Thursday, April 22, 2010

A True, Great, White

Recently, someone said to me "So why do the kids like Betty White so much these days?" I assume this question was meant as, why is it that all of a sudden her star is shining so bright, rather than 'what is there to like about her?'

I first met Ms. White back in my early childhood, when I would go and stay with my Nana and Papa. The Mary Tyler Moore show was in reruns, and Nana and I would enjoy that together. Her Sue Ann Nivens was brilliant. White herself credits this improv bit with the kick to the oven as one of the ways in which she turned this one-time guest spot into a recurring role.

As they were creating the part of Sue Ann Nivens, Mary Tyler Moore said "we need someone who on air is sickeningly sweet, a real Betty White type." Zing! It sounds rather apocraphyl now, since I've heard that story before (in casting Dorothy Szbornak, they supposedly said "We need a real Bea Arthur type," but we'll get to the Golden Girls in a moment).

Where'd she get this reputation for niceness? Well, she started in television in the late 1940s, when most of our parents were just being borned. I like watching Life With Elizabeth, in which she plays a loveable housewife in a show that sometimes is a bit on the mysogenistic side, but often funny (who says we can't have both?).

Here's a clip from that:

Sometimes she'd even sing!

Anyway, of course we all remember her from The Golden Girls. From 1985-1992, every Saturday night I would babysit for my little sister while my parents went out. I would drink root beer from a wine glass, eat a whole bag of Doritos, and watch Golden Girls.

But then? That program eventually went off the air. White was busy with lots of guest appeareances, including this amusing one from The John Larroquette Show:

I think one of the things that kick-started her 'comeback' was her dirty-mouthed role in Lake Placid in 1999:

People liked that, and then she was on Boston Legal with William Shatner, and THEN she had that dirty mouthed bit on Bill Shatner's roast, which I blogged about at the time (it keeps getting taken down).

This lead to the bit in the Proposal, the superbowl ad, and all the other things I've blogged about.

Here's a lovely little clip that sorta sums it all up:

Anyway, that's my story of Betty White and I'm sticking to it. God Bless, Betty, White.


Kevin said...

Informative! Thorough! Entertaining! What more could a blog reader want?

I'd never seen even a clip from Life With Elizabeth, so thank you for that. And somehow I want a hot dog for lunch now, so that you for that, too, I suppose.

CRD said...

I'm glad you liked it. I was very happy to bust out my underused "Hot Dog" tag here.

ALH said...

One of favorite Latter Day Betty White moments was when she was on UGLY BETTY playing herself. Here is that storyline.

It acknowledges that a) she is popular with the gays, b) she is a national treasure and c) her reputation these days is built on seeming sweet but really having the aforementioned potty mouth.

Kevin said...

Amber: You put your finger on it! The kids these days love irony!

(Or at least they claim to. Not that they are even sure of exactly what irony is.)

CRD said...

...which is Ironic.

ALH said...


Jonathan said...

I do not believe that her quality can be simply described in terms of dollars and cents. However, if Viacom International and the Super Bowl powers are still blocking videos and commercials, that says something about the broad spectrum of her appeal as an entertainer.