Betty White Reflects on 80 Years in Entertainment — Get a Sneak Peek at Her PBS Special (VIDEO)
Sassy, classy Betty White has been on TV for 80 years now, officially the longest career in the medium. PBS celebrates the milestone with a loving special about the actress and comedian who played man-hungry TV hostess Sue Ann on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, naive retiree Rose on The Golden Girls and been-around-the-block caretaker Elka on Hot in Cleveland.
The sweet and funny White — who hosts a weekly Scrabble night in her downtime!—reflects on her life in entertainment.
How does it feel to be dubbed the “First Lady of Television”?
Betty White: That means the oldest lady of television — and definitely gives a hint to my age.
You started out when TV was broadcast live, like in your 1951–55 sitcom Life With Elizabeth. What did that teach you about performing?
It taught you to be more natural. When I started, TV was just being invented. That camera was the gateway to a large audience, but you learned to play to it as if it were one person. So it was just like having a conversation.
Everyone interviewed on this special talks about your great comic timing. What’s the secret?
I don’t think there’s any secret. It’s a rhythm thing. It’s tough to explain, but scenes have a rhythm and if you miss it, the joke doesn’t land or it doesn’t land the right way.
If this were a roast instead of a tribute, what insult would be (affectionately) hurled at you?
Maybe something about being too optimistic. That just makes some people mad.
You were the first woman to produce a national TV show, first woman to star in a sitcom, first producer to hire a female director. Is there another first you wish you had achieved?
Gosh, I’m just grateful. I’m the luckiest broad on two feet to have the career I’ve had in this business I love… and I don’t take it for granted, believe me.
Check out an exclusive clip from the special below:
Betty White: First Lady of Television, Premiere, Tuesday, Aug. 21, PBS (check local listings at pbs.org)
This article also appeared in the Aug 20 - Sept 2 issue of TV Guide Magazine.