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Designing Women (TV Series 1986–1993) Poster

(1986–1993)

Trivia

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The exterior of Sugarbaker & Associates Interior Design is The Villa Marre, a Victorian mansion built in 1881, and located in the MacArthur Park Historic District of Little Rock, Arkansas. It is listed in the National Registry of Historic Places.
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Delta Burke and Jean Smart met their husbands while working on the show.
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Despite the fact that she had already had significant roles in two prior television series, CBS was unsure about Delta Burke as one of the stars of the show, because of her beauty queen background.
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Of the original cast, Jean Smart was the only one not born in the south or southeastern United States. She was born and raised in Seattle, Washington.
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Suzanne's housekeeper, Consuela, was often talked about, but never seen on the show.
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Dixie Carter, being a Republican, didn't always agree with her character's Liberal views. So she and the show's producers came to an agreement: whenever Julia would go off on something, on which Dixie didn't quite agree, she got to showcase her singing in a future episode.
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In September after the DW Creator wrote an Op-Ed piece in the Hollywood Reporter, ABC decided to give Designing Women a script commitment, less then a day after Linda Thomason blasted ex-CBS boss Les Moonves (the network the show was originally on) and ABC was highly interested in rebooting the series. Jean Smart also claimed she wanted in on the reboot, as well as Annie Potts who said earlier in 2018 she'd do a reboot/revival during her spare time. The project is still in its script commitment phase.
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Dixie Carter was seventeen years older than Delta Burke. It's reported in a later episode, that their mother was married to their father, they divorced, their father married again, had their brother Clayton, played by the late Lewis Grizzard, they divorced and he remarried Julia and Suzanne's mother, accounting for the age difference.
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According to creator Linda Bloodworth-Thomason during the 2006 Designing Women Reunion the character of Anthony played by Meshach Taylor was supposed to be a one off. But fans loved the character of Anthony so much that he was offered a full time role on the show. He joined the main cast officially for the second season in 1987.
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Dixie Carter is the only cast member to appear in every episode.
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Of the twenty-five series the major networks debuted in 1986, this show was the only one to still be on the air for the 1992-1993 season.
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During the first season, CBS kept moving the show around, moving it from its original Monday night time slot to Thursday, and then to Sunday. This devastated the ratings, which didn't pick up until it returned to Monday. CBS was going to cancel it, but then protests from Viewers for Quality Television convinced the network to renew it.
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Jean Smart had decided to leave the series on her own accord, as she had grown tired of the role of Charlene. But her main reason for leaving the series was to look after her young family. Smart's final episode was the season 6 two part episode "The Big Desk" with over 30 million viewers tuning in.
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The series enjoyed a 3 Year ratings high when it aired back-to-back successfully with Murphy Brown (1988).
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During Delta Burke's falling out with the ladies on the show, she privately apologized to everyone. But it took over a decade for Delta and Dixie Carter to make amends. Burke apologized to Carter (who at the time of the falling out between the two of them, sided with producers over Burke's on set behavior.) in 2002 and made an appearance on Carter's show "Family Law" and all appeared well between the 2 during the 2003 designing women reunion, and looked even better during the 2006 reunion. Burke and the ladies were heartbroken over Carter's death as well, and in one media photo Burke is seen having to be held up by husband Gerard and co-star Annie Potts.
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The only Emmy nominations for acting went to Delta Burke, Meshach Taylor, and Alice Ghostley.
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During season 6, there was a story line for Mary-Jo wanting to have a baby. Producers dropped this idea as other CBS show Murphy Brown (1988) were already doing the exact same thing with Murphy and they didn't want to copy the show.
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Linda Bloodworth-Thomason wrote all of her scripts on legal pads, and they would turn out longer than the average sitcom script. As a result, the network would often have to time compress parts of shows to keep from cutting key material.
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After being a very successful ensemble player on Saturday Night Live; Jan Hooks followed up that major success with this slight one; playing one of the supporting characters on Designing Women for two years. After that she did a couple parts here and there, and then dropped out of showbiz altogether; before dying relatively young in 2014. Tina Fey spoke out about Jan Hooks at the time; about the tragedy of her potential not being realized:' "It made me sad when she passed, and it made me mad at the time how available she was," Fey said. "Jan should have had a bigger career. Jan deserved a big movie career. Certainly as big as Rob Schneider's fucking career. She was a bigger star on S.N.L."'
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During Season 1, the show had actually been put on hiatus and canceled at the same time. Until the now defunct Viewers for Quality TV stepped in. Over 50,000 letters were written to CBS asking them to save the show. It wasn't until February (A month after the show was canceled) was it saved. It was moved to Mondays as it couldn't compete in ratings on a Saturday with Golden Girls.
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Delta Burke and Dixie Carter starred together in the early 80s Dynasty/Dallas spoof "Filthy Rich"; in the 1982/1983 TV season; which was helmed by executive producer Linda Bloodworth Thompson. At the end of that show's run, Thompson vowed the three of them would work together again, and Designing Women was the net result of all of that. Dixie Carter and Delta Burke would team up again for a 2002 Family Law episode that they co-starred in. (This would mark the third time the three of them co-starred on a tv show together after FIlthy Rich and Designing Women.)
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Jean Smart, who played Charlene on Designing Women from 1986-1992, and was always considered to be the "serious actress" of the group; was not fond of the "very special episodes" that the show had a tendency of doing; tackling issues like AIDS; weight issues for women; looksism in society; porn, rape, the economy, racism , and sexism and it's many forms. Smart thought the show should stick to comedy:" I've always sort of felt that if you're going to be funny, then be funny, and let someone else do the drama in another project. Y'know you always see these shows where "It's a very special episode of....whatever"' Smart said dismissively. Smart went on to say that in spite of her initial resistance Linda Bloodworth Thompson won her over with her deft handling of serious topics; and her ability to balance comedy and topicality skillfully: "I felt like Linda pulled it off, and we pulled it off, and those are the shows that people still often come up to me and say "Oh, that was one of my favorite episodes."'
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Julia Dufffy complained about being mistreated on the set. At one point, allegedly, one of the cast members flat out confronted her about why she would join a show when they gave her such an unlikeable character. Julia Duffy quit after one season; and the Orlando Sentinel wrote an article about her departure in 1992:" Duffy joined the show last fall as the whiny, snobbish Allison Sugarbaker. Bloodworth-Thomason said Duffy "did a spectacular job in a very difficult role. If it didn't work out, it was our fault, not hers. She pedaled that bike as hard as she could. However, the network didn't feel the chemistry was right and asked that she be released from her role." Said Duffy: "Since the character of Allison was so poorly developed, I'm not surprised or dismayed at the producers' decision to do without her next season."' Later Entertainment Tonight did a retrospective on the series; and the show's stars further commented on Duffy's departure: " ANNIE: When Julia Duffy came in, I think they made a mistake with that character. I think they made a character that wasn't very likable. I think that tarnished the show. Julia Duffy left after her first season. JULIA DUFFY: It was just something that seemed to be for the best, at the end. There was only one season after that, but it certainly was not the easiest job that anyone ever had on that set, so the one year was plenty."
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The name of the show, Designing Women, is taken from an expression to describe women who are acting in a calculating, deceitful way.
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When Dixie Carter left the cast of Diff'rent Strokes (1978), her role of Maggie McKinney-Drummond was taken over by Mary Ann Mobley. In this show's season five opener, "A Blast from the Past", Mobley appeared as a special guest star, playing a friend of Carter's character.
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Jan Hooks said she got a lot of very negative feedback from fans when she tried to step into the void left by Jean Smart's departure. She told the Orlando Sentinel at the time she didn't blame them:"Jan Hooks doesn't blame all those loyal Designing Women fans who have expressed cranky outrage over the show's major personality overhaul this season. "I was a fan of the show myself before I was chosen to be on it," says Hooks, who plays dizzily sweet Karlene Frazier, one of two new characters on the CBS show this season. "I would have been doing the same thing the fans were. I'd be yelling, 'Who do you think you are?!'" Jan Hooks as Karlene Frazier actually went over better than the other replacement that season: Julia Duffy as Allison Sugarbaker. The network and the fans immediately reacted with strong disapproval of Duffy/Allison; and the word was the network was about to fire Duffy before she jumped ship at the end of one season. Hooks, conversely, after some initial resistance from fans, ended up being very well received with fans, critics and network executives; and ended up staying with the show until the series finale at the end of the next season.
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Season 6 enjoyed its highest ranking of the series. Ranking 6th over 30 million people tuned in when Jean Smart's character Charlene left the show in the season 6 premiere.
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Both Delta Burke (Suzanne) and Jean Smart (Charlene) are diabetics. Jean Smart has Type 1 diabetes and Delta Burke has Type 2.
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Alice Ghostley's character of Bernice Clifton was not related to any of the characters on the show.
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Despite Season 6 sitting high in the rank ratings of 6th, the show was moved to Friday nights (Or the 'Friday Night Death Slot') for season 7, effectively killing the show, it slipped from 6th to 67th and despite receiving no other competition from any other show, the show was canceled after 7 years, and the cancellation was followed with the cancellation of Major Dad (1989) and The Golden Palace (1992).
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The series had several running gags, including Mary Jo's frequent opening line in any given episode's first scene, opening the door to Sugarbakers' and apologetically remarking "I'm sorry I'm late." Some perceive this as the creators' intention of showing how stressful a single mother's life can be, well many others perceive it as a staple of unintentionally poor writing.
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Spoilers 

The trivia item below may give away important plot points.

Hal Holbrook character of Reece Watson was written/killed off in season 5 due to Holbrook being offered a role in Evening Shade (1990)
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See also

Goofs | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

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