!!!
- "Blanche's Little Girl":
Rose: Did they have chores in Sicily?Sophia: Are you kidding? They invented chores in Sicily. Crossing the street without getting pregnant was a chore in Sicily.Dorothy: Rose, NEVER mention Sicily.
- "On Golden Girls":
- 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.
- And, also in St. Olaf, the notorious "Falling Leif" incident, and why Ulf the Umbrella King is exempt from the town's request that all citizens be celibate to fend off a drought.
- The plot lines of classic St. Olaf fairy tales such as "Gus and the Recliner," "Gunilla Gets a Catalog," and "Elsa, the Girl Who Could Make Bad Food Good."
- The Greyhound terminal incident.
- The Great String Cheese War of '47.
- 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. Hell, he could marry Lillian Gish and I wouldn't care.
- 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.
Priest: Blanche Devereaux! I've heard so much about you.Blanche: All good, I hope.Priest: I'm sorry, I can't discuss things learned in Confession. But it's nice to finally match a name with a face.
- 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...
- Later the priest makes a crack in reference to her gymnastic skills.
Blanche: Let me know if you want to know anything else. I've got pictures.Agent: Yeah, so do we.
- 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, Mario: "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?
Rose: I thought you lost it in a hot-air balloon!Dorothy: I thought you lost it at a pancake breakfast!Blanche: Those times don't count!
- What Dorothy ate for her confirmation dinner in Brooklyn (see I Ate WHAT?! above).
- The time Blanche got caught with the Orkin man.
- When Blanche claims to the girls that she lost her virginity in a bayou:
"In a bayou. (Beat) You slut."
- Then comes Sophia's response to it all:
Mrs. Claxton: [to Blanche] I didn't recognize you with your clothes on. ... I think some of the stuff you do is illegal. I'm looking into it.
- Apparently, there was an incident where Rose couldn't keep their rock garden alive.
- Also, when the girls were trying to save an old tree in their neighborhood, their neighbor, Freida Claxton, said she had pictures of Blanche. Some of which may have included her and one of the councilmembers deciding the tree's fate.
"Yes I have! Martin Gellman. Mr. "Watch-Me-Leap-Frog-Over-This-Parking-Meter".
- Blanche will never be the other woman, except for that one time a man's wife was pronounced dead, only to quip how "those paramedics never give up."
- Another time, Blanche answered Miles' question over if anyone had seen a purple martin (the bird species) early in the morning.
"Ooh, I had that once! But how the heck you'd ever catch it in your foot?"
- Also, when Dorothy needed surgery because she had a tumor called Morton's Neuroma:
- The reason St. Olaf no longer holds barbecues.
- 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.
Michael: Grandma, this is not what it looks like.
- And in "Family Affair" (season 2), when the girls catch Rose's daughter and Dorothy's son in bed together.
Sophia: Please, I'm 80 years old. I may not remember what it feels like, but I sure as hell remember 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.
Blanche: [carrying her normal clothes in her arms] We're here collecting, uh, lingerie... for needy sexy people.
- As part of Sophia's elaborate plot in the episode "My Brother, My Father," Blanche and Rose, dressed in nuns' habits after rehearsals for The Sound of Music, end up having to pretend they really are nuns. Needless to say, Blanche doesn't quite pull that off...
- 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!"
- Earlier in this episode, Sophia undergoes an ink blot test as a sort of psychiatric entrance exam. Dorothy, accusing her mother of making up the answers to the exam, remarks that one of the ink blots looks like "John Forsythe lying naked in a pool of honey." The nun administering the test examines the blot and says a bit giddily, "It does look a little bit like John Forsythe, doesn't it?"
- Nutritional Nightmare: Rose's Maple Syrup/Honey/Brown Sugar/Molasses/Rice Krispie Log. Rose makes one for her daughter's visit, mentioning she used to make it for her kids all the time when they were young.Dorothy: Tell me Rose, do any of your children still have their own teeth?
- 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.
- Blanche derisively refers to her unseen son-in-law as "the yankee."
- Flashbacks show that Sophia's parents treated Salvatore the same way Sophia treats Stan.
- According to Sophia, there's a tradition in Sicily that when your mother-in-law dies, you're supposed to wear a hair shirt, eat dirt, and pound your head on a rock: anything to keep you from laughing.
- 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.
- Parent with New Paramour: Big Daddy's much younger fiancee in "Big Daddy's Little Lady".
- 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.
- Playing Sick:
- After recovering from heart surgery, Stan fakes a relapse in order to keep Dorothy waiting on him hand and foot.
- In "Beauty and the Beast," Sophia fakes the severity of an injury that has confined her to a wheelchair in order to keep Nurse De Farge waiting on her hand and foot.
- The two malingerers team up for the biggest deceit of all in "Bang the Drum Stanley." After Sophia is whacked on the head by a fly ball at a baseball game, Stan convinces her to pretend she's paralyzed so they can sue the park and get a big cash settlement. Sophia goes along with it at first (although Dorothy is not fooled) but eventually guilt gets the better of her when she sees how many people in the hospital waiting room seem legitimately injured. It's then revealed that everyone in the waiting room is also Playing Sick, as Dorothy put them up to it to shame her mother into confessing.
- 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.
- Pop-Culture Pun Episode Title: "The Stan Who Came to Dinner", "Yes, We Have No Havanas", "Fiddler on the Ropes", "Sophia's Choice", "Wham, Bam, Thank You, Mammy", and "One Flew Out of the Cuckoo's Nest", just to name a few.
- Post Robbery Trauma: Rose suffers this in the episode "Break-In".
- 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.
- Protest By Obstruction: In one episode, Blanche handcuffs herself to her childhood home, unable to bear letting construction workers tear it down.
- 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!
- Put Off Their Food: In an early episode Rose mentioned having a creepy feeling about ice cream sundaes after a childhood incident in which a soda jerk in St. Olaf arranged the scoops in her sundae in an obscene way.
- 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.
- The producers originally wanted to use Bette Midler's "Friends" as the theme song, but the licensing fees proved too much.
- 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 gave one to the nasty Frieda Claxton, to Blanche when Blanche goes too far with making Rose her personal slave, and to her manipulative and two-faced sister Holly after Holly slept with Blanche's boyfriend.
- Blanche even gets in on the act, giving one to her scumbag night school professor in response to him propositioning her in return for a passing grade.
- Reckless Gun Usage: Overcome with trauma stemming from a robbery, Rose purchases a gun and carelessly shoots towards the front door, hearing a man's voice and thinking it was the robber (it was actually Blanche's date.) The bullet ends up hitting one of Blanche's prized vases. Her hysterical reaction is played for laughs, but Rose could have very well killed or injured Blanche or her date with her stupidity.
- Remember the New Guy?: One episode focuses on Mary, a pregnant teenager who lives in the neighborhood. She is depicted as having a long-established relationship with the main characters, and yet is never seen or mentioned outside of the one episode, nor is it ever explained to the audience how the girls came to be so close to her.
- 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 Auction." 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."
- Rhetorical Question Blunder: Again, Rose is the master of this trope.Dorothy: [after Blanche remarks that to be believable at the class reunion they plan to crash, they'll have to study the yearbook and learn such valuable information as who was the class slut] Blanche, how do you tell a slut from a yearbook?Rose: Oh - how do you tell a slut from a yearbook? Uh, you don't have to buy a yearbook dinner.Blanche: Rose...Rose: You can bring a yearbook home to meet your parents.Blanche: Rose!Rose: There's nothing wrong with having a yearbook on the coffee table.Dorothy: Rose, this isn't a riddle!Rose: Well, make it one! I had three good answers!
- 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").
Rose: Looking good isn't that important to me.Dorothy: Rose, what are you talking about? You wear makeup. You even dye your hair.Rose: [guiltily looking away from the others while sipping her coffee] This is my hair's natural color.
- 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 or shoving in food.
- Rose dying her hair. She'll insist until she's blue in the face that she's a natural blonde, but her roommates aren't fooled. Every time the subject of Rose's hair color comes up, she finds a way to dodge it.
- Rose being hit with a newspaper/magazine by Dorothy and "Shut up, Rose!"
- Sarcasm-Blind: Rose is a classic example.Ted (Stan's brother): I'm from Minneapolis.Rose: Minneapolis, Minnesota?!Sophia: No, Rose, Minneapolis, France.Rose: I'm from Minnesota.Ted: So am I.Rose: So you just moved to France?
- Saying Too Much: Also see Cannot Keep a Secret.
- 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: Oh, Charlie was a wonderful man... but he could squeeze a nickel until the buffalo pooped!
- Rose's Charlie.
- 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.
- Stan is cheap as well, particularly when it comes to matters of romance. In one episode it's revealed that he got Dorothy's engagement ring by winning it in a carnival crane game. In another, Dorothy remarks that Stan is the only person she knows who owns a time-share dog.
- 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.
- Sex for Services: Blanche had slept with two city council members - because she wanted to. Their approval of the petition she was sponsoring was an added bonus she was expecting, though.
- Sextra Credit: Blanche was the target of one sleazy professor when she was studying for her degree. Unlike the previous example, though, she refuses, as she only sleeps with people she actually likes.
- However, in a later episode, in which Rose and Blanche were taking a Spanish class in night school, Blanche promised sexual favors to the professor in exchange for the answers to an exam. One could make the case, though, that since Rose was the only one who had something to gain (a job promotion) from the class and Blanche was only there to meet men, this isn't necessarily a case of Aesop Amnesia (also, Blanche made no indication that she planned on following through with the promise).
- Sexy Scandinavian: Olga, Sven's fiancee in "A Visit from Little Sven." She's such a knockout that she immediately makes Sven forget his feelings for Blanche.
- Rose herself in the episode "Rose: Portrait of a Woman," in which she gives Miles a photo of herself in sexy lingerie as a birthday present. We never see the picture, but from the reaction Miles (and his professor) friends make upon opening the present at his party (and from the fact that a horrified, embarrassed Rose immediately flees), it's apparently quite a doozy.
- "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.
- "A Piece of Cake": In the flashback sequence at Mr. Ha-Ha's, when Mr. Ha-Ha is about to reveal Dorothy's age to all present, Dorothy yells, "I'll punch your heart out, Ha-Ha!" One of Maude Findlay's (also played by Bea Arthur) trademark catch phrases was "I'll rip your heart out."
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Status Quo Is God: From the very first episode, everytime it seems like one of the girls might leave the house for whatever reason (marriage, moving in with their children), something happened that resulted in whoever staying put. Even when Sophia marries her husband's business partner, they decide to live apart, realizing that they'll never love each other as much as their late spouses, but not wanting to divorce.
- 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.
- Stereotype Flip: Pepe the Cuban boxer in "Fiddler on the Ropes" purposely plays into the stereotype of a dumb Latino boxer (including apparently being unable to speak any English outside of "Kill Gonzales!"), and the girls go along with it without questioning until they discover that there's a lot more to Pepe - he not only can speak fluent English, but he's a very talented violinist. Dorothy at first expresses indignation that Pepe would think she and her friends were closed-minded enough to buy into that stereotype, until Pepe rightfully points out that they did buy into it without questioning.
- Similarly, Marguerite in "The Housekeeper" purposely plays into the stereotype of a woman of Caribbean descent as a practitioner of voodoo and black magic by letting the girls believe that she's blessed them with good luck charms for hiring her and later cursed them with bad luck for firing her. She admits in the end that it was a put-on and she's studying for her law degree.
- Still Fighting the Civil War: While hints of this trope appear in regard to Blanche's family background, the most egregious example would be the members of the Daughters of the Old South in the episode "Witness," who are unapologetically pro-Confederate - to the point where a woman is denied entry if it turns out one of her ancestors did so much as sell a horseshoe to a Union soldier. Their meetings even feature re-enactments of Confederate victories during the war, leading Dorothy to snark: "It's hard to believe they couldn't get Federal funding for this." Thus, Blanche is horrified when researching her family tree to apply for membership, and it turns out one of her ancestors is Jewish - and from Buffalo, New York.
- 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, the girls (minus Sophia) hold a bachelorette party for her, and a cop comes because of a noise complaint filed by a neighbor. Blanche mistakes him for the stripper she'd called earlier, who was supposed to have been dressed as a cop, and grabs the officer's butt a few times before the stripper himself actually comes in right behind her. Later on, the two officers try on each other's hats, and things get, in Dorothy's words, "really weird."
- "Stuck at the Airport" Plot: In one Mother's Day episode Flashback, Rose reminisces about being stuck in a bus station with another elderly woman who was going to visit her daughter. She eventually reveals that her daughter is dead, and that she visits the cemetery on Mother's Day every year. Things look bleak when a cop shows up (the woman had run away from her nursing home to make the trip), but Rose saves the day by claiming that the woman is her own mother.
- In another flashback, the girls end up sleeping in a train station after discovering that all of the locomotives that depart from the town deliberately leave late. The problems only increase when a group of circus clowns appears from another train.
- Superstition Episode: "The Housekeeper." The girls' lives take a turn for the better when they hire Marguerite as the housekeeper, but once they have to fire her because of her incompetence at housework, bad luck comes in spades, and they're convinced Marguerite has put a voodoo curse on them.
- Sophia also has a habit of casting "Sicilian curses" of her own, which sometimes seem to work.
- Sweet and Sour Grapes: In "Woman of the Year," Rose vies for St. Olaf's Woman of the Year Award. Blanche and Dorothy decide to help her by exaggerating the achievements in her application, and she earns the prize. Upon discovering that the other girls lied, though, Rose refuses to accept the award...and later ends up genuinely winning because of her honesty (it helps that the woman the committee tried to give it to had a literal skeleton in her closet).
- Sweet Tooth:
Dorothy: Tell me, Rose, do any of your children still have their own teeth?
- Rose has a notorious sweet tooth. Once, when she can't sleep, she mentions how her nightly ritual involved eating a painful amount of sugar ("A handful of Sno-caps, a couple of Devil Dogs, some Oreos, and a Ho-Ho chopped up in a bowl of fruit cocktail with heavy syrup.") When Dorothy hears this, she snarks "Couldn't sleep? I'm surprised you didn't try to kill the mayor of San Francisco."
- Several of Rose's St. Olaf recipes are examples of this. Either lampshaded or parodied with Rose's Maple Syrup Honey Brown Sugar Molasses Rice Krispies log. Literally just four layers of sugar stacked on top of each other.
- 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.
Rose: I just realized I'm the most boring person in the world.Sophia: Did something happen to Regis Philbin?
- Another one:
Blanche: Well, this is great. We've been writing stories that have already been written.
- And then there's:
Rose: Well, if it's any consolation, they do it all the time on Mr. Belvedere.
- 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.
- Toilet Humor: Usually involving Sophia, from jokes about her urinating or defecating in the wrong place...Sophia: I'll just have to remember, when I get up at night, the bathroom is to my left. The last time we had a guest, I killed two potted palms!
Sophia: Every morning at seven, like clockwork, I pee. Unfortunately I don't get up until eight.
- ...at the wrong time...
Blanche: Girls, I have writer's block! It is the worst feeling in the world!Sophia: Try ten days without a bowel movement sometime.Blanche: You just sit there, hour after hour after hour!Sophia: Tell me about it.
- ...or not at all.
- 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 he enjoyed it). 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.
- Transgender: Gill Kessler turned out to have been born a woman...and an Italian.
- Trauma Button:
- 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.
- Also happens when Rose buys a doorbell alarm that sounds like dogs barking. Sophia runs out saying "The dogs are on my tail again, through the river, run through the river."
- The Triple: The show often used one character as a Straight Man to tell a story or set up a joke. The other three would usually respond with straight line, straight line, Punchline. While it was usually Rose who got the "kicker" in these instances, sometimes it was given to Sophia.
Blanche: Depressing.Dorothy: Awful.Rose: Stinky.
- The girls' reaction to Sophia's "Thanks for the Medicare" song parody:
Dorothy: I hate watching what this is doing to Ma.Blanche: I hate watching what this is doing to you.Rose: I hate watching those FBI warnings at the beginning of movie rentals.
- "Clifton Avenue Memoirs": The girls are discussing Sophia's depression at losing her memory.
Dorothy: He made me feel beautiful.Blanche: He made me feel young.Rose: He made me feel smart.
- "The Actor": After Patrick is exposed as a cad during the play, the girls admit they'll miss him.
Dorothy: He's alive?Blanche: He's in Miami?Sophia: He's an earthling?
- In "Once, in St. Olaf", when Rose is telling the others she just met her birth father.
- True Companions: All four of the main group. They may all be markedly different and bicker constantly, but they are closer than family, to the point that they all have a pact to take care of one another if something ever happens to one of them.
- In "Home Again, Rose," Rose suffers a severe heart attack and needs quadruple bypass surgery. When her daughter expresses concern that they won't be able to pay for the rehab, Blanche immediately remarks that the girls will help, commenting "That's why houses have mortgages." In other words, she was willing to take out another loan on her property if it meant helping Rose.
- Earlier in the series, Blanche actually makes the women co-owners of the house rather than renters, something she was initially reluctant to do.
- Uncatty Resemblance: Rose interviews people who look like their dogs in "Melodrama".
- 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.
- 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.
- The girls's relationship in the show is basically this. They often snark and bicker with each other while still being close friends. It's only at times when their relationships are threatened that they're not this trope.
- 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?
- Walking Disaster Area / The Jinx: After firing Marguerite in "The Housekeeper," all the girls seem to be beset with bad luck, but Rose seems to get it the hardest: while describing her day to Dorothy (in which she had a flat tire, was late to work, and smashed her hand in a door), she collapses the lawn chair she tries to sit on and a baseball hits her in the chest.Rose: Something weird is going on here, Dorothy!Dorothy: Don't be silly. You're just having a little bad luck.Rose: [after baseball hits her in the chest] Do you really think that's all it is?Dorothy: Of course.Rose: Well, maybe you're right. [walks over to help Dorothy with the barbecue] Need any help?Dorothy: Get away from me, you jinx!
- Wham Line: In "Letter to Gorbachev", Rose writes letters to the leaders of the United States and Russia, asking them to disarm their nuclear weapons. The Russians set up a press conference and wish to meet Rose, thinking she's a child because of the simple innocence of her letter. They learn she's a grown woman and call off the conference, and Rose is deeply embarrassed. Blanche offers to read her letter, and her expression visibly darkens when she reads, "It scares the girls in my cadet troop, too. They talk about what they want to be if they grow up, not when they grow up."
- 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 Auction." 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.
- Your Cheating Heart: Blanche convinces Rose, who is upset over Miles' frugality, to "cheat on" him by enjoying a night out at a fancy restaurant with her rich Texan friends... but then Miles catches Rose "in the act," and Rose agonizes over the mistake she's made only to have Blanche tell her it's her own fault for getting caught.
- In "A Midwinter Night's Dream" (season seven), after Rose and Miles get engaged, Dorothy and Miles share a passionate kiss. Miles tries to rationalize it but Dorothy is immediately remorseful and agonizes over how to tell Rose. Fortunately Rose takes it well (that is, when she finally understands what happened, as Dorothy's early attempts to confess go right over Rose's head).