An elderly man with a white cane and dark glasses makes his way, slowly, down a sidewalk. He asks a younger gentleman, “Have you seen a blue mustang parked around here?” The young guy helps the blind senior citizen over to the car.
And the blind guy gets in the car and drives away as a camera zooms in on the shocked man’s face.
This is “Betty White’s Off Their Rockers,” a show in which senior citizens essentially punk members of the younger generation. Jokes range from slapstick to dirty. Despite the name of the show, White admitted at today’s Television Critics’ Award presentation that she has little to do with choosing the culprits and the pranksters, and hasn’t actually seen most of the pranks.
“My main function is to be sure it’s not mean-spirited,” Betty White says, admitting to the sort of “banana peel comedy” that involves laughing at a person who falls down, but insisting that she doesn’t mean to make light of senility. “It’s a silly, fun show,” she says, which gives “oldsters” — her word — the opportunity to get their revenge.
“The saying is ‘Respect your elders.’ There’s nothing in there about us respecting you back,” she says in the tagline. “Don’t sell [senior citizens] short,” she said during her panel. “They’re hip enough — and maybe mean enough — to want to get even. We’ve a sense of humor, warped as it may be.”
The series premieres on Monday, Jan. 16 at 9:30 p.m. after White’s 90th birthday special on NBC. White says that the birthday is a bigger milestone for others than for her. “Everybody is celebrating it for me,” she says. “Don’t give me any credit… I didn’t do anything. It just happened.” When a reporter suggests that she might go out and run a 10k to celebrate, she says, “No. I might go out and have a little vodka on the rocks.”
Stressing her good health, White was a barrel of laughs in the first session of the day. At one point, she waved to the wrong reporter, and when corrected, gestured to the back of the room. “Oh, sorry. I was flirting with somebody way back there.”
She says that being “surrounded by friends I adore” keeps her feeling young. “Isn’t that the best way to sign off?” she muses. When asked if she has any regrets, she immediately nods. “I have a major regret. That Alan Ludden isn’t with me. That’s my big regret.”
But the sad moment is quickly brushed aside when a reporter asks whether there’s anything she hasn’t yet gotten to do that she’d like to do.
“I’m not going to say Robert Redford,” she said, winking.