Mr. wOw loved Betty White as man-hunter Sue Ann Nivens on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” (In fact, her first appearance was so memorable, I immediately called friends, still laughing, to say, “Oh, God — did you see that?!”)
I loved her as ditzy Rose Nyland on “The Golden Girls” (a show which I never tire of — except maybe the first, not-so-hot season)
I love her fierce devotion to animals.
However, over the past six or seven years, and especially the last two, Mr. wOw ain’t lovin’ Betty. Yes, she is vital. Yes, she wants to, and can, work. But as Betty has truly moved into her “golden” years, Hollywood has seen fit to cast her increasingly as a much more mature version of Sue Ann: the old lady with the salty tongue and a sexual innuendo at the ready. This was amusing at first. Then less so. In the past two years, Miss White and her persona have become omnipresent. That omnipresence is crystallized by her presence in a rather ordinary sitcom, “Hot In Cleveland.” It stars Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves and Wendie Malick. These sitcom veterans — all of whom are in or around their fabulous 50’s — are fine with the material they are given. (Please note, Mr. wOw is not declaring it is superior material.)
And then there is Betty White, who pops in and out as the old lady with the salty tongue, a sexual innuendo at the ready. Not only have we seen it all before from Betty, but we have seen it in a more energetic form. As remarkable as Miss White is at 89, one watches her with baited breath. Her scenes are obviously choreographed very, very carefully. But … the show is popular.
Miss White, the last surviving “Golden Girl,” has been feted and honored endlessly over the past 24 months. This orgy of acclaim peaked (I hope!) with her win the other night at the SAG Awards. There, she won Best Actress in a TV Comedy. Her competition? Jane Lynch of “Glee,” Sofia Vergera of “Modern Family,” Tina Fey of “30Rock” and Edie Falco in “Nurse Jackie.” Really? Really? Betty White gave a better performance last season than Edie Falco?
I’m all for sentiment, but if the Screen Actor’s Guild felt so strongly about Betty, they might have honored her lifetime achievements, as they did with 94-year-old Ernest Borgnine. (His acceptance was the elegant and emotional high point of the evening.) To her credit, White seemed genuinely shocked by her win, but that didn’t stop her from being true to recent form and fondling the statue before she left the stage.
I am not not NOT suggesting that Betty White retire. Absolutely not. But I am suggesting she give us a rest from her current characterizations. I am talking about her like I would anybody who has been “typed” to the point of boring the masses (yes, I mean you, Jennifer Aniston.) Maybe Betty doesn’t want to play Hecuba in “The Trojan Woman” — but something with a bit more meat, even if it is amusing meat, wouldn’t hurt. For heaven’s sake, at the very least the “Hot In Cleveland” writers could do more with this talented woman than getting cheap laughs by having her call one of her co-stars a “hooker” in every episode. In fact, I think it demeans Miss White.
Now, I know this will be a most unpopular post. But before I pressed “send,” I discussed my point of view with two close lady friends of mine, neither of whom will ever see eighty again. Both these women are energetic and have ongoing careers. Both said, in effect: “Love Betty White, but enough already!”
They say same thing whenever I mention Lindsay Lohan, too. (Actually, on Lindsay, they just say “Enough already!”)