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New to Hulu, ‘Golden Girls’ is as timeless as ever

Rue McClanahan, left, Estelle Getty, Betty White and Bea Arthur in "Golden Girls," now available to stream on Hulu.
(Steve Fontanini / Los Angeles Times)

What if the most radical television show of 2017 turns out to be a series created in 1985?

It’s hard to shake that feeling since “Golden Girls,” which twice won the Emmy for comedy series, began streaming on Hulu on Feb. 13.

The series would stand out among today’s crop of comedies for plenty of reasons, but primarily for its focus on women over the age of 50 (and their often voracious sexuality).

When it premiered on Sept. 14, 1985, “Golden Girls” carried on the tradition of Norman Lear’s socially conscious sitcoms. The series tackled modern-day issues such as homosexuality and AIDS without flinching, while laying the groundwork for future shows centered on female friendships. It’s difficult to imagine “Designing Women,” “Sex and the City” or even “Girls” without “Golden Girls” paving the way.

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On the surface, the upcoming season of “Feud,” from FX golden boy Ryan Murphy, focuses on the lifelong war of wills between Hollywood screen legends Bette Davis (played by Susan Sarandon) and Joan Crawford (Jessica Lange). But beyond a simple grudge, the series examines a studio system where a star’s worth was coupled with her sexual allure and its inevitable expiration date.

“A big part of [“Feud”] is what Hollywood does to women as they age, which is just a microcosm of what happens to women generally as they age,” Lange said at the Television Critics Assn. press tour in January. “Whether you want to say they become invisible or they become unattractive or they become undesirable, or whatever it is.”

These are battles that continue to be waged in Hollywood, where aging actresses still struggle to find roles, much less opportunities to portray characters who retain the empathy and passion of real women.

“Golden Girls” was special in the 1980s because it was a series about four strong women tackling difficult issues but never letting reality break the bonds of their friendships. It remains special to this day for the exact same reason.

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libby.hill@latimes.com

@midwestspitfire


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