It’s a given that The Golden Girls speaks to a gay audience. It did back when it was still airing on Saturday nights on NBC, and it still does today. I’ve actually written about it before for Hornet — specifically how the show’s concept of choosing your own family parallels how a lot of gay men live. But gay viewers’ love for the show had to start somewhere, and in the third installment of my podcast, Gayest Episode Ever, we focused on a gay Golden Girls episode that nailed down the show’s tone.
Not only was this gay Golden Girls episode embracing of LGBT folk, but it also gave viewers a chance to learn how to be tolerant, even if they had yet to meet a real, live gay person themselves.
Listen to praises for the gayest Golden Girls episode as sung by me, my co-host Glen Lakin and special guest Tony Rodriguez, an L.A. actor who grew up not far from the girls in Miami.
The episode is “Isn’t It Romantic?” but you might just know it as the one where Dorothy’s lesbian friend falls in love with Rose.
What stands out about this episode isn’t just its overall solid writing, but how well this script by Jeffrey Duteil introduces Jean as a lesbian who’s 100% comfortable with her sexuality. On another show — or even another season of this show — the story arc would be Jean coming out or Jean coming to terms with her sexuality.
In this one, however, she’s good from the get-go, and it’s the four hetero leads who need to confront their discomfort with talking about sex and sexuality. (They all succeed in the end, of course.)
This episode won an Emmy for directing and got noms for Betty White, Duteil and Lois Nettleton, who plays Jean. They were all deserving, but I say Duteil definitely should have won. Twenty-two years later, it’s one of the best takes on a very special, very gay episode we’ve ever gotten.
Of course, I’m biased, because I interviewed Duteil and some other Golden Girls writers about the show’s longstanding gay appeal and their memories of making the show. The piece was for Frontiers, L.A.’s great, bygone gay magazine, but you can read the preserved piece here, in which Duteil talks about his creative process in making “Isn’t It Romantic?”
You’ll also hear the single best Bea Arthur story you will ever hear.
Is the gay Golden Girls ep “Isn’t It Romantic” your pick for the gayest episode ever? Let us know in the comments!
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