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Thursday, May 24, 2012

'Designing Women' S5

Many fans of the early '90s sitcom "Designing Women" remember it as the season in which the series star Delta Burke was fired. Burke asserted that her significant weight gain prompted the termination; series creators and FOBs the Thomasons cited Burke's bad attitude as the reason. 

As is usually the case, the truth likely lies somewhere in between.

The fifth season, which Shout Factory released on DVD, is also memorable for having some of the series best episodes and being part of one of CBS's best Monday night comedy line-ups. Shows from that era from that lineup included "Murphy Brown" and "Newhart."

"Designing Women" is an exceptional workplace comedy about four women and a man who own an interior design firm in Atlanta. Episodes typically begin with an event in a character's personal or professional life that ties into an issue to which all of us can relate.

Before discussing the many merits of "Designing Women's" fifth season, I would like to devote this week's shout out to Shout Factory's very fan-oriented practice of releasing DVD sets of a show's season every few months. 

Shout released the fifth season of "Designing Women" in December 2011; it released the sixth season, which I will review soon, in April 2012. The seventh, and final season is coming out in July 2012. Thanks, Guys!

The clever issue-driven and/or topical dialogue started with the opening scene of the fifth season's first episode and continued to the final moments. I confess that I had remembered this season as not being particularly good; I was very pleased to discover that I was wrong.

As I have written in reviews of prior seasons, it is very nice that each episode of  "Designing Women" offers a solid 22 minutes of humor without resorting to explicit language or direct references to sexual behavior. I think that a line about finally taking the lid of the "cookie jar" after a long period of sexual abstinence was the raciest dialogue.

The duty of full disclosure requires sharing that "Designing Women" resorted to numerous sitcom cliches during its fifth season, but it still maintained its quality. It also achieved the difficult feat of  making what could be hackneyed plots topical and issue driven.

For example, a fifth season episode about country girl Charlene buying a haunted house was more about her anxiety regarding taking on the enormous debt associated with such a purchase than unexplained happenings. Another episode that had Burke's Suzanne inadvertently placing a winning bid at an auction also depicted the more common cliche of two sitcom characters going on a date but still kept things fresh and relevant.

Other well-depicted fifth season plots include women serving in far-off combat zones, warping historical facts for entertainment purposes, the effects of working mothers on their children, and the lighter topic of the inadequacy of women's rooms in sports stadiums.

The bottom line is the behind-the-scenes drama only affected the fifth season of "Designing Women" by reducing Burke's presence in that season's episodes. The writing was still top notch and the remaining cast did a very good job in Burke's absence.

Anyone with questions or thoughts regarding "Designing Women" is encouraged to email me.