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Betty White's birthday tribute mostly happy

Betty White gets a tattoo on NBC's show

Betty White gets a tattoo on NBC's show “Off Their Rockers,” Season 1. Credit: NBC

You're right. "Betty White's 90th Birthday: A Tribute to America's Golden Girl" Monday night on NBC was a bit weird: At moments a geriatric acid trip filled with clips, skits, old people jokes, and even a message from the president that he may live to regret.

In a pretaped segment, President Barack Obama scratched out a birthday greeting to White: "I can't believe you're 90 years old. Will you please produce a copy of your long-form birth certificate?"

Yuck, yuck. Sigh.

But the special was also wonderful -- befitting the subject -- and for TV lovers everywhere, particularly those who care about what -- and who -- once made TV great.

There were appearances by Mary Tyler Moore, Carol Burnett, Carl Reiner, William Shatner, Ed Asner, Gavin MacLeod and many others who spoke of a sitcom genius -- yes, glorious Betty was seated at the front table at this tribute, which was taped at LA's Biltmore Hotel recently -- and the shows that she graced over so many years.

Then everything came crashing down. This was all a setup for a preview of White's new reality show, "Betty White's Off Their Rockers." (Think "Candid Camera," starring old people acting bizarrely, or as Betty explained, "Hugh Hefner may propose to 25-year-olds, but we prank 'em.")

It was awful -- worse, painful. Even worse than painful . . . sad. Even worse than awful, painful and sad . . . embarrassing.

White's spectacular career shouldn't be reduced to this.

NBC has not yet set a premiere date.

With a little luck, it never will.

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