July 17, 2019

How The Golden Girls Evaded Network Censorship With Dialogue About Mr. September's Manaconda

I know its July, but last week I saw a calendar which made me think of a Golden Girls episode. I explain how in just a minute. I've blogged about "The Golden Girls" already, and in particular how the layout of the house (which was really just a set in a television studio) presents some inconsistencies. Catch that post HERE.

A memorable but incredibly funny part of the holiday-themed episode of "The Golden Girls" (Season 2, Episode 11 entitled "T'was the Nightmare Before Christmas") was during their gift exchange with one another. A bit more on that in just a second.

Anyway, to set this up, in this particular episode of the classic sitcom, Blanche opens the episode by having a gentleman caller named Ed who's dressed in a Santa suit. When Dorothy arrives, she says that the crowds in the stores had made her Christmas shopping a nightmare. She also discovered that her mother, Sophia, had been using her credit cards to buy expensive gifts from Neiman Marcus that she cannot afford. She concludes that Christmas doesn't mean anything anymore because it has become too commercial.

In response, Rose suggests to the girls that they have an old-fashioned Christmas kind of like they do in her hometown of St. Olaf, Minnesota before they return home. Upon the suggestion, Dorothy was very quick to respond that she had absolutely no intention of drinking eggnog while wearing a cast-iron brassiere. Rose responds humorously by saying "We don't do that at Christmas! We do that at Easter."

Although the each of the Golden Girls are planning to spend Christmas day with their respective families, before they each go home to their families, they want to have a Christmas gift exchange with one another. But they agree with Rose and decide to return the expensive gifts and instead give each other homemade gifts (except for Sophia, who sticks with her Neiman Marcus gifts paid for by Dorothy).

The gift-exchange between the four Golden Girls was perhaps one of the sitcom's more memorable moments, not only for the episode and the show, but for holiday-themed TV episodes overall, many of which follow a well-rehearsed script of the sort outlined in the book the now out-of-print book "Christmas on Television" by Diane Werts (ISBN 9780275983314).

As for The Golden Girls "T'was the Nightmare Before Christmas" episode, R. J. McBowlan, who was the Head Writer for that particular episode said in an interview (see https://thegoldengirlsreviewedby.com/2014/01/30/season-2-episode-11-twas-the-nightmare-before-christmas-as-told-by-an-oral-history-from-the-writers-room/ for more):

"We wanted to do a Christmas episode that wasn't like any others. We had thought about doing a 'Christmas Carol' version with the ghosts of the pasts of all the ladies, but then I thought, let's go edgier! Let's add some really scandalous moments. The result was a holiday episode of "The Golden Girls" that was one of television's better scripts, and it was acted exquisitely by the Emmy-winning cast.

Crispin Daly, the Story Editor said: "I thought, how would Blanche react to Christmas? Just like she always does, by acting like a sex-crazed maniac! It was just so simple. And you know what they say in comedy: double-down. So Blanche gives the other gals a calendar called 'The Men of Blanche's Boudoir'. Because she's such a slut! It's hilarious that such an old lady can be a slut. Can you imagine?"

McBowlan added "Yea, I really didn't think NBC would go for it, but they did."

When the girls' celebration arrives; Rose's gift to Dorothy is a whittled maple syrup spout.

But Blanche gives her roommates a calendar which she titles "The Men of Blanche's Boudoir", and she gives the same gift to each girl saying how she thought it was such a cute idea.

Dorothy opens the gift from Blanche, and she says "Oh, Blanche. Oh, honey, this is so thoughtful ... whoa!”

To which Blanch responds "September?"

Dorothy responds by saying: "Yep."

Sophia's line was really ground-breaking, because immediately after Dorothy says yes, she adds: "I'm surprised you were able to walk in October."

A YouTube excerpt can be see (for the time being, anyway) below, or at https://youtu.be/KqUxbTd8DKo.

The viewer is really left to presume that Blanche's Mr. September is really gifted with what might be called (in urban slang) a "manaconda" between his legs. (the term "manaconda" is a contraction of the two words "man" and "anacanda" which is the longest snake in the world). Draw your own conclusion.

Anyway, following Rue McClanahan's death in 2010, it became known that Rue had a LOT of memorabilia saved from her work in television; in fact she had saved so much that she ended up renting several storage units to save it all. She also had a provision written into her contract for "The Golden Girls" whereby she was permitted to keep all of the clothes that were worn by the character Blanche in the show. They were all custom-made outfits for each actress/actor in the show.

Rue also had kept the supposed "gift" from that episode: 'The Men of Blanche's Boudoir' calendar. In an auction following Rue's death, we learned that there was a little more to 'The Men of Blanche's Boudoir' than racy photos of naked men that television viewers never got to see. Some actual photos of that particular prop taken from an auction (the price was $4,000) of her vast collection. The actual 'The Men of Blanche's Boudoir' calendar measured 9 1/2 x 11 1/2 and was signed to her from the guys in the prop department for the show. The website for Rue's the estate sale can still be viewed at http://estateofrue.com/catalog/original-the-men-of-blanches-boudoir-calendar-sold/.

For the record, Rue's copy of that prop, rather than containing photos of completely naked men (which Rue very likely would have liked), the sale revealed that the cut-up duo who ran the props department for the show had loaded the mockup with real photographs of various crew members in compromising positions. When presented with the prop during a taped rehearsal, the ladies' reactions quickly brought the scene to a halt! For the record, not all of the items from the Rue's estate sale have sold and some can still be purchased, but this one was one of the items on the "sold" list!

Regardless, it is worth noting that "The Golden Girls" being a top-rated sitcom that starred older women were able to get away with risque jokes that did not fly in other sitcoms of that era. Hence, jokes about Mr. September's manaconda were approved when the fifty-something Golden Girls said them, whereas sitcoms with younger actresses would find the network censors cutting similar lines. Indeed, NPR's Terri Gross asked Bea Arthur about that in an April 2007 interview, although Bea Arthur's response was merely "I guess so".

The relevant dialogue was as follows:

Terri GROSS: That's an episode of "The Golden Girls," with my guest, Bea Arthur, along with Rue McClanahan and Betty White. Were you able to get away with a lot of sex jokes on "The Golden Girls" because it was about older women?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. ARTHUR: I guess so, I guess so. Yes, the first time you saw women - I hate that expression - of a certain age well-groomed and having active sex lives and great earrings, I remember.

The interview can be listened to below, or by visiting https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=9847148.

Still, we can thank "The Golden Girls" for pushing the proverbial envelope on jokes that a generation earlier would have been banned completely.

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