Blanche: About Rose?
Dorothy: About the whole BUNCH of us!
- Blanche Devereaux (Rue McClanahan): A man-crazy Southern Belle socialite from Georgia.
- Rose Nylund (Betty White): A ditzy rural homemaker from St. Olaf, Minnesota, a town of Ditzes.
- Dorothy Zbornak (Bea Arthur): A deadpan snarking schoolteacher from Brooklyn.
- Sophia Petrillo (Estelle Getty): Dorothy's Sicilian mother with little tact, who evidently taught Dorothy all she knows about snarkery.
The show ran on NBC for seven seasons (19851992), ranking in the Nielsen Top 10 for six of those seasons. 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 the long-running sitcom, Empty Nest.
Like many sitcoms from The '80s and The '90s, The Golden Girls confronted numerous social issues, but with special attention paid to groups rarely covered by other programs, such as the elderly and the LGBT community. Throughout the years they covered topics as diverse 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.
The Golden Tropes:
Tropes with their own page
- Abuse of Return Policy: Blanche carefully removes the tags from a dress so she can wear it and return it later. Her plan backfires when Dorothy accidentally spills something on the dress. Blanche has it dry-cleaned and tries to return it, but the store employees aren't fooled.
- Accidental Bid: In "The Auction," the girls try to bid on a painting by Jasper DeKimmel, as he is dying of a rare blood disorder and they believe that his demise will increase the value of his work. At the auction, Rose fans herself with her paddle, which the auctioneer takes as a bid. Blanche and Dorothy admonish Rose for bidding by waving her paddle... which they demonstrate. The auctioneer keeps upping their bids because of it (although since they're sitting in the front row and clearly together, he seems to be doing so deliberately at that point).
- Accidental Misnaming:
- Blanche hates her youngest granddaughter's name, Aurora, and at one point refers to her as "Oreo".
- When Rose's cousin Sven comes to visit, Blanche spends the entire episode calling him Swin.
- In Sophia's first letter home after joining the convent in the episode "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Sophia?", she calls Rose "Rita."
- Acquainted with Emergency Services: This is implied at one point when Rose intends to call the police about an issue, and Dorothy reminds her that they told her to "Never call them again". Presumably, this is due to repeated frivilous calls, or a Noodle Incident.
- Acquired Error at the Printer: A printing error on the ballot caused a horse to be elected as water commissioner of St. Olaf for six months.
- Acronym Confusion: Blanche's (second) middle name is Elizabeth, and she keeps a journal with her initials on the cover. Her initials spell BED, and the girls mistake it for a logbook of people she's slept with.
- Actor Allusion:
- In "Second Motherhood", Blanche mentions how her latest beau insisted on having her meet his family, which she took to mean "his little ol' gray-haired momma and his spinster aunt"note . Rue McClanahan's previous series, Mama's Family, featured a little ol' gray-haired Mama and a spinster aunt as two of its main characters, with McClanahan playing the spinster aunt (Aunt Fran).
- In "Brotherly Love", Dorothy recounts how while on a double date with Stan and his brother at a soda shop, Stan "entertained" them by sticking straws up his nose and pretending to be a walrus. In the "Cousin Maude" episode of All in the Family, Arthur's character Maude recalls Archie Bunker doing the same thing on a double date with her cousin Edith and herself.
- One of the songs that Dorothy sings at the Rusty Anchor in the final season episode "Journey to the Center of Attention" is "Hard Hearted Hannah (The Vamp of Savannah)" (from Tin Pan Alley), which Bea Arthur had previously sung in an episode of Maude.
- Another allusion to Maude is in the Season Two episode "A Piece of Cake," in the flashback scene at Mr. Ha-Ha's Hot Dog Hacienda. When Mr. Ha-Ha is about to reveal Dorothy's age in his "birthday roundup," Dorothy yells, "I'll punch your heart out, Ha-Ha!" One of Maude Findlay's (also played by Arthur) catch phrases on Maude was "I'll rip your heart out."
- A-Cup Angst: The size of Blanche's breasts was a source of occasional gags, which were usually played for laughs in the context of Blanche apparently being as in denial about the size of her breasts as about her true age.
- Blanche: I was once told I bore a striking resemblance to Miss Cheryl Ladd. Although my breasts are perkier.Dorothy: Not EVEN if you were hanging upside down on a TRAPEZE!
- While this was usually Played for Laughs, the episode in which Sophia rescued her friend from an ill-equipped nursing home also featured a B plot in which Blanche was planning to undergo breast augmentation surgery with a bonus she received from work, even exclaiming, "What God didn't give me, Dr. Myron Rosenzweig will!", suggesting that she had some real insecurity about the size of her breasts. Blanche eventually decided not to undergo the surgery and, in an unusual act of selflessness, donated the funds for it to help find Sophia's friend a better nursing home.
- While the other girls liked to tease Blanche about her breasts, the better-endowed Rose expressed a mild form of D-Cup Distress in the episode in which she was sexually harassed by her dentist.Rose: I wish men could find out what it's like to have breasts, for just one day. Then they'd know how it feels to be judged by some physical trait. I mean, just because I'm built like this, you wouldn't believe how many people think I'm dumb.Sophia: Rose, you're too hard on yourself. I know people who think you're dumb over the phone.
- Adam Westing: Lyle Waggoner as a Small Name, Big Ego and Sonny Bono as a Drunk with Power Mayor Pain in the All Just a Dream episode.
- Adaptation Distillation:
Blanche: No! No! No! No! Please, I cannot bear that again! [Rose] was listening to her car radio. Big Band, not All-Talk. There was a contest. Something about a little voice, a lucky number, a dime and a door handle, then bim-bam-boom, she won the tickets!
- In-universe example. Rose tells Blanche a long, excruciating story about how she won Frank Sinatra tickets during a radio station contest. When she tries to re-tell the story verbatim to Dorothy, Blanche interrupts with the following:
Dorothy: Take a lesson, Rose. That's how you tell a story.
- Rose was capable of doing this herself when she wanted to, as illustrated by the way she was able to condense the infamous St. Olaf Falling Leif story into one word: "Splat!"
- Adult Fear:
- In "Sick and Tired", when Dorothy shows signs of a serious illness (eventually diagnosed as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), Sophia says the worst thing in the world would be for a parent to outlive their child, and it wouldn't feel fair for the parent to go on living. In a later episode, Sophia's son Phil dies.
- In one episode, Rose is told that she might have contracted HIV. Fortunately, she doesn't, but those 72 hours during which she waits for her test results are very scary.
- Blanche's fears of getting old.
- There was also an episode where Blanche had a heart problem and was afraid of dying, even giving up sex for a while.
- In "Sophia's Choice", Sophia tries to help a friend who lives in a nursing home which is badly run and underfunded. The people who can't afford somewhere better are stuck there.
- Sophia (who, at her age, is already used to going to friends' funerals) has to talk a friend out of killing herself. The friend is depressed due to loneliness and worrying about her health declining in the future.
- After Dorothy's daughter is cheated on by her husband, she and Stan bring him outside and explain to him that loving parents such as themselves can't bear to see their children getting hurt, and do their best to try and protect them from "bullies on the playground". Even after they're already grown, seeing their children get hurt is still too much for a parent to bear.
- Aerosol Spray Backfire: When Blanche tries to apply hairspray, she points the canister at herself as intended. The problem is that she borrowed the spray from Rose's dresser without asking, and therefore was not informed that the container was actually a can of mace.
- 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 Joanne!Dorothy: Rose, they are non-breeding minks who eat their weight in food everyday! ...Joanne?
- An Aesop:
- One particular episode showed the girls spending the night in a homeless shelter, and their conversations with the homeless illustrate how anybody can wind up in that situation.
- The two-part 'sick and tired' episodes has the message that doctors can often be too quick to write off a physical ailment such as chronic fatigue as being the result of a mental problem and/or depression. Not only did Dorothy not suffer from depressionnote but the frequent insistence by doctors that she did only ended up making her symptoms worse.
- The episode with Rose dealing with her asshole sister Holly showed just because you're related to someone doesn't mean you have to automatically like or forgive them if they keep treating you like garbage and won't change their behavior or show any remorse for their actions.
- Affectionate Nickname: Sophia calls her daughter Dorothy "Pussycat." In one dream sequence, her late husband Sal tells her that he used to call Dorothy "Spumoni Face," and claims that her nickname for him was "Favorite Parent."
- After Show: Golden Palace, which had Blanche, Rose, and Sophia buying and operating a hotel. Dorothy appeared in a two-part episode.
- Age-Gap Romance: Dorothy's son marries (and impregnates) a woman twice his age.
- All Gays Love Theatre: Sophia figures out Blanche's brother Clayton is gay because he sings in the shower and knows all the words to "Send In The Clowns" from Stephen Sondheim's A Little Night Music.
- Blanche is upset about not being cast in the lead of a play that she and Rose both auditioned for, and Rose explains it's because the new director is gay and Blanche used to sleep with the previous director.Blanche: A gay theater director! Did you ever hear of such a thing?
Dorothy: That's absolutely shocking. The next thing you know, they'll have black basketball players in the NBA.
- In the episode "The Actor," it's hinted that Patrick, the philandering actor who romances Dorothy, Blanche, Rose, and every other woman in the cast may have been bisexual, as one of the people who raised a hand when Patrick asked who'd had "a good time" with him was a male actor.
Blanche: How exciting. Have you ever been a fruit before?
- Earlier in the episode, Patrick also invokes this trope when Rose points out he'll be playing a tangerine in a television commercial.
Patrick: No, but having been in musical theatre for 30 years, I've had my share of offers.
- Blanche is upset about not being cast in the lead of a play that she and Rose both auditioned for, and Rose explains it's because the new director is gay and Blanche used to sleep with the previous director.
- Alliterative Title
- All Just a Dream: When Blanche dreams her husband had faked his death and comes back to her. The ending is a bit of a Tear Jerker.
- The episode also features an increasingly absurd B-plot about Dorothy being courted by Lyle Waggoner and Sonny Bono, and a particularly absurd story about Sophia spying on the Germans. Finding out it's all part of Blanche's dream makes everything fall into place.
- All Men Are Perverts: A recurring theme of the series, and the girls have numerous escapades involving such men who insist on making this known to them.
- All Women Are Lustful:
- When Burt Reynolds shows up to take Sophia to lunch, he casually asks her, "Which one's the slut?" - to which Blanche, Dorothy, and Rose all raise their hands and cheerfully exclaim, "I am!"
- In another episode, the girls stop for a haircut at what Dorothy describes as "one of those Miami Beach shops for little old ladies," and are about to leave... until they meet the handsome stylist, Eduardo.Eduardo: Whose hair shall I wash first?Dorothy, Rose, Blanche: [lustily] Mine.Blanche: I'll go first. I'm the dirtiest.
- In the episode in which they meet the Hungarian sculptor, Laszlo:Laszlo: Women can be so silly. They think because you are an artist you must also be a great lover.[he and the girls laugh]Laszlo: They think because you are a master in the studio, you must also be a master in the bedroom.[he and the girls laugh again]Laszlo: They think because you can work a piece of clay into a piece of beautiful art, you can also work a woman's body into fits of ecstasy and passion and total screaming abandon.[Laszlo laughs again, but Dorothy, Blanche and Rose sit there looking aroused]Blanche: Would anybody else like something cold to drink?Dorothy, Rose: I would.
- Aluminum Christmas Trees:
- There really is a settlement in Minnesota called St. Olaf, though it's officially categorized as a township and not a full-fledged city. More famous is St. Olaf College in Northfield, not far from the Twin Cities.
- Another factual small town to which Rose makes reference is Little Falls, located near the geographic center of the state.
- Always Introduces Themselves: Dorothy's ex-husband Stan always says "Hi, it's me, Stan" whenever he drops in on the girls, despite all of them knowing who he is.
- Amusing Injuries:
- One of the women getting her hands squeezed tightly enough to hurt.
Sophia: What do you do for a living, crack walnuts?
- The first-season episode "Guess Who's Coming to the Wedding?" features Dorothy's ex-husband Stan (in his debut appearance), as he attends the wedding reception of their daughter. For said daughter's sake, Dorothy decides to not make a scene and Blanche suggests to Dorothy to squeeze someone else's hand when Dorothy is about to lose her temper. Dorothy does just that during her daughter's reception with Blanche's hand, at one point bringing Blanche to her knees.
- Early in the third-season episode "The Artist", Laszlo visits the girls. When Rose reveals Dorothy's interest in "helping Laszlo with his work" too much, Dorothy squeezes Rose's hand painfully tight to shut Rose up.
- Late in the sixth-season episode "Blanche Delivers", Rebecca starts to have contractions. Sophia suggests for Rebecca to hold her hand during her next contraction, but the pain from said contraction causes Rebecca to squeeze Sophia's hand instead, causing Sophia pain as the result.
- Rose being hit in the chest with a baseball in "The Housekeeper" (funny in context, plus it also apparently isn't hard enough to hurt as she doesn't really react to it), and any instance of Dorothy intentionally hugging someone tightly enough to hurt (i.e. Stan, or Kate's husband Dennis). Dorothy also hugged Rose tightly enough to cause pain in "The Pope's Ring," although it was apparently unintentional.
- One of the women getting her hands squeezed tightly enough to hurt.
- And Starring: "And Estelle Getty" (though in a subversion of this trope, it wasn't done to signify that Getty was a big-name star—actually, she was the least known of the four actresses when the show began).
And That Little Girl Was Me:
Sophia: That peasant girl was me. And that painter... was... Pablo Picasso.Sophia: Rose, one of those girls was me. The other one you probably know as Mama Celeste.
- A Running Gag with Sophia's Siciliy stories from the past. Her stories typically describe a highly outrageous situation, which end with her revealing she was one of the persons involved.
- Blanche 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."
- And Your Reward Is Edible:
- Dorothy and Blanche's prize for winning Grab That Dough: an electric skillet, and a lifetime supply of soup to go in the skillet.
- The trophy that Rose receives for winning St. Olaf's Woman of the Year in "Yokel Hero" is made entirely of chocolate, wrapped in gold foil.
- Anti-Humor: In "Comedy of Errors", Sophia begins to tell Dorothy a pretty obvious joke that she the changes with the punchline: "Why did Rose throw her clock out of the window? Because she's a moron!"
- Aroused by Their Voice: Sophia remarks that Tony Bennett's voice could do things to her that her husband couldn't do with his hands. Blanche agrees that men's voices turn her on, but Dorothy snarks that men's socks would probably turn Blanche on.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: From "The Operation":Rose: Nobody likes hospitals, but there's nothing to be scared of!
Dorothy: Oh really, Rose? What about blood? What about death? What about those nighties that don't close up in the back?
- Artistic License Engineering: On closer inspection, the layout of the house at 6151 Richmond Street doesn't make a lick of sense whatsoever, not lining up to match the build of the house seen in every exterior shot. Most egregiously, the diagonal hallway leading to the bedrooms and bathroom is much too close in angle relative to the kitchen for half those rooms to exist, and the kitchen door leads directly to the garage which from outside is connected to the very end of the house, as opposed to the center as implied by the position of the door. Finally, the positions of the front and back door, as well as the lanai relative to the exterior further call the floor plan into question.
- 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.Dorothy: The chef at Benihana, Rose.
- Attending Your Own Funeral:
- One of Blanche's stories about her youth involved her faking an accidental death because she wanted to see how many people really liked her.
- In a later episode, Sophia decides to hold her own wake for the same reason, except without the deception inherent in Blanche's story. However, it backfires when Rose forgets to mention in the invitations that Sophia isn't dead - and the guests arrive in tears and are actually mad when they learn that Sophia is in fact alive.
- Author Avatar: Blanche's older sister Charmaine Hollingsworth visits Blanche and tells her she has published a novel, entitled 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.
- Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other:
- This was the cornerstone of Dorothy and Stan's relationship— although they went through a painful divorce brought on by Stan's philandering, they clearly still cared for one another and were willing to help each other out in times of need. There were even several episodes about the two considering getting back together, although they never did. The finale confirms this: Dorothy is being taken in a limousine to the church where she's marrying Blanche's Uncle Lucas, only for the driver to suddenly change routes and pull over. He reveals himself as Stan, who delivers a speech about how no matter what, she'll always be the only woman he truly loves, and she agrees that she loves him too.
- This is shown to be the case in Blanche's relationships with both of her sisters, with whom she has had enmity for years (she reconciles with both during the course of the series), and also with her elder daughter Janet, who really does not understand her mother at all but they do love one another.
- Babysitting Episode: Three of them.
- "Transplant" (season 1): Rose, Dorothy and Sophia take care of baby Danny for their neighbor Ted, who was involved in a water-skiing accident. After his wife Lucy drove him to the hospital, the couple decide to leave Danny in the care of the three ladies while Blanche visits with her sister Virginia.
- "And Then There Was One" (season 2): Rose, Blanche, and Dorothy run a temporary day care for the children of individuals participating in a walkathon for charity; Sophia herself participates in the walkathon. By the end of the day, all of the children have been picked up except for baby Emily, whom the girls begin to fear has been abandoned. Emily's father eventually shows up and explains that he couldn't come earlier because his wife had gone into labor, and Emily is now the big sister of triplets. He says that when he phoned to explain, whoever answered the phone had muttered something about a sports award and hung up on him. Sophia says she thought he was calling from Sports Illustrated about her walkathon performance.
- "Not Another Monday" (season 5): The baby in question is that of a couple from Rose's church, and the girls are sitting overnight. The baby develops a fever while they're caring for him, and their pediatrician neighbor Dr. Harry Weston (the main character of Empty Nest) comes to examine him, with Blanche naturally taking advantage of the chance to flirt. Later, they memorably sing "Mr. Sandman" in three-part harmony to get him to sleep.
- Bachelorette Auction: The season six episode "Love for Sale" sees Dorothy participating in one for charity, being emceed by Rose. Unfortunately for her, recently-wealthy Stan shows up and ends up buying her for $500.
- Back to School:
- In one episode, Rose explains that she never actually finished high school because she developed a case of mono and was too ill to attend. She enrolls in a class taught by Dorothy.
- Blanche also goes back to take classes for a necessary degree for a promotion at work. While there, her professor sexually propositions her for a passing grade.
- In another episode, Rose takes a Spanish class at night school to qualify for a promotion at the counseling center which requires that she become bilingual. Blanche (who initially confuses "bilingual" with "bisexual") signs up too, but only because she hopes to meet a man. Both eventually drop out, Rose because "Norwegians are notoriously bad at Spanish" and Blanche because there was only one man in the whole class who caught her fancy, and he was apparently gay because he "kept doodling the name 'Kenny' over and over in his notebook."
- A few episodes also have Dorothy studying for exams in order to qualify for promotions or pay raises.
- Bad Job, Worse Uniform: Sophia had two fast food jobs. One was "Pecos Pete's Chow Wagon," which had a western theme where she dressed as a cowgirl and had to greet customers with "Howdy Partner, how about a saddlebag of fries with that Ranch House Burger?" The other was at "Captain Jack's Seafood Shanty" where she dressed like a pirate, complete with a parrot on the shoulder.Sophia: You're embarrassed to be seen with your own mother?
Dorothy: When she's dressed like Vasco de Gama, yes.
- Bad Omen Anecdote: Inverted when Rose, hoping to keep Dorothy from remarrying Stan, tells a story about a woman from St. Olaf who, after being divorced, made major life changes in an effort to feel better about herself. Blanche thinks the story will end with the woman being alone and sad, only for Rose to cheerfully reveal that she actually found love again, became wealthy, and lived happily ever after.Blanche: Well, way to go, Rose. You just convinced Dorothy to do exactly the opposite of what we wanted her to do!Rose: I guess that's why they took me off the suicide hotline at work!
- Bad Santa: In the episode "'Twas The Nightmare Before Christmas", the girls are held hostage on Christmas Eve at the grief counseling center by a man dressed as Santa Claus who has no other way spending Christmas with others without forcing them to at gunpoint. Sophia ultimately arrives on scene and determines that the revolver is a replica.
- Bait-and-Switch: Plenty of instances occurred during the show said by each woman at least once:
- In "One Flew Out of the Cuckoo's Nest", when facing the prospect of going out with Blanche's Uncle Lucas, Dorothy comments that "He's a little bit Country, and I'm a little... too smart for this".
- One episode had Rose put on a few pounds and deciding to go on the St. Olaf "I-Can't-Believe-This-Is-Cheese" diet. In spite of its name, however, you eat nothing but rice.
- In "Questions And Answers", after Dorothy and Blanche audition to be on Jeopardy!, the former gets a phone call from the producers with exciting news for both of them. While her news has her joyfully being chosen, she expresses the same delight in telling Blanche that she hasn't.
- In "72 Hours", Rose fears that she was accidentally given HIV through a previous blood transfusion and begins to grow hysterical in reaction to some other, unrelated bad news, while Dorothy tries to tell her to calm down, Sophia finally gives a Get A Hold Of Yourself Man slap. The only problem is that she slaps her daughter instead of Rose.
- "That Old Feeling" has Blanche meeting up with her brother-in-law Jamie to go over her recently deceased mother-in-law's estate. At one point, he says that she kept repeating "I want her to have it" and while Blanche initially thinks that the mother-in-law was going to leave her something of value, Jamie verifies that she meant her soon-to-be fatal disease.
- In one episode, Rose recalls her earliest childhood memory, which involved a man shooting a gun in front of several farm animals. It's suggested her memory involves seeing an animal killed for meat...but the gun was actually a starting pistol for a race between all the farm animals.
- Bait-and-Switch Comment: In "Blanche's Little Girl:"Sophia: I tell you, it sure makes me appreciate the special relationship I have with my daughter. Pussycat?Dorothy: Yes, Ma?Sophia: Dial your sister for me. I can never remember the area code.
- Bandage Mummy: Dorothy, Rose, and Sophia come across one at the hospital, believing it to be Blanche, who they expect to be recovering from extensive cosmetic surgery. It turns out to be a stranger, who is unable to communicate that to them due to his face being encased in the full-body cast.
- Bathroom Stall Graffiti:
Blanche: Dorothy, you do that one more time, I'm gonna write on this wall: "For a good time, call Dorothy Zbornak!"
- In "The Mangiacavallo Curse Makes a Lousy Wedding Present", Dorothy's got Blanche locked in a bathroom stall and won't let her out. As Blanche is peering over the door trying to talk to her and the others in the bathroom, Dorothy bangs on the door repeatedly with her fist, indirectly hitting Blanche as well. Then the following exchange occurs:
Dorothy: Blanche... this is the ladies' room.
- In another episode, a minor-league baseball player reveals that he got Blanche's number from a stall at the stadium. And he is having a good time!
- Batman Gambit: In one episode, Sophia goes on a practical joke spree, with Dorothy as her unwitting victim. When Sophia offers her a glass of orange juice, Dorothy asks if she left something burning on the stove, then quickly switches their glasses. When they take a drink, the cup Dorothy is using (originally Sophia's) spills all over her, revealing that Sophia knew that Dorothy would try a switch and Outgambitted her.
- Battleaxe Nurse: Nurse DeFarge, according to Sophia.Sophia: You've hired the angel of death from Shady Pines!
- Bedmate Reveal: After hugging George in "Mrs. George Devereaux", we cut to Blanche smiling in bed with her eyes closed. She rolls over in bed and is revealed to be alone.
- Berserk Button: Blanche appears to be particularly susceptible to these when dieting. She once snapped and attempted to choke Rose upon learning that Rose had eaten her "sensible meal" of tuna quiche and diet shake.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Rose, repeatedly.
- 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 is so shocking that it gives Mrs. Claxton a fatal heart attack! Apparently, Rose losing her temper seems to be a normal thing as when Rose gets angry at Mrs. Claxton, Blanche just puts her hands in her lap and her and the rest of the girls' heads just follow Rose with an expression that screams "this is normal" on them.
- After Blanche accidentally gives Rose's teddy bear to a girl, the girl refuses to return to toy unless she receives a ransom payment. Rose feigns forgiveness and pretends to let the girl keep the bear, but she trusts Rose enough to let her within arm's reach, Rose snatches the bear away and throws her out the door.
- Whenever Rose was participating in a game or competition, she could be quite cutthroat. She admits to being very competitive, and would sometimes get bitchy and downright mean. In the episode "Sister of the Bride", Rose is happy that her competition for a volunteering award is dead because it means that she can finally win.
- Bigger Is Better in Bed: 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."
- In another episode...Blanche: [talking about a man she dated who had big ears] By the way, did you girls know that the size of a man's ears is directly proportional to the size of his other... bodily organs?
Rose: What do you mean?
Dorothy: He had a big floppy pancreas, Rose.
- In another episode...
- Big Little Man: When Rose dates a person with dwarfism, she spends the entire episode coming how she feels about being seen with him. In the end, he reveals that he can't see her anymore anyway because his very religious family doesn't want him dating anyone who isn't Jewish.
- Birthday Party Goes Wrong:
- An episode aptly titled "A Piece of Cake" explored this trope, with the girls reminiscing about four particular birthday parties that went badly.
- Dorothy remembers when Rose threw her a surprise bash at a children's restaurant called "Mr. Ha Ha's Hot Dog Hacienda." Things only got worse when it turns out that all of the birthday boys and girls—Dorothy included—were invited onto stage to be recognized. It didn't help that Mr. Ha Ha himself was a Jerkass who enjoyed taunting Dorothy for the situation.
- Rose talks about the last birthday she ever celebrated in St. Olaf, her hometown. She sets everything up and pretends that her husband Charlie planned a surprise for her but it was actually the year after Charlie had already died, so she spends the whole time talking to him as if he's there and telling him that she's decided to sell their home and move to Florida.
- Blanche, a Birthday Hater, recalls when Rose threw her a surprise birthday party at the house. She despised the idea at first—until it turned out that Rose invited all of the guys in her address book, which was the perfect present for her.
- Sophia shares the story of when she turned fifty and felt old and unaccomplished (she thought she was turning 48, but her birth certificate had been messed up at Ellis Island). Dorothy encouraged her by pointing out how she's managed to raise three healthy, happy children to successful adulthood while always keeping a positive attitude and food on the table, which makes her an incredible person.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing:
- Dorothy's friend Barbara Thorndyke, who acts snooty and condescending to Blanche and Rose for being "inferior" to her. Dorothy even agrees... until Barbara reveals that she belongs to a private club that refuses Jewish people as members. That prompts Dorothy to tell Barbara to "go to Hell" and kick her out of the house.
- Rose's sister Holly, who acts sweet and charming to people's faces to win them over, only to backstab Rose and deliberately cut her out of plans, all while claiming that Rose is making up stories about her. Her lies are revealed when she starts fooling around with Blanche's boyfriend.
- Bitch Slap: Sophia gives one to Dorothy when she smells that she has been smoking cigarettes. When Dorothy denies it, she slaps Rose as she is the only other person who she suspects could be the source of the odor. When Dorothy admits to smoking after all, she slaps Dorothy again for lying.
- Bizarre Taste in Food: Rose. She had a massive sweet tooth (her nightly snack included about seven kinds of sugary treats) and loved to combine fish with every possible dish (her "Lindstrum Surprise" was a pastry shell that contained herring). A quote from "Mary Has A Little Lamb" sums it up:Rose: Come on into the kitchen, honey, and I'll make you some pickles and ice cream!Mary: Oh, no thanks— I don't have any strange cravings yet.Rose: ...strange?
- Black Comedy Cannibalism: Upon smelling Rose's "Speardhoven Krispies" and when Rose offers her a taste, Dorothy remarks that they smell so foul that if they'd been offered to the Donner Party, they still would have resorted to cannibalism.
- Black Gal on White Guy Drama: Occurs in season three when Dorothy's son Michael becomes engaged to a woman named Lorraine. While the latter's mother disapproves since he is white, Dorothy objects because he's about half his bride's age. Despite this, the two mothers-in-law get along famously with each other.
- Black Is Bigger in Bed: Addressed in an episode where Dorothy's youngest son gets engaged an older black woman. Dorothy and co. meet up with her future in-laws and Sophia asks if it's true what they say about black men in bed. Before Dorothy can admonish her for it...Blanche: Oh yes, definitely. [Beat, everyone looks at her] ...oh yes, definitely, that is something I would like to know about too.
Dorothy: Come on, Blanche, that's a stereotype.
Trudy (an in-law): Call it whatever you want, I'm just grateful it's true.
- Bleak Abyss Retirement Home:
- Shady Pines, the retirement home Sophia lived at for five years. Tellingly, she moved back there after The Golden Palace was canceled.
- Sophia has a friend named Lillian who was transferred to a place called Sunny Pastures, which Sophia describes as the bottom of the barrel where people get sent if they couldn't afford a place like Shady Pines. When Dorothy and Sophia go and visit Lillian, even Dorothy, who normally defends Shady Pines against Sophia's hyperbole, readily admits that what Sophia says about Sunny Pastures is true.Dorothy: Ma, you're exaggerating... but not by much.
- Blessed with Suck: The episode "Love Me Tender" features a Kavorka Man named Eddie who is completely irresistible to every heterosexual woman he meets and absolutely astounding in bed—but he gripes that it's a curse because he has literally nothing else going for him (he's bland, average-looking at best, and an emotional wreck after a divorce that he still hasn't gotten over), which means that any actually decent woman inevitably breaks up with him because sex isn't enough to form a solid relationship.
- 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 (she was wearing very dark sunglasses at the time), and inadvertently buying condoms when she was trying to use what she thought was a payphone.
- Blond, Brunette, Redhead: Almost exactly with Rose being the ditzy blonde, Blanche the passionate redhead and Dorothy (who's actress had naturally black hair before going grey, and who still sported dark grey hair for parts of the series) being the intellectual, sardonic "brunette".
- The Body Parts That Must Not Be Named: When the girls are changing diapers:
- Blanche: I was never any good at it [changing diapers], especially with the boys. Seems like they always had dry bottoms but wet T-shirts because I always forgot to point their little oo-hoos south.Dorothy: You know, I didn't even think about that until Michael was at least six months old.Rose: What's an oo-hoo?Dorothy: [referring to Yoo-Hoo] It's a chocolate soft drink!Rose: I've never had one.
- Rose's story about her mother dating Indy 500 racer Andy Granatelli.Rose: You know what he has under that trench coat?Dorothy: A wrench?Rose: That's what Mother called it!
- Bookends: The series premiere was about Blanche's wedding (and Dorothy and Rose's fears of being left behind), aborted because the guy turned out to be a bigamist and scam artist. The series finale was about Dorothy's wedding, which went off without a hitch (and Blanche, Rose's and Sophia's fears of being left behind, which came true).
- Bookworm: Dorothy. She's never been late to return a library book even once.
- Bottle Episode: A few episodes feature the girls simply sitting around the table and reminiscing about past exploits.
- A few of these episodes also counted as inversions, as some of them would center around particular themes (Mother's Day, odd sleeping arrangements, birthdays, etc.). The girls would flash back to this original material, which often required new sets, guest stars, and extras—in other words, the very opposite of a Bottle Episode.
- Brain Freeze: While visiting America, Stan's Czechoslovakian cousin Magda develops a fondness for Slurpee slushies.
- Brainy Brunette: In flashbacks featuring a middle-aged Sophia and a young adult Dorothy, Dorothy's younger self had black hair.
- Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick:
- In the episode "Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself," Dorothy confronts her fear of flying.Stewardess: Please review he information cards in your seat pockets for the safety information in the unlikely event of a mishap during our flight.Dorothy: Mishap?! What does she mean by mishap?!Blanche: She means like bad movies, or cold food, or running out of ice.Rose: Running out of gas...Dorothy: Oh my God!
- Dorothy pressing Sophia on what it means that someone from Sicily sent Sophia a black feather in the mail.Dorothy: Come on, Ma, everything from Sicily means something. A black rose means a family member is dying. A white carnation means a newborn is on the way. A dead rabbit means, "My husband knows, get out of town!"
- In the episode "Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself," Dorothy confronts her fear of flying.
- Broken Aesop: Occasionally.
- This example from "Till Death Do We Volley":Trudy: Come on, it was just a practical joke like we did in high school!Blanche: Well, some of the things we did in high school aren't necessarily appropriate when we're adults! Like staying out all night, carousing around, dating every other man you meet... [pauses as Rose puts a hand on her shoulder] ...I'm losing credibility here, aren't I? [Rose nods]
- Dorothy killing a mosquito after declaring that "All life is valuable" in one episode.
- A particularly infuriating one is in "Blanche's Little Girl" when her daughter Rebecca, a former model, is now considerably overweight and has a boorish boyfriend who continuously makes fat-shaming jokes about her that upset her, the girls and the audience. Yet, when Sophia first meets her and begins to make the exact same jokes, it's considered funny.
- This example from "Till Death Do We Volley":
- Broken Treasure:
- The episode featuring Big Daddy's funeral has a lodger inadvertently break a commemorative plate Blanche received for a ball. Rose and Sophia spend part of the episode trying to get a replacement so Blanche wouldn't find out. (because she didn't know that they were running the weekend rental scheme).
- BrotherSister Incest: How Rose claims St. Olaf was founded. Considering how smart she and other St. Olafians were generally portrayed, this isn't hard to believe, as Dorothy points out.
- Bubblegum Popping: Stan and Dorothy's attorney in "Ebbtide VI: The Wrath of Stan."
- Counsellor: Although she is a Cloudcuckoolander Rose is shown to be a very proficient grief counsellor. When Dorothy confides in her about how her relationship with her new boyfriend is entirely physical in the episode "Love Me Tender", Rose immediately picks up on her feelings of guilt. She later becomes a successful consumer reporter.
- Buses Are for Freaks: When Dorothy asks where Sophia met the Blind Date she is setting her up with, she starts her explanation with, "I was on the bus." When the girls immediately interrupt to express their shock that she would match Dororthy with a stranger she met on transit, she adds that she actually used a dating service which she learned about when she saw their ad on the bus.
- 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 maître d'.Rose: Thank you. *Beat* The maître d' did it!
Blanche: Rose, there's something I have to say to you... Just two little words, but they're probably the hardest two words in the English language for me to say.Rose: "Not tonight"?
- 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, "I'm sorry, my mistake. I thought that since you looked like Yoda you were also wise."
- Occasionally, Rose got in some intentional jabs at Blanche:
- Outside the main cast, Dorothy in particular is treated this way. In one episode it's revealed that she wasn't even invited to her own Sweet Sixteen party.
- Stanley, Dorothy's ex-husband. He is looked down upon and derided endlessly by everyone for his cowardly behaviour, Manchild tendencies, baldness, and general loser characteristics. It's revealed in a flashback clip that even his own mother hates him.
- Caffeine Failure: In one episode Dorothy, upset with her mother for hoarding money for Dorothy's siblings Gloria and Phil while forcing Dorothy to "go without," remarks that if she had the money, she could have been living "in a swinging condo" instead of with...Dorothy: I'd better not say anything else until after I've had my coffee. [sips coffee] A SLUT AND A MORON!!!! [Blanche and Rose look hurt] Sorry, must be decaf.
- In the first season episode "The Way We Met", Rose tells a particularly lengthy and outrageous St. Olaf story where one resident tried to capture herring fish and train them to perform in the circus. Later, in a fourth season episode, she tells a story where herring juggled knives as circus performers.
- In one episode, Rose mentions that a St. Olaf resident once saved their town library from a fire by removing the two individual books that the library contained, implying that the service is never utilized. When the girls play a St. Olaf-themed edition of Monopoly later in the series and Dorothy decides to buy the town's library over the phone booth, Rose suggests buying the phone booth instead because "people use the phone booth".
- Calling the Old Man Out: Dorothy does this to Sophia in Wheres Charlie? when the latter pretends to be possessed by Roses late husband to scam her, which almost costs Rose her relationship with her boyfriend Miles.Dorothy: You're a horrible little person.
Sophia: Come on, like you never pretended to be possessed by somebody's dead husband for a couple of laughs.
Dorothy: You know, you have really ruined Rose's relationship with Miles.
Sophia: If you could have seen her face when I talked like Charlie. I almost wet myself! (laughs)
Dorothy: Listen, you vindictive little sea monkey you are going to tell Rose the truth.
Dorothy: Remember Shady Pines?
Sophia: Yeah, it wasn't so bad.
Dorothy: I hear they sold it to some Germans.
Sophia: (quickly gets up from the table and exits the kitchen) Rose? Rose, sweetheart? Rose?
- Calling Your Bathroom Breaks: From "Son-in-Law Dearest":Rose: Oh, Charlie was a wonderful man... but he could squeeze a nickel till the buffalo pooped!Sophia: Boy, I'll tell ya, there's something to be said for the power of suggestion. Excuse me. [leaves]
- Later in that same episode: Stan exclaims, "Isn't life a gas?" and Sophia has to run for the throne again.
- Calling Your Orgasms: Rose describing the best sex she ever had with her late husband Charlie, during which he suffered a fatal heart attack and her confusion when he cried out "Rose! I'm going! I'm going!" This was apparently the opposite of what he'd usually say: the opposite of "going".
- The Cameo: Several celebrities played themselves over the years; these included Alex Trebek, Burt Reynolds, Bob Hope, and Sonny Bono. Also, Edwin Newman, who appeared as himself in "A Letter to Gorbachev," was a real-life NBC newscaster for decades.
- Candy Striper: Downplayed in Season 6, Episode 2, "Once, In St. Olaf". Rose volunteers at the local hospital, but the hospital's volunteer uniform is a solid pink pinafore.Rose: Ever since I've been a Candy Striper, I've been giving all my patients the traditional St. Olaf "fun pack." Each one has a pack of gum, a bar of soap, and sock puppets!
- Cannot Keep a Secret: Rose and Sophia both. Rose accidentally let slip that Dorothy had her ears pinned back in high school (much to Blanche's amusement). She also once revealed a secret of Dorothy's to Blanche under pressure of Blanche threatening to tickle her. And as for Sophia...Dorothy: Ma, you have a big mouth!Sophia: Come on! If I had a big mouth, do you think your one-night stand with the bug man would still be a secret?
- Canon Discontinuity: A few instances.
- Possibly the most prominent example is the ages of 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.
- Another example is the 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.
- One episode states that Rose, before moving in with Blanche and Dorothy, was thrown out of her apartment because she secretly had a cat and was caught; another episode has her reminiscing about Rusty, a dog she had when her children were growing up, who saved the family cat from a house fire. However, Rose is later shown to be very allergic to cats.
- In one episode, Dorothy states that her grandmother died at age 94 when she herself was 6. Yet in a flashback episode, Dorothy is shown as a young woman (played by Lyn Greene) with her grandmother (played by Bea Arthur), already married to Stan. Granted, it could have been Dorothy's paternal grandmother who died when she was 6, since the grandma in the flashback was Sophia's mother; but in another episode, Sophia and her brother talk about their mother dying in Sicily before they moved to the US.
- Speaking of Sophia, there was also the matter of her siblings. In the first two seasons, she said that her only living relative was her sister Angela, who disappeared after two appearances. Later in the series, she was suddenly revealed to have a brother named Angelo. She also apparently has a brother Vito who is the The Unseen, and another unseen relative named Regina who might be Sophia's sister or might be Salvatore's sister.
- Captivity Harmonica: Stan plays one when he and Dorothy must serve a period of house arrest in an infested apartment.
- Casting Couch: Even sleeping with the director of the local theatre production of Macbeth couldn't land Blanche the role of Lady Macbeth; that went, inadvertently, to Rose.
- Dorothy: "This is ridiculous!"
- Blanche: "I am stunned!" and "Get outta here!"
- Stanley: "Hi, it's me, Stan."
- Celebrity Lie:
Blanche: I have altered my appearance for a very important movie role.Dorothy: It's about a woman who eats her way from behind the Iron Curtain.
- Rose claimed that she was the daughter of Bob Hope in order to get him to perform for a benefit—the variation being that she genuinely believed this to be true (she was an orphan and reminisced about seeing Hope on a movie screen as a child, becoming convinced that he was her father). Luckily for her, he turned out to be the old vaudeville partner of Sophia's boyfriend and showed up anyway.
- Rose once told a story about her mother dating race-car driver Andy Granatelli, though no indication was given as to the veracity of this story.
- Blanche liked to engage in this frequently. Probably her biggest case of this is when she claims to have slept with Elvis Presley in order to convince Rose to elect her president of their newly-established Elvis fan club. (After Rose leaves the room, Dorothy calls her out, and she admits that she never slept with Elvis himself - but she did once sleep with "an unattractive man named Elmer" and called him by Elvis's name, and she feels that counts.)
- In the most extreme example, Blanche claimed to be Angie Dickinson in "Grab That Dough."
- Celebrity Paradox: Shows up a few times:
- In an early episode, the girls are suffering from a flu and argue over which soap opera they should watch; Blanche wants to see Another World. Rue McClanahan appeared on that particular soap for one season, from 1970-1971.
- In "My Brother, My Father," Blanche and Rose are cast as nuns in a production of The Sound of Music. Rue McClanahan performed in a production of the same musical at New Hampshire's Hampton Playhouse over two decades earlier, in which she was cast as the Baroness (and just missed being crushed to death by a falling chandelier during one performance).
- In "Ladies of the Evening," Rose lists off some of the celebrities that will be attending the premiere of Burt Reynolds's new movie. Charles Nelson Reilly is on the list; Betty White made several appearances on Match Game with Reilly during the 1970s and '80s. Also, the later episode "Grab That Dough" sees the girls going on the game show of the same name, and Rose compares the host, Guy Corbin, to several other famous game show hosts of the era; one such host is Gene Rayburn, who hosted the aforementioned Match Game.
- Sylvester Stallone clearly exists in the Girls' universe, as Rose mentions Rocky IV in one episode and Rambo in another. Stallone appeared with Estelle Getty (Sophia) in the infamous flop Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot
- In two different episodes, Dorothy, played by Bea Arthur, sings a few bars of songs from Fiddler on the Roof. Guess who played Yente the Matchmaker in the original Broadway production?
- Dorothy mentions Lucille Ball a few times. Ball was a personal friend of Bea Arthur's, and the two even appeared together in the disastrous 1974 film version of Mame, with Ball taking over the role originated on stage by Angela Lansbury. Lansbury, another close personal friend of Arthur's, was also the star of TV's Murder, She Wrote, which is also mentioned by Dorothy on at least one occasion.
- Chain of Corrections: When Sophia and Rose attempt to figure out who the president is married to:Rose: Well, it doesn't matter anyway, they're not married anymore. Now he's married to Nancy Davis.Sophia: The chick from All About Eve?Rose: No, that was Bette Davis.Sophia: That woman who beat her kids with wire hangers?Rose: No, you're thinking of Joan Crawford.Sophia: The fat cop from Highway Patrol?Rose: That was Broderick Crawford.
- Children Raise You: A couple of episodes play with this trope with regard to the girls looking after their mothers the way their mothers once looked after them, simply because their mothers are old and infirm.
Dorothy: [to Sophia, over the phone] Ma, do you know what time it is? ... You're WHAT? Oh, the hell you are! You are NOT spending the night at Rocco's! ... Look, as long as you live under our roof, you will abide by our rules! ... I should do WHAT to myself? ... What? Hello??Blanche: Dorothy, is your mother all right?Dorothy: Oh fine! She does something wrong, suddenly she's MY mother!
- Some of Dorothy's interactions with Sophia resemble a mother dealing with a teenage daughter, except with the roles reversed; in "Rose Fights Back" it's mentioned Dorothy gives Sophia an allowance, and "Larceny and Old Lace" ends with this:
- Season one's "Blanche and the Younger Man" handled this between Rose and her mother, Alma, but more seriously and less Played for Laughs. Rose is overbearing and smothering toward her mother out of fear of losing her, and Alma chafes at Rose's overprotective behaviors. At one point, Sophia even tells Dorothy she's grateful that Dorothy doesn't treat her the way Rose treats Alma.
- Clap Your Hands If You Believe: Parodied in "Henny Penny: Straight, No Chaser." Rose, Blanche, and Dorothy play Henny Penny, Goosey Loosey, and Turkey Lurkey in a grade school production, and Rose hates the ending in which the characters are eaten by Foxy Loxy. At the conclusion of the performance, she rushes back onstage and tells the children that they can choose to save the characters if they applaud. None of the kids do it, and Rose resorts to insulting the children and threatening them with bad dreams as Dorothy and Blanche drag her off.Rose: There are monsters hiding under all of your beds!
- In "A Midwinter Night's Dream," Blanche tells Dorothy that on a leap year's full moon, men are easy pickings— "Anything can happen if you just believe!"Dorothy: (clapping her hands) Ooh, I do believe! I do believe in sluts!
- In "A Midwinter Night's Dream," Blanche tells Dorothy that on a leap year's full moon, men are easy pickings— "Anything can happen if you just believe!"
- Clip Show: Several. A few—including "The Way We Met," "Mother's Day" and "Valentine's Day"—actually subverted the usual trend of these episodes by providing all-new vignettes.
- St. Olaf, Rose's hometown. Dorothy once referred to it as "The Cradle of Idiocy." We never actually see the town in all its glory. The closest we come is seeing the inside of Rose's old house in one flashback sequence (a monologue, so no other St. Olafians actually appear). 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. Ironically (and disturbingly), Rose appears to be one of the smartest people to come out of that town.
- 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."
- In-universe, Sicily is portrayed as a land of nothing but goats, animal dung, and vendettas. Sophia mentions the number two export out of her village was piano wire, but can't remember the first. As it turns out, it was ransom notes.
- St. Olaf, Rose's hometown. Dorothy once referred to it as "The Cradle of Idiocy." We never actually see the town in all its glory. The closest we come is seeing the inside of Rose's old house in one flashback sequence (a monologue, so no other St. Olafians actually appear). 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. Ironically (and disturbingly), Rose appears to be one of the smartest people to come out of that town.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Rose, of course, but Sophia also has shades of this, mainly due to her age and the stroke she suffered prior to the beginning of the series.Sophia: "Come on, let's go, we're late for temple!"Dorothy: "Ma, it's Tuesday. And we're Catholic."
- Clueless Aesop: The episode "The Bloom Is Off The Rose" has Blanche get involved with a verbally abusive man. Dorothy explains how damaging verbal abuse can be. But the episode ignores that the show has Dorthy constantly put down by her mother Sophia, which is usually played for laughs.
- Cold Turkeys Are Everywhere: When Dorothy relapses on her tobacco addiction due to the stress brought on by Sophia's marraige, she resolves to quit the addiction a second time. To her irritation, Rose describes in extended detail the feeling of elation derived from smoking a cigarette, prompting Dorothy to cover her head with a saucepan and hit it with a wooden spoon in frustration.
- Comfort Food:
- Cheesecake - to the point where Blanche becomes alarmed in the middle of one crisis when she opens the refrigerator and there's no cheesecake. Fortunately Rose saves the day by buying another cheesecake while out shopping.
- Cookies. In particular, Blanche has been shown to be quite fond of Chips Ahoy! on more than one occasion. And in the episode "Feelings," Sophia remarks, after Dorothy refuses to cave in regarding a failing grade that would keep one of her students from playing in a crucial football game, that in all her life she's never been prouder of Dorothy...Sophia: Can you believe it? My whole life, and this is the proudest I've ever been. I'm depressed. I need a cookie.
- Comically Missing the Point: Rose. As in this exchange from "Sophia's Wedding":Rose: Oh, Dorothy, I know exactly what you're going through. I smoked for years.Dorothy: You smoked, Rose? That's like finding out Lassie was an alcoholic!Rose: Lassie was an alcoholic? I guess that explains why she always leaned to one side whenever she waved goodbye to Timmy.
- Conveniently Interrupted Document: Blanche's birth certificate. Rose tracks down it down with the hope of finding out Blanche's true age, only to discover that the "Date of Birth" field reads: Deleted by authority of the governor.
- Cool Old Ladies: More like cool middle-aged women for Dorothy, Blanche, and Rose.
Sophia: [singing along with her Walkman and playing air guitar] Purple Rain, Purple Rain...
- 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. And she might not have been fond of Madonna, but apparently liked Prince...
- All four of them have their moments of badassery. Dorothy in general isn't a woman to be screwed with, due to her complete willingness to resort to her wit to put someone in their place; Blanche punches out an aggressive fisherman when he lays his hands on Rose during a protest; Rose is remarkably great under pressure; and Sophia has implied current ties to the mafia. The four even willingly assist in a police investigation on some jewel thief neighbours, using the guise of a friendly dinner to plant a bug in the neighbours' home.
- 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 referenced afterward.
- Dorothy's smoking was referred to in one episode, wasn't hinted at before then, and wasn't mentioned afterward, either.
- Conflict Ball: Blanche's father didn't tell Blanche that he was dying when he called her, instead asking her to visit and mentioning that he's not feeling well. Blanche doesn't see him before he passes, and she feels guilty for putting herself before him. Of course, it doesn't make much sense for her father not to tell his own daughter that he's dying, but if he had told her, she would have visited (Blanche is selfish, but it's hard to believe she wouldn't rush home if she knew he was terminally ill) and there would have been no conflict.
- 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.
- In another episode, Sophia makes Dorothy talk about her gambling addiction relapse with her on the threat that, if they don't discuss it right away, they'll talk in her bedroom after Sophia eats a bowl of chili.
- Dorothy threatens to cut off Sophia's Metamucil supply if she comments on the conversation between her and a failing student.
- Everybody used Rose's famous St. Olaf stories as a punishment, including Rose herself. Once, when Dorothy and Blanche try to use lame excuses to duck out on one, she threatens to follow them to their room and act out the story with sock puppets. In another, when Sophia is considering helping a friend commit suicide, Dorothy encourages Rose to tell a story, and then after the story is over, she turns to Sophia and says, "You see what happens. You kill someone, and you end up a Rose story."
- Cool Teacher: Dorothy is one of these - she's quite well-liked by her students, as seen in multiple episodes.
- Corpsing: Deliberately invoked by the show's crew during a Christmas episode. The plot has Blanche give the other three girls homemade calendars titled "The Men of Blanche's Boudoir," featuring pictures of some of Blanche's lovers. As a joke, some of the male members of the show's staff posed in exaggerated erotic positions while either nude or half-nude, took photographs, and filled the prop calendars with them. When the actresses rehearsed the scene and discovered the gag, they completely lost all composure.
- In-universe, when Rose tells the "herring war" story from her past to Dorothy and Blanche that they, they find it so outrageous that they burst out laughing. Another time, Rose tells of the time a man known as the Aqua Midget had a crush on her— Blanche keeps making puns and Dorothy tries to stifle her, but their faces give it all away.
- Crossdresser: Dorothy and Sophia regularly reference Dorothy's brother Phil's penchant for wearing women's clothes. This was an Informed Attribute, however, as Phil himself was never once seen on the show - not even at his funeral, where he was apparently buried wearing women's lingerie.
- Crooked Contractor: The girls deal with one when they try to remodel the garage into a guest bedroom.
- Crossover: Frequently, with Spin-Off Empty Nest, in both directions.
- Empty Nest had its own spin-off, Nurses, and all three shows aired back-to-back; this led to characters from all three programs appearing on the others.
- An episode of The John Larroquette Show had Betty White, Rue McClanahan, and Estelle Getty appearing as themselves, with White collaborating with Larroquette's character to write The Golden Girls: The Musical. The episode is a Whole Plot Reference to Sunset Boulevard.
- 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.
- In "Mary Has a Little Lamb," Dorothy helps mend the rift between Mary and her father by... telling a St. Olaf story.Dorothy: I was desperate!
- In "Mary Has a Little Lamb," Dorothy helps mend the rift between Mary and her father by... telling a St. Olaf story.
- Cure Your Gays:
- Played with in both episodes in which Blanche's brother Clayton appears (though only Blanche tries it), as well as in "Goodbye Mr. Gordon," where Blanche and Dorothy are mistaken for a lesbian couple on a daytime TV talk show.note 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."
- Blanche considers herself capable of causing men to switch teams according to how she treats them, most notably a boyfriend who proposed to her with a cheap, fake ring, and after the relationship ended, supposedly turned gay. When Dorothy argues that it's not possible to just turn gay, Blanche counters that if he had been gay before, he would have had better taste in jewelry. And in the episode in which Clayton comes out to her, Blanche, while talking with her brother in a restaurant which she assumes is a gay bar (it's actually a sports bar that had the few women in attendance leave), announces to the clientele that she'd be proud to have any one of them date her brother. One of the customers says, "I'd rather date you, lady," to which Blanche crows, "I've done the impossible! I've converted one!"
- Curse Cut Short: Blanche at the end of "An Illegitimate Concern," as she looks at a picture of her late husband, George, who fathered a child with a mistress.Blanche: You son of a... you put me through all this and I could've had Andy Rooney.
- 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.Blanche: [digging into the casserole dish] Nothing's wrong! Why do you ask?Dorothy: Well, as long as nothing's wrong, would you like us to defrost a loin of pork so you can scoop up the sauce?
- Dating Service Disaster: Twice involving Dorothy, thanks to Sophia. The first time she's matched with a rather plain-looking man named Eddie, who has a strange magnetism about him that makes him irresistible to women (in fact, all four Girls end up attracted to him), while the second time she's matched with a white collar ex-con.
- Dead Animal Warning: "Feelings" has Dorothy harassed by the high school where she's teaching; the staff and students alike are trying to pressure her into passing a failing football star so he can win a big game for them. At one point, she received a fish wrapped in newspaper; while she makes light of it by quipping to have white wine with it, Sophia is upset by this, believing that they would harm her. This is justified as the latter's from Sicily and knows what's the big deal about this gesture.
- Dead Artists Are Better: The plot of one episode centers around the girls' purchase of a painting made by an artist who they are aware will soon die of a disease, which they expect will cause the value of the painting to skyrocket overnight. However, Sophia provides him with a blood transfusion that saves his life.
- 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!
- Death by Sex/Out with a Bang: A Running Gag in the first season. Rose's husband died while making love, and one of Rose's partners also dies after spending a night with her, causing Rose to be reluctant to enter into new relationships because she is convinced that she kills men by sleeping with them.Blanche: What exactly is it that you do in bed?
Blanche: Maybe that's the problem, they have to do all the work.
- Blanche intends to go out this way, and in the hallucination where they were merely frozen heads on the kitchen table, she did. According to her, she was 92 and invited over a cute tennis instructor. while she was in the tub, she asked him to sponge off her back, made her move, and her last words were "Thank you baby, glub, glub, glub..."
- Delayed Diagnosis: The two-part episode "Sick and Tired" has Dorothy experience extreme exhaustion. Her doctor brushes off her symptoms, but she sees a specialist who diagnoses her with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. When Dorothy sees her first doctor at a restaurant, she chews him out for not taking her symptoms seriously. This episode was partly based off show creator Susan Harris' experiences with not being taken seriously by medical professionals (she suffered from adrenal issues, which have similar symptoms to CFS).
- Department of Redundancy Department: "Well, I am stunned. Just stunned. Stunned is the only way to describe how... stunned I am."Dorothy: Just a minute, just a minute, Blanche. Are you trying to tell us... that you are stunned?
- 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. Don't worry, though, he gets it in the end.
- Destination Ruse: At one point, Dorothy tries to bond with her mother by taking her on a trip Disney World. Since she lied about taking her there to drag her off to Shady Pines previously, Sophia becomes extremely suspicious about her intentions.
- Diet Episode: Several episodes invoked dieting as a plot point, most significantly "What a Difference a Date Makes" (season six), in which Blanche undergoes her annual ritual of crash-dieting in order to fit into her wedding dress. It ends up being equally hard on Rose after Rose inadvertently consumes Blanche's sensible meal of tuna quiche and diet shake as a snack.
- Dining in the Buff: Averted in the episode where Dorothy, Blanche and Rose visit a nudist community. They show up for dinner naked only to find out that clothes are required for meals.
- Dirty Old Woman: All four of them; if you really analyze it, The Golden Girls was possibly one of the most openly sexual shows on TV at the time. Blanche fit the trope most of all, to the point that even Maxim felt obliged to acknowledge her as #1 of "TV's Best Nymphos."
- When Rose claims that Bob Hope is her father with no other proof than that she used to dream it, Blanche says it's strange, and wonders why Rose doesn't have a normal, healthy dream, "like sweaty Argentinean men whipping things while they ride naked on the backs of Brahma bulls." Dorothy just shoots her an odd look and reminds herself never to use Blanche's towels again.
- 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 recalls how she 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... or a scene that wouldn't be erotic at all, if it weren't Blanche describing it.
- Blanche was so skilled at this that she was quite literally able to become aroused by a single line in the nursery rhyme "Humpty Dumpty" (specifically the one about "all the king's men").
- She once tried to invoke this with the IRS upon discovering that she was being audited—she put on an extremely revealing outfit in preparation for the representative's visit. Unfortunately, the IRS had caught on to her tactics and sent a female agent. Blanche took one look at her and said "I'll get my checkbook."
- Sometimes combined with Comically Missing the Point, as in...Trudy (Dorothy's friend): [to Dorothy, after beating her in a wrist-wrestling contest] Well, that's that. How does it feel to have your butt whipped?Blanche: Well, sometimes I find it strangely titillating, but... [notices everyone looking at her strangely] Oh. You were talking to her.
- The Ditz: Rose, primarily. Blanche and Sophia have their moments as well, the former due to occasionally misunderstanding anything not traditionally Southern, and the latter due to occasional bouts of senility.
- D.I.Y. Disaster: In one episode, Dorothy and Rose try to install a new toilet 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. They do eventually fix the entire bathroom and install the toilet with no male assistance.
- Do Wrong, Right:
Blanche: The townspeople made a big pile of 'em out in front of the library, and they threw a torch on top. Only, Big Daddy was outraged. He fought his way through that crowd, clawed his way to the top of that pile, grabbed that lit torch, and turned to that crowd and said, "What are you people doin'? This is lunacy. You start a fire from the bottom!"
- When Blanche describes a Book Burning in her hometown:
- From "Yokel Hero":Dorothy: You know something? Maybe all this resume needs is a little punching up.Blanche: You mean exaggerate the truth, create wild and colorful stories just to impress people? Dorothy, you can't do that!Dorothy: Oh, I know.Blanche: That's MY specialty.
- Double Entendre: One particularly memorable one in the final season added an element of Food Porn (although the food being described wasn't shown on screen at the time).Dorothy: [trying to explain to Rose, in a roundabout way, how she kissed Miles] But let's say that, even though he [Miles] loves your cupcakes more than life itself, one day he decides to try somebody else's cupcakes. For lack of a better example let's say my cupcakes. And I, in a mad passionate moment, forget myself and... [voice breaking slightly] let him try my cupcakes. How would that make you feel?
Rose: I'd like to think I'd understand.
Dorothy: Oh, good, good. I was hoping that's what you would say.
Rose: I'm sorry. It's just the idea of Miles wanting to try your cupcakes.
Dorothy: Why is that funny?
Rose: No offense, Dorothy, but your cupcakes are dry and tasteless. Nobody ever likes your cupcakes.
Dorothy: My cupcakes are moist and delicious. Men LOVE my cupcakes.
Rose: Get a clue, Dorothy. Men would rather PAY for cupcakes.
- Double-Meaning Title: "Old Friends" can refer to both Sophia and Alvin (with "old" meaning their physical ages), as well as to Rose and her teddy bear Fernando (with "old" meaning the length of time she possessed him).
- Dream Sequence: One of the staples of the show:
- "A Little Romance" had Rose debating whether or not she should continue seeing her little person boyfriend. Rose eventually has a dream where the two were getting married; this one lampshaded the dream status, and even featured noted celebrity psychic Jean Dixon.
- "Letters to Gorbachev" featured one where Rose and the girls are invited to speak in Russia's Red Square after a letter Rose sent to Mikhail Gorbachev about nuclear war left a positive impression on him.
- "Questions and Answers" had Dorothy falling asleep while preparing for her audition for Jeopardy!; she finds herself on a nightmarish version of the show where Rose is the unbeatable returning champion.Dorothy: [about Rose] Returning champion? This woman is an idiot!Announcer Johnny Gilbert: Oh, really? She didn't get knocked up in high school!
- In the two-parter "Home Again Rose", Rose has a heart attack and makes the girls promise to have their heads cryogenically frozen so they can all be friends forever. After she has open heart surgery, she has a dream about herself, Blanche, and Dorothy all reduced to nothing but heads and talking on the kitchen table. Sophia was part of the deal—but as she tipped the man who froze her, she ends up with the body of a twenty-something woman.
- Driven to Suicide: Sophia's friend Martha Lamont decides to kill herself after attending the funeral of her best 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.
- Dropped After the Pilot: 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. Justified as he was merely an employee, it's entirely possible he was fired or let go, possibly to make room for the newly-homeless Sophia.
- Eagle-Eye Detection: Dorothy, in the episode where the girls attend a murder mystery weekend, solves both of the mysteries they encounter thanks to her observation skills.
- Early-Bird Cameo: The traffic cone with a monkey's head that Stan carries around in "The Monkey Show" appears in the background in Stan's psychiatrist's office in "Mother Load".
- Early Installment Weirdness: The first episode was filmed as a pilot before the series was picked up, hence several interesting discrepancies between it and the rest of the series:
- Blanche didn't have a Southern accent; instead Rue McClanahan spoke with her natural Oklahoma dialect. Rue later explained that this was because the director of the pilot had told her not to use a drawl. Once the series was picked up, the new director allowed her to use a Southern accent.
- There was also Coco the cook, Blanche's last name being Hollingsworth (later turned into her maiden name), and the fact that Dorothy said she was from Queens, not Brooklyn. Also, Blanche's bedroom is shown to be at the left end of the house (where the lanai is usually shown), instead of in the corridor with the rest of the bedrooms.
- Getty's portrayal of Sophia is markedly different in the pilot, with Sophia being lot more surly and much less motherly than she becomes for the rest of the series. In the first season episode, "Blind Ambitions," Dorothy calls her "Mom," instead of the usual "Ma."
- A few throwaway lines indicate that Blanche either has been or would have no problem sleeping with a married man. Later, she is emphatic that this is the one line she will not cross.
- Downplayed, but much more emphasis is made of Rose's worrying nature in the earlier episodes, particularly when dealing with her family.
- Eat the Dog: Sophia claims their Chinese-American neighbors do this. Dorothy contradicts her, but she claims that is why their lawn is the only one on the block that dogs don't pee on.
- Elder Employee:
- An early episode has Rose get fired from her job as a grief counselor and being forced to look for a new job. After much rejection, she ends up as a waitress at a diner, although this is later retconned out of existence, as she remains a grief counselor for the first half of the series.
- It happens again to Rose in "Rose Fights Back," when Charlie's former sales company goes under, making her lose his pension. Her current job doesn't pay enough to support her, so she has to go looking for other work. She eventually gets a position as the assistant to a television consumer reporter and slowly makes her way up the ladder at the station.
- A Played for Laughs version has Sophia taking a few jobs in the food service, first as a server at a pirate-themed seafood restaurant and then as Old West-themed fast food joint where she and two elderly girlfriends confront their Mean Boss for being insensitive to their schedules, who happens to be the one friend's teenaged grandson (played by a young Scott Menville!)
- Embarrassing Ad Gig: In the episode "Older and Wiser," Blanche and Rose model their hands and face for a penny-saver ad. While initially excited, they're upset to learn that the ad copy reads, "Does your face look like this? Do your hands look like this? You need Ponce de Leon Anti-Aging Cream!" To top it off, extra liver spots were added to their face and hands.
- Embarrassing Roommate Teacher: Inverted. When Dorothy teaches a class for adults that never received their high school diplomas, she discovers that Rose is one of her students. Rose never graduated high school because of a nasty case of mono in her senior year, and felt too embarrassed to get it later until she saw that Dorothy would be teaching her.
- End-of-Episode Silliness: The final season features several episodes with a "tag" scene playing over the closing credits instead of the normal music.
- Entertainingly Wrong: When Dorothy's lesbian friend Jean visits and Dorothy keeps Jean's sexual orientation secret from Blanche and Rose. Blanche begins to suspect something's up when Jean changes the subject every time the topic of men comes up in conversation. Blanche comes to the only logical conclusion:Blanche: Face it, your friend Jean... is seeing a married man!
- Escalating Punchline: A Running Gag on the show. In one episode, Blanche is struggling with a diet:
- Dorothy: How's the diet going, Blanche?
- 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.
- Everyone Has Standards:
Blanche: Now, that was not my fault! She was pronounced dead! Those paramedics never give up.
- Blanche, for all her promiscuity, will not betray a friend or go to bed with married men. Oh -- except for that one time.
- Dorothy would never subject anyone, not even her worst enemy, to Rose's St Olaf stories... unless she needs to use it to do the right thing and get the father of a pregnant fifteen-year-old girl to take his daughter back.
- Everything's Better with Cows: It appears cows are considered the equals of human beings for legal purposes in St. Olaf.
Dorothy: The loss of your first love is the worst, the very worst.
- From the attempted Empty Nest pilot:
Rose: I know. I remember mine...
Sophia: It was probably a cow.
Rose: How on earth did you know that, Sophia?
Sophia: Wild guess!
- In St. Olaf, every hotel room is required by law to have a cow.
- In another episode, Rose relates the story of a legal nightmare that resulted when her late husband Charlie left everything to his prize cow in his will, as a joke. This being St. Olaf, it wasn't taken as a joke, and as a result it took Rose over six months to get the family farm back—largely because she had to argue in a courtroom full of cows ("There I was, presenting my case to a jury of HER peers!"). When Rose finally won the case, she celebrated - with a big, thick steak.Rose: I HATED that cow. I still don't think she should have been awarded the car. Not that she got to use it... [laughs nastily]
- Exact Words:
- In one episode, Rose attempts to become a live news reporter at the television station where she works. While she practices interviewing Dorothy, Sophia tells her that "a good reporter gets the story, no matter what." Later, Rose is sent to cover a dog show for her audition for the reporting job, and things take a turn for the exciting when an armed man shows up to rob everyone. Rose, as the only reporter on the scene, remembers Sophia's advice to get the story... and proceeds to continue to cover the dog show. Her audition tape consists of her examining and talking to the various dogs while the crook robs their terrified owners.
- In "A Midwinter Night's Dream," a two-parter, Sophia, fearing a curse that a village witch (who lived in Brooklyn) put on Dorothy as a child, must complete three tasks: "Kiss a fool, help a holy man, reveal the betrayal of a loved one." This trope comes into play for the second requirement: the rules say that Sophia has to help the holy man in some way... there's nothing stopping her from hurting him first, then helping him. She does just that by tripping a rabbi who Blanche invited to her "Moonlight Madness" party, then assisting him in getting up from the floor.
- In the same episode, this causes Sophia problems when she has to kiss a fool. When Blanche asks the obvious question of why Sophia doesn't just kiss Rose, Sophia explains that it wouldn't work because technically Rose isn't a fool, she's a simpleton.
- When Sophia goes out with Tony Delvecchio in "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun... Before They Die", the following exchange takes place:Dorothy: Ma, be good.
Sophia: I promise.
[Cut to Tony and Sophia in bed together]
Tony: You're good.
Sophia: A promise is a promise.
- One of the show's most famous example of In-Universe Ho Yay occurs because of this. Rose has Dorothy and Blanche as guests on a talk show panel that she's arranged, which turns out to be about "Lesbian Lovers of Miami." When the girls take her to task for this, Rose says she didn't know it was going to be lesbian-themed: the producers asked for "two women who love each other and sleep together," pointing out there have been incidents where they've shared a bed and thus slept together before.
- Expy: There are many comparisons between these four and the four from Sex and the City.
- Bea Arthur took exception whenever someone described Dorothy Zbornak as an Expy of Maude Findlay, since she felt she played the two characters very differently.
- Arthur initially balked at signing up for Golden Girls since she wasn't interested in doing, in her words, "Maude and Vivian Meet Sue Ann Nivens." She came around once she realized Rue McClanahan would be playing the "Nivens" character and Betty White had been cast as the "Vivian" Expy.
- The Faceless:
- We never get to see Charlie, Rose's late husband. Dorothy's ex-husband Stan is a recurring character, we see Blanche's late husband George in a dream as well as meet his twin brother Jamie (played by the same actor), and Sal, Sophia's late husband, often appears 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 and broad-shouldered" (and, as noted above, apparently better endowed than a bull).
- We never see Sophia's son Phil, who is a crossdresser, although he's frequently mentioned. Even in the episode where he dies, the figure in the coffin is never shown. All we see are people reacting to the way he's dressed (in lingerie, as he had requested).
- Blanche has two daughters and either three or four sons (she mentions Biff and Doug and it's unclear whether Matthew and Skippy are the same person or not), but while her daughter Janet appears in at least one episode and Rebecca is a recurring character in later seasons, no son of hers ever appears on the show. We never see two of Rose's four children either.
- Family of Choice: They frequently refer to themselves as a family throughout the series.Sophia: Kirsten, you're just upset, we all are. But you have to know these two women love her like a sister. And I love your mother like she was my own.Kirsten: Yeah, well, you're forgetting one thing, though. I'm her daughter. You're not her family.Dorothy: Why does everybody keep saying that? We share our lives together.
- Felony Misdemeanor: How Rose's home town, St. Olaf, treats any crime. Every year in St. Olaf, they assemble all the children in the town square who have lied and the mayor points at them.
- During Rose and Blanche's first meeting: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.
- During Rose and Blanche's first meeting:
- 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.
- First Gray Hair: in one episode, when Blanche explains there's no cheesecake in the house because "I found two gray hairs." Dorothy, irritated, tells Blanche that finding two gray hairs isn't a reason to eat an entire cheesecake. Blanche then explains that she found the gray hairs in the cheesecake and threw it out as a result. Enter Rose, who's been out shopping and has come home with a fresh new cheesecake, explaining that the store fired an elderly baker who had refused to wear a hairnet.
- 555: "555-GIVE" and "555-EASY." The former is the number of a fundraiser telethon, whereas the latter is to reach Blanche during the campaign.
- 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.
- In Stan's first appearance, he was a relatively normal person, and Dorothy delivered a scathing speech to him about how much he hurt her by cheating on her and leaving her, precisely because she valued what they had together. Later, his Manchild tendencies get turned Up to Eleven and their marriage is always described as an absolute disaster from start to finish.
- Flower Motif: In-universe, Rose's parents apparently invoked this when naming their children. During the course of the series, viewers are introduced to two of her sisters, Lily and Holly. The Golden Palace also reveals another sister, Iris.
- Food Shove Gag: Given Sophia's nature, Dorothy has preemptively told her to shut up or covered her mouth. One moment had her shove a fork full of cheesecake she was eating into her mouth.
- Foreign Culture Fetish: Played for Laughs in "Sick and Tired," in which Sophia proceeds, in front of Dorothy's doctor (who is Chinese-American), to list off all the reasons why she loves the Chinese.Sophia: You're a genius. All your people are. The Chinese invented pasta, you know. We Italians take credit for it, but we just added oregano.
- Formerly Fit:
- This is a major plot point in "Blanche's Little Girl." Blanche's daughter Rebecca, who had a falling out with her mother when she left home to become a model in Paris, reaches out and wants to rekindle their relationship. It turns out, though, that Rebecca gained a great deal of weight while overseas, which Blanche has something of a hard time accepting. Her real fear, though, is that Rebecca will marry the man she brought with her—a jerk who makes constant nasty jokes about Rebecca's size. Thankfully, this doesn't come to pass.
- Also, Ham Lushbaugh, a high-school crush of Blanche's who also happens to be the only man she ever failed to seduce. Although Blanche is stunned by his weight gain, it doesn't dissuade her from trying to get him anyway... which doesn't turn out the way she expected.
- Four-Girl Ensemble: A textbook example. Rose is the Naïve Everygirl, Dorothy is the tough, mannish Deadpan Snarker, Blanche is the promiscuous one, and Sophia is the wise Team Mom.
- It's even invoked in-universe when Rose has a hard time making friends with a coworker. She explains that everyone has to like her, as she's the "nice one," then goes to list the other girl's attributes: Dorothy is the "smart one," Blanche is the "sexy one," and Sophia is the "old one" (which Sophia herself isn't crazy about).
- Four-Man Band:
|Only Sane Woman||Dorothy|
|The Smart Girl||Sophia|
- Fourth Date Marriage: How Dorothy and Lucas's marriage eventually comes to be. Blanche tricks them into going on a blind date with each other, because his visit coincides with one of her dates; she doesn't want to completely ditch him but she wants to have fun, so she sets him up with Dorothy to keep them both occupied. When Dorothy and Lucas cotton on to Blanche's deception, they set up a fake engagement in revenge, only for them to fall in love for real. They get engaged for real and marry in the series finale.
- Freudian Trio: Kind-hearted Cloudcuckoolander Rose acts as the balancing Ego to hedonistic Blanche's Id and stern, sensible Dorothy's Superego.
- Full-Name Ultimatum: Used by Blanche's old mammy in the episode "Wham, Bam, Thank You, Mammy" which stops her in her tracks.
- The "Fun" in "Funeral": In the episode "It's a Miserable Life," the girls hold a funeral for the curmudgeonly Mrs. Claxton, which no attends, leading them to believe she really was a miserable, lonely, mean old woman. Ultimately, a woman shows up to pay her respects and lists all of Mrs. Claxton supposed positive qualities. She then discovers that she is at the wrong funeral, and gives the casket when she finds out who is inside.
- Fun with Acronyms: Blanche's full name is "Blanche Elizabeth Devereaux", which spells BED.
- Gag Boobs:
Dorothy: My rear tires have less pressure in them!
- At least once with Blanche (air filled, they deflate).
- Blanche gives Sophia a makeover for a date in one episode, which includes this trope.Dorothy: Ma, are you in there?Sophia: You know, this is the first time in years I've felt like the real me. [to Blanche] Should these be lower?
- 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 decided that she hadn't been properly prepared. When recounting this to her friends, she adds, "Boy, that bull would've been jealous."
- 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.'"). This is a rare example of good continuity for the series, since in "Sophia's Wedding," it's revealed that the Petrillos' and Weinstocks' pizza-and-knish business went under due to Sal's gambling. 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, so it can be assumed that Sophia gambles as an occasional diversion and doesn't have an addiction.)
- 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. Turns out Rose participated in the ruse at the request of the hotel as revenge for Blanche's borrowing her earrings without permission and then kicking Rose out of their shared hotel room.
- 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 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.
- Gaydar: Averted, intentionally or otherwise, in the case of Blanche. Entire episodes hinge on her total lack of it, to the point where she honestly seems to think her gay brother Clayton should continue dating women, despite his having come out of the closet.Blanche: Well, there must be homosexuals who date women!Sophia: Yeah! They're called lesbians.
- Genius Book Club: Blanche clearly enjoys Lady Chatterley's Lover, as she is seen reading a paperback copy of it several times throughout the series.
- Get Out!:
Rose: [singing "The Name Game"] Let's try it now with Dorothy. Dorothy Dorothy bo-borothy, bonana-fana-fo-forothy, fee-fi-mo-morothy...[sound of car screeching to a halt]Dorothy: Get out, Rose.
- Frequently said by Dorothy to Stanley, when he drops in unannounced and makes his latest unreasonable, intrusive demand usually to do with his poor financial situation. In one flashback, Dorothy kicks him for trying to sign them up for a multi-level marketing scheme.
- In the episode "Room 7," Dorothy Brakes Angrily and kicks Rose out of the car after she tries to play "The Name Game" while driving:
- Blanche often says this as a joke when she hears something particularly surprising or unbelievable. However, at one point she says it to Rose's Literal-Minded cousin, Sven, who immediately turns around and walks out the door.
- Getting the Baby to Sleep: In the episode "Not Another Monday", Blanche, Rose, and Dorothy can't get the neighbor's baby Frank they're babysitting to stop crying and sleep, so Rose suggests singing "Mr. Sandman" which was how she got her children to fall sleep. The three decide to try it, and turns out it works on Frank too.
- 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 (ex-)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 eerily similar younger brother visits in another episode.
- Phil, Dorothy's transvestite brother, is also this. The closest we get to seeing him is the visibly empty coffin at his funeral.
- 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 has with her younger sister Gloria. Blanche also had this with her sisters Virginia and Charmaine, as the three were Too Much Alike.
- 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 with Blanche, who was very hands-off with her kids. But it's abundantly clear that she regrets this, given that she spends most of the series making up for it.
- Good People Have Good Sex:
Blanche: [stunned] ...good lord, no wonder you still mourn that man.
- 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 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.
- Gratuitous Foreign Language: Rose speaking "Scandinavian" (sometimes identified as Norwegian, other times Swedish) and Sophia (and, on rare occasions, Dorothy) speaking Italian - sometimes specifically Sicilian (which, unlike Rose's "Scandinavian", is usually real, if pronounced with an obvious American accent). Blanche was even guilty of this, speaking Gratuitous Southern.
- Hand Puppet Mockery: At the beginning of "Once, In St. Olaf", Rose is playing with a couple of sock puppets that are part of a care package she's making for patients at the hospital where she's volunteering. She then proceeds to put on a show for Blanche, saying the puppets are Blanche and Dorothy; the latter then walks in just as Rose mocks the Dorothy puppet for being dateless. Cue Dorothy whacking Rose on the head with a newspaper.Rose: [hitting "Dorothy" puppet] Bad puppet!
- 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. One episode late in the series does finally reunite her with her biological father. He's a monk.
- Happily Married:
- Rose and Charlie apparently had the healthiest relationship of the main girls, although Sophia and Sal (who were shown capable of arguing) clearly loved each other and never had any serious issues. Blanche was fully committed to George, but then it turned out George had an affair and fathered a son with another woman, and it's frequently clear Dorothy and Stan's marriage was riddled with problems (not even starting with how Dorothy believes Stan got her pregnant by slipping her something to knock her out). Hopefully, Dorothy's marriage to Lucas Hollingsworth will be an extremely satisfying improvement over her previous marriage since Lucas treats her with love, dignity, and respect.
- Of all the Petrillo siblings, Dorothy's brother Phil had the only stable marriage while Dorothy and Gloria both ended up getting divorced. Phil's wife Angela never had any problem with Phil's crossdressing and often applauded him for having wonderful taste. She even went as far as to honor Phil's wish to have him buried in a teddy he picked out himself.
- Hilarious Outtakes: It had a few.
- Historical In-Joke:
- Sophia made a lot of these. It's usually unclear if she's lying or joking, her memories have really been twisted by old age, or both. Among other things, she's claimed to have had affairs with Pablo Picasso (she ended it when she was offended by his portrait of her) and Sigmund Freud (Sophia recalls that he loved to drive through tunnels), to have been friends and business partners with Mama Celeste until they fought over a man, to have been a contestant on a game show called Torture that was hosted by Mussolini, to have caused the Yalta Conference (which was apparently actually convened by FDR, Winston Churchill, and Josef Stalin to determine which of them loved her the most), and to have been present at the Valentine's Day Massacre with her husband and father when their car broke down in Chicago (although she does concede that it might have just been a Valentine's Day Massacre.)
- Since the entire main cast is over 50, the others all engage in this to a lesser extent. For example, Andy Rooney wanted to have an affair with Blanche but she turned him down, and Rose's high school history teacher may or may not have been Adolf Hitler after he faked his death and was hiding under an alias. Rose's high school gym teacher openly went by Eva Braun.
- Humorously averted with both Sophia and Blanche. Blanche recalls spending the evening with "the President" at the 1972 inaugural ball and awaking in his arms the next day. Dorothy, thinking Blanche meant Richard Nixon, is shocked... but Blanche was referring to the president of the local chamber of commerce, and actually expresses disgust at the idea of sleeping with Nixon. In another episode, Sophia tells a story suggesting that she had an affair with Charles DeGaulle but then clarifies she was referring to a gangster named "Charles the Mole."
- Holiday Volunteering:
- In the episode "Have Yourself a Very Little Christmas," Stan (once again) attempts to get the girls to invest in his business. They're not interested and instead head off to the soup kitchen to volunteer, where they find Stan in the line.
- Another episode has them doing this in a less traditional manner. When bad weather prevents any of them from following through with their holiday travel plans to see family, they find themselves at an all-night diner on Christmas Eve, which has exactly one staff member working. He gives them free cheesecake and helps them realize that they're with "family" after all, and the girls are so thankful for his kindness that they offer to mind the place for him so he can go be with his own family for a couple of hours, and he gratefully accepts.
- Hollywood Dateless: Dorothy. In fact, she's probably had more love interests than Rose or Sophia.
- Hollywood Heart Attack:
- Sophia fakes them frequently, often in order to get through lines at drugstores faster, and once even to get herself, Dorothy and Rose out of jail after they are arrested for trying to scalp tickets to a Frank Sinatra concert to an undercover cop.
- Dorothy tries faking one in "Bang the Drum Stanley," an attempt to expose Sophia as a malingerer. It fails.
- Rose has a real one. She gets better.
- Honest John's Security: One of these tries to scare the main characters into purchasing an expensive security system they can't afford by taking advantage of them following a burglary.
- Hot for Preacher:
- "Rose the Prude" features Blanche talking about how she and the reverend who spoke at her husband George's funeral had their eyes on one another, and after a time of trying to deny their impulses finally decided to "consummate [their] relationship". (It took about ten minutes, he wore his watch and his socks, and they never saw each other again.)
- In "Forgive Me, Father", Dorothy develops the hots for a coworker only to discover that he's a priest, and is subsequently wracked with guilt when he tells her he's decided to leave the church. Turns out he meant he was leaving his post as a parish priest to teach at another church, not leaving the Catholic Church. That same episode, Blanche recalls a time she had an affair with a "man of the cloth," and Dorothy, thinking Blanche is talking about a priest, is horrified. Turned out Blanche was talking about a man of actual cloth - a fabric salesman.
- Minor example in the final season episode "The Pope's Ring". After the Pope visits the hospital where Sophia's friend Agnes is a patient, Rose mentions what beautiful blue eyes the Pope has. Sophia adds: "Yeah, all the cute guys are either married or Popes."
- How We Got Here: The first season finale, "The Way We Met", consists of flashbacks that tell the story of Blanche meeting the others.
- When Stan finds out from Dorothy that their daughter Kate had been cheated on by her husband Dennis, Stan goes on a long tirade about how disgusting and shameful it is.
- Blanche chewing out Trudy for her prank in "Till Death Do We Volley" by pointing out that things we do when we're kids aren't always appropriate once we grow up - like staying out all night dating multiple men. She then realizes she's lost credibility and clams up.
- Hypocritical Humor:
- At the start of the episode "Have Yourself a Very Little Christmas", Dorothy names a list of aggressive acts people would do to their fellow shoppers "just for a Batman hat... but I did it anyway. I got the hat."
- "All Bets Are Off" features Sophia chewing out Dorothy for gambling at a horse racing track, based off some betting slips she'd found while going through Dorothy's purse.Sophia: How could you, Dorothy? I spent the best years of my life trying to give you a sense of moral responsibility!
Dorothy: Ma, what were you doing in my purse?
- Hypocritical Heartwarming: The girls bitch and fight with each other all the time. But if anyone else tries to bitch at or fight with the girls, then the gloves come off. That's reserved for the girls specifically...
- I Ate WHAT?!:
Dorothy: Not bad. What is it?Rose: I'm not sure. The pet owner calls it "chicken chow."
- 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:
- 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, asking, "Oh God, it wasn't my confirmation dinner, was it?!"Sophia (reminiscing): Your pop sure made everyone laugh when he made the little feet dance!
- In "Clinton Avenue Memoirs," Dorothy and Sophia look at an old photo album and discover a picture of Sal dressed as an organ grinder. Dorothy remarks that he somehow managed to put meat on the table every night despite his low salary, then asks, "Where's the monkey?" Cue a guilty look from Sophia.
- Sophia's miracle cure for the flu in "The Blind Date" - consisting of red peppers, oregano, garlic, chicken fat and lard. A sick Dorothy and Rose force it down their throats and after Dorothy complains about how terrible it tastes, Sophia mentions it's meant to be used in a vaporizer, not eaten.
- In the earlier episode in which Dorothy, Rose and Blanche all come down with the flu, Rose makes the girls her special hot toddy recipe from her folk medicine book. We never learn what's in it exactly, but Dorothy, after taking a sip, remarks, "This stuff should have an octane rating!" Rose's reply, without a hint of irony: "I know."
- I Have Just One Thing to Say: Invoked by name in the episode "Till Death Do We Volley", after Dorothy pulls a prank on her friend Trudy by pretending to sleep with her husband:"Dorothy Zbornak, this is the most underhanded, sneaky practical joke anyone's ever played and I have just one thing to say: boy, have I missed you!"
- I Have This Friend:
Dorothy: There's this person, someone I've known for quite awhile, and lately there seems to be this attraction developing, an attraction I've been trying to deny- Blanche, what are you doing?
- In the episode "Zborn Again," when Dorothy is trying to explain to Blanche about her renewed attraction to Stan.
Blanche: [backing away] It's a curse! My beauty's always been a curse! I'm sorry, Dorothy, but, like the fatal blossom of the graceful jimson weed, I entice with my fragrance but can provide no succor.
- A variation also occurs in "A Midwinter Night's Dream," when Dorothy is explaining to Rose, in a roundabout way, how she kissed Miles, using the analogy of cupcakes. This leads to one of the most hilarious double entendres of the series, which of course goes right over Rose's head.
- I Know You Know I Know: An interesting variation occurs; Dorothy returns home after learning the truth behind being stood up the night of her senior prom, and Sophia knows Dorothy knows, and Dorothy knows that Sophia knows she knows. Did you follow all that?
- Identical Granddaughter: Bea Arthur plays Dorothy's grandmother in one flashback (alongside a different actress playing young Dorothy).
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Many of the episode titles are references to classic movies, books, or popular songs. For example: "Two Rode Together", "Like the Beep-Beep-Beep of the Tom-Tom" (lyrics from the Cole Porter standard "Night and Day"), "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun... Before They Die", and so on.
- If You Ever Do Anything to Hurt Her...: Dorothy gives a speech to her daughter's husband (with whom she is making up with after he has cheated on her) about not being able to stand her daughter being hurt. When he promises that it won't happen again, she takes his hand and replies that if it does, that she will "break every bone in [his] hand". Stan adds, "Keep it zipped, buddy, she's not kidding."
- Ignore the Disability:Blanche: Hahaha... ahahaha... ahahaha... God I wish I was dead.
Ted: Blanche, are you nervous?Blanche: Nervous? Me? [dismissive tone] Wheelchair!
- Another in an episode where Blanche is dating a paraplegic:
- I'm Going to Disney World!:
- Spoken by Sophia in the episode, "Hey, Look Me Over." She goes with the "Disneyland" version (which is strange, since Disneyland is in California and the Girls live within driving distance of Disney World).
- In one episode, Dorothy and Sophia spend a weekend at Disney World. It rains most of the weekend, but on the last day, they ride Space Mountain. The interior of the ride is shown in the last scene just before the credits.
- Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: When Rose purchases a gun to defend herself from burglars, she tells the roommates she took a course at the gun range. She then pulls out a paper target with no holes in it. Later, she mistakes Blanche and her date for an intruder and fires at them, but only hits Blanche's Priceless Ming Vase.
- Impossibly Delicious Food: Rose's famous "Speardhoven Krispies" smell absolutely horrible, but apparently taste like "cheesecake, fresh strawberries, and chocolate ice cream." Blanche and Dorothy sample them and can't stop eating, saying it's the most delicious food they've ever tasted.
- Improbably Predictable: Stan walks out the front door. Someone is about to say something when Dorothy cuts them short and counts down. "Three... two... one..." 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.
- And I'm the Queen of Sheba:Rose: I am the smartest person in the world!
Dorothy: And I am the Pygmy Queen.
- Inkblot Test: Sophia undergoes an ink blot test as a sort of psychiatric entrance exam. Dorothy, accusing her mother of making up the answers to the exam, remarks that one of the ink blots looks like "John Forsythe lying naked in a pool of honey." The nun administering the test examines the blot and says a bit giddily, "It does look a little bit like John Forsythe, doesn't it?"
- In-Series Nickname:
- Sophia calls Dorothy "Pussycat" throughout the show, and calls Gloria "Kitten" during her appearance.
- Sophia reveals that Dorothy's nicknames in her youth were "Bigfoot" and "Moose." Her father Sal called her "Spumoni Face" due to their secret ice cream club; Dorothy called Sal "Favorite Parent."
- Blanche has also dubbed herself "Water Lily," a term which she uses when talking to herself, and her mother also called her "Peacock" as a child.
- Less frequently, "Stickman" for Stan. But everyone—from Dorothy to Sophia to his own mother—calls him "yutz."
- Inadvertent Entrance Cue:
- Stan frequently suffered this—Dorothy would say something along the lines of "I can't imagine anything worse," only to find Stan on the other side of the door. The other girls occasionally get in on this too:
- At the beginning of the episode where Dorothy and Stan plan to remarry, Sophia is losing to Blanche during a game of chess, and exclaims, "The game isn't over 'til the fat lady sings!" Cue Rose walking in happily singing "Singin' in the Rain". Later in the episode, Rose throws Dorothy a bridal shower and makes the guests play games, including one where a heart-shaped sticker is taken off the player's clothing every time she crosses her legs. Dorothy protests: "Who leaves their legs uncrossed all the time?" Cue Blanche walking in covered with stickers.
- In "Henny Penny: Straight, No Chaser," Dorothy, who is producing a first-grade play, finds out that her cast has all been quarantined because of a case of measles; rather than cancel, she suggests to the director that adults play the roles instead. The director is reluctant: "Where are we going to find an adult with the childish naviete to play Henny Penny?" At that point, Rose walks in and happily declares that she just saw a cloud that looks exactly like a ball of cotton. The director: "My God, she IS Henny Penny!"
- Incompatible Orientation:
- Dorothy, Rose and Blanche all find Laszlo devastatingly attractive... they just aren't his type...
- Dorothy spends days obsessing about her upcoming date with high-school crush Barry Glick, only to learn that Barry is gay. She takes it in stride, though: at least it means no other woman can have him.
- Blanche drops out of a night-school Spanish class because she'd only been there to meet men, and the only man she fancied kept doodling the name "Kenny" in his notebook.
- Insomnia Episode: "Brotherly Love" in Season 3. Rose goes without sleep for three nights in a row before Dorothy discovers the cause: Rose has been drinking tea loaded with caffeine in the evenings.Rose: But our bodies need caffeine! Especially women our age! Otherwise our bones will get brittle and we'll walked all stooped over.
Dorothy: Calcium, Rose. Calcium, not caffeine.
- Inspirationally Disadvantaged: Rose's sister Lily 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 a Heroic BSoD. Reconstruction with Lily going to a school for the blind and learning to take care of herself. She's even driving by herself.
- Interrupted Suicide: Sophia prevents her dear friend from killing herself.
- Ironic Echo: In "Ladies of the Evening," whenever Sophia complains about not being invited to meet Burt Reynolds with the others...Dorothy/Rose: She'll get over it. And even if she doesn't, who cares? We're going to meet Burt Reynolds!
- Sophia: You'll get over it, Dorothy. And if you don't, who cares? I'M ON MY WAY TO SEE BURT REYNOLDS!!!
- 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 by saying, "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 Makes Sense in Context: In-Universe — Rose and Blanche complain to Dorothy about the disruption that Sophia's live-in caretaker has caused to their lives in an effort to convince Dorothy to fire her. Blanche says that the nurse barged into her room overnight during an activity with her partner that could have caused her to "[fall] and chip a tooth." Rose recounts that the nurse interrupted her while she was re-enacting a scene from Peter Pan. Lampshaded by Dorothy, who exclaims: "What the hell goes on at night in this house?!
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
- Sophia is this. A woman with an insult for everyone she meets, but she also loving to her roommates - explicitly stating that she loves Rose and Blanche as if they were her own children - and cooks for them whenever they ask. She also 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.
- Joke and Receive:
Rose: I'm making Scandinavia's oldest and most traditional snack: cheese and crackers.Blanche: [sarcastically] Cheese and crackers, Rose? Not eggs gaflufen? Ham and guterhoggins? Pigs in a svengabluten?Rose: No, but you sure know how to make a girl's mouth water!
- Rose brings a chicken into the house, saying she's a professional entertainer. Blanche scoffs at this and, after Rose steps out, sarcastically says to Dorothy: "What does she do? Play the piano?" Immediately, Rose returns and says, "She plays the piano." (It's a small piano, but she does play it.)
- Happens several other times with regard to Rose's "Scandinavian".
- "Jump Off a Bridge" Rebuttal: Dorothy attempts this on Sophia. It doesn't work.Dorothy: Ma, did you sleep with Tony Delvecchio?
Sophia: A little.
Sophia: Blanche made me do it!
Dorothy: Don't you have a mind of your own? If Gladys Goldfein told you to drink an entire bottle of Kaopectate, would you?
Sophia: Who blabbed?
- Karmic STD: Discussed in an episode in which Rose is being tested for AIDS because of a possibly contaminated blood transfusion. She rants at Blanche that she doesn't know why this is happening to her when she's a good person, and that it seems like something which should happen to the more promiscuous Blanche. Blanche, understandably offended, fires back that "AIDS is not a 'bad person' disease, Rose! It is not God punishing people for their sins!"
- Kavorka Man: "Love Me Tender" is all about this trope. Sophia uses a computer dating service to get Dorothy a date with a man named Eddie, who is unattractive, boring, a terrible conversationalist, and still obsessed with his ex-wife Roberta (on said date, he brings Dorothy to the ex-wife's restaurant, which is named Roberta's, and ends up breaking down and sobbing for her to take him back). But Dorothy continues to see him...because despite appearances, he's the best lover she's ever had, to the point where they do nothing but have sex when they're together ("We don't go to dinner, we don't go to the movies—we just go to bed"). The show deconstructs the trope when, at the end of the episode, Eddie sighs that his sexual prowess is a curse—he's self-aware enough to realize that all he has to offer is being great in the bedroom and wise enough to know that any woman actually worth dating inevitably breaks up with him because she needs more than just great sex to have a healthy relationship.
- "Kick Me" Prank: Dorothy, being a substitute teacher, rather predictably gets this treatment.
- Kissing Cousins: Rose's excuse for making a fool of herself in front of the man Blanche and Sophia are fighting over.Rose: It's not my fault, my cousins have been marrying each other for generations.
- Lampshaded Double Entendre: 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.
- Landline Eavesdropping: A running gag is Sophia listening to her roommates' conversations through the extension in her bedroom.
- Laser-Guided Karma: In "Ebb Tide," Blanche's father Big Daddy dies, but she is too obsessed with a local social event to go to visit him in what turn out to be his last days. Later, when she and Dorothy travel to Atlanta for the funeral, Sophia turns the house into a temporary bed-and-breakfast in an attempt to raise cash for a big-screen TV. During the weekend, an expensive ceremonial plate that Blanche received for the social event ends up broken; Rose and Sophia manage to find a new one, but it ends up costing Sophia all of the money she's made. They have the new plate with them just as Dorothy and Blanche return, and the latter, having realized how selfish and inconsiderate she has been lately, proceeds to smash it on the floor. Sophia lampshades the situation:Sophia: (looking heavenward) What is this, sarcasm?
- Late Coming Out: Blanche's younger brother came out in his fifties after decades of being married to a woman.
- Least Rhymable Word: In one episode, Dorothy and Rose try to write a song about Miami and struggle to find a good rhyme for "Miami," though Rose comes up with a few (and a Painful Rhyme or two). Later, they can't find a rhyme for "orange," though Rose somehow becomes convinced that "cheesecake" could work after misunderstanding Dorothy's proposition to eat some cheesecake.
- Let Me Tell You a Story: A favorite tool of Sophia's. "Picture it: Sicily..." Sometimes subverted when her story ends up having absolutely no connection to the matter at hand. It's a skill Sophia apparently learned from her own mother, as shown in the Mother's Day flashback episode.Sophia's Mother (Bea Arthur): Let me tell you a story. Picture it! Sicily, 1881. A beautiful young peasant girl...
Sophia: Ma, not another story!
Sophia's Mother: Sophia, come closer. [slaps Sophia in the face]
- Rose's trademark is telling weird stories from St. Olaf that marginally relate to the situation at hand. Her friends hate these, not that she ever catches on.
- Literal Metaphor:
Sophia: Sometimes these things aren't meant to be. Like me and Fabrizio Ribeno. We were on the verge of a passionate love affair when Destiny intervened.Dorothy: Don't tell me. His wife, Destiny Ribeno?Sophia: Right. Boy, did she have a temper.
- Sophia loves this trope.
Rose: Finally I decided it was time to take the bull by the horns.Blanche: So you told her?Rose: No. I took the bull by the horns, turned him around, and showed her what makes a bull a bull.
- In one episode, Sophia describes how she failed a face because she "hit the wall." Dorothy thinks she ran out of steam, but Sophia literally ran into the wall of a Wendy's.
- Invoked by Rose when she describes how she gave her daughter The Talk.
- Locked in the Bathroom:
- Rose does this at a banquet when she finds out that the romantic relationship with her date was fabricated by Blanche as Dorothy who were impersonating her pen pal. Rose locks herself in the only operational stall as the other one is out of order, and by the time the situation is resolved and enormous line has gathered offscreen to use the washroom.
- Sophia does this when she is about to marry her boyfriend, Max, but Dorothy refuses to give her blessing to the marraige.
- Inverted in "The Mangiacavallo Curse Makes A Lousy Wedding Present," where Dorothy traps Blanche *inside* a bathroom stall.
- Long Speech Tea Time: Sometimes, when Rose starts one of her many meandering stories about St. Olaf, the others feign sleep or run off to the kitchen. On one occasion, while everyone's in the kitchen, the doorbell rings when Rose starts one such story. The other three loudly claim "I'll get it!" before dashing to open the front door.
- Low Count Gag: This trope is in place during the dialogue regarding the previous winner of the "St. Olaf Woman Of The Year" award, who won by saving the local St. Olaf library books when said library was burning.Blanche: That's amazing. How did she do that?Rose: Well, she grabbed two books in one hand and one book in the other and ran like the Dickens.Dorothy: Your library only has three books? What happens if someone's read them all?Rose: I guess we'll cross the bridge when we get there.
- Loophole Abuse: When a city inspector intends to fine Blanche thousands of dollars for having too many unrelated persons living in one him, Dorothy realizes that it would be perfectly legal if they all served as co-owners rather than renters. Blanche is initially reluctant, but eventually signs paperwork to give the girls equal claim to the house's title and changing the rent payments to mortgage payments.
- Mad Libs Catchphrase: Sophia begins every story with "Picture it: [City], [Year]. Usually the city is Sicily or Brooklyn.
- MadonnaWhore Complex: Of a sort, in "Journey to the Center of Attention", when Dorothy becomes popular at the bar Blanche frequents; whereas Blanche is known for being easy and the men usually tell dirty jokes in front of her, a man chides another for attempting to make such a joke in the presence of a lady... Dorothy.
- Mama Bear: Often comes up in episodes involving the girls' children. One of the biggest examples is when Rose's daughter and Dorothy's son both visit at the same time and are caught in bed together, and Rose and Dorothy lash out at each other and protect their respective child's honor while shaming the other.
- Manipulative Bitch:
- Rose's sister, Holly, was straight-up cruel: Dorothy and Blanche would make plans with her and ask her to relay the information to Rose; Holly wouldn't tell her, and then claimed that she did and furthermore that Rose obviously didn't want to spend time with her, winning Dorothy and Blanche's sympathy (Sophia was the only one who believed Rose's claims of innocence). It was gaslighting to the extreme, and only when Holly was caught outright cheating with Blanche's boyfriend that the other girls realized what a horrible person she really was.
- 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.
- Massage of Love: A subversion happens in "Dateline: Miami" where Rose talks about a bad date she had with a man on New Year's Eve grieving his dead wife who then lures her into giving him one of these. He tried to let it mutate into a different kind of massage to which she angrily refused and is immediately thrown out of the house after it's revealed that the wife wasn't dead, just at a fat farm in Sarasota.
- Mathematician's Answer: Rose provides one when the girls babysit an infant for a neighbor, and Dorothy asks her what gender it is.Dorothy: What is it Rose, a boy or a girl?Rose: Of course!
- MayDecember Romance: Blanche (old(er) woman, December) briefly dates her much younger aerobic instructor, only to find out that he really is searching for a mother figure rather than a lover.
- Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Played with regarding Sophia's "Sicilian curses." In "Big Daddy" (first season), Sophia casts a curse on a neighbor for refusing to remove a tree that fell into the girls' yard during a storm, and the neighbor pooh-poohs it... until unfortunate things begin to happen to him. His wife later confesses that she was behind all of her husband's misfortunes (except for the boil on his behind, which was purely coincidental). However, in "The Mangiacavallo Curse Makes a Lousy Wedding Present," her curse on Giuseppe Mangiacavallo seems to work without any extra help... although it apparently took decades to take effect.
- Meaningful Name:
- Blanche Devereaux, the vain, man-hungry, aging Southern Belle, is a reference to Blanche DuBois of A Streetcar Named Desire, the vain, man-hungry, aging Southern Belle. The name Blanche is derived from a French verb which means "to make white" - an ironic commentary about the character given that white is a color associated with purity and virginity.
- The name of Sophia's former retirement home is Shady Pines. When the real reason for why it was burned down is exposed in an episode, the name kind of makes sense.
- Blanche's younger sister's name is Virginia.
- Sophia's name means "wisdom," and while she's a bit addled by her age and the stroke, she still manages to dole out plenty of it during the series.
- Metaphorical Marriage: Blanche's gay brother Clayton plans a commitment ceremony with his boyfriend, Doug. Blanche has a hard time adjusting to the idea. It appears she would be okay with him being gay if he were also celibate. However, when Clayton makes it clear he will choose Doug as his family over Blanche if she doesn't accept them, she makes her peace with it and assures Clayton she will consider Doug her brother-in-law.
- 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.
- Mistaken for Prostitute: One episode had Blanche check the girls into a hotel which turned out to be a brothel and then the cops come to arrest them thinking them to be prostitute like the other women there.
- Mood Whiplash:
- The episode "Break-In" (season 1, episode 8) deals with Post-Robbery Trauma. Rose is in a parking garage, still paranoid after the girls' house has been burglarized. 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 playing Scrabble, claiming her word really exists and joking that the robbers stole the dictionary, meaning it can't be disproven.
- A scene in one episode has them jump between a serious discussion about the state of the elder care system to jokes about the pictures of topless women Blanche has spread out over the coffee table (she was considering implants and was trying to decide which ones). At one point mid-line.Sophia: Why do we let this happen? Why can't we care for our elderly the way they do in Japan? Why are there seventeen sets of hooters on the coffee table!?
- A flashback in the Valentine's Day episode jumps from a sweet moment of Sophia's husband giving her chocolates that he prepared when they left on their trip days ago, to them hightailing it out of there because the wall Sophia's father peed on was right next to the St. Valentine's Day Massacre.
- Moral Dissonance: Happens in "Blanche's Little Girl", when the girls meet the boyfriend of Blanche's daughter Rebecca and are horrified by the jokes he makes about her weight, despite the fact that Sophia was doing the EXACT SAME THING earlier in the episode.Rose: So, Becky, what brings you here to Miami?
Sophia: My guess is a small barge!
- Mundane Solution: When Sophia purchases a dog that is identical to Dreyfuss, the dog she is petsitting, she ends up in a conundrum where it is impossible to tell which dog is the original who should be returned to her client. When she asks Rose for help, Rose solves the problem by simply calling Dreyfuss' name, which he responds to.
- Museum of Boredom:
- Rose mentions St. Olaf's "Children's Cheese Museum" in one episode.Blanche: You have a museum... where children go to look at cheese?
Rose: Hey, it beats learning about it in the streets.
- Miles also takes Rose to a thimble museum in one episode, and mentions wanting to take her to a place called "Zipper Town" in the future. Unlike the above example, however, Rose is decidedly not impressed with either choice.Dorothy: You mean to tell me you actually had a good time at a thimble museum?
Miles: It was sew-sew. (starts laughing)
- Rose mentions St. Olaf's "Children's Cheese Museum" in one episode.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Blanche got this big time in the episode about Big Daddy's death. First when she realizes she passed up her last chance to see her father alive so she could be the belle of the Citrus Ball, and then when she refuses to attend the funeral after she's called out for her selfishness by her sister Virginia, and has to regretfully settle for a brief graveside farewell.
- Mystery Episode: There was an episode where they attend a Mystery Dinner Party with Blanche's boss. After Dorothy quickly solves the murder, Blanche's boss is killed for real and another investigation occurs. The killer was Blanche's coworker, but it turns out to be another game.
- 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 doorstep 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. And yet another episode said she went with her brother, Phil.
- 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, and Blanche mentions another time that a cop came to her house to let her know about George's death.
- Another is where Blanche lived and how old she was when she moved to Miami. In one episode, when talking to her daughter, she mentioned how, when said daughter was a baby, she would have to go downstairs in the middle of the night to scream for the governess when she was crying, implying she lived at her family home of Hollingsworth Manor and her Miami home was a retirement property. However, when considering selling shares of the house to the other girls, she's initially reluctant because she claims it was the house where she raised her children.
- 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.").
- Dorothy's children are a great big continuity error. It is stated numerous times that she had to drop out of high school because she got pregnant, was married for 38 years, then divorced two years before the show began, meaning she should be 57 with a child near or over 40. Yet whenever Kate and Michael appear on the show, both are in their 20's. It can't even be claimed that Dorothy has an unseen third child, because Stan's third wife explicitly states that Dorothy raised two children.
- Rose's love interest Miles Weber is initially shown to have a grown daughter living in Miami, who does not approve of his relationship with Rose at first, because she believes he is still too vulnerable after his wife's death. Later, however, Miles is revealed to be in the witness protection program, living in Miami under an alias, and all of his relations reside in his hometown of Chicago.
- Rose mentioned almost any honor she competed for as being "her town's highest honor." She claimed this about Butter Queen, St. Olaf's Woman of the Year, and Small Curd Cottage Cheese Queen (well, after Large Curd Cottage Cheese Queen.)
- An early episode had Dorothy and Sophia playing cards for money. Later, in "All Bets Are Off", Dorothy is revealed to have a gambling addiction and isn't supposed to do any gambling at all.
- Never Mess with Granny: By the end of the series, all four Girls were grandmothers (or in Sophia's case, a great-grandmother)... and all four repeatedly proved that they were not to be trifled with.
- In one episode, Dorothy calmly tells the prejudiced Barbara Thorndyke to "go to Hell." In another, she gives an epic "The Reason You Suck" Speech to a doctor who misdiagnosed her Chronic Fatigue Syndrome by insisting that she was just getting old and needed a makeover.
- Rose may have been a kind person...but there's a reason Beware the Nice Ones is a trope. She once saved a teddy bear that a Bratty Half-Pint was keeping from her by ripping said bear from the girl's arms and shoving her out the door. Rose also stood up to notorious grump Frieda Claxton and told her to "drop dead"—unfortunately, poor Frieda was so stunned by Rose's outburst that she did.
- Though Blanche hated the idea of being a grandmother (it made her feel old), she still showed her mettle when necessary. During a protest to save dolphins from tuna fishermen, she laid a guy flat with a single punch; she once hit a home run without even trying at the batting cages; and she wasn't afraid to lay down the law with her children when she saw that her grandson was being neglected.
- And, of course, Sophia was probably the least afraid to get her hands dirty. She smacked Blanche's unruly grandson across the face when he mouthed off to her, and, upon discovering that her boyfriend was cheating on her, laid into him with her purse (she had some backup from her sister Angela on that one).
- Never Say That Again: Both of the series' primary storytellers got this one.
- "Blanche's Little Girl":Rose: It's like something that happened back in St. Olaf...Dorothy: Oh Rose, STOP! Rose, why is it that whenever any of us makes an observation, the first thing we hear out of you is "Back in St. Olaf"? Did it ever occur to you that we might be sick and tired of hearing, "Back in St. Olaf... back in St. Olaf... back in St. Olaf"?!Rose: Gee, no. That never occurred to me... I'm sorry.Dorothy: Oh, that's all right.Rose: Back in that town whose name you're tired of...Dorothy: ROSE!!!
- "On Golden Girls":Rose: Did they have chores in Sicily?Sophia: Are you kidding? They invented chores in Sicily. Crossing the street without getting pregnant was a chore in Sicily.Dorothy: Rose, NEVER mention Sicily.
- "Blanche's Little Girl":
- Never Win the Lottery: The girls win a significant amount of money on a scratch ticket in one episode, but Rose mistakenly leaves the ticket in the pocket of a jacket that they donate to the poor. They eventually track the jacket to a homeless shelter and pose as homeless individuals to stay there for a night and retrieve it... but decide to donate the money to the shelter instead after hearing the stories of the shelter's other occupants.
- New Baby Episode: "Blanche Delivers" is about Blanche's pregnant daughter Rebecca coming to Miami to have her baby. Blanche spends much of the episode uneasy because Rebecca doesn't have a husband to support her, and disagrees with Rebecca's decision to deliver her baby at a birthing center. Rebecca changes her mind when she visits the birthing center and hears the painful screams of the women in labor, and she has her baby girl, Aurora, in a hospital room, with Blanche by her side.
- Newscaster Cameo: Rose's Dream Sequence in "A Letter to Gorbachev" features an appearance by former NBC newscaster Edwin Newman, playing himself.
- News Travels Fast:
- Invoked by Rose in "Old Boyfriends"; after Rose reveals she had 56 boyfriends in high school, Sophia walks into the room looking for advice on men and immediately goes to her instead of Blanche.
- When the group is arrested for suspicion of prostitution, Rose gets upset that her reputation would be damaged if the news of her arrest made its way back to her hometown of St. Olaf. Dorothy mentions that it's fairly unlikely they would find out, but Rose claims that their local newspaper is known for its invetigative journalism.
- New Year's Kiss: One flashback in the clip show "Dateline: Miami" has Blanche surprise Rose with a double date so Blanche can get a New Year's kiss. However, both of the dates turn out to be a bust, leaving Blanche and Rose alone. As they watch the countdown on television, Blanche leans in towards Rose, who tells her, "Don't even think about it."
- No Periods, Period: Mostly averted since the girls were all at least middle-aged, i.e. either in or near, or post-menopause. However, one episode did deal with Blanche — the youngest of them — beginning to go through menopause, and this led to them relating stories of their first periods.
- Non Sequitur, *Thud*: "Bang the Drum Stanley," after Sophia is whacked on the head by a fly ball while at the ballpark with Dorothy and Stan.Dorothy: Ma, are you all right?!Sophia: Fine, fine. Only next time, Salvatore, either we start lower on the bed or remove the headboard. [falls unconscious]
- No OSHA Compliance: In one of Rose's stories about her home town, she mentions that her cousin fell into a vat of milk. He wasn't injured and it turned milk-swimming into a sport in St. Olaf.
- Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Sophia supposedly grew up and lived in Italy for at least a quarter of her life. She has no Italian accent, not even a trace. Neither do any of her relatives who live in Italy, except for cousin Antonio and brother Angelo.
- Not So Remote: On one vacation the girls mistakenly believe they are stranded on a Desert Island. It turns out they are on a beach shore on the same mainland they were staying on, and close to a major hotel that is much nicer than they one they were duped into staying at before.
- Not What It Looks Like:
Jack: Now honey, it's not what it looks like!
- 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. The routine they practice is the dirty dancing routine - the one from Dirty Dancing.
- Spoken word for word during this moment, from the episode "Till Death Do We Volley", when Dorothy's friend Trudy catches Dorothy in bed with Trudy's husband:
Trudy: Obviously! Dorothy thought I was dead, tried to comfort you, and the two of you got carried away!
Dorothy: Okay, it is what it looks like.
- In "Family Affair" (season 2), when the girls catch Rose's daughter and Dorothy's son in bed together.Michael: Grandma, this is not what it looks like.
Sophia: Please, I'm 80 years old. I may not remember what it feels like, but I sure as hell remember what it looks like!!
- 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.
- As part of Sophia's elaborate plot in the episode "My Brother, My Father," Blanche and Rose, dressed in nuns' habits after rehearsals for The Sound of Music, end up having to pretend they really are nuns. Needless to say, Blanche doesn't quite pull that off...Blanche: [carrying her normal clothes in her arms] We're here collecting, uh, lingerie... for needy sexy people.
- In another, Sophia, after a friend of hers who was a nun passes away, decides impulsively to join a convent. Sophia being Sophia, she fails horribly at it, getting the other nuns to gamble at cards (and cheating,) suggesting a "Monks of the Midwest" beefcake calendar to raise money, and hiding a picture of some young stud behind her photo of the Pope. Her Mother Superior gets in on it as well; when Sophia tries to butter her up, she quickly shuts her down with, "Save it, Sister Suck-up!"
- Nutritional Nightmare: Rose's Maple Syrup/Honey/Brown Sugar/Molasses/Rice Krispie Log. Rose makes one for her daughter's visit, mentioning she used to make it for her kids all the time when they were young.Dorothy: Tell me Rose, do any of your children still have their own teeth?
- Obnoxious In-Laws:
- Sophia did not get along with her son Phil's wife at all. Even at his funeral she has trouble treating her with any sort of respect. It is not Played for Laughs. She is also implied to have been no less obnoxious to Stan before the divorce than she is after.
- The one time Blanche's mother-in-law was mentioned, she was said to wish on her deathbed for Blanche to have the disease that was killing her, and according to Blanche, until George died she would always refer to her as "[George's] first wife." When she did pass, Blanche's only response was "I hope the old witch went slowly."
- Dorothy's ex-mother-in-law was an interesting take. She liked Dorothy, but treated her poorly so that Dorothy would insist they not visit - Stan's mother didn't want Stan around.
- Blanche derisively refers to her unseen son-in-law as "the yankee."
- Flashbacks show that Sophia's parents treated Salvatore the same way Sophia treats Stan.
- According to Sophia, there's a tradition in Sicily that when your mother-in-law dies, you're supposed to wear a hair shirt, eat dirt, and pound your head on a rock: anything to keep you from laughing.
- Oh, No... Not Again!: When Dorothy was looking for Sophia after the two of them had a fight, she checks under the sink.
- Dorothy: No. She wouldn't hide in the same place twice.
- from "The President's Coming! The President's Coming!"Sophia: Pussycat, are you doing the grocery shopping today?
Dorothy: Yeah. Something you want?
Sophia: Pick up a couple of chicken breasts and why don't we say 40... better make it 45 tubes of sunscreen.
Rose: Sophia, I've made that mistake before. The best thing to do is turn the oven down if you don't want the chicken to burn.
Dorothy: Rose, I don't think my mother was planning on using the suntan lotion on the chicken — what do you mean you've made that mistake before?
- One-Person Birthday Party: Rose flashes back to a time when she celebrated her birthday alone, after the death of her husband.
- 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.
- OnlySaneWoman: Dorothy is the only character who seems to think and talk through issues rationally and without derailing the conversation with wild stories or irrelevant anecdotes from her past.
- OOC Is Serious Business:
- Consider the frequency of Rose and Charlie having sex -- seven to midnight, five to seven AM, and until noon on Sundays — the length of time Charlie was in Cuckold after what he did with a farmer's daughter, per Rose's account when told to Blanche, can count.Rose: I was so mad, I refused to serve strudel for a year.Blanche: That's not so bad.Rose: Strudel is our pet name for s-sex.Blanche: Wow. You were mad.
- Consider the frequency of Rose and Charlie having sex -- seven to midnight, five to seven AM, and until noon on Sundays — the length of time Charlie was in Cuckold after what he did with a farmer's daughter, per Rose's account when told to Blanche, can count.
- Outliving One's Offspring: Sophia discusses this trope in the season five premiere, "Sick and Tired", saying it wouldn't feel right to continue living after losing a child. A season later, her son (and Dorothy's brother) Phil dies.
- Overly Long Name: Apparently very common in St. Olaf.Rose: In Stan's defense, Charlie once made a lot of money in business with a man who was also a lousy, no-good, backstabbing worm.Dorothy: Let me guess, Rose: Ivan Boeskyvanderheuvenfleuvenmeistergarbengerbenfleckman?Rose: That's the louse.
- Overly Narrow Superlative:
- When posing for a sculptor named Lazlo starts to drive a wedge between the girls, they confront him and make him choose. In order to get him to choose her, Blanche butters him up by saying she thinks he's the greatest Hungarian sculptor of our time. Dorothy then calls her on this, saying that if she can name two other Hungarian sculptors of any time, she will eat the statue they're standing beside.
- In "Stand by Your Man", after Blanche breaks up with a man she finds out is married, she promises to "never pick up another man... in a library... on a Saturday... unless he's cute... and drives a nice car." She then smiles sweetly and adds, "Amen."
- Painful Rhyme: In one episode, Dorothy and Rose are competing in a songwriting contest and can't find a rhyme for "Miami." Rose proposes words like "Mammy," "whammy," "Hootenanny," and "salami" (pronounced as "salammy"). Dorothy responds, "'Hootenanny' is marginal, and I refuse to accept 'salammy.'" (Dorothy is Italian-American after all.)
- Pair the Smart Ones: Discussed when Miles and Dorothy talk about how people would expect them to get together because of their shared intellect and interest in literature.
- Paparazzi: When Sophia participates in a marathon for the elderly, she becomes convinced that she is a celebrity athlete and falls under the delusion that she is being hounded by journalists. This leads her to tell off a caller and hang up on them, without realizing that they were actually a parent trying to inform the other girls that he would be late picking up the infant they were babysitting due to an emergency.
- Papa Wolf: Stan, believe it or not, in the episode where it's revealed that his daughter's husband cheated on her and broke her heart.
- 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.
- Parent with New Paramour:
- Big Daddy's much younger fiancee in "Big Daddy's Little Lady".
- There's also "Sophia's Wedding," in which Sophia marries her husband's widowed business partner Max, and Dorothy is not happy about it for a while.
- Perverse Sexual Lust:
- One episode had Rose recently breaking up from a passionate relationship with a Disney World employee. 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 episode proceeds to look for men to have sex with. She even asks "if anyone else noticed the buns on that priest!"
- Plagued by Nightmares: Blanche had a recurring nightmare where she was in a room full of bald men, then heard the voice of God, and the room fell into the ocean. She accompanies Rose and Dorothy when they take a flight to a funeral and is shocked when all of the passengers aside from them are bald men. note Then the pilot, Captain Lord, makes his pre-flight announcement which just agitates her further. Fortunately, the falling into the ocean part doesn't come into play and they return home safely.
- Planet of Steves: Rose's old boyfriend from St. Olaf, Buzz, comes from a family where all the men are named "Buzz" to avoid confusion. Naturally, this serves to only cause confusion:Rose: Come on, Buzz!Buzz: [looks around] You're kidding, Buzz is here, too?
- 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.
- Playing Sick:
- After recovering from heart surgery, Stan fakes a relapse in order to keep Dorothy waiting on him hand and foot.
- In "Beauty and the Beast," Sophia fakes the severity of an injury that has confined her to a wheelchair in order to keep Nurse DeFarge waiting on her hand and foot (and annoying the hell out of the other Girls at the same time).
- The two malingerers team up for the biggest deceit of all in "Bang the Drum Stanley." After Sophia is whacked on the head by a fly ball at a baseball game, Stan convinces her to pretend she's paralyzed so they can sue the park and get a big cash settlement. Sophia goes along with it at first (although Dorothy is not fooled), but eventually guilt gets the better of her when she sees how many people in the hospital waiting room seem legitimately injured. It's then revealed that everyone in the waiting room is also Playing Sick, as Dorothy put them up to it to shame her mother into confessing.
- Poke the Poodle: A flashback scene to Blanche's and Rose's first meeting in the episode "The Way We Met," in which Rose cites several examples of her behavior to prove to Blanche that she's a "wild woman."Rose: But I'm not a stick in the mud. I can let my hair down and get crazy with the best of them. ... I eat raw cookie dough. And occasionally I run through the sprinkler and don't wear a bathing cap. And at Christmas I've been known to put away more than one eggnog.
- Pooled Funds: A variation of this occurs in one episode in which it's revealed that Sophia has received more Social Security money from the government than she should have due to a computer error. Dorothy convinces her to send the overpay back, and Sophia reluctantly agrees but notes that she hopes they'll want the money back after an 83-year-old woman rolled around naked in it.
- Poorly Disguised Pilot: The episode "Empty Nest." The main characters of The Golden Girls only appear in about two scenes. 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 move back in with him.
- Pop-Culture Pun Episode Title: "The Stan Who Came to Dinner", "Yes, We Have No Havanas", "Fiddler on the Ropes", "Sophia's Choice", "Wham, Bam, Thank You, Mammy", and "One Flew Out of the Cuckoo's Nest", just to name a few.
- Post-Robbery Trauma: Rose becomes extremely paranoid after their home is burglarized in the episode "Break-In", and takes various measures to protect herself, including purchasing a firearm. Hilarity Ensues after Blanche mistakes her mace for a can of hairspray, and Rose's poor marksmanship results in the destruction of Blanche's Priceless Ming Vase.
- Post-Script Season/Retool: The Golden Palace
- Pregnancy Scare: In "The End of the Curse", Blanche believes that she's pregnant and spends the first part of the episode trying to work out who the father might be. As it turns out, she's not pregnant - she's entering menopause.
- Prenup Blowup: When Stanley and Dorothy plan to remarry, Dorothy becomes upset that Stanley asks her to sign a prenuptial agreement. This ends the engagement.
- Priceless Ming Vase:
- When Blanche comes home with her date late at night without disarming the alarm system, Rose shoots at them believing them to be intruders. When Blanche is aghast that she shattered her beloved vase, Rose remarks that at least she didn't shoot her date. Blanche replies that she would rather Rose have shot her date.
- On one occasion, Stanley breaks a plate which was one of Rose's family heirlooms. Stanley regrets using it to eat a sandwich off of after Rose explains that her family members traditionally consumate their marraiges on the plate.
- Protest By Obstruction: In one episode, Blanche handcuffs herself to a radiator in her grandmother's old home, unable to bear letting construction workers tear it down.
- Pun: When Dorothy befriends Barbara Thorndyke, Barbara takes her to a literature-themed restaurant where the menu (which was a full-sized, hard-bound book,) was full of these. The Crepes of Wrath, The Old Man and the Seafood Salad, Dorothy had the For Whom the Stuffed Bell Pepper Tolls, and Barbara had a turkey sandwich on Catcher in the Rye Bread with a side of George Bernard Slaw, and was given Edgar Allen Poe-tatoes and The Ice Water Cometh on the house.
- Put Off Their Food:
- In an early episode, Rose mentioned having a creepy feeling about ice cream sundaes after a childhood incident in which a soda jerk in St. Olaf arranged the scoops in her sundae in an obscene way.
- Happens when the girls mistakenly believe that the dinner Angela cooked for them was the live chicken Rose was petsitting.
- 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.
- Blanche's Big Daddy is a male version. "They're admitting who into my country club?"Dorothy: Come on, honey. I'm sure Grand Dragon — I mean, uhh... Big Daddy is always with you.
- An interesting take occurs in the episode "Mixed Blessings" where it's Greta, the black mother of the fiancee of Dorothy's son, who is against their marriage because he's white; in many other situations, this would be played as downright despicable.
- The other girls (who are all grandmothers) avert this trope—particularly Blanche, who frequently defies her Southern heritage by showing an interest in African-American men. In the "Mixed Blessings" episode, she rushes to get a pencil when Greta mentions that she knows plenty of young, wealthy black men. Later, when Sophia asks if the myth about black men in bed is true, it's Blanche who immediately answers, "Oh yes, definitely... oh yes, definitely, that is something I'd like to know about, too."
- Real After All:
- In one episode, Rose thinks she sees a UFO; skeptical Dorothy tries to convince her otherwise, but eventually admits her own belief when the military sends a representative to confirm the story. The end of the episode reveals that the craft was actually an experimental Air Force plane, explaining the cover-up; as Rose talks about her belief in the unknown, Dorothy nods off, and another set of flashing lights and strange sounds comes from the sky. It's implied that this was a real UFO.
- Played for laughs in "The Mangiacavallo Curse Makes a Lousy Wedding Present." The girls attend Dorothy's goddaughter's wedding, and Sophia reveals that the groom is the grandson of Giuseppe Mangiacavallo, a man she was originally supposed to marry in Sicily; he left her at the altar, prompting her to place a curse upon him and all of his descendants, including a provision: "May your socks always slip down into your shoes." At the wedding, Giuseppe discredits this and claims there are no curses... but as he walks away, he pulls his socks up. Cue a satisfied grin from Sophia.
- Real Joke Name: A particularly funny example comes from "Yes, We Have No Havanas." Dorothy is teaching an adult education course at a local community center, and calls roll:Dorothy: Jorge Vega...Michael Fachik...Jim Shu—"Jim Shu?" Oh, ha ha, I get it. "Gym shoe." Very funny.(A Japanese-American man stands up)Japanese-American Man: Excuse me—I am Jim Shu.Dorothy: (Embarrassed) I'm terribly sorry. I thought you were pulling my leg!
- Really Gets Around: Blanche.Blanche: In the South, we mature faster. I think it's the heat.Dorothy: I think it's the gin.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
Dorothy: The first thing you can do is get rid of that ridiculous toupee. I want to talk to the bald guy who left me. You walked out on me, Stanley Zbornak! You walked out on me and you didn't have the decency to tell me you were leaving. I heard it from some lawyer over the telephone. A stranger, Stanley, a total stranger told me that my marriage was over. Things happened? You're damn right things happened. 38 years happened. 38 years of sharing and crying and dreaming and fighting and loving and children and diapers and school plays and Little League. And worrying if you'd get through your gallbladder surgery. And wondering if I'd get through another Sunday dinner at your mother's house. And the lean years when the business failed. And the good years and the happy Christmases. All those things happened. And because they happened, I deserved better than a stinking phone call from my husband's legal representative. You had a choice, and you took the easy way out. And it was a rotten thing to do! But now you're here in front of me and you can't run away. And I finally get to have what you tried to cheat me out of. I finally get to say goodbye, Stanley.
- 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.
- In the second episode of Season One, Dorothy delivers one to her ex-husband Stan on their daughters wedding day, calling him out on his cowardice and how he took the easy way out when he left her for another woman.
- Rose held her own as well. She gave one to the nasty Frieda Claxton, to Blanche when Blanche goes too far with making Rose her personal slave, and to her manipulative and two-faced sister Holly after Holly slept with Blanche's boyfriend.
- Blanche even gets in on the act, giving one to her scumbag night school professor in response to him propositioning her in return for a passing grade.
- Reckless Gun Usage: Overcome with trauma stemming from a robbery, Rose purchases a gun and carelessly shoots towards the front door, hearing a man's voice and thinking it was the robber (it was actually Blanche's date.) The bullet ends up hitting one of Blanche's prized vases. Her hysterical reaction is played for laughs, but Rose could have very well killed or injured Blanche or her date with her stupidity.
- Remember the New Guy?: One episode focuses on Mary, a pregnant teenager who lives in the neighborhood. She is depicted as having a long-established relationship with the main characters, and yet is never seen or mentioned outside of the one episode, nor is it ever explained to the audience how the girls came to be so close to her.
- Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated: A newspaper erroneously prints an obituary of Blanche. She can't believe they could print this sort of egregious misinformation. They got her age wrong!
- Restaurant-Owning Episode: Sophia and her new husband start a pizzaria on the beach at one point, and the entire group collective toils to ensure its success. The Reset Button is pressed when an electrical short in the oven starts a fire which burns the stand down, although they are reimbursed by the insurance company to financially maintain the status quo.
- 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 (or possibly working at another center.)
- Reunion Show: The Golden Girls: Their Greatest Moments aired in 2003 on the Lifetime television network, which at the time was 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.
- The Reveal: A minor one in "The Auction." The girls discover that Jasper DeKimmel, a Jerkass artist, is dying, and needs a donor with a rare blood type to save his life. Dorothy, Rose, and Blanche use the opportunity to buy one his paintings, as Blanche points out that an artist's work often appreciates by a huge amount after her or his death. At the end of the episode, they're successful and call Sophia to let her know. Sophia tells them that they've wasted their money, as a donor was found with DeKimmel's blood type. The camera then pulls back to reveal Sophia herself lying in a hospital bed as she complains that all she gets for saving a man's life is "juice and a cookie."
- Revival Loophole: Blanche claims to have never slept with a married man, except for one incident which shouldn't count because "Those paramedics never give up." It's implied that she slept with a man believing his wife was deceased, only for the paramedics to revive her afterwards.
- Rewatch Bonus: In "The Case of the Libertine Belle", Dorothy surmises that Posey killed Kendall by placing a knife in her purse before leaving the dining room to go to Blanche's room to stab him. If you rewind the episode, you can see Dorothy's scenario play out in the background after Blanche gives Kendall her room key.
- Rhetorical Question Blunder: Rose is the master of this trope.Dorothy: [after Blanche remarks that to be believable at the class reunion they plan to crash, they'll have to study the yearbook and learn such valuable information as who was the class slut] Blanche, how do you tell a slut from a yearbook?Rose: Oh - how do you tell a slut from a yearbook? Uh, you don't have to buy a yearbook dinner.Blanche: Rose...Rose: You can bring a yearbook home to meet your parents.Blanche: Rose!Rose: There's nothing wrong with having a yearbook on the coffee table.Dorothy: Rose, this isn't a riddle!Rose: Well, make it one! I had three good answers!
- Ripped from the Headlines: Gary Hart was a Democratic Senator from Colorado who was considered a front-runner to get his party's nomination for the 1988 Presidential election, until Miami Herald reporters, trying to get dirt on him, noticed an aspiring actress and formerly beauty queen named Donna Rice entering his house one evening, and the story spread (hotly denied by both Hart and Rice) that the two had had an affair. Replace the names "Gary Hart" and "Donna Rice" with "Gil Kessler" and "Blanche Devereaux", change a few other details, and you have the plot of the Season 3 episode "Strange Bedfellows." Hart and Rice themselves provided fodder for jokes in several other episodes (see Take That! below).
- In another episode, it's implied that Blanche's affair with a man did in fact cost him his party's nomination, and in another, it's revealed that even the Secret Service has a file on her.
- Roommate Com: Unusual in that the main foursome that live together are older ladies. Many episodes concerned their love lives, and all four women, whether divorced or widowed, were portrayed as dating and being sexually active.
- Rule of Three: When the girls only have three tickets to an event to meet Burt Reynolds, Sophia is aghast that she isn't invited. On two occasions, the girls say "She'll get over it. And if she doesn't, who cares? We're going to meet Burt Reynolds!" After the girls are arrested on suspicion of prostitution, Sophia snatches the tickets and says "You'll get over it. And if you don't, who cares? I'm going to meet Burt Reynolds!"
- Sarcasm-Blind: A constant gag is Rose asking a stupid question, recieving a sarcastic response, and then taking the sarcastic response seriously.Ted (Stan's brother): I'm from Minneapolis.Rose: Minneapolis, Minnesota?!Sophia: No, Rose, Minneapolis, France.Rose: I'm from Minnesota.Ted: So am I.
- Screw Politeness, I'm a Senior!: Sophia's lack of tact is sometimes explained by Dorothy after the fact as a result of the stroke Sophia had in the past, which caused her to be placed in Shady Pines (though this is rarely referenced otherwise). The stroke and her propensity to say rude things are only fully described in the first episode; Rose expresses disapproval for some of Sophia's comments, and Blanche explains that she doesn't mind because she knows Sophia can't help it, since the stroke caused brain damage that, to put it simply, removed her politeness filter.
- The Scrooge:
Rose: Oh, Charlie was a wonderful man... but he could squeeze a nickel until the buffalo pooped!
- Rose's deceased husband, Charlie, was quite frugal.
- Rose's boyfriend Miles also goes through a bout of this in one episode. He has a reason, though; he's living on a fixed income, and when he was told he's healthy enough to live to 100, he became afraid that he wouldn't be able to afford it.
- Stan is cheap as well, particularly when it comes to matters of romance. In one episode it's revealed that he got Dorothy's engagement ring by winning it in a carnival crane game. In another, Dorothy remarks that Stan is the only person she knows who owns a time-share dog.
- Seduction-Proof Marriage:
Blanche: I even said no to a journalist famous for his work on 60 Minutes. Now if that's not fidelity, I don't know what is. Then I find out that the only man I ever loved cheated on me - on ME! Oh, I could just die! [flees to her room]Sophia: [when Blanche is out of earshot] I'll bet it was Morley Safer. [Rose and Dorothy nod]
- In "Ladies of the Evening," the girls are arrested on charges of prostitution. Dorothy offers (sincerely) to explain things to the officer in private, but he takes it for a come-on and says he's happily married.
- Blanche claims her marriage to George was one such marriage, as she turned down various would-be suitors. George, apparently, was not so discriminating, as Blanche learns to her devastation in "An Illegitimate Concern."
- Serial Spouse: Harry, Blanche's fiance in the pilot, married multiple women without divorcing them.
- Serious Business:
- Bowling. In one episode, the girls get into a major row over picking bowling partners.
- Anytime Sophia attends a competition. A bingo game and a marathon are just two events she feels this way about.
- Sophia's cooking. In one episode she prepared a dish that Rose and Blanche compliment, but Sophia is convinved it's "garbage" because they didn't get "The look" in their eyes when they tasted it.
- Sexual Euphemism: As a show that centered around sex but needed to remain appropriate for television, there were many.
- The one time Rose walked in on her parents, they were "just playing leap frog".
- When Stan informs the girls about the potato peeler he's pitching commercially (which he named the "Zbornee"):Rose: What's a "Zbornee"?Dorothy: Rose, I put up with it for 38 years. You don't want to know.*Cue Stan rolling his eyes*
- Sex for Services: Blanche had slept with two city council members - because she wanted to. Their approval of the petition she was sponsoring was an added bonus she was expecting, though.
- Sextra Credit:
Dorothy: And did you get an A?Blanche: More like a full scholarship to MIT!
- Blanche was the target of one sleazy professor when she was studying for her degree. Unlike the previous example, though, she refuses, as she only sleeps with people she actually likes. She did, however, mention having a fling with a calculus teacher in high school.
- In "The Audit" (season 3), Blanche promised sexual favors to a night-school Spanish teacher in exchange for the answers to an exam. One could make the case she was only teasing, however, since she was there only to meet men (whereas Rose was trying to learn Spanish to qualify for a promotion at work), and also made no indication that she planned on following through with the promise.
- Sexy Scandinavian:
- Olga, Sven's fiancee in "A Visit from Little Sven." She's such a knockout that she immediately makes Sven forget his feelings for Blanche.
- Rose herself in the episode "Rose: Portrait of a Woman," in which she gives Miles a photo of herself in sexy lingerie as a birthday present. We never see the picture, but from the reaction Miles (and his professor friends) make upon opening the present at his party (and from the fact that a horrified, embarrassed Rose immediately flees), it's apparently quite a doozy.
- "Shaggy Frog" Story: Almost all of the stories Rose tells about her hometown, St. Olaf. In the episode "Nice & Easy" she attempts to illustrate "teenage rebellion" by telling a story about the time she sneaked 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!
- Sophia's "Picture it. Sicily..." stories tend to end up here too.
- Shamed by a Mob:
- In "Til Death Do Us Volley," Dorothy has to reveal to her class reunion that Trudy died while they were playing tennis before ultimately breaking down in tears over her belief she pushed Trudy too far. Once Dorothy runs out of the room, who shows up to the house but none other than Trudy who reveals she faked dying as a joke on Dorothy. Everyone in the room is disgusted and the girls call Trudy out for the anguish she caused Dorothy. Thankfully, it turned out Dorothy was able to get Trudy's husband to tell her the truth before the reunion began, and had him help stage a prank of her own as revenge, meaning her whole breakdown was a setup. This trope still applies since no one at the reunion knew Dorothy was acting too.
- Patrick in "The Actor," once it's revealed - during the play - that he's romanced not only Blanche, Rose, and Dorothy, but every other woman (and possibly one man) in the cast and crew. Blanche even suggests a good old-fashioned Southern hangin'. It never gets that far, but Dorothy angrily tells Patrick off before throwing him off the stage. The audience responds with applause, having no idea that it wasn't part of the show.
- Shockingly Expensive Bill: Dorothy almost gets one after she orders a high-end restaurant's "best" champagne, without actually checking which wine it was or how much it costs. Part way through the meal, Rose points out it is $430 a bottle. Sophia manages to save the day by pouring pepper into the drink and convincing the waiter it has been tainted, prompting him to comp the entire meal.
- Shotgun Wedding: In one incident, Dorothy explains that she only married her sleazy boyfriend, Stanley, because she was pregnant and they needed to legitimize the baby. Rose becomes shocked that she had a "blowgun" wedding, and the exasperated Dorothy tells her that the correct term is "shotgun".
- When Dorothy is working on the kids' show, Mr. Terrific has a puppet sidekick named Kolack from Twilar. This is very likely a shout-out to Danny Thomas, who appeared on a The Dick Van Dyke Show episode ('It May Look Like a Walnut') as "Kolack from Twilo." Tony Thomas, one third of the production team, was Danny Thomas's son.
- "A Piece of Cake": In the flashback sequence at Mr. Ha-Ha's, when Mr. Ha-Ha is about to reveal Dorothy's age to all present, Dorothy yells, "I'll punch your heart out, Ha-Ha!" One of Maude Findlay's (also played by Bea Arthur) trademark catch phrases was "I'll rip your heart out."
- Sitting Sexy on a Piano: Blanche does this in "Journey to the Center Of Attention," complete with a red dress. Of course, it fails horribly; watch to see just how. Rue McClanahan named this as her favorite musical scene.
- Sleazy Politician: Gil Kessler. Played with, Gil is actually a wimp and a coward, who doesn't dare dispute accusations that he is having an affair with Blanche and won't take it back when Blanche suffers from the press hounding her and Slut-Shaming by her roommates. He explains that he's doing this because no one's ever considered him a strong-willed person before, and sleeping with her makes him seem like one.
- Small Steps Hero: Invoked by Blanche, in the episode where she's been writing letters with Bill the pharmacist while he served in the Persian Gulf. Back in the States, they're trying to figure out how to approach dating, and he remarks to her that he's not a hero, he's just a pharmacist, and he realizes they barely know each other. She then watches as he counsels a young Hispanic mother, distraught and speaking broken English, on how best to help her sick child.Blanche: (warmly) Who says you're not a hero?
- 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 stove (which is stage left of but lined up with said table) are up against the Fourth Wall.
- Society Marches On: There were many jokes about Wholesome Crossdresser Phil Petrillo, Sophia's son and Dorothy's brother; in the episode where he passes away, Sophia calls him "queer," and Blanche corrects her—the proper term is "gay." However, in the thirty-five years between the show's airing and the New Twenties, "queer" has been generally reclaimed (though not without some controversy) by the LGBTQIA+ community to refer to people whose identities don't fall into traditional categories like gay or transgender. In the twenty-first century, Phil would be considered a man with a feminine gender presentation/expression.
- 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. In the end, he finally manages to get her to go away by promising to be her friend; as a pal, Rose has to do what he says, including leaving him alone, to make him happy.
- Speaks Fluent Animal: When the girls discover a mouse in their home, Rose begs them to allow her to ask it to leave as an alternative to having pest control eliminate it. After her efforts to negotiate with the animal turn out to be futile, Dorothy successfully encourages the mouse to exit through the hole under the sink that she believes it entered though.
- Spin-Off: Empty Nest is 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 Crossovers. After The Golden Palace was canceled, Estelle Getty's Sophia became a regular on Empty Nest.
- Spiritual Successor: Sex and the City, essentially. Hot in Cleveland also shares many similarities with this series, even beyond the presence of Betty White in the main cast. See that entry for more information.
- Spot the Thread: It's relatively easy to tell that "Mrs. George Devereaux" is All Just a Dream before the ending just by viewing Dorothy's subplot, where she gets into a love triangle with Lyle Waggoner and Sonny Bono.
- Squeamish About Slaughter: When a chicken Rose is petsitting goes missing at the same time that Sophia's sister Angela serves chicken for dinner that was sourced from "the garage", the girls are disgusted at the thought of having consumed someone's beloved pet. It turns out the chicken had escaped from its cage, and Angela was referring to the freezer in the garage.
- Standardized Sitcom Housing: The house differs slightly from the norm in that (like most Florida homes) it's only one story, and where most shows have the staircase, it has the lanai; but otherwise it fits the bill.
- Starstruck Speechless: Dorothy intends to confront President George H. W. Bush about issues that matter to her when he stops by to visit the girls, but upon meeting him, she can barely speak and can only stutter his last name "Bush".
- Start My Own: A variation in a first-season episode. Dorothy, Blanche, and Rose are planning their annual vacation, and leaving Sophia out of the plans. Later, Sophia shows up with a large group of elderly women, explaining that she's formed a "vacation club" out of other mothers who get left out of getaways.
- State Visit: The two-part Clip Show episode "The President's Coming! The President's Coming!" has the girls prepare for a visit from President George H. W. Bush during his Miami tour. Everybody gets excited except Dorothy, who is critical of Bush's policies. We only get to see Bush's Secret Service agents and hear his voice (impersonated by Harry Shearer), but he's charismatic enough that Dorothy is too star struck to call him out.
- Status Quo Game Show: When the girls appear on the Show Within a Show Grab That Dough, Dorothy and Blanche end up being in the winning group, despite the mishaps along the way. However, their choices during the final round cause them to win only a lifetime supply of canned soup, and a skillet to cook it in.
- Status Quo Is God: From the very first episode, every time it seems like one of the girls might leave the house for whatever reason (marriage, moving in with their children), something happens which results in everyone staying put. Even when Sophia marries her husband's business partner, they decide to live apart, realizing that they'll never love each other as much as their late spouses, but not wanting to divorce. The status quo only changes in the series finale, when Dorothy gets married and moves away.
- Stealing from the Hotel:
- There's an episode where Sophia does this. She takes the towels, reaches for the Bible, but changes her mind. She then attempts to get the hotel room's telephone embedded in a decorative clamshell container, but it's secured to the table. Sophia also steals from a hospital while visiting Rose, saying that they expect people to do it as in a hotel.
- In "The Case of the Libertine Belle," Sophia happily brags that she made off with a whole silver place setting during a mystery dinner. At the end of the episode, she claims that "no crimes were committed after all"... but needs help carrying her purse to the car.
- Stereotype Flip:
- Pepe the Cuban boxer in "Fiddler on the Ropes" purposely plays into the stereotype of a dumb Latino boxer (including apparently being unable to speak any English outside of "Kill Gonzales!"), and the girls go along with it without questioning until they discover that there's a lot more to Pepe - he not only can speak fluent English, but he's a very talented violinist. Dorothy at first expresses indignation that Pepe would think she and her friends were ignorant enough to buy into that stereotype, until Pepe correctly points out that they did buy into it without questioning.
- Similarly, Marguerite in "The Housekeeper" purposely plays into the stereotype of a woman of Caribbean descent as a practitioner of voodoo and black magic by letting the girls believe that she's blessed them with good luck charms for hiring her and later cursed them with bad luck for firing her. She admits in the end that it was a put-on and she's studying for her law degree, which explains why she's so bad at housework (she's too busy studying to focus on the chores).
- Still Fighting the Civil War: While hints of this trope appear in regard to Blanche's family background, the most egregious example would be the members of the Daughters of the Old South in the episode "Witness." These women are unapologetically pro-Confederate - to the point where a woman is denied entry if it turns out one of her ancestors did so much as sell a horseshoe to a Union soldier. Their meetings even feature re-enactments of Confederate victories during the war, leading Dorothy to snark: "It's hard to believe they couldn't get Federal funding for this." Thus, Blanche is horrified when researching her family tree to apply for membership, and it turns out one of her ancestors is Jewish - and from Buffalo, New York.
- Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
- The B-plot of "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Sophia?" has Blanche intentionally rear-ending the upscale cars of men in order to meet them/get dates with them. She's then baffled as to why one who claims that she caused him to have whiplash wants to sue her.note
- In "Nice and Easy" Blanche's niece dates a vice cop named Ed who took the job because he's a big fan of Miami Vice. Like the show, he drives a fancy car, wears expensive Italian suits...and is up to his neck in hock. He then says that he can't afford of all of it on a vice cop's salary.
- "Girls Just Want to Have Fun...Before they Die" has Blanche giving romantic advice to both Rose and Sophia: Rose, who has to remain celibate due to a drought in St. Olaf, should coyly hide the truth from Miles, while Sophia should take charge with her potential suitor Tony Delvecchio. Both approaches backfire spectacularly — Miles ends up breaking up with Rose due to her perceived lack of interest (they get back together, of course), and Sophia ends up storming out after telling Tony that she loves him.
- One episode has Rose telling a St. Olaf story about the town's World War II effort: training superintelligent cows to drop behind enemy lines and attack. Unfortunately, they overlooked the fact that as cows, they are unable to pull a rip-cord and essentially fell to their deaths. The only reason why the plan wasn't a complete failure was because "if there's one thing that the Germans hate, it's a mess."
- Due to her vain, It's All About Me personality, Blanche did not enjoy being a mother and was VERY hands off, leaving the raising and taking care of her children to nannies and housekeepers. As they got older, she told people they were children from her husbands first marriage. While her vanity is usually Played for Laughs, many instances on the show reveal that her now-grown children want little to nothing to do with her.
- Straight Gay: 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. 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: When Dorothy nearly marries Stan a second time, the girls (minus Sophia) hold a bachelorette party for her, and a cop comes because of a noise complaint filed by a neighbor. Blanche mistakes him for the stripper she'd called earlier, who was supposed to have been dressed as a cop, and grabs the officer's butt a few times before the stripper himself actually comes in right behind her. Later, the two officers try on each other's hats, and things get, in Dorothy's words, "really weird."
- "Stuck at the Airport" Plot:
- In one Mother's Day episode Flashback, Rose reminisces about being stuck in a bus station with another elderly woman who was going to visit her daughter. She eventually reveals that her daughter is dead, and that she visits the cemetery on Mother's Day every year. Things look bleak when a cop shows up (the woman had run away from her nursing home to make the trip), but Rose saves the day by claiming that the woman is her own mother.
- In another flashback, the girls end up sleeping in a train station after discovering that all of the locomotives that depart from the town deliberately leave early. The problems only increase when a group of circus clowns appears from another train.
- When the girls all try to fly home to their separate hometowns for Christmas, all their flights are cancelled due to a large storm. They end up spending Christmas together with a worker at a small diner near the airport.
- Suicide by Pills: In "Not Another Monday," Sophia's friend Martha decides to commit suicide by overdosing on pills after the death of her friend Lydia, and asks Sophia to sit with her when she does it. Sophia is able to talk her out of it and the two cry together.
- Superstition Episode:
- "The Housekeeper." The girls' lives take a turn for the better when they hire Marguerite as the housekeeper, but once they have to fire her because of her incompetence at housework, bad luck comes in spades, and they're convinced Marguerite has put a voodoo curse on them.
- Sophia also has a habit of casting "Sicilian curses" of her own, which sometimes seem to work.
- Sweet and Sour Grapes: In "Yokel Hero", Rose vies for St. Olaf's Woman of the Year Award. Blanche and Dorothy decide to help her by exaggerating the achievements in her application, and she earns the prize. Upon discovering that the other girls lied, though, Rose refuses to accept the award... and later ends up genuinely winning because of her honesty (it helps that the woman to whom the committee originally tried to give it had a literal skeleton in her closet).
- Sweet Tooth:
- Rose has a notorious sweet tooth. Once, when she can't sleep, she mentions how her nightly ritual involved eating a painful amount of sugar. ("A handful of Sno-caps, a couple of Devil Dogs, some Oreos, and a Ho-Ho chopped up in a bowl of fruit cocktail with heavy syrup.") When Dorothy hears this, she snarks, "Couldn't sleep? I'm surprised you didn't try to kill the mayor of San Francisco."
- Several of Rose's St. Olaf recipes are examples of this. Either lampshaded or parodied with Rose's Maple Syrup Honey Brown Sugar Molasses Rice Krispies log. Literally just four layers of sugar stacked on top of each other.Dorothy: Tell me, Rose, do any of your children still have their own teeth?
- Take a Third Option: When one of their relatives comes to visit, the girls spend the night discussing who will share a bed to make room for the guests. After recalling the discomfort from previous cases of sharing a bed, the girls decide to all chip in and let their visitors stay at a hotel.
- Take That!: The show made frequent references to pop culture at the time. See the examples on this page.
- The Talk:
- When Dorothy is preparing for a wedding, Sophia realizes she never gave Dorothy "The Talk". Dorothy says that she's had plenty of sex over the years, Sophia replies that she thinks Dorothy is "doing it wrong". However, in "72 Hours," it's stated that Sophia and Dorothy did have The Talk when Dorothy was a teenager - well, sort of.
- Rose's version of it with her daughter Kirsten involved taking the bull by the horns - literally - "and showing her what makes a bull a bull." Her mother did the same thing, which Rose admits affected her expectation of what a naked man would look like, leading to a surprise on her wedding night.Rose: Boy, that bull would have been jealous.
- Tempting Fate:
- In "The Housekeeper," the girls fire their Jamaican housekeeper Marguerite, who warns them that they're "making a big mistake." As Marguerite had demonstrated apparently magical abilities before (she gave Blanche what was apparently a love potion and left a painted rock as a charm under Dorothy's bed), Rose and Blanche are convinced that she's cursed them when a string of bad luck hits. Dorothy refuses to believe this and points out that nothing that unusual has happened... cue a man in a crow suit suddenly parachuting onto their lanai.Man in Crow Suit: This isn't the Orange Bowl, is it?
- In "Bang the Drum, Stanley," Stan takes Dorothy and Sophia to a baseball game. Dorothy's happy with the empty seat by her, and comments that she usually gets stuck "next to a fat sweaty man who insists on taking his shirt off." Three guesses as to the type of guy who sits down at her side as she's saying this.Dorothy: What kept you?
- This crosses over with Inadvertent Entrance Cue when it comes to Stan: Dorothy will comment about something being a "pain in the neck" or horrible, the doorbell will ring, and surprise—Stan is on the porch.
- In "The Housekeeper," the girls fire their Jamaican housekeeper Marguerite, who warns them that they're "making a big mistake." As Marguerite had demonstrated apparently magical abilities before (she gave Blanche what was apparently a love potion and left a painted rock as a charm under Dorothy's bed), Rose and Blanche are convinced that she's cursed them when a string of bad luck hits. Dorothy refuses to believe this and points out that nothing that unusual has happened... cue a man in a crow suit suddenly parachuting onto their lanai.
- That Was Not a Dream: Sophia becomes convinced that she is going to die after she has a dream where Sal, wearing his favorite fedora, appears at exactly 9:00 PM on a Saturday and says "Sophia, you can come now. There's room for you now." When Saturday night comes, the doorbell rings at nine o'clock, and a figure in a fedora appears, waiting for Sophia...but it's not Sal. It's her friend Mildred, wearing her lucky bowling hat. It turns out that Mildred dropped by earlier in the week to tell Sophia that her friend group was going bowling, and gave her the message by standing outside her window and calling out.
- In "Room Seven," Sophia briefly goes unconscious after choking and meets Sal in Heaven, thinking that her time has finally come. When she wakes up, she tries to tell Dorothy that Sal has a message for her, but Dorothy waves it off as a simple hallucination brought on by lack of oxygen. However, at the episode's end, Sophia relays the message by calling Dorothy "Spumoni Face," which was a secret nickname that Sal had for her as a little girl—one that Dorothy never shared with her mother, proving that the visitation was real.
- The Thing That Would Not Leave:
- After the girls reluctantly allow Dorothy's ex-husband, Stanley, to stay with them as he recovers from open heart surgery, Stanley takes advantage of them by continuing to stay with them long after he has recovered. Dorothy finally kicks him out after realizing he was downplaying the progress of his recovery to take advantage of them.
- When Sophia marries her boyfriend Max, her husband stays with them until they can find their own place. Max's inconsiderate behavior makes the girls extremely uncomfortable, but him and Sophia consistently keep stalling for more time to stay there.
- Theme Tune Extended / Truncated Theme Tune: The syndicated/Lifetime edits of the episodes featured both. The extended version adds a repeat of the "And if you threw a party..." verse, extending the song from roughly 41 seconds to over a minute; the truncated version cuts the "And if you threw a party..." verse altogether, chopping the song down from 41 seconds to 22.
- This Is My Side: When the girls are arrested for alleged prostitution, Rose annoys the others with a St. Olaf story while in their holding cell. Dorothy divides the cell by drawing a line the dirt with her foot and demands Rose stay on the other side.
- Toilet Humor: Usually involving Sophia, from jokes about her urinating or defecating in the wrong place...Sophia: I'll just have to remember, when I get up at night, the bathroom is to my left. The last time we had a guest, I killed two potted palms!
- ...at the wrong time...Sophia: Every morning at seven, like clockwork, I pee. Unfortunately I don't get up until eight.
- ...or not at all.Blanche: Girls, I have writer's block! It is the worst feeling in the world!Sophia: Try ten days without a bowel movement sometime.Blanche: You just sit there, hour after hour after hour!Sophia: Tell me about it.
- Rose's slow cousin, who did bird imitations.Rose: Let's just say you didn't want to park your car under their oak tree.
- ...at the wrong time...
- Too Incompetent to Operate a Blanket:Rose: Oh, darn, I keep forgetting I'm not supposed to speak English! Being bilingual really gets me confused.Sophia: Ziplock bags get you confused.
- Toll Booth Antics: In one episode, Dorothy boasts about running a tollbooth with her date.
- Tongue on the Flagpole: When the girls are gathered to recieve their expected Mother's Day calls from their offspring, Rose asks her child if it is cold enough in Minnesota for their tongue to stick to a pole when you lick it. He places her on hold while he goes to find out, but the answer is never revealed to the audience.
- Tough Room: Fans of the show love Rose's St. Olaf stories, but in-universe, her friends dread having to listen to them.
- Tour Guide Gag: The pilot makes this type of joke when the main characters join Rose on a flight to make a speech at a relative's funeral.Pilot: Ladies and gentleman, if you all look to the left side of the aircraft...
[all passengers lean over]
Pilot: ...it will tip over.
- Trademark Favorite Food: The ladies collectively had cheesecake as this. They apparently had a stockpile of them in their refrigerator and would crack them open like emergency rations whenever someone had a problem and wanted to talk. Although, in real life, Bea Arthur (Dorothy) didn't really care for it that much, and knowing that, you can see she usually just poked at it with her fork without really eating it.
- Transatlantic Equivalent: The UK's Brighton Belles in 1993. It was not successful.
- Trans Equals Gay: Very refreshingly averted with Phil, Sophia's cross-dressing son. He was happily married to a woman for years, and had many children with her—he just happened to like dressing up in women's clothing (something his wife supported, as he enjoyed it). It's discussed in the episode where Phil dies; Sophia suggests that Phil might have been "queer," and Blanche corrects her, pointing out that the correct term is now "gay." Sophia counters this by pointing out that Phil was "a six-foot-three, two hundred pound man with kids."
- Translation: "Yes": When Sophia's friend who only speaks Italian helps the girls renovate their garage into a guest room, he relies on Sophia to translate his directions to English. At one point, Sophia translates a short phrase into an extended "Picture it: Sicily" story, and Dorothy and Blanche immediately question how he could have told the lengthy story in one sentence of Italian.
- Trauma Button:
- Played for Laughs when Rose and Blanche are rehearsing their roles as nuns in The Sound of Music. Rose says, "The Nazis are coming! The Nazis are coming!" and Sophia bursts through the door in a panic telling everyone to hide in the basement.
- Also happens when Rose buys a doorbell alarm that sounds like dogs barking. Sophia runs out saying, "The dogs are on my tail again, through the river, run through the river."
- Played very seriously, however, in the episode where the girls are robbed and Rose develops some PTSD as a result. When she hears Blanche's date talking one night, she thinks the robbers have returned and almost shoots him.
- Traveling Salesman: Stanley is an wannabe entrepreneur who tends to bounce from failed career to career throughout the series, but most of his business ventures revolve around this model. At one point he uses a sales convention as a lie to get away from Dorothy so he can have an affair.
- The Triple: The show often used one character as a Straight Man to tell a story or set up a joke. The other three would usually respond with straight line, straight line, Punchline. While it was usually Rose who got the "kicker" in these instances, sometimes it was given to Sophia.
- The girls' reaction to Sophia's "Thanks for the Medicare" song parody:Blanche: Depressing.Dorothy: Awful.Rose: Stinky.
- "Clifton Avenue Memoirs": The girls are discussing Sophia's depression at losing her memory.Dorothy: I hate watching what this is doing to Ma.Blanche: I hate watching what this is doing to you.Rose: I hate watching those FBI warnings at the beginning of movie rentals.
- "The Actor": After Patrick is exposed as a cad during the play, the girls admit they'll miss him.Dorothy: He made me feel beautiful.Blanche: He made me feel young.Rose: He made me feel smart.
- In "Once, in St. Olaf", when Rose is telling the others she just met her birth father.Dorothy: He's alive?Blanche: He's in Miami?Sophia: He's an earthling?
- When Sophia's sister Angela moves to Miami, they go out to look for a house for her to live in. Angela turns down various suites because of the same list of reasons: Too small, not enough light, and no room for a goat.
- The girls' reaction to Sophia's "Thanks for the Medicare" song parody:
- True Companions: All four of the main group. They may all be markedly different and bicker constantly, but they are closer than family, to the point that they all have a pact to take care of one another if something ever happens to one of them.
- In "Home Again, Rose," Rose suffers a severe heart attack and needs quadruple bypass surgery. When her daughter expresses concern that they won't be able to pay for the rehab, Blanche immediately remarks that the girls will help, commenting, "That's why houses have mortgages." In other words, she's willing to take out another loan on her property if it meant helping Rose.
- Earlier in the series, Blanche actually makes the women co-owners of the house rather than renters, something she was initially reluctant to do.
- Uncatty Resemblance: Rose interviews people who look like their dogs in "Melodrama".
- Undesirable Prize: The girls go through a lot of trouble to fly to California to be on the fictional game show Grab That Dough!, so they decide to split up in increase their chances of winning. Rose and Sophia lose, and each take home $100. Blanche and Dorothy win, and bet their cash on a mystery prize. After showing them Window 1 (new living room furniture) and Window 2 (a sports car) they open Window 3 and show them their prize... an electric skillet. And a lifetime supply of soup.
- Unexpected Positive: Dorothy takes a hearing test to show Sophia it's no big deal. Sophia does not need a hearing aid; Dorothy does.
- Unfortunate Item Swap:
- After the girls' home is burglarized in The Golden Girls, Rose takes a number of measures to protect herself. When Blanche tries to maintain her hairstyle with hairspray, she discovers the can she took from Rose's room was actually mace.
- When Sophia loses Dreyfuss, the dog she is supposed to be taking care of, she purchases an identical replacement from the pet store. When the real Dreyfuss returns, she hides both in her room and isn't able to tell which dog is the real one.
- The Unintelligible: Vincenzo in "Rose's Big Adventure".Sophia: [translating what Vincenzo says] Before we begin... let's make one thing clear. ... I am in charge. ... I am the boss. ... I am the master. ... I am the walrus.
Dorothy: Ma, either your Italian is rusty or he's the world's oldest hippie.
- 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. The Mother's Day episode mentions that she was a senior in high school in 1949 (in America, she would be 17-18 for this), which would put her as roughly her mid to upper 50s for the duration of the show and near 60 at its conclusion.
- Verbal Backspace: Quite often. One particularly hilarious example is from "What a Difference a Date Makes" when Dorothy attempts to plot revenge against the boy who ostensibly stood her up for her senior prom where she planned to dress up nice and then lie about them having plans to go out and stand him up. She wanted to try it out, but upon seeing him again, her plan quickly folds:John Noretti: Why Dorothy, you look great. You haven't changed a bit.Dorothy: I love you! I mean, I'd...love you to meet my roommates.
- And again a short time later:Dorothy: Take me!...out to dinner.
- And again a short time later:
- Very False Advertising: When Rose books a vacation at a tropical location on behalf of the whole group, she falls for a dingy hotel's false claims of comforts. Since the room was paid for in advance and all of the features advertised turn out to be Metaphorically True, the girls have no means of obtaining a refund and decided to stick it out for the weekend.
- Very Special Episode: Numerous, and not exactly unusual for a show of its time.
- Dorothy, usually the strongest character, is the one dealing with a gambling addiction. She's also diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (after a number of doctors initially dismiss it as just age or laziness) Truth in Television, as this had happened to one of the writers, and Dorothy's "The Reason You Suck" Speech to her doctors seems much like a Character Filibuster but a completely understandable one.
- Sex-loving Blanche struggles to deal with her brother's homosexuality, menopause, a sexually exploitative professor, and an emotionally abusive boyfriend (who she only dumps after he hurts Dorothy). She also has to deal with the ramifications of her hands-off parenting and how it's affected her children and grandchildren.
- Sweet, slightly prudish Rose is the one who goes through an AIDS scare, a drug addiction, and the aftermath of a house robbery. The AIDS episode both lampshades and deconstructs the assumption that it would be happening to Blanche instead. There was also the episode aired during the Cold War, where she becomes afraid of nuclear war, writes to Gorbachev, and nearly gets invited to Russia because they think she's a child writing about it.
- Sophia, the Cool Old Lady and Mama Bear, dealt with issues afflicting people in her age group. She befriends a man with Alzheimer's, talks a sick, old, lonely woman out of suicide, tries to break a (slightly senile) friend out of a substandard nursing home and care for her, deals with her estrangement from her cross-dressing son Phil and his untimely death, and eventually gets over her animosity toward her daughter-in-law.
- If it didn't happen to the main cast, the VSE would center around a new one-time character. Examples include Ross's blind sister Lily who had to learn independence, Dorothy helping a hippie with agoraphobia, and one of Dorothy's favorite students almost being deported.
- Victoria's Secret Compartment: After the girls believe to have lost the tickets to the game show they travelled to Hollywood to appear on due to their purses being stolen, Sophia is revealed to have kept the tickets safe in her bra.
- Vitriolic Best Buds:
- Dorothy and Stan typically have this interaction with one another; despite Dorothy's anger at Stan, and Stan's ineptitude, the two do care about one another. In the series finale they even acknowledge that they love each other.
- The girls' relationship in the show is basically this. They often snark and bicker with each other while still being close friends. It's only at times when their relationships are threatened that they're not this trope.
- 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?
- Walking Disaster Area / The Jinx: After firing Marguerite in "The Housekeeper," all the girls seem to be beset with bad luck, but Rose seems to get it the hardest: while describing her day to Dorothy (in which she had a flat tire, was late to work, and smashed her hand in a door), she collapses the lawn chair she tries to sit on and a baseball hits her in the chest.Rose: Something weird is going on here, Dorothy!Dorothy: Don't be silly. You're just having a little bad luck.Rose: [after baseball hits her in the chest] Do you really think that's all it is?Dorothy: Of course.Rose: Well, maybe you're right. [walks over to help Dorothy with the barbecue] Need any help?Dorothy: Get away from me, you jinx!
- Wedding Episode: Common throughout the show's run - both the series premiere and the series finale feature a wedding. Notably three of the four girls (Blanche, Sophia, and Dorothy) all attempt to get married at some point, though not all of them are successful.
- Weird Currency:
- When Sophia tells a story about her first job in Sicily. The story came up because her first paycheck, a brightly painted rock, was found under Dorothy's bed.
- When the girls are dieting, they find a box of cookies on the kitchen shelf. Blanche starts to open them, and Rose asks her if she's going to eat them. Dorothy replies, "No, Rose, we're going to go to some dumb country and try to use them as money."
- We Were Rehearsing a Play: Two examples in "The Actor":
- Visiting actor Patrick Vaughn — who's seeing each of the girls' behind their backs — is in the middle of a romantic moment with Blanche, with her laying across his lap, when Dorothy walks in. He promptly pushes Blanche to the floor and tells Dorothy they were rehearsing a new scene that had been added to the play.
- Later, when Blanche has left the room and Patrick has Dorothy in his arms, Rose walks in, and Patrick tosses Dorothy to the floor behind the couch. She "explains" to Rose that she was looking for Patrick's missing contact lens.
- Wham Line:
- In "Letter to Gorbachev", Rose writes letters to the leaders of the United States and Russia, asking them to disarm their nuclear weapons. The Russians set up a press conference and wish to meet Rose, thinking she's a child because of the simple innocence of her letter. They learn she's a grown woman and call off the conference, and Rose is deeply embarrassed. The situation, along with nuclear war in general, is mostly Played for Laughs throughout the episode. At the end, Blanche offers to read Rose's letter aloud, and her expression visibly darkens when she reads, "It scares the girls in my cadet troop, too. They talk about what they want to be if they grow up, not when they grow up."
- In "An Illegitimate Concern", David, a young man visiting the girls, delivers a line that shatters Blanche's belief that her relationship with George was a Seduction-Proof Marriage.George Devereaux, your husband, was my father.
- Whammy Bid: When the girls bribe an attractive man to bid on Dorothy at a Bachelorette Auction, not expecting the bid to climb above $50. Her ex-husband Stan walks in and bids $100. The bidding quickly climbs from there as Sophia and Blanche frantically try to stop their shill from bidding higher.
- What Could Possibly Go Wrong?: The young Sophia says this to Salvatore in a flashback when he asks her why Phil is dressed in Dorothy's clothes. Phil turned out to be a crossdresser.
- What's a Henway?:
- When Rose inherits a pig named Baby from her deceased uncle, she calls a vet to treat the pig when it gets sick.
Nurse Defarge: You're [called] "Pussycat," too?
- When the live-in nurse taking care of Sophia begins to act increasingly more like she is Sophia's daughter, Sophia begins calling her "Pussycat" also. However, the nurse doesn't realize that she shares a nickname with Dorothy, at first.
Dorothy: I'm Pussycat One. You're Pussycat Two.
Dorothy: Oh, Stevie's leaving Blanche for Tokyo, Rose.
- Blanche is upset when she learns that her baseball-playing boyfriend is moving away to join a team in Japan.
Rose: Well, I can understand that; she is a big radio personality.
- 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 was justifiably angry because Rose made it sound like this situation should have been happening to someone like Blanche and not her.
- What You Are in the Dark: An implied version in "The Auction." Sophia fully supports the girls' plan to purchase an original Jasper DeKimmel painting due to his imminent death (which only they know about, thanks to Sophia herself volunteering at the hospital where he's being treated), and even encourages them when they start to have doubts; she explains that since the doctors can't find anyone with DeKimmel's rare blood type, they might as well use the opportunity. However, once she learns (off-screen) that she is a match, she ultimately decides to make the donation, presumably deciding that as long as she was able to help, she had to do so.
- Whole Episode Flashback: Several.
- Whole Plot Reference: A fairly obscure one - one episode has Sophia plot to win money by managing a boxer who is also a talented violinist that is afraid of injuring his hands in a fight. The protagonist of the 1937 play and 1939 movie Golden Boy was a boxer and violinist who faced the same dilemma.
- Wholesome Crossdresser: Dorothy's brother Phil.
- Blanche's baseball-playing boyfriend Stevie, in the final season episode "Where's Charlie?", becomes one after Blanche makes him wear lingerie while playing for her own enjoyment.
- Whoopee Cushion: Sophia decides to pull pranks on her housemates after being on the recieving end of a prank by someone else. She places one of these on a chair, embarrassing Dorothy and Blanche when they sat on it (Blanche especially, after making comments about herself being "graceful and sophisticated"). To top it off, Sophia knew how not to set it off herself if she sat on it.
- Witless Protection Program: This turns out to be the case with Rose's boyfriend Miles, as he was really a mob witness named Nicholas, on the run from a boss named The Cheeseman. Later he returns with a new identity as an Amishman, only for Rose's new boyfriend to be the Cheeseman, recognizing Miles and holding everyone hostage until their neighbor, a cop, comes in to save them.
- Wondrous Ladies Room: Parodied in an episode where Rose locks herself in a bathroom stall at a high-end venue. The washroom consits of an elaborate lounge outside of the bathroom stalls with a large, circular sofa in the center. When Rose's date enters to see what the trouble is and is informed that he is in the ladies room, he mistakes the sofa for an extremely large toilet and remarks that guests must be asked to "stand back" when it is flushed.
- World of Snark: Usually Dorothy and Sophia. Most of the time, Rose asks a stupid question and Dorothy gives her a sarcastic answer. But even Rose and Blanche have a snark moment or two in some episodes.
- In one episode, Rose walks out of her room carrying two buckets in her hands and Dorothy asks if the ceiling in her room is leaking, too.Rose: No, Dorothy, I just finished milking the cow I keep in my closet! [Beat] Gee, with only 3 hours of sleep I can be as bitchy as you!
- In one episode, Rose walks out of her room carrying two buckets in her hands and Dorothy asks if the ceiling in her room is leaking, too.
- Writers Cannot Do Math:
- 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.
- There were various indications that Dorothy and Stan had married in the late 1940s or even the early 1950s when Dorothy became pregnant; the series starts two years after their divorce in 1985, not quite the full 38 years as was consistently stated by Dorothy.
- The most egregious instance of this Continuity Snarl comes in season three when a now 23-year-old Michael becomes engaged to 44-year-old Lorraine; the resulting dilemma is hilariously misplaced when one considers that Michael cannot possibly be this young given the aforementioned facts, and his having apparently become six years younger since his last appearance in season two.
- A minor case, but one episode revolves around Dorothy possibly having been switched at birth with the daughter of a family friend, Gina. The issue came to light when Gina took a blood test for an arranged marriage (and we know it is indeed an arranged marriage because Dorothy is also expected to marry the groom.) The plot is resolved when the groom reveals he would marry Gina anyway. There's one slight problem with the whole mess: why the hell would someone Dorothy's age, a post-menopausal, middle-aged woman, be put into an arranged marriage? Given that Gina has been living with her family up until this point, her parents would have literally waited until she was too old to have children to marry her off.
- 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."
- Wrong Restaurant: Inverted — when the girls lose their winning lottery ticket, Rose pleads their case to the lottery commission over the phone in the hopes they can offer a solution. The friendly man on the phone is sympathetic to their plight, but explains that she dialed his Chinese restaurant, not the Florida Lottery, so there's nothing he can do for them in relation to the lost ticket. As consolation, he offers them free egg rolls the next time they visit his restaurant.
- You Do Not Want To Know: Played for Laughs with regard to "Zbornee" (a potato-peeling device Stan invents and invests in).Rose: What's a "Zbornee"?Dorothy: Rose, I put up with it for 38 years. You don't want to know.*Stan rolls his eyes in exasperation*
- You Have to Believe Me!:
- In "Little Sister," Rose's sister Holly visits and keeps cutting her out of plans with Dorothy and Blanche, all while claiming that she did pass the messages on to Rose and acting wounded. Rose repeatedly tries to tell Blanche and Dorothy that Holly is manipulating them, but the girls are convinced by Holly's "woe is me" act and assume that Rose is just jealous. Sophia subverts the trope by actually believing Rose from the beginning.
- "Strange Bedfellows": When Gil Kessler, a candidate for city council, announces that he had an affair with Blanche, Dorothy and Rose don't believe Blanche when she insists she's innocent, due to Blanche's past and the fact that Blanche was photographed going into Kessler's house (which was for a perfectly innocent reason). Kessler finally admits he was lying, and while Blanche forgives Dorothy and Rose, she admits she was partly to blame because of all her bluster about men she's slept with.
- "The Triangle": Dorothy's new boyfriend, Elliot, makes a pass at Blanche, and Dorothy doesn't believe Blanche when she tells her about it, because Blanche had tried to come on to Elliot before she knew he belonged to Dorothy. Dorothy accuses Blanche of jealousy, and Blanche is so hurt that she orders Dorothy to move out. This time it's a quick-thinking Rose who saves the day.
- Your Favorite: For Dorothy, it's lasagna al forno. So much so that Dorothy automatically knows that when Sophia makes it, it's either because someone has died or because Sophia wants a favor from her.