Normally, I just don't watch much network television, but for a few select programs. Tonite, while waiting on a basketball game to come on, I decided to watch Betty White's 90th Birthday: A Tribute to America's Golden Girl on NBC.
Totally worth it, even if Teh Won was on. Luckily, I was out in the kitchen stirring supper when he came on. I'm sure he totally owes his sense of humor to Betty White and wanted just to congratulate her on her successes, and the fact that it's an election year had nothing to do with the free shot at some tube time.
So far, I've seen a whole litany of Betty's former costars and television legends - Carol Burnett and Mary Tyler Moore (both looking pretty good, frankly), Vicki Lawrence, Ed Asner, Gavin McLeod, Carl Reiner, Jay Leno, William Shatner and Chevy Chase. There were also a bunch of more contemporary stars such as Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Morgan Freeman, Hugh Jackman, Ellen DeGeneres, and Ray Romano among others.
It's hard for me to envision a world without Betty. She's been on the boob tube since I can remember in one form or another. She was nominated for the first ever Emmy for Best Actress in television (she didn't win, dammit). She was a master at live comedic television - her timing is always impeccable. Her ad libbing is also seamless. You have to admire a woman who was worked for so long successfully in the essentially heartless and cruel entertainment industry. We hear all the time about how Madonna has reinvented herself. She can't even begin to hold a candle to Betty. Plus - take a good look at her in the clip above with Johnny Carson. That video dates to 1979 - when she was fifty seven years old!!! The first part of that clip was played on the show, and luckily I found it!
Truly, I do not particularly want to see Madonna at fifty seven. Just sayin.'
I mostly remember her from the Mary Tyler Moore Show days, and then her appearances on Carson and on the Carol Burnett Show. On MTM, she played against type - instead of America's Game Show Sweetheart (another thing we all saw her appear in), she became the perpetually horny Sue Ann Nivens. After her turn in Mama's Family, she went on to perhaps her biggest television role in The Golden Girls.
And she's still busy! Hot in Cleveland, countless guest appearances (lots of appearances on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson), numerous film roles (Bringing Down the House with Queen Latifah and Steve Martin), a Snicker's ad with Abe Vigoda first aired on the Super Bowl in 2010 (rated the number one ad), and perhaps most notable, as host of Saturday Night Live after a grassroots campaign on Facebook requesting just that succeeded. She had the highest ratings for the show since 2008, and she quipped:
(she) "didn’t know what Facebook was, and now that I do know what it is, I have to say, it sounds like a huge waste of time."Of course she was playing it as a bit of a ditz, which she's done for years.
I used to think the variety shows weren't cool, or were corny. Back then, they seemed pretty tame compared to SNL in it's early life, and the comedy records of Cheech and Chong and George Carlin outlined what seemed to be funny to me. However, as time has gone by, I can really appreciate the ol' hoofers' pioneering work, and how much skill was involved - and how much the survivors can still kick it up when they wanna.
I tell ya, these people are national treasures, and the ones who aren't gone ain't gonna be around much longer. Enjoy while you can.