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R.I.P. Betty White, the TV legend whose career spanned eight decades

Join us as DECADES airs the Dean Martin Celebrity Roast: Betty White on Friday, January 7th beginning at 9pm ET, 6pm PT and select episodes of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and encore presentations of her Celebrity Roast all weekend long beginning Saturday, January 8th at 12pm ET, 9am PT. Details below article.

Weeks before her 100th birthday, Betty White has passed away. She died early in the morning on December 31. She was 99.

Betty White was a national treasure. The television icon was with us for nearly a century, and her small-screen career stretched back to the earliest days of the medium.

Her stellar string of sitcom roles began in 1952, on the charming Life with Elizabeth, a series centered around a character she had performed on the talk show Hollywood on Television going back to the 1940s. The television show, which was essentially a collection of short interactions between husband and wife, helped pioneer the romantic sitcom.

She was a nominee for the first-ever Primetime Emmy Award for Best Actress in 1951 and won her first Emmy in 1952, She was a nominee for the first-ever Best Actress Emmy award in 1951, and won her first Emmy in 1952, a Regional Los Angeles Emmy for her work on Life with Elizabeth, which was broadcast live out of KLAC-TV.

Two decades later, The Mary Tyler Moore Show gave White her next breakout role, Sue Ann Nivens, the seemingly cheery host of fictional WJM-TV's "The Happy Homemaker" who had far more of a bite off-camera. The darker role gave a new angle to White's career.

From there, White would go on to create unforgettable characters on Mama's Family and The Golden Girls. Because audiences had become so accustomed to White as a man-crazy character on The Mary Tyler Moore Show — the polar opposite of her early pigeonhole — the producers of Golden Girls figured the actress was ideal for the role of Blanche Devereaux. Rue McClanahan, because of her own typecasting post-Maude, was pegged as the ditzy Rose. At the last minute, the roles were brilliantly reversed. White was brilliant playing both sweet and spicy.

Thanks to reruns, a continued presence on TV, and her indomitable energy, White became an internet sensation in the 21st century. In 2010, she became the oldest person to host Saturday Night Live, performing in midnight skits at the age of 88. That earned her another Emmy.

In that long, storied career, some roles went overshadowed. She took home two Daytime Emmys in 1983 and '84 for her work hosting the game show Just Men! She would be the only woman to win the Best Game Show Host Emmy for more than two decades, until 2005. In total, her shelves were stuffed with eight Emmys, three American Comedy Awards, three Screen Actors Guild Awards, and a Grammy Award.

White's first career dream was to be a forest ranger. However, women were not allowed to become forest rangers at the time, so the animal lover went into show business. Throughout her television career, she was an advocate for animals. The U.S. Forest Service made her a ranger in 2010.


DECADES Tribute

Friday, January 7th (9-10pm ET)
9pm ET, 6pm PT - Dean Martin Celebrity Roast: Betty White (Originally aired in 1978)
Dean Martin and celebrity guests Milton Berle, Georgia Engel, Phyllis Diller, Orson Welles and more roast Betty White.

Saturday, January 8th and Sunday January 9th
A weekend binge of The Mary Tyler Moore Show with select episodes featuring Betty White’s character Sue Ann Nivens beginning Saturday, January 8th at 1pm ET, 10am PT and encore presentations of her Dean Martin Celebrity Roast on Saturday at 12pm ET, 9am PT, Sunday at 6pm ET, 3pm PT and Monday at 5am ET, 2am PT.

Watch The Mary Tyler Moore Show on Decades

Weekdays at 2p ET | 11a PT

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