Wednesday, July 23, 2008


I'm feeling a bit guilty today over the death of Estelle Getty.

No, I had nothing to do with it!

It's just that for the nearly ten years I've been running the TV Crossover Hall Of Fame, her character of Sophia Petrillo, originally on 'The Golden Girls', has been at the top of my list for induction into the Hall. And every year, I kept finding another excuse not to include her: Oh, I think this actress will be more fun. I'm running themes this year for 'Star Trek', 'Law & Order', 'Doctor Who' etc. There's always next year.....

Time finally ran out for Ms. Getty, as she passed away the other day at the age of 84. It's not like she was ever going to see a tribute here under normal circumstances; but even more so for some years now, as she had been suffering from a brain disease which finally took her life.

Ms. Getty broke into the national consciousness with her performance as Sophia Petrillo, but she had been working for many years in theater before that. As she would say, after fifty years she had become an overnight success. Her popularity as Sophia seems all the more remarkable in a youth-obsessed society, in a medium that aims for younger demographics with shows like 'Gossip Girl', 'One Tree Hill', and 'The Hills'. I was looking through the flair application of buttons on Facebook today and I was surprised to see a handful dedicated to Sophia!

Here's a good description of Sophia Petrillo from the New York Times obituary:

Sophia, characterized by her bluntness and cranky lamentations about old age, treated her daughter with a kind of loving contempt, and their two roommates, the man-obsessed Blanche (Rue McClanahan), and the dim-witted Rose (Betty White), with the eye-rolling impatience of one who will not indulge the self-delusions of others. When Blanche complained that her life was an open book, Sophia witheringly replied: “Your life is an open blouse.”

Estelle Getty played Sophia Petrillo as a regular on the 'Golden Girls' sequel 'The Golden Palace', as well as being a recurring character in the spin-off 'Empty Nest'. (She lived next door to Dr. Harry Weston.) And she appeared in episodes of 'Nurses' and 'Blossom' as Sophia as well. "Nurses' is a legitimate connection, as that show took place in Miami as well and was a Susan Harris production.

However, Blossom didn't actually meet Sophia; she dreamt of meeting her. And it's one big giant headache of a Zonk because 'The Golden Girls' was Blossom's favorite show. Ugh. (My thanks to blogging buddy Thom Holbrook for that info, which can be found at his "Crossovers & Spinoffs" site (link to the left, dear reader). Maybe 'The Golden Girls' in Toobworld is a reality show - a look at the daily lives of four senior women living together in Miami?

Still, she has four solid reasons why she belongs in the TV Crossover Hall of Fame and that will be rectified next year, the tenth anniversary of the Hall.

Here are the credits she garnered in Toobworld, as well as in the Tooniverse:

"Nurses" .... Sophia Spirelli Petrillo-Weinstock
- Temporary Setbacks (1993)

"The Golden Palace" .... Sophia Spirelli Petrillo-Weinstock
(24 episodes, 1992-1993)

"The Golden Girls" .... Sophia Petrillo
(173 episodes, 1985-1992)

"Empty Nest" .... Sophia Spirelli Petrillo-Weinstock
(2 episodes, 1988-1995)

"Blossom" .... Sophia Petrillo
- I Ain't Got No Buddy (1991)

"Duckman: Private Dick/Family Man" .... Aunt Jane [voice]
- Westward, No! (1997)

"Mad About You" .... Paul's Aunt
- The Birth: Part 1 (1997)

"Brotherly Love" .... Myrna
- Motherly Love (1996)

"Touched by an Angel" .... Dottie
- The Sky Is Falling (1996)

"City" .... Former City Manager
- Seems Like Old Times (1990)

"Newhart" .... Miriam the Librarian
- What Makes Dick Run (1985)

"Hotel" .... Roberta
- Intimate Strangers (1984)

"Cagney & Lacey" .... Mrs. Rosenmeyer
- Baby Broker (1984)

A Match Made in Heaven (1997) (TV) .... Betty Weston

Copacabana (1985) (TV) .... Bella Stern

Victims for Victims: The Theresa Saldana Story (1984) (TV)

No Man's Land (1984) (TV) .... Eurol Muller

1] Paul's Aunt in 'Mad About You' is not given a name, but since I don't remember the episode, I hesitate on making the leap to her identity being that of Sophia. Estelle Getty was basically in disguise when she played Sophia and without the wig and the over-sized glasses, she looked totally different. The same probably held true with her appearance as Paul's Aunt.

2] Since 'Newhart' was all a dream, it could be that Miriam the Librarian represented somebody Dr. Bob Hartley knew. I suppose it's always possible he met Sophia Petrillo.... After all, she was in Chicago to witness the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. Maybe she went back again at some point.....

In a statement, her former co-star Rue McClanahan said: "'Don't feel sad about her passing. She will always be with us in her crowning achievement, Sophia.''

And as Red Skelton would have said, "May God Bless......"

Toby O'B

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