Case Number 24313: Small Claims Court

DESIGNING WOMEN: THE FINAL SEASON

Shout! Factory // 1992 // 507 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // August 12th, 2012

The Charge

Get ready for some major changes, Sugarbaker style!

The Case

Get ready for the final season of Designing Women! The misadventures of feisty yet debonair Julia (Dixie Carter, Diff'rent Strokes), ditzy Carlene (Jan Hooks, Saturday Night Live), strong headed Mary Jo (Annie Potts, Ghostbusters), long suffering Anthony (Meschach Taylor, Mannequin), dithering Bernice (Alice Ghostley, Bewitched), and newcomer BJ Poteet (Judith Ivey, The Critic) continue; as they deal with such life experiences as dating a crossdresser, going to court, marrying in Vegas, and fighting tooth and nail to keep their beloved interior design firm from falling into the wrong hands!

The twenty one episodes included on this four-disc set are as follows:
* "Of Human Bondage"
* "Sex and the Single Woman"
* "Mary Jo vs. The Terminator"
* "On the Road Again"
* "Screaming Passage"
* "Fools Rush In"
* "Love Letters"
* "The Vision Thing"
* "Trail and Error"
* "Too Many to Date"
* "The Odyssey"
* "Oh Dog, Poor Dog"
* "Wedding Redux"
* "Nude Julia, New York Morning"
* "Sex, Lies, and Bad Hair Days"
* "Shoved Off To Buffalo"
* "It's Not So Easy Being Green"
* "The Woman Who Came to Sugarbaker's"
* "The Lying Game"
* "Gone With The Whim (Parts 1 & 2)"

Designing Women: The Final Season is a show running on fumes (considering the show's theme, it's running on outdated rugs and textured wallpaper). What was once a hit (if not cutting edge) series by 1992 became a stale and outdated lurch. Two of the principal cast members, Delta Burke and Jean Smart, had left the series two seasons earlier, and even a second turnover (Julia Duffy) had parted ways after only a single season (the sixth). Changes were nothing new to Designing Women. Heck, the show was founded on the idea of upgrading and redoing. But by Season Seven, it was time to wrap things up at Sugarbaker's.

Unfortunately, Designing Women went out with a whimper and not with a bang. Fans of the series never had the opportunity for complete closure, since the network decided not to renew only after Season Seven's final episode had aired. That meant creator Linda Bloodworth-Thomason never had a chance to offer up any high drama or big sendoffs for her beloved cast. In fact, the show's final two episodes are almost bizarre to watch, as we find the show's strength lied in its likable cast and not the writing (at least for this last season). With a hostile takeover on the way (led by character actor James Karen, Poltergeist) and a legendary mansion Julia refuses to complete to her client's gaudy specifications, each actress imagines herself as Scarlet O'Hara from Gone with the Wind. As each dream sequence ticks by, it becomes less and less funny...and the gimmick wasn't that amusing to begin with. It's almost as if the writers were subliminally saying, "We've run out of creative juice, but hey...doesn't Meshach Taylor look hysterical as Clark Gable?!"

The answer is no, he does not.

The rest of this season is a mixed bag. The inclusion of Judith Ivey as a stereotypical Texas firecracker adds little to the proceedings. Ivey's drawl elicits a few laughs, but she's given little to do but play off the rest of the ladies. Jan Hooks always looks like she's doing an impersonation of her characters from Saturday Night Live. The show's four originals -- the late Dixie Carter, Annie Potts, Meshach Taylor, and Alice Ghostly -- all wheeze through these final episodes as if they're on life support. Criticism aside, I miss Dixie Carter. Nobody on television delivered a classier put down.

Designing Women: The Final Season includes a lot of storylines that seem right out of the "TV Clichés 101" handbook. Anthony goes to Vegas and accidentally gets married to a showgirl! Bad weather ends up diverting the group on the way to the presidential inauguration ceremony (to wacky effect)! And that tried and true misunderstanding where Bernice, after having minor eye surgery, overhears Mary Jo talking about having to put her dog down and assumes they're talking about her! The cast of Three's Company would have been proud.

Presented in standard definition 1.33:1 full frame, Shout! Factory has done a decent job transferring the series. The visuals are mostly clear with some light blemishes, and I wasn't expecting them to look pristine. The Dolby 2.0 Mono audio is serviceable. No subtitles or alternate language tracks are available, and there are no bonus features.

I was never much of a Designing Women fan, but the show is something that played through my house as a kid, so I've grown to possess a small affinity for it. I mildly enjoyed some of these episodes, but my appreciation was coasting on nostalgia.

The Verdict

Not worth the imported silk curtains its printed on.

Review content copyright © 2012 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 61

Perp Profile
Studio: Shout! Factory
Video Formats:
* Full Frame

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)

Subtitles:
* None

Running Time: 507 Minutes
Release Year: 1992
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* None

Accomplices
* IMDb
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0090418/combined