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Series: Designing Women
Southern-Fried Golden Girls

A Work Com by Linda Bloodworth-Thomason about four Southern women who operate an interior design company in Atlanta, Georgia. The cast included:

The cast was rounded out by ex-con Anthony Bouvier (Meshach Taylor) and Bernice Clifton (Alice Ghostley) and a steady parade of children, boyfriends, ex-husbands and assorted oddballs. After half the cast left in 1991, some new characters appeared to replace them, but they were not as well-received. The series ran on CBS from September 29 ,1986 until May 24, 1993 and spawned an unsuccessful spin-off (Women Of The House).

This show contains examples of:

  • Added Alliterative Appeal: Mary Jo once caused the company to lose a lucrative client when she suggested to the woman that maybe the chairs she picked out would be better suited for someone with about 50 pounds less bulk. When she's trying to justify this to Julia, she says the chairs the woman picked out were dainty little things made with peacock feathers and when the client picked them out, all she could picture was the newspaper headline: "Fat Feathered Fanny Falls Through Floor."
  • An Aesop: Frequently.
  • Arch-Enemy: It was pretty much Allison vs. Everyone during her brief tenure on the show.
  • Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Julia and Suzanne rarely saw eye-to-eye on anything and argued frequently, but one of the show's most memorable moments proved just how much Julia loved her baby sister. Video of the speech here.
  • Bad Santa: In one episode, Suzanne hires a mall Santa to slip into Mary Jo's house and make her son believe that Santa is real. Santa proceeds to rob Mary Jo blind.
  • Battle Of The Sexes: Another of Julia's memorable rants is on this very subject.
  • Bitch Alert: Allison Sugarbaker. As Anthony put it, Leona Helmsley in Tinkerbell's body.
  • Big Fancy House: Julia's stately home, which doubled as the company's office.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Charlene, Allison, and BJ were blondes, Suzanne, Julia, and Carlene were brunettes, and Mary Jo was the redhead, all though every few episodes or so her hair would look almost dark enough to be brown and later on every once in a while would almost look blonde!
  • Brainless Beauty: Suzanne Sugarbaker
  • Brainy Brunette: Julia Sugarbaker
  • The Cameo: The show had a smattering of celebrity appearances over the years, although possibly the most memorable is Dolly Parton as Charlene's "guardian movie star" when she's in the hospital to give birth.
  • The Cast Showoff: In exchange for performing Julia's decidedly left-wing rants, Dixie Carter (a Republican) requested that the character be allowed to sing in a number of episodes.
  • Character Filibuster: When Julia begins her "Terminator" rants, the show stops so everyone can listen.
  • Christmas Cake: This was a rare show showcasing single women over 30 but below 65.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: While the Frazier sisters had their moments, Bernice Clifton takes the prize here. The only thing keeping her from being truly dim are her rare profound moments.
  • Coincidence Magnet: Charlene and Anthony tended to have all kinds of weirdness happen to them.
  • Deep South: The Frazier sisters hailed from Poplar Bluff, Missouri. This is a case of Write What You Know , as Linda Bloodworth-Thomason is also from Poplar Bluff. And the Sugarbaker's staff have several Deliverance-like encounters with the hillbilly Jones clan. Stereotypes of Southerners are frequently discussed and examined on the show.
  • Drop-In Character: Bernice did not work at Sugarbaker's nor did she have a financial stake in the company, yet she spent much of her time there (much to the annoyance of the others, particularly Anthony).
    • She was Julia and Suzanne's deceased mother's friend. Keeping her around reminded them of their mother.
  • '80s Hair: Thankfully toned down by the end of the series.
  • Five Woman Band: For the first five seasons...
  • Fur and Loathing: Spoofed in an episode.
  • Gay Aesop: Combined with AIDS to boot, and Julia chewing out a client.
  • Grandma, What Massive Hotness You Have: The episode in which Julia's son gets married, she's feeling her age. In response, she gets drunk and sings a very sexy "Sweet Georgia Brown" as seen here. Then she wakes up with his college roommate.
  • Hide Your Pregnancy: Averted with Jean Smart (see Real Life Writes the Plot below) but played straight with Annie Potts later on.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Charlene's taste in men to date, until she met her husband.
  • Irony as She Is Cast: As mentioned above, the very Conservative Dixie Carter played the very Liberal Julia Sugarbaker.
  • Miscarriage of Justice: Naturally, Anthony was completely innocent of the crime that caused his "unfortunate incarceration" and spent the entire run of the series getting his life back in order (earning his GED, going to college, becoming a partner in Sugarbaker's, etc.) and trying to put his past behind him. This fact did not stop Suzanne from constantly expressing her displeasure with having a black ex-con around the office. She did get better about it as the series progressed.
  • The Mistress: Spoofed in an episode aptly titled, "The Mistress." Sugarbaker's is hired to decorate both the home of a wealthy married man, and the condo where he keeps his mistress. The women are eventually so disgusted by the mistress that they tell her off in an attempt to defend the wife, but it turns out they have the situation entirely wrong, and so Hilarity Ensues.
  • No Bisexuals: In one episode, Suzanne mentions that she told some guy's parents that he was bisexual because, "I always tell the parents. And I'm not sorry. I don't believe in bisexuals. I figure the rest of us have to choose, so why shouldn't they?"
  • Noodle Incident: The reason for Anthony's prison term is never clarified.
  • Odd Couple: For a time, Allison and Anthony reluctantly shared Suzanne's home after her departure and attempted to force each other out. Hilarity ensued.
  • Odd Friendship: Despite their many differences and occasional unpleasant encounters (including an accidental shooting), Suzanne and Anthony became close friends during the series and reunited on the spinoff.
  • Pimped-Out Dress
  • Prepositions Are Not to End Sentences With: If someone calls on you for this, correct the sentence with calling the Grammar Nazi a fitting name.
  • Pretty in Mink: Except for the instance of the other trope, Suzanne wore furs with no comment. And, on rare occasions, so did the others.
  • Put on a Bus: Suzanne moved to Japan and Charlene moved with her husband to England at the start of season 6, due to Delta Burke being fired and Jean Smart deciding to leave the show. Suzanne's departure was only mentioned, while Charlene stuck around for just one more episode to unceremoniously drop the news of her leaving.
    • Cousin Allison withdraws all her money from the business and runs off to buy a Victoria's Secret franchise in between seasons 6 and 7, and thereafter is never mentioned again.
  • Raven Hair, Ivory Skin: Suzanne.
  • Real-Life Relative: Delta Burke's Real Life husband Gerald McRaney played one of Suzanne's ex-husbands; Dixie Carter's Real Life husband Hal Holbrook played Julia's longtime sweetheart, Reese Watson, until the character's death.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Jean Smart discovered she was pregnant the day that Charlene and Bill's wedding episode was filmed. Rather than stick her in a bunch of baggy clothes, Charlene was written to have gotten pregnant on the honeymoon, and baby Olivia was born the following New Year's.
  • Shoo Out the New Guy: Julia Duffy replaced Delta Burke at the start of the 6th season as the Sugarbaker's prissy cousin, Allison. The character was very poorly received and was gone by the 7th season premiere. Creator Susan Bloodworth-Thomason blamed herself and the writers for not creating a more multi-dimensional character for Duffy to play. Jan Hooks was more successful as Jean Smart's replacement and was kept around for the final season.
  • Soapbox Sadie: Julia Sugarbaker's soapbox tendencies continued well past her teenage years. Also subverted with Suzanne's monologues about such things as beauty and proper Southern values.
  • Southern Belle: Suzanne and Allison Sugarbaker in particular, but really, the main characters all fit the bill one way or another.
  • Spin-Off: Women of the House, in which Suzanne's latest husband — a Congressman — has died, and she moves to Washington to serve out the remainder of his term. It ran for one season in 1995.
  • Stood Up: Happened often during the ladies' dates.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Carlene Dobber for Charlene Frazier-Stillfield. Their similar first names are even lampshaded by Mary Jo in the season 6 premiere.
  • Sweater Girl
  • Theme Tune: "Georgia", by Ray Charles, and done as an instrumental in some versions.
  • Widow Woman: Julia Sugarbaker

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alternative title(s): Designing Women
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