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The Golden Girls: Part 5, The Girls Keep Going

The cast of Empty NestLike many successful sitcoms of that era, The Golden Girls inspired spin-off shows to varying success. The first was Empty Nest — though it didn’t start out as the version most people remember.

Empty Nest
The last episode of the second season of The Golden Girls was entitled “Empty Nests” and focused on a storyline featuring veteran actors Paul Dooley and Rita Moreno as married couple George and Renee Corliss. The Corliss’ lived next door to the Girls and were facing “empty nest syndrome” after their three adult daughters had moved out. They also had an obnoxious a test-pilot neighbor named Oliver played by actor David Leisure. The episode was intended to launch a spin-off series the following season, but the response to the characters and concept wasn’t strong enough and it was scrapped. Sort of.

A few months later, a spin-off series by a very similar name (Empty Nest) debuted. The sitcom starred Soap veterans Richard Mulligan and Dinah Manoff as well as Kristy McNichol. The show centered around Pediatrician Harry Weston, a widower whose two adult daughters had moved back home. Interestingly, the Westons lived in the same house that the Corliss family had occupied. David Leisure, who had appeared in the “Empty Nests” Golden Girls episode, was part of the new series, though his character was now an annoying cruise ship steward named Charlie. Through the run of the series all of the Golden Girls ladies made appearances on Empty Nest. Empty Nest residents also stopped in to see The Golden Girls.

Like The Golden Girls, Empty Nest had a very successful run. Nest lasted seven seasons, and ended in 1995, three years after Golden Girls went off the air.

The cast of NursesNurses
Another show was spun-off from Empty Nest and debuted in 1991. Nurses was set in Miami’s Community Medical Center, the same hospital where Harry Weston initially worked with his sassy nurse Laverne (Park Overall). Nurses focused on the lives of four nurses played by Arnetia Walker, Stephanie Hodge, Mary Jo Keenen, and Ada Maris. The show was not nearly as popular as The Golden Girls and Empty Nest and struggled in the ratings. In its third season, Loni Anderson joined the cast as the hospital’s administrator to boost the ratings. It didn’t really help and the show was cancelled after three years in 1994.

Rue McClanahan, Betty White and Estelle Getty each made guest appearances on Nurses, as did Richard Mulligan from Empty Nest.

For three years, NBC’s Saturday night schedule was dominated by the three Susan Harris Miami-based shows. As I’ve mentioned, characters from each of the three shows stopped in for crossovers and cameos on the other shows. Sometimes the shows shared common storylines that ran through an evening. One memorable storyline featured a hurricane that impacted all of the characters.

The Golden PalaceThe Golden Palace
As I mentioned previously, Bea Arthur had opted not to continue with The Golden Girls past a seventh season. Actresses Rue McClannahan, Betty White and Estelle Getty wanted to continue with the show but felt that The Golden Girls wouldn’t work without Dorothy. As a result, the producers of the show decided to try a different setting and a new incarnation entitled The Golden Palace. NBC decided to pass on the series so The Golden Palace debuted on Friday, September 18th 1992 on the rival CBS network.

The series picked up after Dorothy has married and moved away. Blanche has sold the home and she, Rose and Sophia have purchased a hotel called The Golden Palace. Their plan is to live in the hotel and be supported by the profits. Unfortunately, the hotel is quite old and it turns out that it’s heavily in debt. The girls work together to run the hotel with the assistance of Chuy the Mexican cook (Cheech Marin), Roland the hotel manager (Don Cheadle) and Roland’s foster son Oliver (Billy L. Sullivan).

The cast of The Golden PalaceThe first episode concludes with all of the characters gathered in the hotel kitchen for some late night cheesecake and a silly story about St. Olaf — not unlike many episodes of The Golden Girls. A few special guests dropped by the hotel such as Dorothy’s ex-husband Stan (Herb Edelman), Rose’s old boyfriend Miles (Harold Gould), and even comedian George Burns. Another guest was particularly special.

Bea Arthur joined her old friends in a two-part episode of Palace entitled “Seems Like Old Times.” Dorothy travels to visit her friends and her mother at the hotel. Chuy is absent from the kitchen, requiring the girls to take over in the kitchen. Dorothy is concerned that her mother’s working too hard and wants her to come live with her and Lucas in Atlanta. When Dorothy pushes the point, Sophia runs away but is eventually found by her friends. It all works out and Sophia stays at The Golden Palace.

For a little while at least.

The later cast of Empty NestThe show never neared the popularity of The Golden Girls and The Golden Palace ranked a poor 57th place in the 1992-93 season’s Nielsen ratings. A second season was reportedly planned but the series was not renewed. Susan Harris has conceded that the show wasn’t very well conceived and jokes that she apologizes to Don Cheadle every time she sees him. The last of the original 24 episodes aired on May 14, 1993.

After the end of The Golden Palace, Estelle Getty joined the cast of Empty Nest as Sophia back on NBC for that show’s final two seasons. Sophia had moved back to Shady Pines and frequently dropped in to visit the Westins.

The “Seems Like Old Times” episode of The Golden Palace was the last time that the four main characters appeared together. Still, the show continues to be very popular and has become a part of our popular culture. Sometimes in very strange ways. How? Stay tuned! TV Series Finale home page

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7
Podcast, part one | Podcast, part two

 

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