Betty White Told Johnny Carson Her Story Idea Was Stolen for a ‘Terrible’ TV Plot
Television legend Betty White had a hilarious chemistry with Tonight Show host Johnny Carson. Friends since the ‘50s, it was always a gas for audiences when the one-day “First Lady of Television” and the reigning “King of Late Night” teamed up for hilarity.
During one of their chats, White shared some childhood memories with the host and even brought some along with her to show. And in the process of reading a story she once wrote, she revealed someone stole her idea for a plot twist that television audiences hated.
What show did she hilariously claim used a storyline based on an idea that was stolen from her?
Betty White to Johnny Carson: ‘I really got carried away.’
In a clip from a 1987 interview available on YouTube, White visited The Tonight Show while she was starring on The Golden Girls. She spoke to Carson about a notebook she found that contained stories and screenplays she wrote in childhood. There was one she got “a real bang out of” reading and she wanted to share it.
“It has a lot of plot and I really got carried away,” she told Carson of her creation. Then, she put on some utterly fabulous reading glasses and read parts of the story from her handwritten notes.
“Sue decided to face the doctors and find out the truth about Jeff,” she read aloud. “It seemed to her that he would have been well by this time had it been only a ‘common sickness,’ as the doctors had called it — not saying what it was.”
“God knows what was the matter with Jeff,” she then declared to a seemingly amused Carson. But whatever was “the matter with Jeff,” his part of the tale ended tragically.
“Well, Jeff died, and she went out west … and somebody had left her a big ranch,” White went on. When she got to the end, it all started to sound a little familiar to Carson.
Betty White: ‘Do you know that they stole that idea’ for ‘Dallas’?
There were many exciting plot details in White’s creative story, including a handsome cowboy and a “setter dog, of course, named Rusty.”
But as many storywriters find, she had a hard time coming up with the best way to conclude it all. That was only until she had a “wonderful idea” and went with, “She woke up and it was all a dream. Jeff was well.”
The iconic host laughed at the story but then White asked, “And do you know that they stole that idea?”
“On Dallas, I think,” Carson noted between chuckles, to which she agreed, “On Dallas.”
‘Dallas’ and the controversial ‘it was all a dream’ plot
The “it was all a dream” ending is one that’s pretty hard to make original. But Dallas, which ran from 1978 to 1991, tried in September of 1986. Bobby Ewing, played by actor Patrick Duffy, returned to the show after being killed off.
A jealous admirer ran him down with her vehicle and he died in the hospital. The rest of the season revolved around that until the end when his wife woke up and found him in the shower. It was all a dream, of course.
Fans were a little displeased that writers had nullified an entire season of plot points with the twist ending. In 2016, Yahoo counted it among the “Top 5 Terrible TV Plot Twists.”
So, White was seemingly better off letting them have it.