In I Love Lucy, Ethel and Lucy write an operetta for their women’s club because Lucy (as treasurer) has so badly managed their finances that they desperately need to fundraise without spending any money. The show starts off really well. We get to see Ethel as the ingenue, which is nice because the show frequently forced Vivian Vance into a frumpy look, and its great to hear her show off both her lyric and coloratura soprano styles.
Ricky play the romantic lead and Lucy plays the “queen of the gypsies” whose solo song is drowned out by a chorus of much better singers — much to Lucy’s chagrin. Unfortunately, we don’t get to see the full production because Lucy paid for all the costumes and set pieces with a post-dated cheque. Annnd everything gets repossessed mid-production. That said, the set pieces are truly beautiful and we do get to hear some of the wonderful music as composed by series composer Eliot Daniel. I would almost have awarded I Love Lucy the point for costumes…but…The Golden Girls knocked it out of the park on this one.
I mean SERIOUSLY just look at the detailed feather work here, people!
This was a close matchup, but The Golden Girls won with three points over I Love Lucy‘s two. Here’s a snippet of the winning production production:
Ah The Golden Palace. I wanted to love this show so so much, but let’s face it The Golden Girls just doesn’t work without Dorothy. I at least hope they had more fun filming it without the on-set tension. Plus I’m not sure I love the hotel vibe. There’s so much to do at a hotel that it makes me miss the days when the girls had more freedom to randomly star in school plays or spend all day watching I Love Lucy.
One other item of note before we get into the episode is that I totally forgot they re-recorded the original theme song for the spin-off. I’m definitely partial to the original, but this version isn’t bad either. In this Christmas episode, we hear the standard GG musical interludes but this time with a little sleigh bell action superimposed. It’s quite nice.
At the top of the episode we learn that the hotel’s chef, Chuy (Cheech Marin) hates Christmas because of a string of very bad Christmas luck, including: being drafted, getting divorced, having to be a walking display for a cake at a restaurant and having other humans eat directly from his body (I am so sorry that really needed some kind of warning).
Meanwhile, Rose coaches hotel manager, Roland (Don Cheadle) on how to be the perfect Santa Claus for the children’s hospital. She’s kind of a drill sergeant. It’s really great. She enlists Sophia’s help in a mock present request demo. But Sophia sexually harasses Roland, which yeah…this is uncomfortable. Let’s move on past it.
Next Roland must deal with a seminar full of people who have been traumatized by Christmas and will be staying at the hotel to avoid it entirely. Only no one seems to have told Roland this in advance and he’s now tasked with stripping the hotel of any reminders of the holiday season lest he loose out on a block of fifteen rooms.
Enter Rose: dressed as an elf, ready for some more Santa coaching. She doesn’t react too well to the idea of skipping Christmas. “I’m gonna wear my elf costume or I’m gonna walk around naked.” Blanche then explains that they can still have fun as long as they keep quiet. For example, she still plans to have her date with a Dickens caroler. (This is followed but a lot of Dickens inspired double entendres from which I will spare you.)
But Roland isn’t willing to take any chances. Rose has to ditch the costume and Blanche has to ditch the date. Chuy, as the only grinch, is the one staff member to be happy about the new hotel’s new anti-holiday stance.
That night Chuy awakens from a dream and is greeted by an angelic Rose a.k.a. “The Ghost of Christmas Past.” That’s right. This is a Christmas Carol episode. Turns out those Dickens double entendres were some kind of weird foreshadowing. Chuy says, “You’re not really here. You’re just something I ate at Woodstock.” But of course we’re going on this journey whether or not you believe she’s real. Christmas Rose and Chuy travel to his father’s restaurant. The kitchen looks suspiciously similar to the Golden Palace’s kitchen. But don’t worry about that. It’s an in-show joke. Rose tells Chuy that if his father had an oven and a sink in his kitchen, then it’s close enough.
Oh GOD this is a flashback to the scene that Chuy mentioned earlier where he had to walk about the restaurant dressed as a cake. NO. Hard Pass. Chuy’s dad spins this as a “great honor” and grown Chuy appreciates this whole situation in a different way than young Chuy did. It’s all about “a warm friendly place to celebrate the holidays,” his dad says — which like yeah I get that but can you not do that with a regular table?
Adult Chuy magically returns to his room and Christmas Rose disappears, replaced by Christmas Blanche a.k.a. “The Ghost of Christmas Presents.” (That is not a typo.) Christmas Blanche asks Chuy to tell her what presents he purchased for his coworkers this year. He tells her that he didn’t purchase anything for them.
Christmas Blanche leads Chuy to a walk-in freezer, which is the only place the guests cannot hear or see the Christmas celebration Chuy’s coworkers are having — which includes non-ghost Blanche. The non-ghost version of Blanche tells the others that they can’t open presents until Chuy gets there. Uh-oh. Christmas Blanche asks Chuy if he feels like a total jerk now and he agrees that he does. She then returns him to his bedroom where he meets Christmas Sophia a.k.a. “The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.”
Christmas Sophia guides Chuy to a very dingy looking version of the hotel. Rose is scrubbing the floors in rags and we quickly learn that she, Blanche, and Sophia no longer own the hotel. We also learn that the new owner refuses to let anyone celebrate Christmas. Oh and also future Blanche is a spinster who abhors attention from men. We soon find out that Blanche swore off men after her ex-husband stole the hotel from them. Weirdly enough, her ex-husband is Chuy.
Christmas Sophia tells Chuy that he turned into a horrible person because he hates Christmas. Sounds like solid logic to me. Let’s move on. Future Rose begs Future Chuy to let them have a small Christmas celebration. He agrees as long as they let him dictate the festivities. Unfortunately, this involves forcing Future Sophia to wear the cake table and dance for them while everyone else claps along. I genuinely may have nightmares about this. Not even joking.
Thankfully, present day Chuy wakes up in time to stop this atrocity from happening. He hops out of bed and runs through the hotel yelling “Merry Christmas.” (Guess he forgot about the extra special request from that 15-room block.) When he cannot find his friends, he checks the freezer that Christmas Blanche led him to only to find they’ve all frozen to death. Wow. Dark. Luckily, this too is just a dream.
A now fully awake Chuy rushes into the conference room and shouts “Merry Christmas” at a room full of traumatized seminar attendees. Chuy then engages in some sort of proselytizing. In the middle of his speech, we cut away to Rose drilling Roland on his Santa impression in the lobby. Then Chuy and the entire seminar rush into the lobby, full of holiday cheer. (Whatever Chuy said seems to have worked. Whatever it was.)
Then they all sing O Come All Ye Faithful and Estelle Getty breaks the fourth wall to wish the fans a Merry Christmas.
Very Special Christmas Lesson: I have honestly always found the people-as-tables thing to be disturbing and this furthered my view on that point. Anywayyyy, I guess the more positive message here is that it’s never too late to change. So let’s all carry that into 2021! Happy Holidays, Very Specials Readers!
Let me start off by saying, I would 100% prefer the nerves I feel re-acclimating to society as NYC continues to reopen to the crippling lingering effects many people experience after covid. And if you’re an anti-masker, don’t even come at me! I do not have time to argue science with you. If everybody wore a mask back in April, then maybe I would leading a semi-normal life right now instead of wondering if I’m going to find Jimmy (Martin Mull) from the “Snap Out of It” episode of The Golden Girls a tad too relatable when this pandemic is over.
While I have loads and loads of normal regular times neurotic anxiety, I’ve never had social anxiety. But after spending months and months only seeing like, oh I don’t know, the same five, the thought of a full-length conversation face to face with ANYONE other than one of those five people seems a little spooky.
In all fairness, I went on a blind-friend date (which is a blind date with a new friend, not a romantic blind date) last weekend and it felt surprisingly normal. But it was like 90 minutes of walking outside, which as much as I want to claim to be a fit healthy person is not how I typically socialized in the pre-quarantine life.
So what I’m talking about is getting cozy in a bar or sitting next to a total stranger on a subway car (gasp). WTF is THAT going to feel like??
Okay now join me on this journey back to 1990 and let me paint you a little picture of what’s going on with The Golden Girls. Sophia and Dorothy are volunteering for Meals on Wheels. Dorothy complains that Sophia is talking and visiting with the meal recipients, which honestly is kind of the point of Meals on Wheels, but there’s this one door where they don’t even knock because that person just wants the food left outside the door.
Dorothy catches a glimpse of the man as he retrieves the food and immediately believes him to be a scammer because he is both young and physically abled. So Dorothy follows this man into his apartment and rudely grills him because he doesn’t have any illnesses that she can SEE with her EYES. Ugh.
Even though he shouldn’t have to (because he’s on the freaking food recipient list) he tells Dorothy that he hasn’t left his apartment in twenty-two years, so that she will let him keep his damn food!
Dorothy apologies and immediately leaves only to complain to Sophia that it’s such a bummer that this poor dude is all alone and there isn’t anything she can do about it. WHICH ONCE AGAIN. IS THE POINT OF MEALS ON WHEELS. (We know this show is smarter than that so don’t worry, it’s all a big set up for character development.)
Off-screen Dorothy and Jimmy have a big heart to heart. We don’t get to hear it, so I guess they didn’t want to pay Martin Mull that much for his shooting time, but we do get to hear Dorothy describe to Blanche later on that the stress of the tumultuous 1960’s caused Jimmy’s agoraphobia. Blanche is all like yeah I get that but things are fine now so how come he isn’t hanging out with everybody???
Eventually, Dorothy gets a call from Jimmy who says he is ready to stop isolating. Sophia warns Dorothy that she isn’t a psychiatrist and should check her ego. But come on have you met Dorothy?? She is nothing if not egotistical.
As it turns out, Jimmy doesn’t want to leave his apartment. He wants Dorothy to move in with him and be his bride. Uh. Oh. So that’s something else to be concerned about once everyone gets fully back on this streets. Note to self: do not marry the first person you talk to.
Dorothy tells Jimmy that the feeling is not mutual. Jimmy becomes depressed and doubles down on self-isolation.
Note to self: do not put all your eggs in one basket. Expect rejection from the “love” your trauma-bonded brain tells you that you’re experiencing. GET BACK ON THE HORSE.
Jimmy refuses to speak to Dorothy the next time she drops off his food, so she seduces him by slowly listing the names of the Chicago Seven in a bedroom voice. Geeeez Baby Boomers, am I right?
Jimmy confides in her that he would really love to shop for his own groceries, so she convinces him to go to the store with her — where he just so happens to be the one millionth customer. There are many streamers! Balloons! And a grand prize trip to Mardi Gras! But Jimmy runs away immediately because woah what an overwhelming reintroduction to the world.
Dorothy returns home defeated, only to find Jimmy minutes later at her door with a sweater she left behind at his place. Dorothy’s generosity has convinced him that he would like to rejoin society. He’s even willing to go to a counselor if she will give him a ride.
Very Special Lesson: Hmmm this seems like a very inaccurate depiction of agoraphobia. But I do think it seems like an accurate depiction of someone who is just a little socially anxious after self-isolation. But if Martin Mull could walk to The Golden Girls House in Miami heat after 22 years inside his apartment, I can probably get back on the subway someday.
It’s no secret that I love both television and board games. I even had a little fun with a Golden Girls Cheesecake game back when I was bored at work on a Friday afternoon after 99% of the office went home and I had to stay just in case someone called or something. I called it “Catch that Cheesecake” and it was basically a rip-off of Clue.
Here’s the idea I sketched out with pencils I found in my desk drawer. (Thanks former desk occupant. Those pencils were dope and I took them with me when I left.)
Alas, someone with corporate backing and actual licensing rights to Clue, seems to have made a much better version of this. You can purchase it here.
The game pieces are freaking adorable by the way. Check out the “weapons”:
And I would literally fight anyone who dared not let me play as Stan with the fake-monkey-Dorothy-surrogate.
And the board game is literally just the house, which definitely seems more logical and Clue-esque than my idea of like having the kitchen and the lanai and then other random locations. But those “?” mark spaces…anyone know what those are?? Are they like my idea of having “gold” spaces with action cards? The list of items on the official page say that they include “distraction” cards, which sounds kind of like my idea for the “golden ticket” cards that would sabotage game play. So…listen, if I’ve got my finger on the pulse of pop culture board games, please reach out to me and hire me at your board game store (that’s what they’re called, right?) thanks!!
You know what I find most bizarre about this episode? Oh hold on, maybe you need to know a little about the plot first. Okay, so Rose is learning to paint but she doesn’t know what a horse looks like (from memory). So she bugs Dorothy to take her to the racetrack. Dorothy resists and then finally obliges.
Then Sophia flips out at Dorothy for going to the track because it turns out that she had a debilitating gambling problem fifteen years earlier. And now she has fallen off the wagon!! (Are you allowed to use that phrase for non-alcohol problems? Like maybe she fell off the race-horse-pulled-wagon?)
Anyway, here’s what I find really odd about this. Remember that time the GG’s donated a jacket to charity with Dorothy’s winning lottery ticket still in the pocket? Yeah, that happened a full season before this episode and no one was pissed about her gambling then.
So it must be some kind of race-track-only gambling addiction. Fine. Things get pretty bad when she is so preoccupied by betting on the horsies, that she reschedules a job interview due to “car trouble” and then misses the rescheduled interview entirely.
But the worst part is when she manipulates poor, naive Rose into handing over her debit card, so that Sophia can “have an operation.” Only Dorothy feels guilty about this, and yells at Rose for allowing herself to be taken advantage of. But this is one of those times when Rose is surprisingly savvy, and knows Dorothy’s angle. She’s was trying to reverse-psychology her into not robbing her, and it works. Then Dorothy goes to gambling rehab and we never hear of this ever again.
Very Special Lesson: Give an addict unlimited access to your cash, and they’ll realize the error of their ways immediately.