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Four Funny Women Equals Comedy Gold, From 'Golden Girls' to 'Sex and the City'

by Allison Waldman, posted Jun 15th 2010 5:00PM
Jane Leeves, Valerie Bertinelli, Betty White, and Wendie Malick of 'Hot in Cleveland'Beginning this week -- Wednesday at 10PM ET on TV Land -- four women will pool their comic resources in a new television program called 'Hot in Cleveland.' Whether it takes off or not, one thing is undeniably true about the history of this formula -- four women in situation comedy -- it has been a big hit in the past.

Think about it, 'The Golden Girls,' 'Designing Women,' 'Sex & the City,' 'The Facts of Life' and even the dramedy of 'Desperate Housewives' have all mined TV gold by putting women together and letting the estrogen fly.

the_golden_girls_nbc'The Golden Girls' - From the opening of "Thank you for being a friend," to the cheesecake around the kitchen table, the camaraderie of Blanche, Rose, Dorothy and Sophia was the stuff of comfy comedy. You felt at home in that Miami home and each lady had a brilliance like diamonds in a necklace. Betty White's Rose was a daffy delight with her tales of St. Olaf; Blanche, the late Rue McClanahan, was a Southern belle, a sexual vamp with wit; Bea Arthur's Dorothy had a zinger and wry line for every situation; and as Sophia, Estelle Getty, was the button on every joke. Together, they clicked. It's still joyful to watch 'The Golden Girls' in reruns, 25 years after it premiered on NBC in 1985. Here's a clip showing all four ladies at their best:

sex_and_the_city_black_hbo'Sex & the City' - Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), Samantha (Kim Cattrall) and Charlotte (Kristin Davis). Four New York women in their 30s eager to embrace life and all it offered. From the HBO series through two feature films, the antics of these ladies have been broadly funny, ribald and touching all at the same time. All four found love and settled down -- sort of -- but domesticity never meant that they weren't there to be each other's closest friends and sounding boards. And no subject was ever off limits, from funky spunk to Brazilian bikini wax treatments. Here's a montage of the foursome from the HBO show:

designing_women_cast_cbs'Designing Women' - The Sugarbakers, Julia (Dixie Carter) and Suzanne (Delta Burke), were sisters and interior designers in Atlanta. Their friends Mary Jo (Annie Potts) and Charlene (Jean Smart) worked in the same firm, and together they were businesswomen and pals, sharing their daily lives and providing their view on culture, the world and events long before Barbara Walters conceived on 'The View.' With Southern charm and Dixie sensibilities with a modern twist -- not to mention the wry observations of good friend Anthony -- the designing women had a way to make any conversation smart and funny, from politics to pageants and everything in between. Here's a sample from an episode where the subject of church came up:

desperate_housewives_abc_cast_pie'Desperate Housewives'
- You can't convince me that the shenanigans of Bree (Marcia Cross), Gaby (Eva Longoria Parker), Lynette (Marcia Cross) and Susan (Teri Hatcher) are drama. Dramatic, yes, but done with comedy to spare. It's no surprise that Marc Cherry, the creator of 'Desperate Housewives,' also was a writer on 'The Golden Girls.' Both shows have similar structure, although completely different character types. Other ladies have moved into Wisteria Lane, people come and go, but the four women remain the core. Here's a typically funny example of their dazzling comic interaction, before Bree's wedding to Orson:

the_facts_of_life_nbc_cast'The Facts of Life' - As a spinoff of 'Different Strokes,' the first season of 'The Facts of Life' floundered with Mrs. Garrett (Charlotte Rae) herding a group of girls in a boarding school. The show found its focus when the group became a foursome. Yes, four girls were the right combination. They were an interesting set. The older two, Jo (Nancy McKeon) and Blair (Lisa Whelchel), were complete opposites and yet real friends. The younger two, Tootie (Kim Fields) and Natalie (Mindy Cohn), were best buds, too -- and all four were under the guidance of their mentor, Mrs. Garrett. Sentimental and occasionally cloying, 'The Facts of Life' was an enduring hit that reinforced the power of four women in comedy. Somehow, someway, it's works. Here's a clip from early in the show's nine season run:

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ummm what about Girlfriends?!

8 seasons, huge hit, 4 women, kind of a milestone being that it was 4 african american women...

June 16 2010 at 8:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I think you are right, "Will and Grace" was a hilarious foursome!

June 16 2010 at 8:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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