Saturday, 5 March 2016

The Golden Girls – an absolute delight

I had first seen an  episode of the Golden Girls at my colleague’s home when we were doing some project work outside office and she invited us home. The TV series used to come on daytime, and I got to see it, and loved the episode and remember all of us laughing out loud, though almost all of us were seeing this for the first time.  I promptly forgot about this as I didn’t have access to TV those days

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Nearly a decade later, I cant remember the specific trigger but I got to see a scene from this and longed to see the series.  I was on a trip to Europe and those days spending time at the airports was lovely given the vast difference between the product range available in Asia vs. the west.  I went to the DVD store and was really happy to see all the movies banned in the Middle East and India and then examined the TV series section and found the Golden Girls.  At that point in time I couldn’t afford more than one season’s DVD and bought this – the girl at the counter kept asking me again if I was sure this region’s DVDs could be played in the DVD I had. I just bought it.
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I loved it so much, I simply had to buy the others in the series, which took nearly a couple of years, as I didn’t have another European trip. This was also the time before the web and Chinese DVD makers had invaded the different parts.  When I finally had the chance, I bought all the seasons and truly they have given me a lot of fun moments.

The Golden Girls is remarkable in many ways.  This series that showcased the lives of four elderly women retired in Miami, was a sitcom that both entertained and educated and left you with a lot of warm fuzzy moments.   (four or more women is a lucky formula used in different TV series from Sex and the City, to Desparate Wives etc.)

The characters were well etched and truly distinctive.  The landlady was the tart/ slut – yes, surprisingly the series actually used those words and were unabashed in describing her love life. There was the dumb, naïve innocent home maker (of Nordic origin) played to great perfection by Betty White. Then the mother-daughter combination, a 6 foot school substitute teacher with her absolutely frank “call-a spade-a-murder-weapon” Italian-sicilian mother.
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There were other interesting characters, the teacher’s divorced husband who featured in a lot of episodes, the lovers of the tart, the naïve home makers beaus and the different children.

Each episode had a predictable formulaic feel to it, but what stood out were the lines – yes the writing was  superior. In a market where there are literally ‘000s of stand ups and good comics, the Golden Girls still had some great funny lines that stood out.  And then the actors, each a veteran who already had achieved great success and their talents recognized. This series became their crowning glory.
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The creators and the writers were I think some of the most evolved folks who recognized real life situations and also knew what was the best way to handle such situations – which could be both an eye opener as well as good advice for modern families, that were mostly dysfunctional and with the pressures of hard-working lifestyle, not able to cope.  They were among the first to address a lot of problems ills of modern American society from homelessness to broken homes, etc.  Their episode about AIDS was in fact the most educational one, which IMO should have been mandatory viewing for all impressionable folk to help understand the virus and its effects.

In spite of all this there were imperfections. The usual trap of some convenient inconsistencies in their stories, a common pitfall of long running TV series. (One episode had them fighting over an electric warming blanket – yes, right in the middle of sunny and muggy Miami).  And then the more obvious ones – there were no blacks in the TV series – you could literally count the episodes where colored folk made an appearance (for a series based in Miami!!). Also if you were not American and also from that time, it was hard to place the references – as a lot of episodes would have some social commentary on the happenings as well as the famous folk including newsreaders or other local celebrities which you had to simply pass up.

But in spite of all of these, each episode was a winner, and its hard to really describe one or two favourites.   I had watched them several times over and finally with my age getting closer to theirs gave up.  But it was a warm TV series from a different time, when stories were meant to be resolved and usually have a clear, happy ending.

Boy, do I miss those times. Thanks to the Golden Girls I can celebrate and enjoy those times.

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