The Golden Girls Infamous Feud That Ended the Show


Hollywood’s obsession with youth didn’t stop The Golden Girls from becoming one of the most successful sitcoms of all time, and three decades later, it’s still equally beloved. Despite all the bickering along the way, Blanche, Rose, Sophia and Dorothy took us on an incredible journey that we’ll never forget.


This timeless show sent a powerful message about the importance of the family we choose for ourselves, and re-watching it is always a delight. If you also enjoy revisiting this quirky household whenever possible, keep on reading to learn more about everything that happened behind the scenes once the cameras stopped rolling.

Real-Life Inspiration

All of the great sitcoms are rooted in every-day life and The Golden Girls is no different. NBC executive Brandon Tartikoff came up with the idea for the show thanks to his elderly aunt.


After paying her a visit, he was amused by the way she interacted with her next-door neighbor and best friend. Despite arguing and bickering all the time, it was clear they genuinely cared for each other. Tartikoff felt NBC viewers would enjoy watching a story about their rocky, but heartfelt friendship and decided to bring it to the screen.

Best Script Ever

The Golden Girls pilot was written by Susan Harris, who was plotting her retirement before this show completely changed her plans. NBC executive Warren Littlefield was head over heels after reading it for the first time, and everyone who skimmed through the pages felt the same way – including Betty White.


“It was the best script that I’d read, maybe, in life. You get so many bad scripts sent your way in this business, so many dogs. And I shouldn’t use that term because I love dogs,” joked the veteran actress.

Casting Process

Even before the show started filming, producers knew they needed to find four experienced actresses capable of taking on such a huge responsibility. Betty White and Rue McClanahan were on their short list, but each was cast to play the role that ended up going to the other.


The director, Jay Sandrich, thought that White will be better at portraying Rose Nylund, because she had already played Sue Ann Nivens in The Mary Tyler Moore Show, a role that was similar to Nylund. McClanahan ended up winning the role she wanted all along and portrayed man-crazed Southern belle Blanche Devereaux.

Bea Arthur Type

Susan Harris had created the character of Dorothy with one person in mind – Bea Arthur. She was already a hot property in the world of TV at the time thanks to the success of her sitcom Maude.


With one Emmy win and five Golden Globe nods under her belt, Arthur possessed just the kind of star power they needed. Unfortunately, she wasn’t interested in accepting this role and the network decided to go with Elaine Stritch instead. However, her audition was a total disaster that no one saw coming, and they didn’t know what to do next.

Initial Refusal

The cast and crew had trouble with Bea Arthur long before The Golden Girls started taping. Her initial refusal to accept this role was a sign of worse things to come, but everyone ignored it because they really, really, really wanted her there.


She felt there’s nothing refreshing about this show, since she already worked with Rue McClanahan on the set of Maude. She also believed Betty White isn’t bringing anything new to the table, and the veteran actress felt Arthur wasn’t very fond of her from the get-go.

Push in the Right Direction

Say what you want about Bea Arthur, she wasn’t refusing to be on the cast of The Golden Girls because she was difficult. She just felt it doesn’t make sense from a professional stand-point because producers basically asked her and McClanahan to play the same roles they did in Maude. She also felt Betty White wouldn’t be doing anything she didn’t already do on the set of The Mary Tyler Moore Show.


Eventually, McClanahan convinced her by telling her she shouldn’t turn down the best script that’s ever going to come across her desk and Arthur finally said yes.

NBC’s Stance

According to Jim Colucci, author of the book Golden Girls Forever, NBC executives were against the idea of bringing Bea Arthur on board. They were afraid of casting the former Maude star because they thought she brought some baggage with her.


After all the effort she went through to finally convince her to accept the role, creator Susan Harris just wouldn’t back down. She wrote the role with Arthur in mind and fought for her until the end.

Disney’s Approval

Disney is one of the biggest media conglomerates in the world right now, so it’s not hard to believe they once owned The Golden Girls as well. This smash-hit was distributed by Disney-ABC Domestic Television, and Michael Eisner was the one who had to give it the green light.


Former CEO of the Walt Disney Company liked the idea, but he still felt it wasn’t modern enough. They fixed this problem by adding the character of Sophia Petrillo to the mix (played by Estelle Getty) and Eisner was so impressed by this move because she completely rejuvenated the cast.

Theme Song

Fans of The Golden Girls fell in love with Andrew Gold’s tune Thank You for Being a Friend thanks to this show. Before settling on this theme song, producers had Bette Midler’s Friends in mind, but they just couldn’t get the rights.


They hired session singer Cynthia Fee to perform her rendition of Gold’s hit single. She nailed it after two takes and planned on never think of it again. After this show became a huge hit, she earned enough money thanks to this gig to put her kids through college.

Record-Breaking Pilot

Making a show about four older single ladies is pretty risky, even in today’s climate, and NBC executives feared it won’t be the success story they were hoping for. Fortunately, they were proven wrong!


The first episode was an instant hit and it attracted more than 25 million viewers. It easily scored the number one spot in the ratings that week, beating several well-established rivals. The Cosby Show was NBC’s biggest smash hit at the time, but that changed once The Golden Girls entered the building.

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