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."
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!
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.
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.
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?"
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.
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.
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.
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.