Designing Women

Designing Women
Designing women cast 1986 1991.jpg
Original cast (1986–1991)
Created byLinda Bloodworth-Thomason
Starring
Opening theme"Georgia on My Mind"
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons7
No. of episodes163 (list of episodes)
Production
Camera setupMulti-camera
Running time25 minutes
Production company(s)Bloodworth/Thomason Mozark Productions
Columbia Pictures Television
DistributorColumbia Pictures Television Distribution
(1992–1995)
Columbia TriStar Television
(1995–2002)
Sony Pictures Television
(2002–present)
Release
Original networkCBS
Original releaseSeptember 29, 1986 (1986-09-29) – May 24, 1993 (1993-05-24)
Chronology
Followed byWomen of the House (1995)

Designing Women is an American sitcom created by Linda Bloodworth-Thomason that aired on CBS from September 29, 1986, until May 24, 1993, producing seven seasons and 163 episodes. The comedy series Designing Women was a joint production of Bloodworth/Thomason Mozark Productions in association with Columbia Pictures Television for CBS.

The series centers on the lives of four women and one man working together at an interior designing firm in Atlanta, Georgia called Sugarbaker & Associates. It originally starred Dixie Carter as Julia Sugarbaker, president of the design firm; Delta Burke as Suzanne Sugarbaker, Julia's ex-beauty queen sister and the design firm's silent partner; Annie Potts as head designer Mary Jo Shively; and Jean Smart as office manager Charlene Frazier. Later in its run, the series received recognition for its well-publicized behind-the-scenes conflicts and cast changes. Julia Duffy and Jan Hooks replaced Burke and Smart for season six, but Duffy was not brought back for the seventh and final season, and she was replaced by Judith Ivey.

Premise

Julia Sugarbaker is introduced as an elegant, outspoken liberal intellectual middle-age widow. Her younger sister, Suzanne Sugarbaker, is a thrice-divorced, rich, flashy, often self-centered, former Miss Georgia World. They are constantly at personal odds, but have launched Sugarbaker and Associates Designs, an interior design firm, after the death of Julia's husband, Hayden McIlroy. Julia manages the company and is the firm's guiding force, while Suzanne is mostly a financial backer who simply hangs around and annoys everyone under the guise of being the firm's salesperson. However, she does bring in new customers on a regular basis through breakfast, lunch and dinner appointments.

The pragmatic designer Mary Jo Shively, a recent divorcee raising two children, and the sweet-natured but somewhat naïve office manager Charlene Frazier (later Stillfield) are initial investors and coworkers. Mary Jo and Charlene are long-time best friends (they were neighbors in Charlene's apartment building). Anthony Bouvier, a former prison inmate who was falsely convicted of a robbery, is the only man on the staff, and later in the series becomes a partner. Bernice Clifton (Alice Ghostley), an absent-minded friend of the Sugarbaker matriarch, also appears frequently.

Carter and Burke had both been members of the cast of the CBS sitcom Filthy Rich, which was written by Bloodworth-Thomason. Coincidentally, Potts and Smart guest-starred together in a 1985 episode of Lime Street, which was also created by Bloodworth-Thomason.

Although it was a traditional comedy, and often included broad physical comedy, Designing Women was very relevant (particularly in episodes written by Bloodworth-Thomason herself), and featured discussions of controversial topics such as homophobia, racism, dating clergy, AIDS, hostile societal attitudes towards the overweight, and spousal abuse. The episode "Killing All the Right People" from season two (1987) directly addressed the prejudice associated with the AIDS epidemic after Bloodworth-Thomason's mother died of the disease, and the episode received two Emmy nominations.

The program became noted for the monologues delivered by Julia in indignation to other characters, a character trait that began in the second episode, when Julia verbally castigated a beauty queen who had made fun of Suzanne. That speech, which Julia ends by emphatically saying, "And that, Marjorie, just so you will know, and your children will someday know....is the night....the lights....went out.....in Georgia!" became a fan favorite. Dixie Carter, a registered Republican, disagreed with many of her character's left-of-center commentaries, and eventually made a deal with the producers that for every speech she gave, Julia would get to sing a song in a future episode.