PBS Summer Showcase 2018: Betty White: First Lady of Television

Betty White: First Lady of Television

In the U.S., we don’t have kings and queens, but we do have first ladies and Betty White as become the First Lady of Television as she celebrates 80 years in show business. Born in Oak Park, Illinois, the 96-year-old was the first woman to win an Emmy Award for Outstanding Game Show Host in 1983. She’s also has eight Emmys, three American Comedy, three Screen Actors Guild and one Grammy.

On TV, she’s created memorable characters such as the seemingly sweet but conniving Sue Ann Nivens on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1973-1977), the dim bulb Rose Nylund on “The Golden Girls (1985-1992) and the mobster widow Elka Ostrovsky in “Hot in Cleveland” (2010-2015).

Two members of the “Mary Tyler Moore Show,” Gave MacLeod and Georgia Engel were on the panel as well as Arthur Duncan whose first TV job was on the 1954 “The Betty White Show” a short-lived daily talk show.  All three noted her kindness.

MacLeod remembered a safety video they made for New Zealand Airlines. “We had so much fun together.” He added, “Betty has a lesson for us all with her love for animals and love for people.”

Engel said, “Our friendship deepened over the years” and “it was a special joy to be in “Hot in Cleveland.”

MacLeod said, “She’s been a blessing to everyone she’s worked with.”  He remembered a scene from the “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” where his character became Sue Ann Nevins’ assistant and after a tough day, his character dropped Sue Ann on a cake. “She rode that cake right down to the floor. It was like she had a bucking bronco between her legs. We only had one take. Afterward, she told me, ‘You really hurt my back when you put me on the cake,'” but “she was the kind of actress who followed through no matter what.”

Co-director and producer Steve Boettcher said, “Betty’s very tenacious” and she “always saw herself as part of the cast, part of an ensemble” because everyone shines when they “all shine together.”

This special tribute to Betty White premieres on Tuesday, 21 August 2018.

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