In "Second Motherhood", Blanche mentions how her latest beau insisted on having her meet his family, which she took to mean "his little ol' gray-haired momma and his spinster aunt"note but actually meant his two very young kids. Rue McClanahan's previous series, Mama's Family, featured a little ol' gray-haired Mama and a spinster aunt as two of its main characters, with McClanahan playing the spinster aunt (Aunt Fran).
In "Brotherly Love", Dorothy recounts how while on a double date with Stan and his brother at a soda shop, Stan "entertained" them by sticking straws up his nose and pretending to be a walrus. In the "Cousin Maude" episode of All in the Family, Arthur's character Maude recalls Archie Bunker doing the same thing on a double date with her cousin Edith and herself.
One of the songs that Dorothy sings at the Rusty Anchor in the final season episode "Journey to the Center of Attention" is "Hard Hearted Hannah (The Vamp of Savannah)" (from Tin Pan Alley), which Bea Arthur had previously sung in an episode of Maude.
California Doubling: The show is set in Miami, FL. but was shot in Los Angeles. Stock Footage of the city was used in opening credits and other scenes. The exterior of the girl's house was part of an actual studio backlot house at Disney/MGM Studios in Orlando, Florida, until the backlot ride was demolished in 2004 to make room for a new attraction.
The Season Five episode "Like the Beep Beep Beep of the Tom-Tom" has one deleted scene that didn't even make it into the otherwise uncut DVD release of the series. The plot of the episode involves Blanche struggling with making adjustments in her life after she has a pacemaker implanted. In the deleted scene, Sophia is craving microwave popcorn but then sees the popcorn is gone, and Dorothy and Rose mention they're giving away the microwave at doctor's orders out of concern for Blanche's safety. This scene (aired in 1990) was likely cut due to medical knowledge at the time that has been debunked since.
This also helps explain the scene later in the episode in which Blanche says, "I don't care about anything anymore, life has no meaning," and Sophia responds, "So, who's for popcorn?"
A reconstruction of the scene, along with the latter joke by Sophia, can be found here.
A joke about the Church of Happyology was cut from reruns (and the DVD) for the episode "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Sophia?"
Dueling Shows: With Designing Women, a similar series of four women friends that aired on CBS and which ran also for seven years (1986-1993). Both are very popular in their own right, but The Golden Girls was and continues to be the more well-known, won several Emmys and there wasn't nearly as much backstage drama as with Designing Women. Both would later air alongside each other on Lifetime.
Fake Nationality: In keeping with the precedent set by the casting of Dorothy and Sophia, every prominent Italian on the series was played by a Jewish actor.
Hostility on the Set: Bea Arthur reportedly did not get along with her co-stars very well. Betty White admitted that they did not have a good relationship, and that she found White's optimism annoying. Rue McLanahan has said she didn't have a relationship with Bea either calling her very eccentric. With the exception of Betty and Rue, the cast weren't really friends.
Name's the Same: To the show itself- Galoob Toys had a very brief run in 1984 with a toy line called Golden Girl that was something of an attempt to knock off the He-Man franchise for girls. Needless to say, it's relatively obscure and this series is much more well known.
Old Shame: In later years, Bea Arthur declined interviews to talk about the show, claiming it was from "an unhappy period" in her life, and much preferred to speak about her work on Maude.
The Other Darrin: Lots. From Dorothy's sister Gloria, to Blanche's daughter Rebecca, to Rose's daughter Kirsten, and even the cast of the episode that was a pilot for the spin-off series Empty Nest.
The Empty Nest example might not count, since the entire plot changed between the Poorly Disguised Pilot and the actual series. In the pilot, the story was about a middle-aged married couple learning to reconnect and begin a new part of their life after their youngest daughter leaves for college (an actual "empty nest.") In the spin-off show, the main character was Harry, who had been established as a recurring character on The Golden Girls - a pediatrician who lived near the title characters. Harry was a recent widower whose self-supporting adult daughters move back in with him (creating something of an Artifact Title.) None of the characters from the pilot actually made it to the show with the exception of David Leisure as the Drop-In Character neighbor, and even he was changed from a pilot named Oliver to a cruise ship employee named Charlie. The house in which the pilot was filmed was the only other thing carried over to the actual series.
Interestingly enough, Herb Edelman, Monte Markham, Sheree North, Scott Jacoby, Lynnie Green, Sid Melton, Bill Dana, and Nancy Walker were (as Stanley Zbornak, Clayton Hollingsworth, Virginia Hollingsworth, David Zbornak, Young Dorothy Zbornak, Sal Petrillo, and Sophia's brother Angelo and sister Angela) the only recurring family members to appear throughout the series without changing actors.
The Pete Best: Charles Levin as Coco, the gay cook, in the first episode. The popularity of Estelle Getty's character Sophia led to her getting a regular role on the series instead of him (essentially making her the Ringo Starr).
Phallic Object: The questionable penis-shaped tin in the kitchen is actually a lobster.
Rue McClanahan and Betty White were supposed to play Rose and Blanche, respectively. They suggested switching around. Betty White was well-known for playing "Happy Homemaker" Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Outside of her TV persona, Sue Ann was cruel and man-hungry, the antithesis of Rose. Rue, meanwhile, had played sweet but scatterbrained Vivian Harmon on Maude, as well as prissy spinster Aunt Fran on Mama's Family.
Rue McClanahan had previously appeared in a famous episode of All in the Family as the exhibitionist wife in a swinger couple whom Edith invites to the house after misunderstanding their personal ad.
According to Rue, this was a major reason that Bea Arthur agreed to star; previously, she'd told Rue that she had no interest in doing "Maude and Vivian meet Sue Ann Nivens."
Post-Script Season: Bea Arthur decided to leave the show after the seventh season, and the series ends with Dorothy getting married and moving to Atlanta. However, her mother Sophia decides to stay in Miami with the roommates, setting up the premise for said After Show, The Golden Palace, as the girls buy a struggling high-end hotel. It wasn't well received, but has gained something of a cult following in subsequent years.
Real-Life Relative: Blanche's grandson David was played by Billy Jayne/Jacoby, brother of Scott Jacoby, who portrayed Dorothy's son Michael; then in the finale, the characters are related when Dorothy marries Blanche's and David's Uncle Lucas.
Reality Subtext: In the episode "Sick and Tired", Dorothy is diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, from which condition creator Susan Harris also suffers.
Recycled Script: "High Anxiety" (about Rose's prescription pill addiction) and "All Bets Are Off" (about Dorothy's gambling addiction). They both feature similar dialogue near the end, with one of the characters commenting that Rose/Dorothy is cured, and Rose/Dorothy correcting them by saying that they're not cured, but that they can fight their addiction by taking it one day at a time.
The girls' kitchen was recycled from Susan Harris' earlier short-lived sitcom It Takes Two.
The show frequently made use of a "lobby" set in several episodes, including "Grab That Dough" and "Valentine's Day", usually dressed for use as a hotel lobby. It was even featured in an episode of The Golden Palace as the set for Shady Pines.
Throw It In!: A particularly sweet version occurs in "Valentine's Day." Throughout the episode, Sophia claims that she has a date with famed Latin singer Julio Iglesias; when the girls leave for their own dates, Julio himself shows up at the back door. The producers of the show wanted Iglesias to sing a song, but when it came time to film, he felt he was not able to do so and refused, leaving them panicked. However, Estelle Getty, who played Sophia, suffered from stage fright of her own and promised to handle the situation...by singing to Iglesias herself. The plan worked, and the episode ends with Sophia and Julio singing "Begin the Beguine" together as they leave the house.
Getty provided another example from her final audition. She decided to wear age-appropriate clothing, and found various thrift store items—including a purse, which she felt was key to the character, as a woman of Sophia's age would carry all of her important medications and items in her bag (indeed, Sophia almost always had her purse with her during the show, including moments when she came into the kitchen in the middle of the night). The props department ended up using the purse Getty chose on the show, and even had a spare made.
As mentioned in Playing Against Type above, Rue McClanahan and Betty White were originally going to play Rose and Blanche, respectively, and Bea Arthur was not interested in doing the series if that happened, because it would have been a rehash of Rue's character from Maude and Betty's from The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Once the roles were reversed, Bea became interested in the concept and signed up.
Coco was originally going to be a regular character on the show, with Sophia a recurring character. After filming the first episode, the audience loved Sophia so much that she became a regular instead, and Coco was never seen again.
In the first season, actor Harold Gould plays Arnie Peterson, a date of Rose's. Years later, he would return to play Miles Webber, Rose's primary love interest, who appears in 13 episodes. Funnily enough, one of the last episodes revealed Miles was in the Witness Protection Program. Maybe Arnie was one of his identities?
Sid Melton was largely seen as Salvatore Petrillo, Sophia's late husband and Dorothy's father, in flashbacks (and as the occasional ghost). The season six episode "What a Difference a Date Makes", however, also casts him in the role of a "fool" at the medieval-type restaurant where Dorothy goes on her date.
Chick Vennera plays Kid Pepe, a boxer Sophia invests in as part of a get-rich-quick scheme, and later becomes Rose's boss, TV personality Enrique Mas.