The Golden Girls was the story of Southern belle Blanche Devereux, who let rooms in her home to three other women - grief counsellor Rose Nylund, school teacher Dorothy Zbornak and Dorothy's mother, Sophia Petrillo - previously of the Shady Pines Retirement Home.
According to the background story, Sophia had spent a year at Shady Pines before the series began, it had suffered a fire in 1985, and she had arrived to set up home with Dorothy, Blanche and Rose at the time of the pilot episode. Although Shady Pines was never seen on screen, it was mentioned in most episodes and Sophia never let her daughter forget that she had "put her away" there.
The four main characters had widely contrasting personalities: Blanche "liked the men" and was as vain as could be; Rose was loving, dim-witted and occasionally prissy; Dorothy, a not-so-gay divorcee (and not quite free of her ex-husband, Stan), was champion of the witty (but crushing) remark; Sophia was sharp tongued and wasn't above robbing her daughter's handbag. Not a very likeable bunch? Wrong - excellent writing and absolutely brilliant acting turned these creations into four of the best loved TV characters ever. For a start, the girls cared about each other, and underneath the surface bitchery warm friendships flourished - in fact, here we had an alternative family set up.
Sharp wit, health and social issues, cheesecake and, above all, the friendship between the four main characters powered the story-lines.
- Rose: Gunilla Olfstatter was a nurse at Cedars of St. Olaf Hospital. One
night she was taking care of Sven Bjornsen, and he asked her if she
would get him some more mouth moisteners and then kill him. Gunilla
brought the mouth moisteners right away, but the killing thing, it
seemed to go against everything she'd been taught!
Dorothy: You're doing beautifully, Rose.
Rose: He begged and he begged and by her coffee break she couldn't stand it anymore, so she pulled the plug and he died. Well, she was wracked with guilt that night. Not only had she parked her car in a doctor's spot, but she was never sure whether Sven's pleading was the pain talking or the medication talking or the guy in the next bed talking. You see, the guy in the next bed was Ingmar Von Bergman, St. Olaf's meanest ventriloquist.
Dorothy: Rose, we are going somewhere with this, aren't we? I mean, if not, I'm gonna cut out your tongue.
Rose: Yes! Sven came back to haunt Gunilla. Since then, every Tuesday night at ten - nine Central -
[Dorothy bangs on the table with frustration]
Rose: ...she hears noises. Some say it's the wind, but some say it's Sven's voice whispering back from the other side, saying: "Turn around, quick! His lips are moving!"