The Golden Girls: The Complete Fourth Season

Nikki Tranter

Golden Girls' fourth season is all about the silly.

The Golden Girls

Cast: Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan, Betty White, Estelle Getty
Subtitle: The Complete Fourth Season
Network: Buena Vista
First date: 1988
US Release Date: 2006-02-14
Last date: 1989
Amazon affiliate
Blanche: If we do have to go to a nursing home, let's all go together.
Rose: What happens when there's only one of us left?
Sophia: Don't worry. I can take care of myself.
-- "Sophia's Choice"

Golden Girls' fourth season is all about the silly. From Rose (Betty White) and Blanche (Rue McClanahan) heading an Elvis Presley Fan Club, to Blanche and Dorothy (Bea Arthur) aerobicizing in outfits shinier than Michael Jackson's socks, to all three girls trying to recover a lottery ticket from inside a jacket that ends up on MJ himself. These are ludicrous storylines punctuated with some of the corniest quips this side of Back to School (1986): "I worked at a malt stand once," Dorothy says, lost in reminiscence as Blanche stirs up some fatty shakes. "Soda jerk?" Blanche enquires. "No thanks, I'll have a malted," pipes Rose. It's enough to make your young heart swell.

Lately, before you get through one season of The Golden Girls on DVD, another one has hit the shelves. Season Four came just three months after Season Three, with Season Five due out in early May. It's a great time for Girls fans -- especially now with Season Four, warm and funny in all the right places. Not to mention it's the season with the fewest "message" episodes. We get one about homelessness in "Brother, Can You Spare a Jacket?" and another about poorly run nursing homes in "Sophia's Choice", but the writers appear to have assessed that viewers had seen enough shows centered on the difficulties if aging.

This season sees the girls settling into their ages, and, in turn, their places in the world as seniors. Blanche is less concerned that she's losing her sex appeal. While she briefly considers implants in "Sophia's Choice", she wants to enhance what she's already been blessed with, rather than to appear younger and sexier. Similarly, Rose and Dorothy both have occasion to feel unattractive (Rose's date in "The Impotence of Being Ernest" may be turned off by her, and Dorothy meets up with ex-husband Stan's [Herb Edelman] young, pretty fiancée in "Stan Takes a Wife"), but neither doubts herself. Even their friendship enjoys time off from any real strains. Only Rose worries, when the girls accuse her of addiction to painkillers in "High Anxiety", and in "Little Sister," when her visiting relative appears to enjoy Blanche and Dorothy's company a little too much. Still, as in any Rose-centric piece, tensions don't last long. There's too much madcap fun to be had.

When the show takes its few serious turns, it does so in the most believable way since Season One investigated the complications of aging and friendship. Even the obligatory Dorothy-falls-back-in-love-with-Stan episode ("Stan Takes a Wife") is respectable. Instead of some harebrained scam setting the two up, this time Dorothy is charmed by Stan's attentiveness after Sophia suffers a heart attack. For the first time, we are shown what Dorothy sees in Stan, that he's a loving guy when he needs to be, and who knows his old flame inside and out. He proves his respect here, and demonstrates that even though the pair had their problems and Stan is a skirt-chasing old buffoon, 30-odd years of marriage still make for close companionship.

Not all the seriousness works as well. "Brother, Can You Spare a Jacket?" follows the girls from a Salvation Army-type thrift store to a celebrity auction to a homeless shelter in search of a winning lottery ticket. The point, clear towards the end of the episode, is for the girls to get to know some homeless folks and realize that they do, in fact, have it quite good compared to some. As obvious as this turns out to be, the goose-chase angle is even worse, dragging sitcom ballyhoo to new depths. When the girls lose the jacket to Michael Jackson's buff security guard at the thrift store, they fall over themselves to get it back, by lying and scheming, and faking toughness.

Thankfully, it's one of few really awful episodes. Only the flashback finale is worse, with an entire hour of past memories built around the possibility of Blanche selling the girls' Florida dream house to a rich businessman. After all that looking back, Blanche simply changes her mind.

If, beyond the flashbacks and the jacket-chasing, there's another flaw on this set, it's the sticker on the DVD cover promoting a special guest appearance by Quentin Tarantino. In truth, the appearance is anything but special. Young Tarantino shows up in bit-part-actor mode as an Elvis impersonator. Selling The Golden Girls: Season Four with Tarantino as a special guest is like using Richard Dreyfuss to flog The Graduate (1967) -- and Dreyfuss actually had dialogue.

Still, this season loves its guest stars. There's even a bonus feature dedicated to the famous or semi-famous people who showed up in parts big and small. It's a countdown, listing the top 10 best guests, with Julio Iglesias at number 10, Bob Hope at number one, and Jay Thomas, Jack Gilford, Richard Mulligan, and Tarantino slotting in between. Again, it's another useless bonus that retreads funny scenes throughout the season. Or, to be honest, some painfully unfunny scenes, like Hope's, in which we're subjected to gags like "Ronald Reagan left office with the highest popularity rating since FDR... He was more popular that Tammy Faye Bakker at a Maybelline convention." Eeep. If this weren't bad enough, somehow Anne Francis missed the list in favor of the Rapping Granny. But, quality features have been lacking on all four DVD sets, so this one is simply another one to ignore. Just dig on some of the snappiest, raciest, and most enjoyable GG moments.

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.