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Designing Women

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Designing Women
Designing women cast 1986 1991.jpg
Original cast (1986–1991)
Created byLinda Bloodworth-Thomason
Opening theme"Georgia on My Mind"
(Performed by Doc Severinsen, seasons 1–2)
(Performed by Bruce Miller, seasons 3–5)
(Performed by Ray Charles, season 6)
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons7
No. of episodes163 (list of episodes)
Camera setupMulti-camera
Running time25 minutes
Production companiesBloodworth/Thomason Mozark Productions
Columbia Pictures Television
DistributorColumbia Pictures Television Distribution
Original networkCBS
Original releaseSeptember 29, 1986 (1986-09-29) –
May 24, 1993 (1993-05-24)
Followed byWomen of the House (1995)

Designing Women is an American television sitcom created by Linda Bloodworth-Thomason that aired on CBS from September 29, 1986, to May 24, 1993, producing seven seasons and 163 episodes. It 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 1980s Atlanta, Georgia, called Sugarbaker & Associates. It originally starred Dixie Carter as Julia Sugarbaker, president of the design firm; Delta Burke as Suzanne Sugarbaker, the design firm's silent partner and Julia's ex-beauty queen sister; Annie Potts as head designer Mary Jo Shively; and Jean Smart as office manager Charlene Frazier. In the third season, Meshach Taylor was given a starring role for his previously recurring character of delivery man and later partner Anthony Bouvier. Later in its run, the series gained notoriety 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.


Julia Sugarbaker (Dixie Carter) is an elegant, sophisticated, outspoken liberal who is the co-founder and president of Sugarbaker & Associates, an interior design firm located in her own home in Atlanta. She is partnered with her younger sister, Suzanne (Delta Burke), an attractive, selfish, self-centered former Miss Georgia World, who invested her money but does not have an official position within the business. Naïve but sweet-natured Charlene Frazier (Jean Smart), who worked as a secretary for Julia's late husband, Hayden, also invested half of her savings at Sugarbakers and works as office manager. Charlene's next door neighbor and recently divorced best friend, Mary Jo Shively (Annie Potts), is the main interior designer of the firm and also a full partner.

Alongside the women, there is Anthony Bouvier (Meshach Taylor), an ex-convict who is hired as the company's deliveryman and later becomes a full partner. By late 1986, Julia and Suzanne's mother, Perky (Louise Latham), comes for a visit with her outrageous best friend Bernice Clifton (Alice Ghostley). Perky does not stay long and moves to Japan, leaving Bernice in Atlanta, where she begins to spend time with the others.

Until 1991, these women spend much of their time debating about the everyday dramas around themes like being women in the business, the meaning of being southern, and many other subjects. These five years show four or five different characters and their singular personalities that were able to deal with many situations, each of them showing progress and changes about their way of acting, never losing their essence.

By 1991, Suzanne decides to join mother Perky and moves to Japan as well, and Charlene moves to England with her husband and daughter, and after that, Julia and Suzanne's obnoxious cousin Allison (Julia Duffy) buys Suzanne's share and rents her house with Anthony and Charlene's sister. With her, Charlene's recently divorced also naïve sister Carlene (Jan Hooks) also accepts a job as their receptionist while Charlene is off to England. This lineup does not last long and Allison decides to pull her money out after one year of partnership, and by that time, the women meet wealthy sarcastic Texan Bonnie Jean Poteet (Judith Ivey), who also joins them. After seven seasons and 163 episodes, Designing Women started to lose its popularity, leading to its cancellation by the network.

Main cast

  • Dixie Carter as Julia Sugarbaker, president and founder of Sugarbaker & Associates interior design firm. Elegant and classy, but outspoken and opinionated, Julia is known for her no-nonsense speeches from a feminist and liberal perspective. She is very protective of her sister Suzanne, even though she is usually the first one to criticize her egocentric statements. Julia is notable as a very talented singer, usually performing in her church choir, and, later on, she also pretends to be a cabaret singer under the pseudonym "Giselle".
  • Annie Potts as Mary Jo Shively, Sugarbaker's main designer. Mary Jo is a sarcastic, but kind person and a devoted single mother of two.
  • Jean Smart as Charlene Frazier-Stillfield (seasons 1–5; guest star: season 6), Julia's late husband's former secretary and now office manager of Sugarbaker's. Originally from a large family in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, Charlene is naïve and sweet-hearted, whose ditziness can be annoying for her co-workers. She's one of Elvis' biggest fan, worked with several big names while a secretary in Arkansas, like Sam Walton and Bill Clinton. Eventually, Charlene marries Colonel William Stillfield and they have a baby, Olivia. By 1991, they move to England, leaving her younger sister, Carlene, to fill in for her at Sugarbaker's.
  • Delta Burke as Suzanne Sugarbaker (seasons 1–5), Julia's younger sister and a silent partner at Sugarbaker's. A former beauty queen, Suzanne is self-centered and vain. Thrice-divorced, Suzanne usually dates wealthy elderly men who are terminally ill. During the series, she deals with weight gain and confronts issues of body image for women. In 1991, Suzanne sells all of her shares and moves to Japan to live with her mother.
  • Meshach Taylor as Anthony Bouvier (recurring: seasons 1–2, main: seasons 3–7), an ex-convict and a law student, who works as Sugarbaker's delivery man until 1990 and then becomes a full partner. Anthony is very close to his co-workers but develops a special relationship with Suzanne throughout the series. After being dumped by his girlfriend, Vanessa Chamberlain (Jackeé Harry), BJ sets up a trip to Las Vegas where a drunk Anthony marries a Folies Bergère singer, Etienne (Sheryl Lee Ralph). Eventually he falls in love with her and tries to make the marriage work.
  • Julia Duffy as Allison Sugarbaker (season 6), Julia and Suzanne's conservative cousin who becomes a partner at Sugarbaker & Associates. Allison comes from New York City for a visit after buying Suzanne's shares and decides to move back to the South, taking possession of Suzanne's house as well, which Anthony had been renting. They eventually became housemates, but are always arguing because of her attempts to throw him out. After one year being a partner at the design firm, Allison decides to invest in a Victoria's Secret franchise, leaving Atlanta and Sugarbakers behind.
  • Jan Hooks as Carlene Frazier-Dobber (seasons 6–7), Charlene's naïve sister from Poplar Bluff, Missouri who becomes a receptionist at Sugarbaker's after divorcing her car salesman ex-husband, Dwayne Dobber.
  • Judith Ivey as Bonnie Jean "BJ" Poteet (season 7), a Texas millionaire who becomes a Sugarbaker & Associates partner after Allison sells her shares. Her late husband James Poteet, a successful tycoon, had a heart attack during their wedding reception, leaving her the control of his Atlanta-based company, Poteet Industries.


  • Scott Bakula as Ted Shively (seasons 1–2), Mary Jo's ex-husband, a gynecologist
  • Douglas Barr as William "Bill" Stillfield (seasons 2–5), Charlene's husband, a colonel in the U.S. Air Force
  • Olivia Brown as Vanessa Hargraves (season 4), Anthony's girlfriend
  • Hal Holbrook as Reese Watson (seasons 1–4), Julia's love interest, a widowed and successful Atlanta attorney (the character was killed off in season 5 so Holbrook could appear on Evening Shade)
  • Alice Ghostley as Bernice Clifton, the Sugarbakers' eccentric family friend; Ghostley was billed as a "Special Guest Star" throughout the series
  • Richard Gilliland as J.D. Shackelford (seasons 1–5), Mary Jo's boyfriend, a talent scout for the Atlanta Braves
  • Michael Goldfinger as Rusty (seasons 4–6), the Sugarbakers' electrician
  • Brian Lando as Quinton Shively (seasons 1–6), Mary Jo's son
  • George Newbern as Payne McIlroy (seasons 1–6), Julia's son
  • Gerald McRaney as Dash Goff (season 2), Suzanne's first husband, a novelist and college professor
  • Sheryl Lee Ralph as Etienne Toussaint Bouvier (season 7), a showgirl Anthony marries after meeting her while she was performing at the Tropicana Las Vegas
  • Lexi Randall as Randa Oliver (season 5), a young girl left in the care of Julia while her wealthy parents are in Europe
  • Priscilla Weems as Claudia Marie Shively (seasons 1–5), Mary Jo's daughter


SeasonEpisodesOriginally airedRankRating
First airedLast aired
122September 29, 1986 (1986-09-29)May 11, 1987 (1987-05-11)33[1]16.1[1]
222September 14, 1987 (1987-09-14)March 28, 1988 (1988-03-28)34[2]15.5[2]
322November 14, 1988 (1988-11-14)May 22, 1989 (1989-05-22)33[3]15.0[3]
428September 18, 1989 (1989-09-18)May 21, 1990 (1990-05-21)2215.3
(Tied with Full House)
524September 17, 1990 (1990-09-17)May 13, 1991 (1991-05-13)1016.5
(Tied with The Golden Girls)
623September 16, 1991 (1991-09-16)May 4, 1992 (1992-05-04)617.3
722September 25, 1992 (1992-09-25)May 24, 1993 (1993-05-24)67[4]9.9[4]
R1July 28, 2003 (2003-07-28)N/AN/A

Filming locations

Angelo Marre House, Little Rock, Arkansas
Angelo Marre House, Little Rock, Arkansas

The exterior of the house seen in the series as the location of the Sugarbakers' design firm is the Angelo Marre House located in the historic Quapaw Quarter district in Little Rock, Arkansas.

The home of Suzanne Sugarbaker seen in the series is the Arkansas Governor's Mansion, also in the Quapaw Quarter. Both homes are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Critical reception

When the show debuted in CBS's Monday-night lineup in 1986, it garnered respectable ratings; however, CBS moved the show several times to other time slots. After dismal ratings in Sunday night and Thursday night time slots, CBS placed it on hiatus and was ready to cancel the show, but a viewer campaign saved the show and returned it to its Monday night slot. The show's ratings solidified, and it regularly landed in the top 20 rankings.[5] From 1989 through 1992, Designing Women and Murphy Brown (which also centered around a strong, opinionated female character) aired back-to-back, creating a very successful hour-long block for CBS, as both shows were thought to appeal to similar demographics. The show was a top 30 hit for three seasons, from 1989 to 1992, in which the 1989–1992 seasons made it the most successful of the time and helped CBS, which struggled in the ratings around the late 1980s. A move to the Friday night death slot in fall 1992 caused ratings to fall again and the series to be canceled.[6]

Political views

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. In one episode, Julia is stranded in the airport while attempting to attend Clinton's first inauguration. Additionally, Charlene mentions working for Clinton during his Arkansas governorship. Another Clinton-related joke was the introduction of the prissy character, Allison Sugarbaker, who makes it quite clear to the others that she attended Wellesley College, Hillary's alma mater. One episode revolves around Julia running for commissioner; she debates on television against a conservative candidate, to whom she eventually loses.

In reality, Dixie Carter was a libertarian-leaning Republican who disagreed with some of the liberal views expressed by her onscreen character.[7] Carter cut a deal with the Thomasons in which Julia would sing a song in a future episode for every liberal-leaning monologue.[8][9]

Awards and nominations

Year Association Category Nominee Result
1991 BMI Film & TV Awards BMI TV Music Award Bruce Miller Won
1992 Won
1987 Casting Society of America Artios Award for Best Casting for TV, Comedy Episodic Fran Bascom Nominated
1989 Nominated
1990 Nominated
Directors Guild of America Outstanding Directing – Comedy Series Harry Thomason for episode "They Shoot Fat Women, Don't They?" Nominated
1991 GLAAD Media Awards Outstanding Comedy Episode "Suzanne Goes Looking for a Friend"[10] Won
1990 Golden Globe Awards Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy Nominated
1991 Nominated
1987 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series Jack Shea for episode "The Beauty Contest" Nominated
Outstanding Costume Design for a Series Cliff Chally for episode "Oh Suzannah" Nominated
1988 Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series Linda Bloodworth-Thomason for episode "Killing All the Right People" Nominated
Outstanding Editing for a Series – Multi-Camera Production Roger Bondelli for episode "Killing All the Right People" Nominated
Outstanding Achievement in Hairstyling for a Series Judy Crown and Monique DeSart for episode "I'll Be Seeing You" Won
1989 Outstanding Comedy Series Harry Thomason, Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, Pamela Norris, Tommy Thompson, Douglas Jackson, and David Trainer Nominated
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series Meshach Taylor Nominated
Outstanding Costume Design for a Series Cliff Chally for episode "Come On and Marry Me, Bill" Nominated
1990 Outstanding Comedy Series Harry Thomason, Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, Pamela Norris, Tommy Thompson, Douglas Jackson, and David Trainer Nominated
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series Delta Burke Nominated
Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series Harry Thomason for episode "They Shoot Fat Women, Don't They?" Nominated
Outstanding Editing for a Series – Multi-camera Production Judy Burke for episode "The First Day of the Last Decade of the Entire Twentieth Century" Nominated
Outstanding Costume Design for a Series Cliff Chally for episode "The Rowdy Girls" Nominated
Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Comedy Series or a Special Larry Lasota, Anthony Constantini, Doug Gray, and Rick Himot for episode "Tornado Watch" Nominated
1991 Outstanding Comedy Series Harry Thomason, Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, Pamela Norris, Tommy Thompson, Douglas Jackson, and David Trainer Nominated
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series Delta Burke Nominated
Outstanding Costume Design for a Series Cliff Chally for episode "Keep the Home Fires Burning" Nominated
1990 Television Critics Association Outstanding Achievement in Comedy Nominated
1992 Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series Alice Ghostley Nominated
2003 TV Land Awards Most Memorable Female Guest Star in a Comedy as Herself Dolly Parton Won
Favorite Guest Performance by a Musician on a TV Show Ray Charles Nominated
1987 Viewers for Quality Television Best Quality Comedy Series Won
Best Writing in a Quality Comedy Series Linda Bloodworth-Thomason Won
Best Directing in a Quality Comedy Series Jack Shea Won
1988 Best Quality Comedy Series Won
Best Supporting Actor in a Quality Comedy Series Meshach Taylor Won
Best Writing in a Quality Comedy Series Won
Best Directing in a Quality Comedy Series Won
1989 Best Quality Comedy Series Won
Best Actress in a Quality Comedy Series Delta Burke Nominated
Dixie Carter Nominated
Annie Potts Nominated
Best Supporting Actor in a Quality Comedy Series Meshach Taylor Won
Best Writing in a Quality Comedy Series Won
Best Directing in a Quality Comedy Series Won
1990 Best Quality Comedy Series Won
Best Actress in a Quality Comedy Series Delta Burke Nominated
Dixie Carter Nominated
Best Supporting Actor in a Quality Comedy Series Meshach Taylor Won
Best Supporting Actress in a Quality Comedy Series Alice Ghostley Nominated
Best Writing in a Quality Comedy Series Won
Best Directing in a Quality Comedy Series Won
1991 Best Quality Comedy Series Nominated
Best Actress in a Quality Comedy Series Delta Burke Nominated
Dixie Carter Nominated
Best Supporting Actor in a Quality Comedy Series Meshach Taylor Nominated
Best Writing in a Quality Comedy Series Nominated
Best Specialty Player Alice Ghostley Won
1992 Best Actress in a Quality Comedy Series Dixie Carter Nominated
1994 Writers Guild of America Episodic Comedy Linda Bloodworth-Thomason for episode "The First Day of the Last Decade of the Entire Twentieth Century" Nominated
1994 Young Artist Awards Best Youth Actress Recurring or Regular in a TV Series Lexi Randall Nominated

Home media

Shout! Factory has released all seven seasons of Designing Women on DVD in Region 1.[11]

DVD name Ep # Release date
The Complete First Season 22 May 26, 2009
The Complete Second Season 22 August 11, 2009
The Complete Third Season 22 March 2, 2010
The Complete Fourth Season 29 September 14, 2010
The Complete Fifth Season 24 December 6, 2011
The Complete Sixth Season 23 April 3, 2012
The Complete Seventh and Final Season 22 July 17, 2012

On September 2, 2003, Sony Pictures released The Best of Designing Women, a single-disc DVD featuring five episodes ranging between seasons one through four: "Designing Women (Pilot)" (season 1), "Killing All the Right People" (season 2), "Reservations for Eight" (season 2), "Big Haas and Little Falsie" (season 3) and "They Shoot Fat Women, Don't They?" (season 4).

On September 28, 2010, Shout! Factory released Designing Women, Volume 1, a single-disc DVD featuring seven episodes from the first season: "Designing Women (Pilot)", "A Big Affair", "Design House", "I Do, I Don't", "New Year's Daze", "Monette", "And Justice for Paul".

On June 5, 2012, Shout! Factory released Designing Women – 20 Timeless Episodes, aimed for casual fans to enjoy the series without buying full season sets. The 2-disc DVD set included the following episodes, ranging from seasons one through five: Disc 1 – "Designing Women (pilot)" (season 1), "New Year's Daze" (season 1), "Monette" (season 1), "Oh Suzannah" (season 1), "Ted Remarries" (season 2), "Killing All the Right People" (season 2), "Heart Attacks" (season 2), "Return of Ray Don" (season 2), "Big Haas & Little Falsie" (season 3), "The Wilderness Experience" (season 3). Disc 2 – "The Naked Truth" (season 3), "Stand & Fight" (season 3), "Nightmare from Hee Haw" (season 3), "Julia Gets Her Head Caught in a Fence" (season 4), "Julia & Suzanne's Big Adventure" (season 4), "Foreign Affairs" (season 4), "A Blast from the Past" (season 5), "And Now, Here's Bernice" (season 5), "This is Art?" (season 5) and "The Pride of the Sugarbakers" (season 5).


CBS ran reruns of the show in their daytime lineup at 10:00 a.m. (ET) from April 1991 to June 1992. Subsequently, Designing Women aired on the Lifetime cable network for over a decade. Despite its popularity, the show left the network on August 4, 2006.[citation needed]

A 90-minute retrospective special, The Designing Women Reunion, aired on Lifetime on July 28, 2003, reuniting Burke, Potts, Smart, Carter and Taylor in which they shared memories from their time on the series, and also featured interviews with the Thomasons and various writers. Actors Alice Ghostley, Hal Holbrook, Gerald McRaney, and Richard Gilliland also took part in the special.

The series also aired on Nick at Nite beginning October 2, 2006; however, it quickly left and later appeared on its sister network TV Land, airing at various late-night and morning times occasionally until the network lost the rights to air the show in 2008. The series aired on ION Television in 2007[12] and has also aired on Comedy Gold, TV Guide Network, and Logo.

In recognition of the show's 30th anniversary, getTV began running the series in June 2017 with nightly blocks featuring 30 fan-favorite episodes, after which the series began airing regularly on the network.[13]

As of Spring 2021, Antenna TV airs two episodes of the show on weeknights at 12:00 and 12:30 a.m. ET,[14] while FETV airs the show weekdays at 3:00 and 3:30 a.m. as of March 2021.[15]

As of August 28, 2019, the series is available for streaming on Hulu. The episodes are not the original versions aired on CBS, but syndication edits, which contain an altered opening credit sequence and choppy edits to allow more time for commercials.


Burke returned as the Suzanne Sugarbaker character in the 1995 spin-off series, Women of the House. The series ran for one season, airing on CBS from January 4, 1995, to August 18, 1995, with the final four episodes airing on Lifetime on September 8, 1995.


  1. ^ a b "1986-87 Ratings History". The TV Ratings Guide.
  2. ^ a b "1987-88 Ratings History". The TV Ratings Guide.
  3. ^ a b "1988-89 Ratings History". The TV Ratings Guide.
  4. ^ a b "1992-93 Ratings History". The TV Ratings Guide.
  5. ^ Virginia Rohan (April 14, 2002). "'Once & Again' won't be back". North Jersey Media Group. Archived from the original on June 10, 2007. Retrieved July 13, 2007.
  6. ^ Brooks, Tim and Marsh, Earle, "The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable Shows 1946–present," 7th edition
  7. ^ "The heart of Dixie". The Baltimore Sun. Times Mirror Company. November 22, 1992. Retrieved March 12, 2021.
  8. ^ Paley Center for Media (2006). The Designing Women Reunion (on Designing Women Season 1 DVD). Shout! Factory.
  9. ^ "'Designing Women' actress Dixie Carter dies at 70; had roots in West Tennessee". The Commercial Appeal. E. W. Scripps Company. April 11, 2010. Archived from the original on April 13, 2010.
  10. ^ "GLAAD Awards: 15 Years of Recognition". TVWeek. April 25, 2005.
  11. ^ Designing Women: The Final Season: Dixie Carter, Annie Potts, David Trainer: Movies & TV. Retrieved on April 21, 2012.
  12. ^ ION Television July: Designing Women and Who's the Boss? Join Line-Up; Still Standing Joins Atlanta TBS; Network Notes. (June 8, 2007). Retrieved on April 21, 2012.
  13. ^ "DESIGNING WOMEN Top 30 Countdown on getTV". getTV. November 29, 2019. Retrieved March 12, 2021.
  14. ^ "Programming schedule" (PDF). Antenna TV. Fall 2020. Retrieved March 12, 2021.
  15. ^ "Program schedule" (PDF). FETV. Retrieved March 12, 2021.

External links

This page was last edited on 8 August 2021, at 15:01
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