The Golden Girls

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Clockwise from left: Sophia, Blanche, Rose, and Dorothy.

Describe The Golden Girls here.

Sure, but first let's grab some cheesecake.

A charming Slice of Life sitcom surrounding the lives of four women over fifty (although good luck getting Blanche to admit it) sharing a house in Miami. These woman are:

The show ran on NBC for seven years. After Bea Arthur (Dorothy) left, the three remaining women bought a hotel and continued on the CBS series Golden Palace, which ran for one unspectacular season. It also spun off another long-running sitcom, Empty Nest.

Like many sitcoms from The Eighties and The Nineties, The Golden Girls confronted numerous social issues, but with special attention paid to groups rarely covered by other programs, such as the elderly and LGBT. Throughout the years they covered topics as diverse such as homelessness, AIDS, homosexuality, transvestism, prescription pill addiction, sexual harassment, interracial love, poor elderly care, and assisted suicide. Many episodes concerned the women's love lives, and all four women, whether divorced or widowed, were portrayed as sexually active.

Over seven years, The Golden Girls featured four hour-long clip shows and at least ten shows made up of multiple original flashbacks. These flashback episodes always centered on a theme, such as birthdays, moneymaking schemes, or bad dates.

Tropes used in The Golden Girls include:

Sophia: That peasant girl was me. And that painter... was... Pablo Picasso.

    • Blanche also did this in the episode "The Operation," while telling Rose about a case of stage fright she'd dealt with while performing in a dance recital with a group of twelve other girls: "They opened the curtain and the music started and twelve little girls started to dance. And one little girl wet her pants. That girl in the puddle was me."
  • Aerith and Bob: Played with in an episode involving minks when Rose named some of them.

Rose: We are not giving away Fluffy, Muffy, Buffy, and Jo-anne!
Dorothy: Rose, they are non-breeding minks who eat their weight in food everyday! Jo-anne!?

  • Ascended Extra: Sophia was conceived as a recurring character, but positive response to her in the pilot led to her being added to the main cast.
  • Ask a Stupid Question: Everyone, but Dorothy especially is made of this trope. To cite one of many examples:

Blanche: Sophia says she has no appetite after she was stabbed in the back.
Rose: Oh my God, who stabbed Sophia?!
Dorothy: The chef at Benihana, Rose.

  • Author Avatar: Blanche's sister Charmaine Hollingsworth visits Blanche and tells her she is writing a novel, titled 'Vixen: Story Of A Woman'. She even gives an autographed copy to Blanche. However, Blanche mistakenly thinks the book is about her. Angry and hurt, she confronts Charmaine, who explains she based the book on her own life, not Blanche's.
  • Back to School: Rose in one episode, in order to get her high school diploma. In this episode Rose admits that she never attended her high school graduation because she developed a case of mono and was too ill to attend.
  • Battleaxe Nurse: Nurse DeFarge, according to Sophia.

Sophia: You've hired the angel of death from Shady Pines!

    • That is, until Sophia learns Nurse DeFarge is willing to do absolutely anything to make Sophia comfortable, for the sake of her recovery. Of course, making Sophia comfy meant making life hell for the other women.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: In the episode "It's a Miserable Life," Rose lashes out at one of her neighbors, Mrs. Claxton, when she finally gets fed up with her poor treatment of everyone. Rose's outburst was so shocking that it gave Mrs. Claxton a fatal heart attack!
    • Rose again, when her teddy bear is held hostage. "Sometimes life just isn't fair, kiddo."
    • Rose yet again, whenever there was any type of game or competition that she'd really get into. She admitted to being very competitive, and would sometimes get bitchy and downright mean.
  • Blind Without'Em and Blind Mistake: Sophia. She tended to make some rather hilarious goofs without them, such as mistaking Blanche for a black man, and once, when attempting to phone for help from a mall claimed that, "Every time I put in a dime and dialed, a condom popped out."
  • Big Little Man: Rose meets a man at a bar and makes a date with him; then he gets off the barstool and is revealed to be a dwarf (leading to the date becoming a huge round of Ignore the Disability).
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Dorothy's friend Barbara Thorndyke.
  • Biggus Dickus: Rose compares her late husband Charlie's endowment to a bull's she saw as a child:

Rose: "Boy, that bull would've been jealous."

  • Bookworm: Dorothy
  • Bottle Episode
  • Brainy Brunette: In flashbacks featuring a middle-aged Sophia and a young adult Dorothy, Dorothy's younger self had black hair.
  • Brain Freeze: While visiting America, Stan's Czechoslovakian cousin Magda develops a fondness for Slurpee slushies.
  • Broken Treasure
  • Bunny Ears Lawyer: Rose. Bona fide Cuckoolander, and also gainfully employed at a grief counseling centre, and later, as a consumer reporter.
  • The Butler Did It: Parodied when the girls participate in a murder mystery weekend. Rose immediately stands up and points to the waiter.

Rose: The butler did it!
Waiter: I'm a maitre'd.
Rose: Thank you. Beat The maitre'd did it!

  • Butt Monkey:
    • Rose is Dorothy's Butt Monkey, Dorothy is Blanche's Butt Monkey, Blanche is Rose's Butt Monkey (often completely by accident), and everyone is Sophia's Butt Monkey.
      • Blanche could actually hold her own against Sophia occasionally. Once, when she asked for advice and Sophia turned it back into an insult, Blanche said very simply, "I'm sorry, I thought that since you looked like Yoda you were also wise."
    • Outside the main cast, Dorothy in particular is treated this way. In one episode it was revealed that she wasn't even invited to her own Sweet Sixteen party.
  • The Cameo: Several celebrities played themselves over the years; these included Alex Trebek, Burt Reynolds, Bob Hope, and Sonny Bono.
  • Canon Discontinuity: A few instances. Most prominent was Dorothy's son Michael and daughter Kate. Even though one of the two was born when Dorothy was still in high school, and thus should have been in at least their mid-forties, both were consistently played by actors in their twenties and early thirties. As another example, there's an episode in which Rose stubbornly adopts a puppy despite a prior agreement between the housemates that they can't get a dog; yet in another episode, Blanche and Dorothy get Rose a dog from a shelter.
  • Casanova: Blanche is a female version.
  • Casanova Wannabe: Stan.
  • The Cast Showoff: Bea Arthur got to sing in a few episodes. Not to mention Betty and Rue get to show off their dancing skills.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: The pilot gave the housemates a gay male live-in cook named Coco. When Sophia turned out to be unexpectedly popular and was made a permanent part of the cast, Coco vanished without further mention.
  • Clip Show: Several.
  • Cloudcuckooland: St. Olaf, Rose's hometown, making Rose the resident Cloudcuckoolander. Dorothy once referred to it as "The Cradle of Idiocy."
    • Note that we never actually see St. Olaf in all its glory. The closest we come is seeing the inside of Rose's old house in one flashback sequence. The girls manage to make it to the outskirts of town in another episode; it's apparently only accessible by horse-and-buggy and by toboggan.
    • Rose appears to be one of the smartest people to come out of that town (most of the time she's merely The Ditz); her interactions with other St. Olafians bear this out.
      • This was mentioned as such with Rose's cousin Sven. When he mentions not knowing much about women, Blanche says, "A big strong man like you, get out of here!" He simply picks up his suitcase and leaves. When Rose chases after him saying that was just an expression, Blanche turns and says to Dorothy, "I never thought I'd say this, but I think Rose got the brains in that family."
    • Oddly though, the times we've seen Rose's sisters, her children, and her grandchildren, all of them are quite intelligent (well, they're smarter than Rose), even her mother Alma is smart. Though this was before St. Olaf gradually became weirder and more bizarre as Rose's stories did to Flanderization.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Sophia also has shades of this, mainly due to her age.

Sophia: "Come on, let's go, we're late for temple!"
Dorothy: "Ma, it's Tuesday. And we're Catholic."

  • Cool Old Ladies: More like cool middle-aged women for Dorothy, Blanche, and Rose, but Sophia played the trope very straight; despite being in her eighties, she kept up with pop culture, even owning a Game Boy in one episode.
  • Compressed Vice: Rose's addiction to prescription-strength painkillers and Dorothy's gambling addiction. Neither was ever hinted at before the Very Special Episode dealing with it and neither were ever alluded to afterward.
    • While we're at it, Dorothy's smoking could qualify as this, too. It was referred to in one episode (but not a Very Special Episode), wasn't hinted at before then, and wasn't mentioned afterward, either.
    • To be fair, Dorothy did mention that she'd gone to Gambler's Anonymous for her gambling addiction once (before the start of the series), and by the end of the episode starts going again. Also, it's explained that she'd stopped smoking earlier in her life, but she'd taken it up again due to stress.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: Mentioned as threats. Blanche once tells Sophia that either she goes along with Blanche's young-age pretense or she gets slapped with a big rent raise. And Sophia once makes Dorothy talk about her gambling addiction relapse with her on the threat that, if they don't right away, they'll talk in her bedroom after Sophia eats a bowl of chili.
  • The Couch
  • Crossover: Frequently, with Spin-Off Empty Nest, in both directions.
  • The Cuckoolander Was Right: There are moments when Rose ends up having a deep level of insight on situations that nobody else can solve. She even relates them to St. Olaf stories that actually do make sense in context.
  • Cure Your Gays: Played with in both episodes in which Blanche's brother, Clayton, appears (though only Blanche tries it) as well as "Goodbye Mr. Gordon" where Blanche and Dorothy are mistakenly thought of as lesbian on a daytime TV talk show. A man interested in Blanche claims she's only "like this" because she's never been with a "real man". If Blanche actually were lesbian, this trope would be played straight; as she isn't, it's simply Played for Laughs.
    • Blanche even takes it on as a new way to meet men, and gets Dorothy to play along; "Come on, Dorothy, I have to try this.
  • Cut a Slice, Take the Rest: In one episode, depressed Blanche puts a normal serving of lasagna on a plate, then leaves the plate on the counter and begins eating the rest from the casserole dish.
  • Dawson Casting: Inverted with Sophia. Estelle Getty was actually the second youngest cast member.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Both Dorothy and Sophia. Blanche had her moments too, and so did even Rose on occasion, although Rose would always apologize or qualify the remark afterward:

Dorothy: (sees Rose walking into the family room with bucket in hand) Oh Rose, was your roof leaking too?
Rose: No, Dorothy, I just finished milking the cow I keep in my closet. ... Gee, with only three hours sleep, I can be as bitchy as you!

Blanche: "Well I am stunned. Just stunned. Stunned is the only way to describe how... stunned I am."

  • Depending on the Writer: Many things, but especially Rose's characterization: she ranged from The Ditz to Cloudcuckoolander to Genius Ditz to merely naive as the tone of the episode and Rule of Funny dictated.
  • Depraved Dentist: A perverted dentist sexually harasses Rose Nylund. Don't worry though, he gets it in the end.
  • Dirty Old Woman: All four of them. But Blanche most of all, to the point that even Maxim felt obliged to acknowledge her as # 1 of "TV's Best Nymphos."
  • Dirty Communists: Stan's cousin Magda. She changes, however.
  • Discriminate and Switch:
    • In one episode, Dorothy objects to her son marrying a black woman - but only because she's twice his age. The bride expects her own mother to be upset over the age difference - but she objects because the groom is white.
    • In another episode, Blanche dared to attend her prom with Benjamin, despite the scorn of others. Dorothy assumes Benjamin was black. Nope. He was a Yankee from New Jersey. The same episode involves Rose dating a dwarf, and she spends the bulk of the episode learning to accept him as he is, only to be dropped because she isn't Jewish.
    • Dorothy befriends vain authoress Barbara Thorndyke, whom the others dislike intensely. To bury the hatchet, she invites the four girls and their dates to a high class establishment named The Mortimer Club; however, when Sophia's date arrives, Barbara takes Dorothy aside and explains that they'll have to go somewhere else because the Mortimer Club doesn't allow Jewish people. The fact that Barbara would support an establishment that has such a policy enrages Dorothy to the point where she snaps at Thorndyke, terminating their friendship.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Blanche occasionally distracts herself by describing an erotic scene.
  • The Ditz: Rose, Rose, Rose...
    • Although not nearly as bad as Rose, both Blanche and Sophia have their moments as well, the former due to occassionally misunderstanding anything not traditionally Southern, and the latter due to occassional bouts of senility (Played for Laughs of course).
  • DIY Disaster: In one episode, Dorothy and Rose try to fix their bathroom themselves after dealing with a sexist plumber. Their first attempt leads to them redoing the plumbing such that flushing the toilet makes the sink run, the spigots on the sink control the shower, etc.
  • Dream Sequence
  • Driven to Suicide: Sophia's friend Martha Lamont decides to kill herself after attending the funeral of her friend Lydia, and asks Sophia to be with her when she does. She doesn't, in the end, thanks to Sophia's friendship.
  • Drop-In Character: Sophia was originally conceived as one of these, but the audience loved her so much that she was brought in as a fourth housemate. Stan, on the other hand, fits the trope to a T.
  • Escalating Punchline
  • Et Tu, Brute?: One portion of the episode "One for the Money" has the girls showing up one-by-one at a dance marathon.

Dorothy: [upon seeing Rose] Et tu, Judas?
Rose: No, it's me, Rose. I'm just wearing my hair a little differently.

Rose: I remember my first love....
Sofia: Let me was a cow.
Rose: Why, yes! How did you know?

  • The Faceless: We never get to see Charlie, Rose's husband. Dorothy's ex-husband, Stan, is a recurring character, we see Blanche's late husband, George, in a dream as well as in his brother, Jamie, who looks just like him (played by the same actor), and Sal/Salvadore, Sophia's late husband, is a regular in flashbacks, dreams, and hallucinations. Charlie, however, remains unseen for the entire series. We're never even given a description of him beyond "six-foot-two".
  • Fake Nationality/Casting Gag: In keeping with the precedent set by the casting of Dorothy and Sophia, every prominent Italian on the series was played by a Jewish actor.
  • Filth
  • Finger in the Mail: In one episode, Blanche accidentally gives Rose's childhood teddy bear to their young neighbor, Daisy, who holds it for ransom. When Blanche refuses to pay, Daisy sends one of the bear's ears in the mail.
  • 555: "555-GIVE" and "555-EASY." One of them is the number of a fundraiser telethon, whereas the other is to reach Blanche during the campaign. Guess which number is for which purpose?
  • Flash Back:
    • There were several flashbacks to Dorothy and Sophia's past in Brooklyn. In a case of role reversal, Estelle Getty played Sophia's younger self and Bea Arthur played Sophia's mother.
    • One episode flashes back to Rose's last birthday in Minnesota; she has a conversation with her late husband, Charlie, explaining her decision to sell the house and move to Miami.
  • Flanderization: Pretty much all four main characters tended to become increasingly exaggerated in later seasons, though the extent to which they were caricatured would vary from one episode to another. It usually depended on the seriousness of the episode's tone, the importance of each character's role within it, and who wrote the episode.
    • This is most notable with Blanche after season four; earlier in the series, the writers make a point of establishing that Blanche's promiscuity is something she does for her own enjoyment, and at one point lectures her niece about using sex and relationships as a crutch for low self esteem. Later seasons highlight Blanche's insecurity being at the root of her sexy behavior. The major change is when she starts self-identifying as a slut.
  • Four-Girl Ensemble: A textbook example. Rose is the Naive Everygirl, Dorothy is the tough, mannish Deadpan Snarker, Blanche is the promiscuous one, and Sophia is the wise Team Mom.
  • Funny Aneurysm Moment: The episode "Mixed Blessings" was pulled from Hulu in 2020 because it has a scene that uses blackface.
  • Gag Penis: Rose's husband Charlie is implied to have had one. Her parents taught her about the birds and the bees by showing her a bull's penis and testicles when she was young. The first time she saw Charlie naked on their wedding night, she thought "boy that bull would've been jealous of Charlie."
  • The Gambling Addict: Dorothy's Compressed Vice in one episode, though Sophia remarks that Dorothy had been this once before as well, leading her to deep financial trouble. Sophia claims that she gets this from her father, Salvatore (as she claims: "In fact, his last words were, 'ten bucks says I don't need this oxygen tank.'"), which is a rare example of good continuity for the series. Sophia herself is no stranger to gambling, being an avid fan of the dog track. (Unsurprisingly, this was never mentioned during said Compressed Vice episode).
  • The Game Never Stopped: The episode where they go to a murder-mystery party weekend with Blanche's Maltese Falcon Club, and Blanche is accused of murdering her boss.
  • Game Show Appearance: Dorothy tries out for Jeopardy! in one episode. Though she aces the questions, she's passed over for the show on the grounds that she's too much of a know-it-all for viewers to "root for." However, there is a Dream Sequence in which she imagines herself on the show with Rose and Empty Nest's Charlie Dietz as the other contestants.
    • There's also an episode in which all four women appear as contestants on a fictional game show called Grab That Dough!, and pretty much everything that possibly could go wrong for them in the course of the appearance does.
  • The Ghost: Charlie, both literally (the character is long dead) and figuratively. He's the only one of the husbands whom we never see - Stan, the only living husband, is a Drop-In Character; Salvatore appears frequently in flashbacks and the occasional out-of-body experience; George is seen in one All Just a Dream episode, and his identical twin visits in another episode.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Shown repeatedly in a variety of situations, as all four women have at least one sister, and also have sisterly relationships between themselves. The best example of the trope being played fully straight is the relationship Dorothy had with her younger sister Gloria.
  • Good Parents: Dorothy, Sophia, Rose, Miles, and even Stan, who, for all of the bad that could be said about him, would do anything for Kate and Michael.
    • Averted, however, with Blanche, who was very hands-off with her kids, and spends most of the series making up for it.
  • Good People Have Good Sex: Rose explains that she and her husband Charlie, when he was alive, always had sex every night and the following morning during their entire marriage (save for one night). Seven to midnight, five to seven AM, and until noon on Sundays. Charlie was also implied to have physical endowment that would've made a bull jealous. Blanche has trouble believing this since Rose is so embarrassed to talk about sex. Rose explains that, to her understanding, people who talk about sex don't really do it as much as they claim. All eyes are suddenly on Blanche.
  • Happily Adopted: While Rose does wonder about her biological parents, any time one of her adopted relatives shows up, she doesn't act as if they're anything less than her real family, and the subject of her adoption doesn't even come up.
  • Hey, It's That Guy!: When did Maude get her teaching certificate?
    • Apparently Jenny Lewis was quite the evil little Sunshine Cadet...
    • Lloyd Irving is the manager of a cowboy themed restaurant that Sophia and her friends work at.
    • Dorothy and Ellen Craig become friends. Guess what? It doesn't last.
      • Alternatively, Dorothy and a bitchier version of |Tim Taylor's mother became friends. And Jill's mother is Rose's blind cousin.
    • Frank Drebin apparently abandoned Jane so he could hook up with Dorothy.
  • Hilarious Outtakes: It had a few.
  • Hollywood Dateless: Dorothy. In fact, she's probably had more love interests than Rose or Sophia.
  • Hollywood Pudgy: Blanche and Rose are frequently the target of barbs about their weight even though they look exactly the way two middle-aged women who have had several children would look. In another episode, when Blanche's daughter Becky visits, though she is in fact overweight, the others react as though she's morbidly obese. (Of course, her weight issues are later retconned when the actress is replaced.)
    • Ironically, Betty White has no children, and Rue McClanahan had only one. The trope still rings very true, however.
  • I Ate What?: In one episode Dorothy eats some snacks Rose left behind while the latter was taking care of a live chicken. Then the following dialogue happens:

Dorothy: Not bad. What is it?
Rose: I'm not sure. The pet owner calls it "chicken chow."

    • In another episode, Sophia recalled an event where she made a meal with "what she thought" was chicken, and we don't learn what it really was she served because Dorothy cuts her off. Only for Dorothy to interrupt her sentence and ask "oh God it wasn't my confirmation dinner was it?!"

Sophia (reminiscing): Remember when your father did the little dance with the feet?

Blanche: Hahaha... ahahaha... ahahaha... God I wish I was dead.

    • Also in the episode "Before and After:"

Blanche: Oh, Dorothy, she's going to be all right; her doctor is a Jew.
Dorothy: Blanche, please! How is she, Doctor Jew--uh, Wallenstein.

    • Another in an episode where Blanche is dating a paraplegic:

Ted: Blanche, are you nervous?
Blanche: No, no, not at all! Wheelchair!

  • I Have Just One Thing to Say
  • Identical Granddaughter: Bea Arthur plays Dorothy's grandmother in flashbacks (alongside a different actress playing young Dorothy).
  • Improbably Predictable: Stan walks out the front door. Someone is about to say something when Dorothy cuts them short and counts down. "" Stan walks back in and Dorothy shouts, "Out, Stan!" This is used to contrast a later moment in the episode when she attempts the same prediction and fails, indicating that Stan has changed.
  • Inadvertent Entrance Cue: Stan
  • Incompatible Orientation: Dorothy, Rose and Blanche all find Laszlo devastatingly attractive...they just aren't his type...
  • In-Series Nickname: Sophia calls Dorothy "Pussycat" throughout the show, and calls Gloria "Kitten" during her appearance.
  • Inspirationally Disadvantaged: Rose's sister Lilly is blind, but believes she is able to do anything even without her eyesight. She nearly ends up setting the house on fire while cooking. Later deconstructed with her having Heroic BSOD. Reconstructed with Lilly going to a school for the blind and learning to take care of herself. She's even driving by herself.
  • Ironic Echo Cut: In a scene in which Dorothy, visiting the concession stand Sophia and Max (then-husband of Sophia) are running at the time, worries that the weather might cause Sophia to get sick. Sophia responds with, "Please, I haven't had a cold for 40 years!" Cue the cut, followed by Max and Sophia being sick and treated at home, while the latter moans: "This is the worst cold I've had in 40 years."
  • It Is Not Your Time: Happens with Sophia, twice!
  • I Was Quite a Looker:
    • Sophia often talks like this.
    • Her friend Lillian in "Sophia's Choice" directly says this line.
  • Interrupted Suicide: Sophia prevents her dear friend from killing herself.
  • I Love Lucy:

Sophia: I never understood that program. All she'd say was "Let me be in the show! Let me be in the show!" She was a riot! Meanwhile HIS show at the club stunk! Who wants to see a Cuban banging a drum for 90 minutes?

  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Sophia is this. A woman with an insult for everyone she meets, she also is loving to her roommates, cooks for them whenever they ask, and works for charity. Specifically, one episode shows her volunteering in a hospital, bringing cheer to the patients. Dorothy would count too; she's as snarky and cynical as her mom, but is devoted to her teaching job, socially conscious, and quick to condemn any moral wrong she perceives.
    • In the episode "It's a Miserable Life," the girls hold a funeral for the curmudgeonly Mrs. Claxton, to which no one shows up, leading them to believe she really was a miserable, lonely, mean old woman. However, just before they leave, a woman shows up to pay her respects and says all of the good, philanthropic things Mrs. Claxton did anonymously. However, when the woman mentions the person she thinks is in the casket by name, it turns out she arrived at the wrong funeral. When she finds out who is in the casket, she smiles politely and gives it a good kick.
  • "Kick Me" Prank: Dorothy, being a substitute teacher, rather expectedly gets this treatment.
  • If You Know What I Mean: Lots and lots and lots.

Stan: (laying on the floor next to Dorothy's bed giggling)
Dorothy: Stan, if you're doing what I think you're doing, you're in big trouble.

  • Let Me Tell You a Story: A favorite tool of Sophia's. Sometimes subverted when her story ends up having absolutely no connection to the matter at hand.
    • "Back in St. Olaf..."
  • Lipstick Lesbian: Dorothy's friend Jean from the episode "Isn't It Romantic."
  • Marshmallow Dream: Subverted.

Carol: Last night, I dreamt I was eating a giant marshmallow, and when I woke up my boyfriend was gone.
Man: I don't get it.
Carol: It's not a joke.

  • May-December Romance: Dorothy's son marries (and impregnates) a woman twice his age. Blanche briefly dates her much younger aerobic instructor, only to find out that he really is searching for a mother figure rather than a lover.
  • Mean Character, Nice Actor: Bea Arthur said that Herb Edelman was nothing like Stan (the character he portrayed in the series).
  • Meaningful Name: If Blanche Devereaux, the vain, man-hungry, aging Southern Belle isn't a reference to Blanche DuBois, the vain, man-hungry, aging Southern Belle, I'll eat their wicker couch.
  • Minnesota Nice: Rose, and her entire community of St. Olaf, Minnesota, are portrayed as incredibly nice as well as being about as bright as a hockey puck.
  • Mood Whiplash: The episode "Break-In," season 1, episode 8. Rose is in a parking garage, still paranoid after the girls' house has been broken into. Suddenly, she hears footsteps, and they sound like they're following her. Panicked, Rose realizes a man is running after her and runs off frantically, and ends up having to hurry down sets of stairs -- but she's out of breath, and eventually has to stop for sheer fatigue. The man is right behind her, and she turns with a terrified expression on her face -- and we Smash Cut to the very next scene, featuring Sophia Kwyjibo at Scrabble, claiming her word really exists and joking the robbers stole the dictionary, meaning it can't be disproven.
  • Negative Continuity: Probably the best way to describe this show's infamous problems with keeping character details consistent. By the end, it's obvious they weren't even trying:
    • Rose's family backstory. Was she left on a doorstep in a basket as a baby, or did she spend part of her childhood in an orphanage before being adopted? (They eventually try to combine those by saying she was left in a basket on the door of an orphanage.)
    • Dorothy's senior prom. It was said that she was stood up (although later Dorothy discovers that Sophia really just sent him away for not being dressed to her liking) but in another episode, it was said she went with Stan, even though Dorothy stated that she didn't meet Stan until a full two weeks after the senior prom.
    • The story of Blanche's husband George's death. One version is that Blanche was out getting a pedicure when he died, after he had been comatose for a few days. Another is that she got a phone call at home from a rude, food-munching cop, who informed her that he died (presumably instantly) in a car accident.
    • Even an element as simple as the characters' names are inconsistent. In the pilot, Blanche's last name is Hollingsworth. In the entire rest of the series, it's Devereaux (Hollingsworth is retconned into being her maiden name). Rose's maiden name is well-established as Lindstrom, but a notorious goof in the Bob Hope episode gives her parents the name Nylund, her married name. In two episodes, Blanche is given two different middle names, in each case strongly implied to be her only middle name: Marie and Elizabeth (the second was chosen so that her initials would form the word "B.E.D.").
    • Hell, Dorothy's son is a great big continuity error. She had to drop out of high school because she got pregnant with him, yet when he does appear on the show, he varies from 23 to 30. Dorothy, meanwhile, is over 60.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • The reason St. Olaf no longer holds barbecues.
    • Why Sophia is forbidden to sit at the table when the girls have Mexican food.
    • The Greyhound terminal incident.
    • Rose had to transfer high schools because of a "field hockey incident."
    • The 1964 Tokyo Olympics
    • Dorothy's favorite doll
    • The incident with the trick-or-treaters that got Sophia's dart gun confiscated. In her defense it was dark and she was "unaware of this Ninja Turtle craze."
    • When the girls are discussing getting Sophia a sitter while they go out to the class reunion, in the episode "Home Again Rose":

Blanche: No more sitters! We're still in litigation with the last one.
Sophia: She bit me first!

    • It's mentioned that the sheriff of a certain city where Blanche has a tendency to get arrested for odd things still writes to her.

Dorothy: Blanche, let me ask you something...are you allowed to go back to Chattanooga?

    • Blanche's sexual encounter with a man that cost him his party's nomination.
    • While arguing about Micheal's attempts to marry a woman twice his age, Dorothy asks Blanche how she would feel if her son were trying to do the same thing. Blanche's response?

Blanche: Dorothy, when my son was five years old he nearly burned down our whole town. Since then, nothing he does shocks me.

    • How a chicken once saved Rose's life.

Blanche: They are the stupidest birds....

  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Sophia supposedly grew up and lived in Italy for at least a quarter of her life. She has completely no italian accent, not even a trace. Neither do any of her relatives who live in Italy except for cousin Antonio.
  • Not What It Looks Like: Several, but the trope itself is spoken word for word by Blanche when she practices a dirty dancing routine with Rose, and is caught by Dorothy and Sophia.
    • In point of fact, the routine they practice is the dirty dancing routine - the one from Dirty Dancing.
  • Nun-Too-Holy: A woman posing as a nun assists a man in scamming Blanche and Sophia at a local shopping mall. This trope is directly evidenced when the nun is seen lighting a cigarette and smoking it.
  • One Born Every Minute
  • Only in Miami: None of the characters actually originate from Florida; Blanche, who grew up in Georgia, comes closest. Rose is from Minnesota. Sophia is originally from Sicily and moved as a young woman to New York, where Dorothy was born and raised.
  • The Other Darrin: Lots. From Dorothy's sister Gloria, to Blanche's daughter Rebecca, to Rose's daughter Kirsten, and even the cast of the episode that was a pilot for the spin-off series Empty Nest.
  • Out with a Bang:
    • How Rose's husband died before the series. In the show itself, how another man she was dating also died!
    • Blanche also intended to go out this way.
  • Papa Wolf: Stan, believe it or not.
  • Parental Neglect: Blanche is strongly implied to have been a "hands-off" mother, which factors into any episode that features her children and grandchildren. She tries to reverse this tendency with one of her granddaughters, but ends up forcing her into a beauty contest she clearly doesn't want to be in.
  • Perfectly Arranged Marriage: Rose's cousin Sven, in one episode.
  • Perverse Sexual Lust: One episode had Rose recently breaking up from a passionate relationship with a man who played Goofy at Disney World. When pressed for the cause she admits she lost interest when "he took off the Goofy head."
    • In an earlier Christmas episode, Blanche revealed that she had a special fixation for guys in Santa Claus suits. Dorothy's response: "You do realize that you're in the minority here."
    • Blanche had a lot of these. In another episode, Rose was having a bizarre dream, and Blanche wonders why she doesn't have a normal, healthy dream, like "sweaty Argentinian men whipping things as they ride naked on the backs of Brahma Bulls." At this point, Dorothy decides she's never going to use Blanche's towels again.
    • Rose admits to the girls right before a wedding that weddings turn her on, and during the show proceeds to look for men to have sex wisth.
  • Playing Against Type: Rue McClanahan and Betty White were supposed to play Rose and Blanche, respectively. They suggested switching around. Betty White was well-known for playing "Happy Homemaker" Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Outside of her TV persona, Sue Ann was cruel and man-hungry, the antithesis of Rose. Rue, meanwhile, had played prissy spinster Aunt Fran on Mama's Family.
    • Rue McClanahan had previously appeared in a famous episode of All in The Family as the exhibitionist wife in a swinger couple whom Edith invites to the house after misunderstanding their personal ad.
    • According to Rue, this was a major reason that Bea Arthur agreed to star; previously, she'd told Rue that she had no interest in doing "Maude and Vivian meet Sue Ann Nivens."
  • Playing Gertrude: Estelle Getty was a full year younger than Bea Arthur, who played the daughter of Getty's character. The only times Getty was seen on the show without heavy age makeup were during flashback sequences to her married life in New York. One of these featured Bea Arthur (not aged with makeup, though sporting a different hairstyle) as Sophia's mother.
  • Poorly-Disguised Pilot: The episode "Empty Nest." The main characters of The Golden Girls only appeared in about two scenes.
    • Although by the time Empty Nest debuted as an actual Spin-Off series, the original premise (a middle-aged couple whose children have grown and left) was discarded and the show was about a widower whose grown daughters moved back in with him.
  • Post-Robbery Trauma
  • Post Script Season/Retool: The Golden Palace
  • Prenup Blowup: Stan and Dorothy, when they're planning to remarry.
  • Racist Grandma: Sophia, Depending on the Writer; half the time she's very much this trope, and the other half she is perhaps the most tolerant and open-minded octogenarian who ever lived.
  • Rage Against the Author: Twice, once when Dorothy befriends the racist high class snob Barbara Thorndyke (though in a subversion of the trope, Dorothy's problem with Barbara has nothing to do with her books), and another when Blanche's sister Charmaine writes a revealing book about a woman's sex life that Blanche perceives as being written about her.
  • Real Song Theme Tune: "Thank You for Being a Friend" was originally a huge hit for Andrew Gold (its composer) in 1978.
  • Really Gets Around: Blanche
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Dorothy gives these types of speeches multiple times, most notably when she tells off Barbara Thorndyke, and also when she confronts a doctor in a restaurant who had previously told her she was just insane, and not sick.
  • Reckless Gun Usage: Overcome with trauma stemming from a robbery, Rose purchases a gun and carelessly shoots it towards the front door, thinking it was a robber (but was actually Blanche and her date.) The bullet ends up hitting one of Blanche's prized vases.
  • Retcon: In season 1, a whole episode revolves around Rose losing her job because the grief center where she works is shut down, and she takes a job as a waitress. In season 2, she's working there again... or working there still.
  • Reunion Show: The Golden Girls: Their Greatest Moments, a special aired in 2003 on the Lifetime television network, at the time the only place The Golden Girls could be seen on television in America. Bea Arthur, Betty White and Rue McClanahan took part (Estelle Getty, by this time, was too ill to participate).
  • Rule of Three: "She'll get over it. And if she doesn't, who cares? We're going to meet Burt Reynolds!"
  • Running Gag: Sophia complaining about food getting stuck in her teeth/dentures, usually corn.

Sophia: Dorothy, when you get around my age two things happen. One, you get more intuitive about the weather and two, corn becomes your enemy.

Rose Charley was wonderful... he could squeeze a nickle until the buffalo pooped!

  • Shaggy Frog Story: The trope could be renamed St. Olaf Story.
    • Sophia's "Picture it. Sicily..." stories tend to end up here too.
  • Social Semi-Circle: When all four women are at the kitchen table, Sophia pulls up a stool next to Dorothy rather than sitting on the camera side. There isn't even a chair on the camera's side. We're probably meant to assume that the table - and the oven, which is stage left but lined up with said table - are up against the Fourth Wall.
  • Somebody Doesn't Love Raymond: Rose simply can't get past this, much to the annoyance of the coworker she keeps trying to please -- and failing at it.
  • Spin-Off: Empty Nest was about Dr. Harry Weston, the ladies' neighbor. That show in turn spun off the series Nurses. The Shared Universe of all these shows naturally led to a few Cross Overs.
    • After The Golden Palace was canceled, Estelle Getty's Sophia became a regular on Empty Nest.
  • Spiritual Successor: Hot in Cleveland shares many similarities with this series, even beyond the presence of Betty White in the main cast. See that entry for more information.
  • Invisible to Gaydar: Blanche's brother, Clayton. His second appearance has him bringing his equally masculine gay fiance along. Also guys the ladies take an interest in turn out to be gay a few times. And Dorothy's lesbian friend Jean doesn't display any stereotypical behavior either, but of course, all this was supposed to be the point.
  • Stripper Cop Confusion
  • Take That:
    • Several:

"If I wanted to take abuse like that, I would've worked on The Roseanne Barr Show!"

    • And:

Dorothy: Now look, Rose, this nonsense has to stop. What we saw was not a UFO.
Rose: Well, it wasn't an airplane! Airplanes aren't that small, or that bright.
Dorothy: Neither is Oprah Winfrey, but that doesn't make her a flying saucer.

    • Also:

Dorothy: I'm really sorry. I promise I'll chant "Hail Mary" until Madonna has a hit movie.

    • Don't forget:

Rose: Now remember this would be better with a bigger TV.
Dorothy: Yeah we know.
Rose: And it'd be better with music.
Dorothy: We understand you.
Rose: And of course it would be better-
Dorothy: It would be better with Shelley Hack, Rose just turn it on!

  • Speaks Fluent Animal: Dorothy has this ability, at least according to Rose. Dorothy talked to a mouse and helped him to escape.
  • Team Mom: Sophia.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Cheesecake for all the women, although Bea Arthur reportedly didn't even like it in real life.
  • Tsundere: Arguably, Dorothy.
    • Don't forget Rose's mood swings in the episode "High Anxiety."
  • Unexpected Positive: Dorothy takes a hearing test to show Sophia it's no big deal. Sophia does not need a hearing aid; Dorothy does.
  • Vague Age: All of the girls, to varying extents. Sophia was in her early 80s for the entire seven-year run. Dorothy was about 60 (and consistently over 60 in later seasons). Rose was 55 in the first season, but her age was hard to pin down after that. But Blanche was the most famous example - nobody ever figured out her actual age. She usually claimed to be around 40, and in one episode where the girls tried to find out, she said 42 - which was presented as an obvious lie. They discover that even her birth certificate has been blanked "by order of the Governor." She seems to be younger than the rest of the girls (Rue McClanahan was in fact ten years younger than the other three), and is still fertile when the show starts (hitting menopause in an early episode), so 50-ish seems about right.
  • Very Special Episode: Numerous, and not exactly unusual for a show of its time.
  • Wacky Cravings: Played with in a scene where Rose is talking to a pregnant neighbor girl:

Rose: Now you come into the kitchen with me, honey, I'll get you some pickles and ice cream.
Mary: Oh, no thanks, I don't have any strange cravings yet.
Rose: ...strange?

Rose: But I'm not a stick in the mud. I can let my hair down and get crazy with the best of 'em. I eat raw cookie dough. And sometimes I run through the sprinkler and don't wear a shower cap. And at Christmas I've been known to put away more than one eggnog.

    • Also, Rose's story about the bar in Tyler's Landing in the episode "Nice & Easy" - Rose, to illustrate "teenage rebellion," told a story about the time she snuck out to a gin mill to meet a boy and ran into her church's (married) pastor having an affair. "A week later we became Lutherans," she concludes, leading Blanche to react this way:

Blanche: Rose, that is not a teenage rebellion story. That is a changing religion story. That is a big who cares story! That is a why the hell tell it in the first place story!

  • What the Hell, Hero?: When Rose is waiting for the results of her AIDS test, she tells Blanche that this shouldn't be happening to her because she's a good person. Blanche angrily informs Rose that AIDS is not a disease that discriminates between good people and bad, and it's "not God punishing people for their sins". Granted Rose had been very badly frazzled by the ordeal and the waiting, but Blanche previously angered when Rose made it sound like this situation should've been happening to someone like Blanche and not her.
  • Whole-Episode Flashback: Several.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: Dorothy's brother Phil.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: In spades, but the biggest example is this: Throughout the series, Dorothy stated that she and Stan (who got married in their teens because she was pregnant) had been married for 38 years, and divorced two years before the beginning of the series. Her son, Michael, varies in age between 23, 29, and 30 (and not in that order, either!), while the two actresses who play her daughter Kate appear to be no older than their late twenties.
  • Writer on Board Creator Susan Harris was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and gave it to Dorothy to raise awareness about it, and probably so she could have Dorothy ream out a doctor who said she was just "getting old."
  • You Look Familiar: In the first season, actor Harold Gould plays Arnie Peterson, a date of Rose's. Years later, he would return to play Miles Webber, Rose's primary love interest, who appears in 13 episodes.