Stan Zimmerman discusses his experience writing on the beloved sitcom in his new book ‘The Girls: From Golden to Gilmore’
Stan Zimmerman has some thoughts on a beloved show he worked on.
The screenwriter is looking back on his expansive career in TV, film and theater upon the release of his new book, The Girls: From Golden to Gilmore, out today. The Girls details Zimmerman’s time writing on iconic shows and movies like Gilmore Girls, Roseanne, and The Brady Bunch Movie series, as well as working with some of the entertainment industry’s most memorable actors.
Zimmerman got to know some of those stars while writing for the NBC sitcom The Golden Girls. He tells PEOPLE that the show’s four leading ladies — Bea Arthur as Dorothy Zbornak, Betty White as Rose Nylund, Rue McClanahan as Blanche Devereaux and Estelle Getty as Sophia Petrillo — were “magic in a bottle.”
“Those four women were the best of the best and there was just something special about them,” he says. “I’m so glad the producers saw that's where the heart of the show was.”
Getty, who was originally supposed to guest star as Dorothy's mother Sophia, was promoted to full-time cast member early on because she was such a hit with fans. This led to another character from the pilot being cut — the ladies’ housekeeper Coco, played by Charles Levin.
“As great as Coco was — and he was very funny, and I love that there was a gay character — it wasn't really needed, and they were smart to let that go,” Zimmerman says. “I wish they had dealt with it, or had him back for a special episode…maybe he fell in love, went somewhere. Maybe he opened a B&B in Key West. I don't know. There's so many possibilities.”
Zimmerman also says that he had inquired about whether the show could bring Coco back on in some capacity.
“I remember bringing that up, but they felt, at the time, ‘Let it go, move forward,’” he says. “I don't think they realized that we'd be talking about the show 30, 40 years later and picking it apart.”
Zimmerman and his writing partner James Berg were behind first season episodes like “Adult Education,” “Blanche & the Younger Man” and “Rose’s Mother,” for which they were recognized with a Writers Guild of America nomination. Decades after the final Golden Girls episode aired, Zimmerman still recognizes the show's enduring impact.
“I would see waves of it where young people would come up to me and they would know every line of the show,” he says.
Some might argue that The Golden Girls is as popular today as it was when it originally aired — at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was streamed nearly 11 million hours, according to The New York Times. And there's a reason for that: Zimmerman sees the sitcom as a bridge between people.
“It was a way for a lot of younger people to connect with their grandparents,” Zimmerman says. “And it was also a way for those in the LGBTQ community to connect with their older parents or grandparents and have a way to start a discussion about who they really were.”
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One fan story that particularly sticks out to him was shared by a woman who had been diagnosed with cancer. She told him about a time she was about to go into surgery, and wanted to be wheeled in while listening to the Golden Girls theme song on her phone.
“The nurse says, ‘Sorry, we just can't let you in with [the phone] because it's not sterile,’” Zimmerman recalls. “She was close to tears and they had to take it away. And she remembers being wheeled in, and she looks up, and she's suddenly surrounded by all the nurses and doctors. And they start singing ‘Thank You for Being a Friend.’”
The Girls: From Golden to Gilmore is now available.
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