Roush Review: Betty White Is the First Lady of Television

Betty White: First Lady of Television

We all have a favorite Betty White character. Some favor flirtatious Sue Ann Nivens from The Mary Tyler Moore Show or lovably naive Rose Nylund of The Golden Girls. (I’d happily watch her play Password for hours, observed adoringly by her late husband, host Allen Ludden.)

Each of these career highlights, and more, are reflected in a sweet but slight biographical tribute from the producers of PBS’s Pioneers of Television — and who earned that title more honestly and eagerly than Betty, now 96?

The special spans White’s career from the earliest days of West Coast live broadcasting in the 1950s to her 2010 Emmy-winning triumph hosting Saturday Night Live. Wonderful clips from every era could easily serve as a history of the medium.

Ultimately, First Lady of Television argues persuasively that her greatest role was just being Betty White: producer, personality, animal advocate, beloved star. “Courage and grace and love of life — I think that’s the secret to longevity,” says her pal and MTM costar Georgia Engel. Who could argue?

Betty White: First Lady of Television Tuesday, Premiere, August, 21, 8/7c, PBS (check local listings at