Designing Women: The Final Season

Designing Women: The Final Season
When Jean Smart and Delta Burke left the Sugarbaker set at the end of season five, the series tried to follow the same format by merely replacing the actresses with similar character archetypes, in the form of naive hillbilly Carlene (SNL's Jan Hooks) and the bitchy Allison Sugarbaker (Newhart's Julia Duffy). Fans of the series, likely perturbed by Burke's departure and the many tabloid stories surrounding it, didn't care for Duffy's prim, Republican character, leading to her being fired at the end of the season. In the seventh, and final, season, the Sugarbaker design firm winds up in financial straits, leading to the addition of the recently wealthy, outspoken Texan BJ (Judith Ivey), whose ability to stand up to the overbearing Julia (Dixie Carter) was matched with affability rather than the antagonism that Duffy injected. Despite this return to form, ratings declined throughout the season and the political rants about condom advertisements and the etiquette surrounding correcting grammar felt strained at best. Even the storylines, which found Anthony (Meshach Taylor) marrying a showgirl in Vegas, or Carlene dating a cross-dresser, reached a little too far for comedy. Similarly, the constant reiteration of financial straits as a recurring crisis grew wearisome throughout the season, since they would resolve the problem with a huge client, only to inexplicably wind up in the same situation a week later without context. The writers seemed aware of this overall laziness, often throwing in jokes about Bernice (Alice Ghostley) spending her days at Sugarbaker's, making sexually explicit comments when not tossing out non-sequiturs, having no actual reason or motivation for being there. And since the series was never allowed a proper finale, being a last minute cancellation, the terrible, Gone with the Wind-inspired season finale two-parter offered no sense of closure, again resting on the financial crisis storyline in a bid to milk forced conflict. It's a shame that no resolution came from a series that lasted seven years, proving that a show driven entirely by women had comic momentum and staying power. No supplements are included with the DVD set, which is standard for these older box set releases. (Shout! Factory)