Betty White gets busy

I have a new theory about the inner workings of the universe; it goes like this: No matter the question, the answer is Betty White.

How do you invigorate a formulaic romantic comedy’s media blitz? Betty White. How do you rescue a fledgling late night talk show? Betty White. How do you charm a Hollywood set dog who won’t mind his manners? Betty White. How do you get college kids interested in really good TV? Betty White.

The early buzz about this weekend’s Sandra Bullock/Ryan Reynolds rom-com, The Proposal, is that Betty White steals the show. That’s no surprise, of course. Only a handful of people have been able to hold the screen with White over the years, and most of them have been iconic women. We’re talking Mary Tyler Moore, Bea Arthur, RueMcClanahan and Estelle Getty here.

The sprightly, 87-year-old is absolutely the best thing about The Proposal‘s press tour. First there was the hilarious viral video in which White sabotaged Ryan Reynolds; then the interviews with every major media outlet; and just last week, she stopped by Jimmy Fallon‘s Late Show to play a little beer pong.

Later she was on Chelsea Lately, responding to Cloris Leachman‘s comment that she was a slut: “Oh, we sluts are good friends,” White said. “We have to stick together. You should know!”

What is most amazing is that she seems truly surprised when people say she’s the best part of The Proposal, or that they’re intimidated just to be in the same room with her.

When Moviline told her she sort of made the movie, White said, “Oh, right — with Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds.” They insisted they were telling the truth, and she said, “Well aren’t you dear. Thank you. Can I get you any coffee or water?”

While the recent interviews are because of The Proposal‘s press tour, most people want to talk about The Golden Girls and The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Of course, White’s grace is legendary: she credits great writing and stellar cast mates for her career success.

The first morning [of The Golden Girls], we went to the read-through. And here was Bea, and Estelle, and Rue, and we started. Well — it just came to life! When you read a line, you were going to get it right back over the net from one of these other women. It was so exciting. It was so exciting.

White also seems truly humbled by the fact that her shows continue to thrive on DVD worldwide.

When the [Golden Girls] DVD came out, I thought who’s going to buy these? When we went into reruns, we were on four times a day. The audience knew the lines a lot better than we ever did. They still do. So when the DVD came out, I thought, “Who’s going to buy the DVD? They’ve seen the show so many times.” But the DVDs are still top-sellers. It’s incredible. But that’s writing. That’s what good writing will do.

Most of her Golden Girls fan mail, she says, comes from college kids.

The best thing about White’s press tour, though, is that it proves she’s not slowing down. Of the 88 roles White has played in her career, 37 of them have been in the last 10 years. She has more scripts in the queue, more movies being produced and more DVDs to be released. And why not? There are six billion people in the world. Betty White might as well stay in the spotlight long enough charm the pants right off every single one of them.

What’s your favorite of Betty White’s 88 roles so far?