Betty White Celebrates 99th Birthday by Revisiting a Favorite Little-Known Series

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Cynthia Littleton
·3 min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Betty White turns 99 today, a life milestone that few people ever reach, let alone performers who are still in the public eye.

In September, White reflected on her 70 years in television in an interview with Variety.

More from Variety

She knew the medium was here to stay when she saw the impact of her first TV series, “Hollywood on Television.” In the early 1950s, she spent five hours a day on live TV, talking about the day’s headlines, interviewing guests, spinning records and doing commercials alongside popular L.A. deejay Al Jarvis.

“I think once people got used to entertainment coming right into their living rooms…Well, there we were, and we weren’t going anywhere,” White observed.

Earlier this month, White offered her perspective on living nearly a century in an interview with People magazine.

“I am blessed with good health, so turning 99 is no different than turning 98,” White said. Another important factor: “A sense of humor. Don’t take yourself too seriously. You can lie to others — not that I would — but you cannot lie to yourself,” White told People.

White’s big 9-9 comes as she has set a deal to re-release a gem of a talk show series that she hosted in 1971. “The Pet Set” featured White conversing with celebrity friends and their beloved animals. White has long been a vocal animal lover and was a longtime trustee of the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association and its foundation arm.

“The Pet Set” was a syndicated labor of love that White produced with her late husband, “Password” host Allen Ludden. The 39 half-hour episodes feature such guests as Carol Burnett, Mary Tyler Moore, Doris Day, Burt Reynolds, Jimmy Stewart, Shirley Jones and James Brolin with their furry, four-legged and feathered pals. The series also featured a menagerie of exotic animals filmed in studio and on location, including tigers, bears, elephants, lions, wolves, gorillas, cougars, seals, kangaroos, zebras and eagles.

“Pet Set” will be available for streaming starting Feb. 23 via Apple TV, Google Play and Prime Video. A DVD set loaded with Betty-tastic extras will be released the same day from MPI Media Group, which partnered with Betty’s Albets Enterprises and Darren Wadyko Media on the restoration.

“Pet Set” came as White was evolving from her 1950s and ’60s persona as a witty talk and variety show host into a respected actor. Within two years of “Pet Set,” White would make her debut as the lascivious TV Sue Ann Nevins on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” The role catapulted her to new heights, paving the way for White’s Emmy-winning run as the good-hearted Rose Nylund on “The Golden Girls,” among many other TV and film projects.

One of the many reasons America loves Betty White is for her versatility. She can pull off a saucy sitcom character and host the Rose Parade in the same breath. She is also preternaturally talented at games, which she demonstrated over decades as a frequent celebrity guest on “Password,” “Match Game,” “What’s My Line,” “Liar’s Club,” “Hollywood Squares” and other game shows of the past 50 years.

Of all the entries on her IMDb page, White has often pointed to “Pet Set” as one that was close to her heart, because of its subject matter.

“If I haven’t told you already, I will now. ‘The Pet Set’ is one of my favorite shows,” White said in a statement. “I’m thrilled it’s going to be seen again after all these years.”

Best of Variety

Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.