I find it interesting that a show about single older women living together in Florida was as successful and long running as Golden Girls was. It definitely doesn’t seem like the kind of show that would gain such widespread popularity now, when elderly people are rarely the main characters on shows that seem to center around only the young and strikingly beautiful.
The format of the show seems very standard for sitcoms—laugh track, central characters all living in one location, their story lines intertwining at points as well as sometimes verging in different directions. But what is interesting is how the show actually makes light of very serious themes in a way that makes the characters relatable (i.e. death, loneliness, old age, etc.)
In the first episode, we learn that one of the characters’ husbands is deceased (Rose), while the other’s has left her for a younger woman (Dorothy). Dorthy’s mother constantly talks about her own death and Blanche looses what she thinks might be her last chance of happiness and love at such an old age. These are not light issues, yet the show addresses them and allows us to laugh. At one point Dorothy checks to see if her mother is still breathing during a nap, to which she replies, “well you never know.” Of course a lot of the plot lines are highly exaggerated, such as Blanche’s finance having been arrested for polygamy. It is great in a way that comedy can be found in the lives of elderly women, a situation that wouldn’t at first thought, seem comedic.
It is surprising that Jay Sandrich directed both the pilot for Golden Girls and The Cosby Show, since they have different styles of comedy, even though they are both comedic sitcoms. As the Washington Post article says, while “most TV sitcoms are pat little narratives in which a family problem is identified, faced, and solved, and the whole thing is wrapped up neat and tidy, ‘The Cosby Show’ has no plot at all. Or it will have a plot for a while, then drop the plot for a musical number and never quite get back to it.” It also seems like “The Cosby Show” relied more on improvisation than did Golden Girls, since it centered around such a specific comedic personality.