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DVD Review: DESIGNING WOMEN: THE FINAL SEASON



Studio: Shout Factory
Year: 1993
Cast: Dixie Carter, Annie Potts, Judith Ivey, Jan Hooks, Meshach Taylor, Alice Ghostley
Director: various
Release Date: July 17, 2012
Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 06h:27m:003
Genre(s): comedy

In Texas, we have what's called the Bubba Factor, where everyone is nicknamed Bubba. Except Ross Perot... they call him Mr. Bubba. - Bonnie Jean B.J. Poteet (Judith Ivey)

DESIGNING WOMEN: THE FINAL SEASON

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Designing Women, created by Linda-Bloodworth Thomason, was a very successful and unique situation comedy for its era with an almost completely female cast and a unique tone and perspective. Unfortunately most of the accolades pertained to the first five seasons of the show. Cast changes mixed up the chemistry of the show over its final two seasons and typically obtuse network decision making finalized its demise.

Movie Grade: C

DVD Grade: C+

The seventh and final season remixed the case with the introduction of Judith Ivey as B.J. Poteet, a rich Texas widow who invests in the Sugarbaker firm after Allison Sugarbaker pulls her money out of the business for good. B.J. was presented as a friendly, outspoken and strong-willed woman with a zest for life and, unlike the other cast members, was completely capable of standing up to Julia. The previous season Delta Burke's character of Suzanne had moved to Japan and sold her part of the design business to her wealthy cousin Allison Sugarbaker (Julia Duffy). Another change had been the departure of Jean Smart, who was replaced by Jan Hooks as Carlene Dobber, Charlene's naive sister from hicksville Poplar Bluff. Smart's character, Charlene, moved to England to be with her husband and Carlene took over her job. Allison was a prim and proper conservative who provided a bossy foil to the liberal Julia. Despite series-high ratings, the changes were critically panned and some television pundits decided that the series had "jumped the shark". The Allison character proved unpopular with audiences and Duffy was let go at the end of one season.

Annie Potts announced in 1993 that she would leave the show after the seventh season, due to the fact that the producers dropped her character's proposed pregnancy storyline at the last minute; however, this turned out to be the show's last season, so there was no need for her character to be replaced.

However, these replacements could not stop the ratings slide which caused CBS to cancel the series in 1993. Of course, the classic television death decision to move the show from its previously successful Monday night time slot, following Murphy Brown, to the Friday night graveyard played a role. CBS had moved the show around early in its run and it almost got cancelled but protests from Viewers for Quality Television convinced the network to renew it. Another sign of problems is lack of involvement of the show creators. In the final two seasons, the director chores had been taken over by television veteran David Steinberg and Thomason wrote almost no episodes. The show got no series finale and concluded with an hour-long two-part, ironically named episode "Gone With a Whim" in which the principal characters imagine their lives as characters in Gone With The Wind.

The series' theme song was the Georgia state song "Georgia on My Mind", and was performed by Doc Severinsen early in the series run but Ray Charles' recording was used in the final two seasons. Meshach Taylor became a television regular as Anthony Bouvier, who consistently at the mercy of the ladies' antics during the entire seven-season run. He was nominated for an Emmy in 1989 as Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. Bernice Clifton was a character who endured through the entire run of the show and was portrayed by television and film character-acting legend Alice Ghostley. She received a nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for the 1992 season. Ghostley's career spanned almost 50 years. Look for Patrick Warburton in a hilarious turn as the dumb character Craig in three episodes, including the season ender.

One unique flavor of Designing Women was that show creators Linda Bloodworth-Thomason and Harry Thomason were strong supporters of longtime friend and then-Democratic nominee for President of the United States, Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary. The final season was the only season that aired during the Clinton administration and features several references to the presidency and politics. Ironically, Dixie Carter was a Republican and did not agree with the liberal politics her character occasionally espoused. The show garned multiple Emmy nominations including Outstanding Comedy Series, Outstanding Directing in a Comedy Series, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, Outstanding Achievement in Hairstyling for a Series, Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series and more.

A classic series experiences a classic case of series television decay. Character switches, creative departures and network missteps all add up for a recipe of implosion. Oddly these situations often create episodes that are fan favorites but usually it is a case of "what were they thinking?" (except the idea of keeping everybody employed for one more year.)

143 Sep 25, 1992 Of Human Bondage
144 Oct 2, 1992 Sex and the Single Woman
145 Oct 16, 1992 Mary Jo vs. the Terminator
146 Oct 23, 1992 On the Road Again
147 Oct 30, 1992 Screaming Passages
148 Nov 6, 1992 Viva Las Vegas Part 1
149 Nov 13, 1992 Fools Rush In Part 2
150 Nov 20, 1992 Love Letters
151 Dec 4, 1992 The Vision Thing
152 Dec 11, 1992 Trial and Error
153 Jan 8, 1993 Too Dumb to Date
154 Jan 15, 1993 The Odyssey
155 Jan 22, 1993 Oh Dog, Poor Dog
156 Feb 5, 1993 Wedding Redux
157 Feb 12, 1993 Nude Julia, New York Morning
158 Mar 5, 1993 Sex, Lies and Bad Hair Days
159 Mar 12, 1993 Shovel Off to Buffalo
160 Apr 2, 1993 It's Not So Easy Being Green
161 Apr 30, 1993 The Woman Who Came to Sugarbakers
162 May 7, 1993 The Lying Game
163 May 24, 1993 Gone With a Whim Part 1
164 May 24, 1993 Gone With a Whim Part 2

Posted by: Joseph Burke - July 1, 2012, 10:23 am - DVD Review
Keywords: situation comedy, television




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