The Golden Girls was ahead of its time in a lot of ways. While the series was largely seen as a comedy, it did, over the years, conquer some pretty serious topics. During the show’s seven-season run, Dorothy Zbornak, Sophia Petrillo, Blanche Devereaux , and Rose Nylund dealt with death, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, sexuality, and discrimination. One hard-hitting topic was particularly close to the show creator’s heart. Susan Harris once referred to a season 5 episode as her “revenge script.”
Susan Harris penned a script about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
The season 5 premiere of The Golden Girls was a two-part episode focused heavily on Dorothy. In the first half, Dorothy feels awful. She turns to a series of doctors, all who fail to find anything wrong with her. With alack of observable abnormalities, they put her illness down to mental health or age.
In the second part, Dorothy finds a doctor who finally listens to her and gives her the consideration she had been searching for. With a diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Dorothy finds the courage to confront one of the doctors who had belittled her and dismissed her symptoms. While the series largely focused on Dorothy, according to IMDb, it was actually Rue McClanahan’s favorite episode. McClanahan portrayed Blanche for all seven seasons of The Golden Girls. She also reprised her role in The Golden Palace.
Susan Harris called the script her ‘revenge script’
While more than 200,000 cases of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome are diagnosed each year now, when Harris found herself feeling profoundly tired, regardless of the amount of rest she got, she was in uncharted territory. Harris told Vulture she saw multiple doctors about her symptoms but was largely brushed off. They suggested she dye her hair or questioned whether there were issues in her relationship. In short, Harris revealed, the doctors simply didn’t believe there was a physical cause for her symptoms. They insisted her symptoms were emotion-based.
She only learned about CFS from a magazine article about a woman who was battling the illness. Harris’ symptoms were later connected to an issue with her adrenal gland. Still, she penned the episode for all those who felt brushed off by doctors or whose physical symptoms were largely ignored. She told Vulture that the script was her “revenge script.”
While the ‘The Golden Girls’ episode was incredibly personal for Susan Harris, it wasn’t her favorite
Harris might have penned the season 5 episode as a proverbial middle finger to the medical professionals who wronged her, but the script wasn’t her favorite episode. While she created the show and worked on The Golden Girls for its duration, she still insists the pilot is her favorite episode of all time.
In the episode, Blanche accepts a marriage proposal from a con man, and Sophia shows up on the doorstep after her retirement home burns down. While fans were just meeting Rose, Blanche, Sophia, and Dorothy, Harris and the writing team didn’t spare any action. In many ways, the pilot set the tone for the entire series. The same energy was present on the day the cast took their final bows.