Monday, August 11, 2008

Bea Arthur on Malcolm in the Middle

I wish the clip was on youtube, but I wanted to do a quick post on this great joke. This is all from memory, so details may be off.

Bea Arthur was Dorothy on Golden Girls, a show recently praised by Neil over on his blog. I am not a crazy Golden Girls fan: the characters are a little broad for my taste, basically in charge of one one kind of joke each. This is of course a big part of the sitcom, but a show like Will and Grace for example, combined those kinds of characters (Jack and Karen) with more (at least in comparison) nuanced characters. But every time Golden Girls is on I usually laugh. And of course the show is written by Joss Whedon's dad (Whedon's grandfather wrote for the Donna Reed Show)

Bea Arthur is a pretty great actress, especially on Maude, and she had this really excellent guest appearance on Malcolm in the Middle as Dewey's babysitter. Toward the end of the episode she and Dewey are eating milk and cookies in a tent set up indoors. She often talks in apostrophe to her dead husband, and Dewey asks her about it. She tells him that she always talks to him, that he is always with her and provides constant comfort and companionship. Dewey says something like "Well, this cookie can be his" and puts it down in the corner of the tent. Bea Arthur corrects him with a little edge in her voice, saying, "not there, there."

Malcolm in the Middle found this really amazingly tiny dividing line to play with. If you think your dead husband is a spirit all around you who you can talk to and who comforts you, that is really heartwarming. But if your dead husband is somewhere SPECIFIC, then you are insane.


Voice Of The Eagle said...

It wasn't her dead husband, it was her childhood imaginary friend.

Ain't I a stinker?

neilshyminsky said...

Geoff: The 'in charge of one joke each' comment is a fair one - and, as you admit, it doesn't hurt the humor - but a typical episode will usually add depth to at least one of the characters, forcing them to extend beyond their type. And while, from episode to episode, those moments of growth don't obviously carry over into the next episode, you can definitely see it in the show/character's politics from the first season to the last - Dorothy, for instance, does transforms from a stereotypically second wave feminist (she mistrusts men; she despises Stan) into something much closer to a third waver (the man-hating aspect recedes and her character becomes something of an activist), and the characters' willingness to first tolerate and then embrace, rather than mock, people and lifestyles on the margins increases with each season. And through it all, of course, Dorothy continues to play the straight man to Rose's dope, Blanche's slut, and Sophia's senile old lady - but that's never all that's happening.