Welcome to a new Wildcard Wednesday, on a Tuesday! This post was intended to run next week as our annual tribute to sitcom legend Betty White, whose 100th birthday would have been January 17. But, sadly, the iconic TV star passed away on December 31, just 17 days shy of her centennial. So, instead of a birthday party, this is a full-on celebration of life… Now, I know I don’t need to eulogize this legendary American to you — we all love this charming sitcom superstar from her work on classics like The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Golden Girls, along with dozens of other series (including game shows and talk shows). In fact, White’s career is the longest in the medium’s history. Her TV debut occurred in 1939, and, by 1952, she had become an early ambassador of live television in Los Angeles, with several locally popular shows — including Life With Elizabeth, which was later filmed and nationally syndicated.
We’ve shared a lot of Betty White stuff here over the years — a Life With Elizabeth teleplay, episodes of Date With The Angels (her first primetime network sitcom — produced by Desilu), a one-off appearance she made on the show Suddenly Susan — but this time I’ve got something from her personal collection: the actual script she used when guest starring on a first season episode of the Tony Randall sitcom Love, Sidney (1981-1983, NBC) — “Charlotte’s Web,” which was produced in late 1981 and shown in January 1982. Love, Sidney is about a closeted gay man who houses a single mother (Swoosie Kurtz) and helps raise her young daughter. I’ve only seen a handful of episodes, and they’re hit-and-miss — the comedy faces competition from treacle, and despite its groundbreaking post-Lear premise, it’s toothless in the way most 1980s domestic sitcoms are, even before VSEs had become a dominant trend in the decade.
But, this script — written by Richard Baer — is a lot of fun, as White guests as a soap opera scribe who holds Kurtz’s fate in her hands, insisting that survival on the fictional series is dependent on romantic attention from Sidney, whose orientation, as in most episodes, is only implied. For fans of White, reading this script (with her own handwriting) should be a real delight, while the artifact itself is a testament to her remarkably varied career, which was so expansive that it included forgotten but pleasant endeavors like Love, Sidney — a show she surely improved. So, as usual, I will send access to a digital copy of this script to any subscriber who comments below to alert me of their interest. In the meantime, here’s an excerpt.
Also, I’ve received a half-dozen Q&A submissions about Betty White in the last few months, with several readers asking for my selections of her finest sitcom work. Last year, I answered a question about my preference for Sue Ann Nivens vs. Rose Nylund (see here). But now, I think it’s time to finally provide some individual episodic picks… I will do so next Wednesday, in this post’s initial slot — just ahead of the 100th anniversary of her birth. Stay tuned…
REST IN PEACE TO BETTY WHITE,
A SITCOM SUPERSTAR AND AMERICAN ICON!
Come back tomorrow for a new Wildcard! And stay tuned Tuesday for more Kate & Allie!