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In honor of Women’s History Month, the Showplace will feature prominent female-driven classic programs and women who “changed the game” and made a lasting impact in the Golden Age of Hollywood and beyond. 

When you ask a contemporary television viewer, “Where did Betty White get her big TV break,” you probably would get different answers.

She appeared as either a regular or recurring guest star on numerous shows through the 1960s and 70s in classic programs like, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Carol Burnett Show, Jack Parr’s Tonight Show and as host of the annual California Rose Parade or the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade.

Or it could be her numerous appearances on classic game shows like I’ve Got A Secret, Match Game, To Tell The Truth, What’s My Life and also the program, Password, in which she married the host, Alan Ludden, in real life. 

But her big break came on the 1950s sitcom, Life With Elizabeth.  The show was really a reimagining of a show called Hollywood on Television, for which White received her first Emmy Award nomination.

The difference between the two shows was that White was co-owner of Brandy Productions, which bought the rights to the show.  This move made White one of just two women (the other being Lucille Ball) who both starred in AND produced the program–giving her full control of the creative content.

Elizabeth was a unique show in that it consisted of three separate sketches on each show–all featuring White–and was extremely successful.  The only reason the show was cancelled was because of a misguided idea that the show’s distribution company thought the 65 episodes they had already produced would “oversaturate the market” and devalue the show’s syndication financial intake.

White immediately found work in another groundbreaking show — the ABC fantasy-comedy, Date With The AngelsShe would go on to star in a number of early television shows, including two versions of a talk/variety program with her name in the show’s titles.

Betty would also break down by being the first female offered a role on a primetime news show, NBC’s Today Show — a position that was later filled by Barbara Walters.

She would continue to be one of the first actresses to make regular appearances on the iconic talk show, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, along with other popular talk shows, variety programs and game shows throughout the 60s and 70s.

White would continue to star in television roles for the next several decades, starring in more recent programs like The Golden Girls, Golden Palace, Hot In Cleveland and a sitcom version of The Betty White ShowShe was also nominated for several guest starring roles well into her 80s in shows like The Practice, Boston Legal, Modern Family and was the host of the candid camera lookalike program, Betty White’s Off Their Rockers.

She continued to break new ground by becoming the oldest person to ever host Saturday Night Live at the tender age of 88.  She also voiced a toy tiger character two years ago in Disney\Pixar’s Toy Story 4 after celebrating her 97th birthday.  The role was ironic because White has spent most of her life as an advocate for quality animal health.  She worked with and later chaired several organizations raising money for dogs and cats as well as zoo animals.

You can see a special marathon of Betty White in her breakout series, Life With Elizabeth, this Monday starting at 9 pm on RCN TV.  To view the complete rundown of classic programming on RCN TV, check out the weekly listings here on our website.