Coming to PBS tomorrow, Tuesday, August 21:
BETTY WHITE: FIRST LADY OF TELEVISION
Steven J Boettcher
Oriental Theatre, Milwaukee (August 2018)
A celebration of the pop culture icon and her nearly 80 years in television.
Filmed over the past decade, Boettcher’s profile is a love letter to Betty White, whose career stretches from television’s earliest years to the present day. Different generations of viewers will undoubtedly have distinct associations with her roles and appearances over the decades: As the star of the 1950s sitcom LIFE WITH ELIZABETH, serving as a celebrity guest on 1960s game shows like PASSWORD, the two-faced Sue Ann Nivens on 1970s staple THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW, the loveable dimwit Rose Nylund on THE GOLDEN GIRLS and its short-lived spin-off THE GOLDEN PALACE in the 1980s and ’90s, Elka Ostrovsky from 2010s series HOT IN CLEVELAND, and, of course, the resurgence of her appeal over the past decade that saw a fan-driven campaign to have her host SNL and led to additional commercial and film work. PBS’s tribute touches on all of these aspects of White’s career – plus her dedication to her late husband, Allen Ludden, and to her work as an animal advocate – but unfortunately attempts to do so in just under an hour, resulting in something of a missed opportunity, and some strange choices. Jennifer Love Hewitt takes up valuable minutes talking about White’s dramatic turn in a Hallmark TV movie that it’s unlikely most viewers ever saw, and the star’s arguably most popular show, THE GOLDEN GIRLS, is given surprisingly short shrift compared to the far less successful HOT IN CLEVELAND, over-represented here by gushing co-star Valerie Bertinelli. Still, Boettcher’s portrait succeeds in reminding the audience how much we love Betty White.