- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 23, 2004

White still ‘Golden’

Imagine a story pitch for a sitcom centering around three middle-age women and one sassy senior without a youthful face or Pilates-enhanced tummy in sight.

It would never get past the pilot stage, right?

That didn’t stop NBC’s “The Golden Girls” from celebrating post-menopausal humor for seven years, a run that’s only gained traction with its syndicated afterlife on Lifetime.

“Golden Girls” star Betty White says the show’s fan base isn’t the blue-haired crowd some would expect.

“Even when we were on first run, the majority of our mail was from young people,” Miss White says during a promotional chat on behalf of “Golden Girls: The Complete First Season,” coming out this week on DVD. “Now, we’re a college cult. Eighty percent of my mail is from college students or younger.”

The new DVD, retailing for $49.99, includes shows from the 1985-86 opening season, plus commentary from some of the stars.

The show, Miss White says, enjoyed firm support from network bigwigs from day one. It helps that “The Golden Girls” hit the airwaves at the top of the Nielsen charts and never fell too far from that perch during its run.

Miss White’s turn as the sweetly befuddled Rose might never have occurred if the producers stuck to their original plans. Actress Rue McClanahan was all set to play Rose, and Miss White would tackle the sexually charged Blanche, but director Jay Sandrich, a “Mary Tyler Moore” veteran, suggested that Miss White avoid playing another character like “MTM’s” Sue Ann Nivens.

“It was this great stretch for Rue and me,” Miss White says of a casting swap.

The veteran TV actress remains close with her fellow “Girls,” even bumping into Bea Arthur occasionally in the market, she says. But poor health has stricken Estelle Getty, who memorably played feisty Sophia.

“Estelle isn’t feeling as good as she should,” Miss White says. Miss Getty, 81, retired in 2000 after announcing she had Parkinson’s disease.

“Golden Girls” fans can see Miss White, Miss Arthur and Miss McClanahan together again at 10 p.m. tomorrow night as part of Lifetime’s “TV’s Greatest Sidekicks” special.

Miss White, 82, doesn’t need reunion specials to fill her schedule these days.

“I’m busy as a bird dog,” she says, noting recent appearances on “The Practice” and “Complete Savages.” “I do so many guest shots on situation comedies, it’s almost like doing shows.”

Miss White is enjoying a curious makeover these days. She’s played a series of kind-looking grandmother types with mouths that would shame a sailor.

She blames TV producer David E. Kelley for writing “Lake Placid,” the 1999 feature that cast her as a salty senior.

“On ‘Complete Savages,’ I’m a terrible neighbor. I haven’t been nice in a while,” she says.

Dog day afternoon

NBC is going to the dogs tomorrow, giving viewers an alternative to the parade of football games and classic movies around the dial.

After two years of surprising success, NBC will present its coverage of the National Dog Show on Thursday at noon, directly after the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Associated Press reports. John O’Hurley, best known for playing the unctuous J. Peterman in “Seinfeld,” will return as the man behind the dog-show microphone.

“The first time, it was a novelty,” Jon Miller, NBC senior vice president, told the AP. “The third time makes it a tradition.”

The two-hour special is made up of highlights from the dog show sponsored by the Philadelphia Kennel Club two weeks ago, mixed with information about dog breeds and tips for dog owners presented by the chief sponsor, Nestle Purina Pet Care.

Mr. Miller is a big fan of the movie “Best in Show,” Christopher Guest’s heartfelt spoof of the dog-show circuit. He saw it soon after it was released in 2000 and started making calls the next day.

“It was like one of those little light bulbs that went off: ‘We should do a dog show. And Thanksgiving would be the perfect time to do it,’” he recalled.

Stern’s queen departing?h$>

Is the self-described “king of all media” losing his consort?

Robin Quivers, shock jock Howard Stern’s longtime sidekick and human laugh machine, is making a solo move toward television, Associated Press reports.

Miss Quivers has signed a deal with Sony Pictures Television to develop a syndicated talk show for daytime TV, the company announced Monday.

The potential series could debut by fall 2005. Miss Quivers will continue her work on Mr. Stern’s radio show while developing her TV show, Sony said.

There was no indication whether she planned to remain with Mr. Stern if her show gets a green light. A call to her manager in New York was not immediately returned Monday.

Miss Quivers, a former nurse in the Air Force who achieved the rank of captain, began her radio career in the District in 1980. A year later, she paired with Mr. Stern to become his trusted sidekick and news reader.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports

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