The One-Off Golden Girls Character Fans Seriously Adored
When "The Golden Girls" premiered in 1985, it launched one of the greatest foursomes in television history. From their shared home in Miami, the caustic Dorothy (Bea Arthur), ditzy Rose (Betty White), matriarchal Sophia (Estelle Getty), and fabulous Blanche (Rue McClanahan) live out their golden years.
Throughout the series' seven-season run, the four unlikely roommates bolster each other up, provide sage counsel, and, well, thank each other for being a friend. Their friendship wouldn't be nearly as strong were it not for the abundance of unsavory characters and leering men who populate their Miami orbit. Who could forget Daisy, the evil girl scout, played by a young Jenny Lewis, or the misanthropic Frieda Claxton (Nan Martin)?
Of course, "The Golden Girls" wasn't all bad bananas. Plenty of positively good eggs emerged as fan favorites, some of whom have contributed to the series' standing as a bona fide classic. Here's the one-off character on "The Golden Girls" that fans love.
Jean was a groundbreaking fan favorite
In the r/theGoldenGirls subreddit, u/Mapuches_on_Fire draws a line in the sand between two kinds of side characters. "For some reason I like the 'straight actor' characters," they wrote — that is, those who aren't overly silly or downright villainous. Rather, the headline reads, "Jean is my favorite one-episode character." Other "Golden Girls" fans chimed in to voice their support for Jean (Lois Nettleton), a visiting friend of Dorothy's who appears in Season 2. "Jean is a lovely character," wrote u/LemonFizzy0000. Added u/IAmPussycatOne, "'Isn't It Romantic' is my favorite episode! I love Jean. I want to be her friend too."
Redditors rattled off other fan-favorite characters on the series, including Father Lahey (John McMartin) and Dorothy's lonely ex, Glen, played by Jerry Orbach. But Jean, a lesbian grieving her recently deceased partner, is a prime example of "Golden Girls" being a uniquely LGBTQ+-friendly sitcom that portrayed its queer characters with empathy and nuance.
Though Jean's sexuality triggers some light-hearted humor (cue Blanche mistaking "lesbian" for "Lebanese"), the jokes are never at her expense. "Jean is a nice person," Sophia says at the beginning of the episode. "She happens to like girls instead of guys. Some people like cats instead of dogs. Frankly, I'd rather live with a lesbian than a cat ... unless a lesbian sheds, that I don't know."
"The Golden Girls" showcased multiple gay characters, included a transgender politician, and addressed the AIDS crisis, making it a landmark series with a devoted LGBTQ+ following. Betty White herself addressed the phenomenon on a panel at the Paley Center. "On Saturday night, the gay bars would stop the music, and at 9 o'clock, the show would start," she said. "They'd all watch the show; then at 9:30, they'd turn it off and start dancing again."