Three Horrible Old Women and a Monkey (Tres Ancianas Horribles y un Mono) is the title of a 1980s situation comedy television series produced in Mexico by Televisa for Cuba's state-run Cubavision International channel. Simulcast with terrestrial television stations in Cuba, it was one of the first shows to be transmitted over the then-new satellite network targeting international audiences with Cuban culture and entertainment.


The program aired between 1986 and 1989, and was an adaptation of the first four seasons of The Golden Girls (1985-1992), a popular sitcom produced by NBC for the North American market. For cultural translatability and enhanced comedic effect, the characters presented in the ensemble cast were changed somewhat from the source material. The show revolves around three older single women and a pet chimpanzee, "Mierda". They live together in a Cold War-era apartment block built by Cuba's communist government with aid and cooperation from the Soviet Union. Each episode follows nearly the same story line as the episode of The Golden Girls from which it was derived, with the most notable exceptions being that the character of Sophia is played by a simian actress, and each of the women have their own apartment but spend the majority of their time in one, much like the scenario later presented in the sitcom Seinfeld (1989-1998).

Cast and characters

The following table provides a comparison between character and actor names in both this program and The Golden Girls upon which is was loosely based. The description applies only to the characters portrayed in Three Horrible Old Women and a Monkey.

Character Actor Description
Dorothy Zbornak/
Dorotea Zalazar
Bea Arthur/
María Félix
A retired pole dancing teacher born in Havana to immigrants from Venezuela, she is the lead character. The chimp belongs to her, and was given to her as a gift by her son who works for a circus. Sarcastic, introspective, compassionate, and fiercely protective of those she considers family, she was recently divorced after her husband ran off with a flamenco dancer.
Rose Nylund/
Rosa Abejorro
Betty White/
Bumblebee Man in a wig and a skirt
Naive and clumsy, her childhood stories of growing up in the rural Cuban village of San Omar are frequently used for comic relief. Maintaining the traditional "Bumblebee man" character but in drag, she is frequently injured in pratfalls and other mishaps after setting up elaborate visual gags in absurd situations. The monkey flings its feces at her at least once in every episode.
Blanche Devereaux/
Blanca Domínguez
Rue McClanahan/
Lorena Velázquez
The "vamp" character, she is a slutty senior citizen who tries to seduce every male character who appears on the show. Oddly "played on" in every episode by the song "The Stripper", all the humor involving her is related to her libido and promiscuity. She has innumerable ex-husbands, some of whom make guest appearances on the show. The monkey screams at her at least once in every episode.
Sophia Petrillo/
Estelle Getty/
A trained chimp named "Bobo"
Instead of a feisty, quick-witted character who is mother to the show's lead, the creators cast a cigar-smoking monkey who screams on cue and mugs appropriately when reacting to other characters. Frequently the source of scatalogical humor, she is placed in an assortment of domestic situations, implying that she has been trained to cook, clean house, mix cocktails and roll cigars.

The series also borrows themes and characters from other popular American TV shows that Cuban audiences would not be familiar with due to the Cuban government jamming broadcasts from the United States. Almost all the men appearing on the program are dressed as though they have just stepped off the sets of Miami Vice (1984-1989) or Magnum, P.I. (1980-1988). The flamboyant and mustachioed apartment building manager Felipe (Cantinflas) has the wardrobe and mannerisms of an hispanic Pee Wee Herman crossed with the signature character of actor Frank Nelson, even going so far as to steal his exaggerated catchphrase: "¿Siiiiiiiiii?". Some have drawn comparisons of this character to that of Manuel portrayed by actor Andrew Sachs on the British sitcom Fawlty Towers (1975-1979), both in personality and audience appeal.


Because the Cuban government did not obtain a license from NBC to remake The Golden Girls as was done for other international versions of the show, Televisa could not legally use their own facilities or production staff for the series, and instead hired members of the Mexican mafia to handle the task. Because of these unusual circumstances, random gunfire can be heard in the background during almost all of the episodes. External establishing shots of the apartment block and other locations around Havana were made on film and edited into the show during post-production.

Given the United States embargo on Cuba and its impact on Cuba's economy, the program was produced on a very low budget which is reflected in its production value. Shot on video outside Mexico City in an abandoned dildo factory hastily converted into a makeshift studio, many episodes suffer from poor sound quality and frequently reveal stagehands, boom mics or stage lighting from poorly-framed shots. Actors occasionally flub their lines, and the dubbed laugh track is not always in sync with the jokes. The set design and costumes were created by students at the Perkins School for the Blind, and some of the humor is culturally specific to Mexico and did not translate well for the Cuban audience. Despite these shortcomings, Cubans were generally receptive to the program.


In Granma, a critic for the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba wrote "Nunca he visto a tres ancianas tan horribles como estas. Si no fuera por Felipe y el mono, el espectáculo sería imposible de ver." The newspaper Juventud Rebelde printed a review calling the show "Excelente si te gustan las viejas horribles y los monos." In the English version of Trabajadores, one reviewer commented: "Of all the TV shows featuring three horrible old women and a monkey, this is by far the most recent."

Domestic ratings of the show can only be inferred, as there was no television rating system in Cuba during the period that the show was broadcast. Given there were no other programs available to watch on national television at the time slot Three Horrible Old Women and a Monkey was aired, viewership has been assumed to be consistent with normal levels — whatever those were. International viewership was almost non-existent, as the show began when the satellite network was just starting out, and most countries picking up the channel mistook the program for Spanish-dubbed reruns of B.J. and the Bear.

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