is hands down the best site on the Web for classic TV.'
For someone who is—at the tender age of 100—the living embodiment of America’s Sweetheart, both celebrated and beloved, it’s hard to believe there is still anything left to say, or appreciate, about the incomparable Betty White.
Yet there is.
In his highly perceptive 1987 book “TV Sirens,” author Michael McWilliams perhaps put it best: “If Lucille Ball is the Queen of Television, then its Princess is Betty White.”
The comparison isn’t just conjecture.
After almost 70 years (and counting) on the small screen, a houseful of Emmys and Emmy nominations, and admission into the TV Hall of Fame (in 1995), Betty White has no peer in television history besides the great redhead.
But even then, considering White’s full career and the breadth of her achievements, her continuing legacy is actually quite different than Lucy’s.
Throughout her epic career on television, Lucille Ball--with only a few subtle, progressive changes--almost always played the same type of character. This, of course, is fine—it is what the world loved her for and it is what she was genius at.
But in an important contrast, Betty White’s many small screen incarnations are quite different from each another: her Sue Ann Nivens is far removed from White’s Elizabeth (in her early sitcom “Life with Elizabeth) and her Vickie Angel (her character from the 1950s series, “A Date with the Angels”), and Rose Nylund (“The Golden Girls”) are both light years away from Elka, White’s most recent characterization on TVLand’s “Hot in Cleveland.”
With “Betty White Show” co-stars
The diversity of her work—in which we must also take into account her appearances as Ellen on “Mama’s Family,” her season as “over the hill” actress Joyce Whitman on her own “The Betty White Show” (1977-78), and her recurrent appearances on “The Love Boat” as game sea-goer Betsy Boucher—illustrates a singular talent and an awe-inspiring knowledge of her craft. It is no wonder that White has been bestowed with a lifetime achievement award by her own peers and union, the Screen Actors Guild, in 2010.
Furthermore, while Lucille Ball was never a slouch as a guest star on someone else’s program or when appearing as herself on talk shows or game shows, she never quite excelled in these other genres and TV forms as fully as Betty White has. Even I, an avowed Lucy fanatic, is rather hard-pressed to name a singular Ball guest spot, one in which she was as good as on any episode of her own series.
But, for White, after beginning her regular small-screen appearances with a trio of back-to-back primetime sitcoms (the aforementioned “Life with Elizabeth” and “A Date with the Angels,” both in the 1950s), she next became best known to viewing audiences as herself via some raucous and randy appearances on Jack Paar’s late night talk show and via her escalating game show regularity on such programs as “To Tell the Truth” and “Make the Connection” in the 1950s and early ‘60s.
Later, after staging a “yes, we did miss you” and Emmy-winning comeback on “Mary Tyler Moore,” White skillfully returned to the fertile ground of the game show milieu becoming, in many ways, the Grand Dame of TV Game Shows thanks her connection to the shows “Match Game” and, of course, “Password.”
As amusing as she always was, White always delivered the goods. The facts are the facts: her contestant partners always stood a better chance of walking away with prize money if they were teamed opposite her on “Password” or “Pyramid” or any other daytime competitive effort.
But, in regard to game shows, White didn’t stop there. In 1983, she took on a role that had seldom been open to women—being a game show host herself. As the host/ess of NBC daytime’s “Just Men,” White oversaw two female contestants, a lot of question and a gallery of seven celebrity “hunks.” White was funny and completely unflappable as the show’s MC and that same year took home the Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Game Show Host, the first woman ever so honored.
Also during the interment years between “Mary Tyler Moore” and “The Golden Girls,” White became a valuable go-to guest star not only on such classic primetime shows—like “Love Boat,” “Mama’s Family,” etc.—but also in various sketches on late-night talk shows. She enjoyed a particular special rapport with Johnny Carson and played opposite him in many memorable “Tonight Show” skits, including one where she was Jane to Carson’s Tarzan.
Her quick-study, fast-on-her-feet ability, which would serve her well years later on her highly-rated, highly-talked about hosting of “Saturday Night Live,” has since been tapped into by other, more recent late-night hosts, notably Jimmy Fallon and Craig Ferguson.
Finally, as if that were not enough, Betty White has, again, in recent years, evolved, with the times and the medium. While her TVLand sitcom, “Hot in Cleveland,” is, in many ways, charmingly retro and celebratory of the sitcom form--right down to its “Taped in front of a live, studio audience” salvo—Betty White kept with the zeitgeist and, in 2012, she embraced TV’s latest reinvention--reality TV.
Her senior-celebrating practical joke show, “Off Their Rockers,” which began on NBC and later moved to Lifetime, earned her yet another new group of fans… and an additional Emmy nomination for Outstanding Reality TV Show Host.
Considering all this—not to mention practically stealing the show from Sandra Bullock and others in “The Proposal” on the big screen and starring in one of the most famous Super Bowl commercials in history—is there nothing Betty White can’t do?
Certainly there seems to be no genre Betty White cannot embrace and make her own. Yet, even as she evolves and reinvents herself, she always remains distinctly Betty White in the way that Lucy always remained Lucy.
Yes. Certainly, this is one Princess who has, forevermore, earned her place in the royal court of television.
Hit Shows of the Seventies: Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy / Gene Roddenberry in the 1970s / 1977-1978 Superhero & Science Fiction TV Shows / Funniest SNL Skit Ever! / Prisoner: Cell Block H / Why John Amos Left Good Times / Reviving Match Game / How Betty White's 'Happy Hommaker' Came About / Remembering Cindy-Williams / Creating The Rockford Files / TV Dads Talk Sex & Fatherhood / TV Shows We Watched 50 Years Ago / How Maude Came About / Rare Audio of Bette Davis' Broadway Bound Flop 'Miss Moffat' / Orson Welles' Last Interview / Remembering Ed Asner / Bruce Vilanch on Writing for Donny & Marie / Writing For Fernwood 2 Night / Kris Kristofferson vs Barbra Streisand on A Star Is Born? Kinda... / Remembering Gavin MacLeod / Cher Reviews Her Iconic Outfits Since 1965 / Best Columbo Episodes / Star Maidens Sci-Fi Series / Interview with Cindy Williams (Lavern & Shirley) / One of the Most Controversial Episodes of All In The Family / Outside Chance / The Night Johnny Carson Broke Down / Gavin MacLeod on His MTM Castmates / Norman Mailer & Muhammad Ali / Charles Nelson Reilly Flops on Broadway / Chuck Norris vs Eva Gabor / Dear Detective / Dirty Sally / The Protectors / Chevy Chase Talks Hollywood Cocaine Parties / 1977 Season Show Openings / Love Boat's Oscar Winning Guest Stars / Henry Fonda's 4 Favorite Films / Tom Snyder Interviews Star Trek Cast & Harlan Ellison / The Corner Bar / Tim Conway's 'The Dentist' Sketch / Henry Winkler on His Happy Days Audition / Patrick Duffy of Dallas Interview / Time Express / Wonder Woman Leaves Paradise Island / 1972-73 TV Season / George Burns on the Carson Tonight Show in 1989 / Best Season of Dallas Ever? / Cloris Leachman Remembered / Ken Berry Interview / Why Barney Miller Ended / Vivian Vance Almost Joined the Cast of Rhoda / Marilu Henner Talks About Andy Kaufman / Cher on Mike Douglas 1979 / TV Show Book Tie-Ins / 1972 Jackie Robinson Interview / Dr. Strange 1978 TV Movie / Kathy Garver Interview / Space: 1999 / Paint Along with Nancy Kominsky / Mary Kay Place Albums of the 1970s / The Supremes - Mary Wilson vs Diana Ross / When Bruce Dern Killed John Wayne / 1974 Tom Snyder Our Gang Special / Remembering Ken Berry / Bruce / Caitllyn Jenner? / Billy Crash Craddock Interview / Melissa McCarthy Almost Quit Acting Days Before Landing Gilmore Girls / Bar Rescue's Wildest Customers! / TV HITS - By the Numbers / Alex Baldwin On His TV and Film Roles / Ray Charles' BIG Problem With TV / Top Ten Sitcoms of the 1970s / James Cameron Made No Money for Titanic / John Goodman Breaks Down His Iconic Roles / Growing Up In The Playboy Mansion / Ed McMahon Drunk on the Air! / Lucy Interviewed by Barbara Walters / Valerie Harper Cancer / Jeff Bridges Breaks Down His Iconic Roles / Dallas vs Eight is Enough / 1974 MAD Magazine TV Special - Never Aired! / Iconic M*A*S*H Restaurant Coming To Kroger? / When Lucy Got Fired / Partridge Family and Brady Bunch at Kings Island theme park 1972-73 / Awkward Talk Show Moments / Allan Blye Interview / Jack Benny's Last Tonight Show 1974 / Patricia Heaton's Audition for Everybody Loves Raymond / Luke Perry's Last Role / Johnny Cash's Last Interview / Judy Garland's Last Film / Who Was Bob Gordon? / Richard Dreyfuss vs Bill Murray / Jeff Ross vs Everybody / Tennessee Williams 1972 Interview / Ed Asner Interview / Norm Macdonald vs OJ Simpson / Tony Kornheiser Interview / Freddy's Nightmares TV Series / Emmy Award Multiple Winners / Nathaniel Taylor aka Rollo Lawson / Mary Kay Place Albums of the 1970s / That Girl & TV's Single Working Women / Can You Identify These Stars? / Betty White vs Joan Rivers / Paul Lynde's Greatest Hollywood Squares Zingers / Sonny Comedy Revue / Star Trek Animated / Dark Shadows / Hal Linden Interview / Dark Shadows Movies / Dark Shadows Novels / The Night Stalker / One of the Funniest Carol Burnett Show Skits Ever / Fred 'The Hammer' Williamson / Johnny Carson interviews Lucille Ball / Dawn Wells / Betty White : An Appreciation / Bette Davis' 2 Best Interviews 1971 / Barbara Eden Interview / Gavin McLeod / Spider-Man 77 / The Next Step Beyond / The Music Dark Shadows / 1970 TV Shows / Mike Connors Remembered / Mike Wallace, Virginia Graham & Jim Longworth / Dick Clark / Woody Allen Hosts Tonight Show 1971 / Carson Tonight Show / Alan Alda Interview / Jackie Gleason Show / 1973 TV Shows / Thriller / Post Modern Sitcoms / Elvis in Greensboro / Remembering Dick Van Patten / TV Dating Shows / The Jacksons TV Show / Fall Previews of the 70s / Lance Link, Secret Chimp / Star Wars Holiday Special / Alias Smith and Jones / 1977 Year in Review / Top Ten 1970-76 / The Rockford Files / All in the Family / Sam Hall (Dark Shadows) Interview / Actor Ed Nelson / Death of Archie / Battlestar Galactica / Wonder Woman / Network Jingles / Class of '74 / Happy Days / Good Times / Mr. Bill / Dinah! / Maude / Doris Day Show / Pamelyn Ferdin Interview / The Bicentennial Minute / Jingles & Catch Phrases of the 1970s / Early Cable TV 1970s / TV commercials for Women / TV Moms / Red Skelton / George Lindsay / Country Music TV Shows of the 1960s & 1970s / Betty White Show / Shirley Jones Interview / Tom Bosley / Rodney Dangerfield / How Sanford & Son Ended / Sanford & Son Spin-Off Grady / Great Memoirs / Virginia Graham Show / The "N" Word on TV / 10 Classic Comedy Routines You Have To Laugh At Before You Die / Hollywood Squares / 1970's Teen Idols & The Hudson Brothers / TV Stars with 3 Hit Shows / The Rookies / Unsold Pilots / Jackie Cooper / The Good Guys / Match Game / Make Room For Granddaddy / Mannix & Gail Fisher / Bette Midler in the 1970s / Bonus 1970's Stuff: Silent Star Marion Mack / Biff Burger / 1970s Fast Food Chains / Latin Casino / Beverly Hills Supper Club Fire / 1970's Daytime Talk Shows / The Fess Parker Show / Brady Bunch Sex Dungeon? / Love, Loss & What I Watched
Please consider a donation
so we can continue this work!
Lost Kid Shows / Movie Stars on TV / Saturday Morning Shows / Video Vault / TV Goodbyes / Fabulous Fifties / Unseen Scenes / Game Shows / Requested Forgotten TV Shows / The Super Sixties / More Modern TV Shows / The New * * Shows / 1980's Wrestling / TV Blog
|TV's Embarrassing Moments / Action Shows of the Sixties / TVparty Mysteries and Scandals / Variety Shows of the 1970s / The Eighties / The Laugh Track / 1970's Hit Shows / Response to TVparty / Search the Site / Add Your Comments|