As proof of The Golden Girls’ enduring popularity, the show has been parodied and saluted many times over the years. In 1995, Betty White, Rue McClanahan and Estelle Getty did a parody of their own. They played characters from Clueless in a send-up of the series for the MTV Video Awards.
In 1996, Betty White guest-starred on an episode of The John Larroquette Show entitled “Here We Go Again.” In the episode, White played herself as a Sunset Blvd.-like delusional diva who convinces Larroquette to help write her memoir. Rue McClanahan and Estelle Getty appear as themselves and Larroquette is forced to dress in drag (as Bea Arthur’s Dorothy) when all four appear in public as the “original” Golden Girls. Betty White was nominated for an Emmy Award for the episode.
Perhaps the most unique tribute was entitled The Golden Girls: Live! This was an Off-Broadway stage show that ran successfully in 2003. It featured an all-male cast of female impersonators performing scripts from the series (in a similar vein as The Real Live Brady Bunch). The show was so successful that it was scheduled to move to a larger theatre. Unfortunately, the play’s producers failed to secure proper legal permissions to use the characters and scripts and it was shut down.
In June of 2003, Lifetime hosted a special 90-minute Golden Girls retrospective that featured many popular episode clips as well as an on-air reunion of Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan and Betty White. Unfortunately, Estelle Getty had retired and was too ill to participate. Arthur acknowledged that the reunion was not as touching as it should have been because of Getty’s absence. Arthur also paid tribute to Herb Edelman, who had played Dorothy’s ex-husband Stan, and who had recently died. Arthur noted that he was a wonderful and funny man, quite unlike his character. The special also featured interviews with creator/writer Susan Harris and executive producers Paul Junger Witt and Tony Thomas.
In Spring 2004, Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan and Betty White gathered on a Lifetime special entitled TV’s Greatest Sidekicks. They discussed their famous show and the importance of Sophia to the series. The show also featured castmembers from The Mary Tyler Moore Show and 227 and was hosted by Laverne & Shirley’s Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams.
Shortly after the special aired, the three Golden Girls reunited with former series writer Marc Cherry at a premiere party for the Season One DVD set. Many of the DVD sets feature commentaries by Arthur, White and McClanahan.
On March 10th of this year, The Museum of Television and Radio hosted a tribute to the show in Los Angeles. Betty White and Rue McClanahan were in attendance (Bea Arthur had the flu), as were some of the show’s creative team including Susan Harris, Paul Junger Witt, Terry Hughes, James Vallely, Mitchell Hurwitz (Arrested Development) and Desperate Housewives creator Marc Cherry. Cherry told Entertainment Tonight, “I would love to have all my gals come to Wisteria Lane.” Footage from this evening is included on The Golden Girls Season Six DVD set.
On May 6th, a special dedication ceremony was held on the original Sunset Gower Studio Sound Stage in Los Angeles. A plaque was unveiled commemorating the filming location of The Golden Girls. A special luncheon was attended by Sunset Gower CEO Robert Papazian, Betty White, Tony Thomas, Paul Junger Witt, David Leisure (Empty Nest) and others.
On May 14th, the Robot Chicken series featured a stop-motion animation short of the girls. “Golden Girls and the City” featured the four characters having dinner in a restaurant and recounting their sexual conquests – ala Sex in the City.
It’s often asked if there’s a possibility of a reunion show, with the ladies playing their popular characters once again. That looks highly unlikely especially considering Estelle Getty’s diminished health. As well, Bea Arthur remains opposed to the idea. She feels that any new attempt would only diminish the wonderful work that they did on the series. Betty White once said, “Oh, they’ve asked us so many times and I think it would be wonderful, Rue thinks it would be wonderful, but Bea just doesn’t want to do it. And she’s probably right. You know, quit while you’re ahead.”