Judge Brett Cullum just fired Delta Burke, and she is angry!
Our reviews of The Best Of Designing Women (published March 13th, 2004), Designing Women: The Complete First Season (published May 26th, 2009), Designing Women: The Complete Second Season (published September 2nd, 2009), Designing Women: The Complete Third Season (published March 10th, 2010), Designing Women: The Complete Fourth Season (published September 14th, 2010), Designing Women: The Complete Fifth Season (published December 14th, 2011), and Designing Women: The Final Season (published August 12th, 2012) are also available.
Sugarbaker's has a brand new look! Two new cast members, a new opening, and a little less smarts.
Season Six of Designing Women was the year the show shook things up with the departure of Delta Burke and Jean Smart, and the addition of Jan Hooks (Saturday Night Live) and Julia Duffy (Newhart) to the cast. The original foursome was no more, and only two remained. Burke's sudden dismissal from the show caused a firestorm of controversy that became tabloid fodder all summer long before the fall premiere. It was explained that Suzanne (Burke) moved to Japan and sold her portion of the business to Allison Sugarbaker (Duffy). Allison was a prim and proper conservative prude who provided a very different foil to cast regular Dixie Carter's Julia than the Delta Burke character did. Charlene (Smart) was sent off to England, and her small town sister Carlene (Hooks) took over her job. Annie Potts (Ghostbusters) remained in the mix as Mary Jo, as did Mesach Taylor (Mannequin) and Alice Ghostley (The Odd Couple). This all happened during the 1991 and 1992 season, and the series actually hit an all-time high in ratings, despite critics savaging the changes. Creator and head writer Linda Bloodworth-Thomason remained pretty involved in the show even writing the two part season opener introducing the new cast members.
Shout! Factory pretty much just gives us twenty-two episodes spread out over four discs without any fanfare or additional content. The technical presentation is okay for a show from 1991. The picture is grainy and not particularly sharp or detailed. Colors look fine even though they are a little muted. Overall it's fine, even if lackluster. Fans won't mind though, because many people thought the DVDs would end at Season Five and omit the final two years, since they were a bit different in cast and tone. The episodes appear intact and don't seem to be syndication versions. The hour-long season opener is presented as it originally was as one long show rather than two, and original music is intact even over closing credits.
Season Six is not a bad batch of episodes when you get down to it, and Designing Women still charms. It's certainly not the show at the pinnacle Seasons One and Two saw, but it still works despite the cast juggling. The chemistry was never quite the same, but how could it be? Julia Duffy's character could be annoying at times, but she did her best with what she was given. Jan Hooks proved to be an okay replacement for Jean Smart. Both actresses proved to have excellent comic timing, and they handled the material with grace. The rest of the cast delivered exactly what they had all along, and that felt familiar and safe. Fans of Alice Ghostley's Bernice character will see this is the year she shows up the most often. Designing Women didn't seem as smart or as witty without Delta Burke and Jean Smart, but it trudged on nonetheless. Completists will need this set as the next to last batch of episodes, although purists will truly want to stop at Season Four or Five to keep the quality intact. These twenty-two episodes are presented without syndication cuts but also without any supplements, which makes for a straightforward DVD presentation.
Guilty of shaking things up, but not improving them. Sugarbaker's may not
have been the same, but it still had moments.
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