on January 10, 2012
During the summer of 1991, "Designing Women" was riding high in the Nielsens with its biggest ratings ever due to all the publicity the show was receiving in the tabloids after the dismissal of Delta Burke. After much speculation about her successor, it was revealed that Julia Duffy (having recently come off a 7-season stint as spoiled Stephanie on "Newhart") would be her replacement. At the time the producers were quoted as saying "There are very few actresses who can play spoiled, stuffy characters without making you hate them...and Julia Duffy is one of those few". That statement was spot-on and viewers had their hopes as high as the Thomasons that the show would continue to enchant audiences. "Saturday Night Live" alumna Jan Hooks would be taking over for Jean Smart, who's departure was so overshadowed by Delta's, it practically slipped under everyone's radar and was hardly mentioned.
The hour-long season-premiere on September 16, 1991 titled "The Big Desk" generated such buzz it brought in viewers by the millions and was only bested by the season-premiere of lead-in "Murphy Brown". The episode was brilliantly-written to introduce the two new characters as well as send-off Jean Smart, whose promises to return for guest spots never materialized.
Thank God for Shout Factory! I was worried they would stop after Season 5 but bless their little hearts, they have come through with the Season I have been waiting for most of all. With Pam Norris still producing, the vibe is very similar to Season 5 despite the cast changes. Although some of the writing is a little weaker in spots, the delivery and comic timing of all the actresses is impeccable, and I found myself laughing out loud many times over the course of these 23 episodes.
Julia Duffy does her best with a difficult role. The writers basically painted themselves into a corner by giving cousin Allison Sugarbaker the dreaded Obnoxious Personality Disorder then expecting Duffy to win over audiences. Jan Hooks had a much easier time of it as the naive, sometimes unknowingly tactless Carlene. But if nothing else, Bernice (Alice Ghostley) gets more screen time than ever this season and begins bellowing her signature song at Anthony every opportunity she gets ("Black Man, Black Man...Wherrrrre did you come from?").
Some of the best episodes this season include "All About Odes to Atlanta" where Carlene enters a singing contest and acquires a needy groupie named Heather; "Mamed" has Anthony casting Julia as Auntie Mame in a community theatre production that features a hilarious guest spot by Gretchen Wyler; Anthony's infamous former cellmate T. Tommy Reed takes a shine to Allison when the ladies partake in a prison outreach program in "Last Tango In Atlanta"; Jackee appears as Anthony's new squeeze, sassy Vanessa Chamberlain in "Shades of Vanessa"; and "The Strange Case of Clarence (Thomas) and Anita (Hill)" though now dated--features what may be the fastest reaction to current events a scripted TV show ever managed to pull off.
I'm nitpicking and don't mean to sound like an ingrate, but to die-hard fans, the cover art looks a little odd since it features Season 1 shots of Carter and Potts mixed in with Sixth Season shots of Duffy and Hooks. But I'm so glad Shout is delivering the goods with one of my favorite seasons, I'll forgive them!
If you look at Season 6 as a whole new show and forget what Delta and Jean Smart brought to the table, you'll be surprised how much fun these episodes are. Anyone who was turned off by the topical women's issues this show preached during its earlier seasons will probably like this incarnation better since the comedy is front and center. Also, for all the hate spewed towards this season, it should be noted that more people watched these episodes of "Designing Women" than any of the ones with the original cast. The series reached at an all-time peak in the ratings during 1991-92, coming in at #6 among all programs on the air--ironic!
Kudos to Shout Factory because "The Big Desk" is presented in its original hour-long format, not split into two parts as it was in syndication. Also, some episodes featured original classic '60s songs such as "It's My Party" and "When Will I Be Loved" over the closing credits and they appear intact here. Thank you Shout Factory, you've made this DW fan VERY happy!
on April 14, 2012
Having just received this last week and viewed only half of the episodes, I am still amazed that, in the 6th Season, the cast could change a bit and still remain as funny as ever! I just watched the "Under The Bed" episode, it's my new favorite. In these days of stress and worry, I can always put in one of these DVDs and forget, for a while, the mess our country and workplace is in. I thought the Sixth Season may not be as funny and entertaining without Delta Burke and Jean Smart, I do love their comedy, but the writing is just as hilarious and crisp as ever and delivered with perfect timing by the whole cast.
on January 15, 2012
I'm going to have to strongly disagree with the last reviewer (Wolfgang731). Some fans' dislike of the cast changes really skewed their view of this season, but it actually had far better writing than either Five or Seven. Season Five had great moments and rode high on the coattails of the fabulous Season 4, but because of everything going on behind the scenes, the writing was very off-balance and the ensemble was very fractured. Watch Season 2 again if you really want to see what this show is supposed to feel like. The show was really at its best when it raised the audience to it's intelligent, though-provoking level than when it tried to be traditional and slapstick funny.
Let's face it, nothing compares to Seasons 1-4, but Season 6 had characterization that was spot-on and strong ensemble work that was seriously lacking in Season 5 with Delta written down to barely a walk-on in half the episodes. And as much as B.J. was a very welcome addition (particularly to those who weren't happy with the Allison character), the writing in Season 7 made the core characters of Julia and Mary Jo so silly and cartoonish that they were almost unrecognizable. Season 7 was still cute, but it also had almost entirely new writers who had no idea how to write this show.
I'll be thrilled to eventually get every episode of this series, but most of Season 6 way outshines both 5 and 7 in terms of ensemble work and writing, and it's freakin off-the-hook funny! The first dozen episodes were particularly fantastic. Now if only the same could be said of the box art! I highly recommend this season.
on March 13, 2012
A massive thank you to Shout Factory for carrying on and releasing Seasons 6 & 7. Sure, maybe Julia Duffy didn't really work out quite as they expected but the writing about she & Anthony fighting over Suzanne's house certainly was hilarious -- running gags that never got old!
Jan Hooks brought so much to these last two seasons. I think people forget just how funny she is! I still quote the "Good Old Days" song and her story about being asked to leave the laundromat whilst using her ThighMaster! :-) She was hysterical and was absolutely believable as Charlene's naive little sister evolving in the big city.
on May 5, 2012
This season was FUNNY. With the end of season 5, Designing Women needed a make-over. Julia Duffy was/is a seasoned actress, and before Designing Women, had previously been nominated six times for an Emmy Award for her role on Newhart. Duffy played the role exactly as it was WRITTEN. The problem wasn't Julia Duffy. The problem was the writing of her character and the choices and decisions of the powers-that-were. They had a whole season to build her character. In the episode "LA Story," (a redemption episode for Alison) Alison invests in a film and takes everyone to LA, ultimately to impress the gang ... to do something nice for them in a way she knows how. The writers even botched that up when, even though everything goes haywire, Carlene tells Alison, while they're on a movie set, she's having the best time ever. Alison's response? Something like, "Really? I was able to put some joy into your pitiful, miserable existence?" Unnecessary. A major flub by the writers and the producers overseeing this. Alison even loans money to Carlene so Carlene can attend college. But this is all presented in flubbed fashion.
I must note that Jan Hooks was truly excellent and hilarious in her portrayal of Carlene. Again, it wasn't that she was dumb ... she had never left her small, country hometown until her move to Atlanta. Her character progressed through the season somewhat. She was hysterical and her character, well written in my opinion.
Back to the main problem ... actress Julia Duffy pays the price for mistakes with her character caused by the powers-that-were. Meanwhile, Linda Bloodworth-Thomason and her crew do a grave disservice to Designing Women viewers (especially the faithfuls), the cast itself, Julia Duffy, the network, etc.
Can you imagine? They just replaced two major characters in season 6, and decide that, coming off the show's highest-rated season (#6 for the 91-92 season), let's replace a replacement for season 7. CBS wasn't stupid. They moved the show from its solid Monday night time-slot to Friday nights, knowing they could get money for their ad slots, but know the show had to be on its way out. Season 7 ranked #57 for it's final season. I mean, come on. 6 to 57? That's quite extreme.
And for those who say "no Delta, no show," by season 5, they couldn't write concrete storylines for Delta any longer because of the mental health issues she was dealing with, and the backlash she faced from the producers. Or whatever happened. At the time, it was one story. Then it was a different story. Who knows.
And the nerve of them not to offer an opportunity for Julia Duffy, Jan Hooks and Judith Ivy to join in on the past reunions. If it weren't for them, the show would've only had 5 seasons, and everyone would've been without an additional two years of pay and residuals. The reunions were just for the original cast members.
on May 14, 2012
DW is my all-time favorite show, but I believe it should have ended when Delta Burke and Jean Smart left. I remember not liking the last two seasons when they originally aired, but I was still a kid then. After not seeing the final two seasons since, I was hoping that as an adult, I would be able to judge them on their own merits and appreciate them apart from the show's glory days. Unfortunately, my opinion has not changed. I give season 6 two stars because there are a few funny or touching moments here and there, but mostly, it's painful to watch. Without Burke and Smart, the chemistry that was so important to the series totally vanished. To me, even Dixie Carter and Annie Potts seem off. Most of the episodes I don't find funny at all. The character of Carlene is like fingernails on a chalkboard. Charlene was simple and naive, but she was never stupid. Carlene is just plain annoying and dumb. There is nothing funny about this idiotic character. As for Allison, Julia Duffy's talent shines through the hateful character she was given to play, and maybe she could have pulled it off if Allison had not been made a partner in the business. One has to completely suspend disbelief to accept that Julia would put up with Allison for more than 5 minutes even if she was a long lost cousin. Suzanne was thoughtless and catty, but her love for the others, especially Julia and as much as Suzanne would hate to admit it, Anthony, redeems her flaws. Allison is shrew and too abrasive to fit in. Buy this if you want to complete your DW collection, but don't buy it if you are expecting the same quality of the previous seasons.
on February 17, 2014
Designing Women was one of those shows that was so funny that it seemed it would never end. This statement was questioned in 1991, when the series started its sixth season. Many fans will remember the controversy that surrounded the firing of Delta Burke, who was credited as being the sitcom's breakout star; and also the dismissal of Jean Smart, who wanted to move on with her career. To fell the void, producers brought in Julia Duffy and Jan Hooks as their replacements beginning in the sixth season.
Before I purchased season six of Designing Women, I had read and heard from others that I would be disappointed. Online fan clubs and so forth encouraged me to stop ordering seasons after season five. Being a die-hard fan of Delta Burke's Suzanne Sugarbaker, I wasn't sure if I wanted to continue with the series anyways. But I decided it would be stupid not to complete the series, with only two seasons left to order. When season six finally arrived, I was nervous and anxious about the outcome of the first episode, "The Big Desk", which was surprisingly very entertaining and hilariously funny.
From what I have gathered from Designing Women's sixth season is: the previous reviews were far too harsh and bullheaded. The main complaint in the reviews I've read was the addition of Julia Duffy as the snobby Allison. Many reportedly accepted Jan Hooks as Carlene.
Personally, I don't find Allison that bad. Yes, she is snobby and somewhat unlikable, but that does not need to be blamed on Julia Duffy. Her humor is more self-centered, but that's the way the writers wrote her, not the way Julia Duffy played her. In my personal opinion, Duffy as Allison has a hard-bitten humor, which is overly funny, or it does for me, anyways. Jan Hooks was cited as an "okay" addition, due to previous popularity on Saturday Night Live, and she is the ideal successor to Jean Smart's down-to-Earth, sweet-natured humor.
To be honest, I don't think the addition of Julia Duffy or Jan Hooks necessarily hurt Designing Women, I just think the show was getting "tired", like most shows do after some time. Critics cited that the sixth season of Designing Women had "jumped the shark" and I somewhat agree. When a show goes through the abrupt changes Designing Women went through in 1991, it never really recovers. Stories thereafter are usually more outlandish and more unrealistic than they have been before. Season Six of Designing Women follows this formula, but it's still a good piece of entertainment. This season of Designing Women made me think: How often do replacements work on TV shows anyways? Not very often. The originals are always the best. There have been some "smooth" replacements in TV history, such as Cheryl Ladd entering Charlie's Angels and Don Knotts coming on Three's Company, but the majority of replacements are disastrous.
Season six is not bad. While it is less creative than earlier years, it is definitely not as bad as others have made it out to be. Season six was like a whole new show of some sort. The writers were trying to strict the legs of there two new actresses, but were eventually defeated by it. However, unlike most, I don't think season seven is any better. Judith Ivey was not better than Julia Duffy. Sorry. If it had been my choice, Julia Duffy would have stayed and Judith Ivey could have become another silly supporting character, much like Bernice. The only way one could enjoy Season Six of Designing Women is by not being too overly critical or dimwitted to what you've read.
on October 22, 2015
This season they replaced Delta Burke and Jean Smart with Jan Hooks and Julia Duffy. Surprisingly I still very much enjoyed the show. Julia Duffy's character was extremely annoying so I'm glad they replaced her in the final season. But i'm still glad that I bought this season because it is still hilarious in it's own way. I bought the whole series and love every minute of it!
on May 19, 2012
Season six with Julia Duffy and Jan Hooks had some really great episodes and re-watching reminded me of that! As for the DVD itself, I think that Shout! Factory puts out a very nice product. Plus, has anyone realised that the colour scheme of the DW dvds for seasons one though four is exactly the same as the dresses they are wearing in the opening credits for season six? :-D
on December 28, 2015
First of all, I want to strictly stress that this season is not nearly as bad as people have made me believe. I was a pretty loyal fan of the first five seasons of Designing Women, and having become greatly attached to the core ensemble of those seasons, I wasn't too sure I wanted to continue with the series after two of the original four women left. In my opinion, Delta Burke and Jean Smart were the funniest actresses on the show, and they by far had the best characters. I was sad to learn they were going to leave; and to be quite honest, the reviews of other long-running fans didn't give me any hope to furthering my viewing of the show.
In the forty-five-minute (give or take) premiere, "The Big Desk", we learn, through the opening credits, that Jean Smart will be appearing as Charlene Stillfield, but unfortunately, Delta Burke (as Suzanne Sugarbaker) will not. We're told, through dialogue, that Suzanne has moved to Japan, and that (after this episode), Charlene will be off to England with her army pilot husband. We meet Charlene's younger sister, Carlene Dobber (Jan Hooks), who has just moved to Atlanta from Poplar Bluff, Missouri, and who is in the middle of a divorce from Dwayne Dobber. Meanwhile, Anthony comes rushing into Sugarbaker's and informs Julia that her cousin Allison Sugarbaker (Julia Duffy), who bought Suzanne's share in the business, has tried to kick him out of Suzanne's house. This sets forth a season-long feud between Anthony and Allison fighting over Suzanne's house. Allison considers herself to have the ''controlling interest'' and she wants to run Sugarbaker's strictly by the book, but she is quickly set straight by Julia.
Some of Season Six's best episodes:
1) ''A Toe in the Water'': Julia has a new boyfriend, but Allison is convinced he is gay.
2) ''Most Marriage Foul'': Allison's ex-boyfriend, a convict (whom she turned in), comes to Atlanta and goes by plotting his revenge.
3) ''Last Tango in Atlanta'': The four women agree to help Anthony with an outreach program at his old prison, but the day goes sour when a riot breaks out and the four women and Anthony end up locked in a cell with T-Tommy Reed, Anthony's old cellmate, who has eyes for Allison.
4) ''Real, Scary Men'': After their van breaks down, the four women become unwelcome guests at a men's club called Wildman Sanctuary, where Anthony is trying to land a new account.
5) ''Tales Out of School'': Anthony sees that his usually unfriendly professor is attracted to Carlene, so he decides to use it to his advantage.
6) ''Driving My Mama Back Home'': Julia agrees to go with Mary Jo on a bus trip to take Mary Jo's mother home; meanwhile, Anthony, Carlene, and Allison get trapped in the store room at Sugarbaker's.
7) ''Carlene's New Apartment'': Carlene events her four co-workers and Bernice to spend the night at her new ''pad'' with disastrous results.
8) ''Mamed'': Julia becomes the star of the community theater's production of Mame, and becomes a real diva.
9) ''L.A. Story'': Allison invests in a Hollywood movie, but things aren't what they seem, especially when she shows up at director Charles Nelson Reilly's home.
First, I think I should discuss the cast changes. Jan Hooks, a former Saturday Night Live cast member, plays Carlene Dobber. Although Carlene is very similar to Charlene, there are some differences. Carlene is a bit dingier than her sister, and she get be annoying sometimes. However, I do think that Jan Hooks was a perfect successor for Jean Smart, and her performance is very good. We get to know a bit more about Carlene in ''Dwayne's World'', when her ex-husband, Dwayne Dobber, comes to Atlanta and tries to win her back. In this episode, we learn that while Carlene's primarily dingy, we see she can be strong and determined when she refuses Dwayne's advances. In ''Carlene's New Apartment'' (perhaps the season's best episode), Carlene gets her first apartment as a single woman, and she invites her co-workers and Bernice to spend the night there. Here we learn that Carlene tries to be brave for her new friends, but is comforted to learn that they too are afraid of the neighborhood where her new apartment is located. Jan Hooks, as I've said, is a very welcomed addition.
Okay, now the majority of fans and reviewers have had negative insights on the other cast change that occurred this season—the addition of Newhart actress Julia Duffy as Julia and Suzanne's cousin Allison Sugarbaker. Allison was not well-liked when her episodes originally aired, but over time, people have softened to her, in most cases anyway. The fault with Allison was not Julia Duffy, but the writing and lack of development that went into the character. This is the fault of the producers, not Julia Duffy. Miss Duffy simply does the best with what she is given, but what she is given does not exactly make Allison a very likeable character. However, I do think that many fans remember the bad things about Allison, and while there are many bad things about her, the majority of the episodes don't really make Allison all that bad of a person. In ''A Toe in the Water'', Allison accuses Julia's boyfriend of being gay. In this episode, Allison is very much like her cousin Suzanne would have been in this situation. A few episodes later, in ''Picking a Winner'', Allison shows up to support Mary Jo when she goes to the sperm bank. Allison even helps, although quite strictly, with Carlene attending college. With these characteristics, I see that the writers were trying to make Allison as much like Suzanne as possible, but it just wasn't working. They weren't making Allison loveable, that was the issue. She was too critical, and she never became friends with the other ladies. She was always at odds with someone, especially Julia and Anthony. Had they softened Allison after Julia set her straight in the first episode this season, I do believe that Allison would have been quite successful as a successor to Suzanne, but they didn't do that. In fact, they made her meaner as the season went along. However, this does not change my opinion on Allison or Julia Duffy. I personally like Allison, but I hate how her character was treated.
The other characters that stay in tact this season seem to be toned down. Neither Julia or Mary Jo are quite as preachy or whiny as they were in previous seasons. In ''Picking a Winner'' we see Julia and Mary Jo grow closer when Mary Jo thinks she's made a mistake by going to the sperm bank. Anthony is still around, attending college, and so is Bernice, who takes on her trademark ''Black man! Black man! Where did you come from?'' song this year.
The episodes this year do seem a bit different. The topicality has taken a back seat this season, and the comedy is front and center. There are many good episodes to behold this go around. Personally, my favorite episode is ''Carlene's New Apartment'', which I think perfectly sums up each character's personality in one episode. It is hilarious and it makes me laugh every time. Other gems are ''A Toe in the Water'', ''Last Tango in Atlanta'', and ''Real, Scary Men''. The earlier episodes this season are the better ones overall. The episodes included on the last disc are pretty bad, excluding ''L.A. Story'' and ''All About Odes to Atlanta''. The episode ''Julia and Mary Jo Get Stuck Under a Bed'' is often noted for being bad, and while it kind of is, it does have its funny moments, although the comedy is a bit vulgar. The season finale ''Shades of Vanessa'' is without a doubt my least favorite episode this season. Guest star Jackée doesn't really fit in, and her racist comments are not funny. All I can say is I am glad that didn't go through with bringing her on the show as a regular. This season has many good episodes and some clunkers, but so did the previous seasons, especially the miscalculated season five. Even though Allison is primarily on the outskirts, the ensemble this season works well together (which cannot be said for season five).
In conclusion, I don't understand the hatred that surrounds this season. The publicity that surrounded it in the early 1990s pushed ratings over-the-top, and this season was, ironically, the highest-rated season of Designing Women. Someone out there must have liked it, so there couldn't have been that many things wrong with it. If you come into this season with an open mind and see it as a completely different show, I honestly don't believe you'll be disappointed. Recommended.