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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
The Best of Designing Women (Various)

"I have never understood why everybody gets so crazy over sex anyway. I mean, when you think about it, it's pretty silly, and silly-looking too. And it messes up your hair!"
- Suzanne Sugarbaker (Delta Burke)

Review By: Robert Edwards   
Published: September 09, 2003

Stars: Delta Burke, Dixie Carter, Annie Potts, Jean Smart
Other Stars: Meshach Taylor
Director: Ellen Falcon, Harry Thomason, Hal Holbrook

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (adult themes)
Run Time: 01h:58m:24s
Release Date: September 02, 2003
UPC: 043396012165
Genre: comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- A-C+C+ D

DVD Review

Linda Bloodworth-Thomason and husband Henry Thomason have been responsible for a number of TV series, including Evening Shade and the disastrous Emeril, but their greatest success came in the way of Designing Women, which ran for seven seasons on CBS. Initially, the show didn't fare that well, but in its fourth year cracked the Nielsen Top 30, and continued to rise the following year. Tensions surfaced between star Delta Burke, whose struggle with her weight had long since become tabloid fodder, and the Thomasons, and soon it was out-and-out war between CBS and the studio, Columbia Pictures Television. Burke was fired and co-star Jean Smart left the show, but the series limped along for another two seasons before finally being cancelled.

Centered around the ladies of the Atlanta design firm of Sugarbaker and Associates, the show mixed humor arising from the characters' quirks and the usual sit-com plot devices, with a willingness to tackle more serious themes such as male/female relationships, AIDS, and sexism. It's interesting to see how, in the space of the five episodes featured on this DVD, the character delineations that would color the entire series come through. There's Suzanne (Delta Burke), the vain, demanding ex-beauty queen, for whom sex is a distant second to shopping; Julia (Dixie Carter), her sister, the classy, clever, forceful one; Mary Jo (Annie Potts), whose petite size and unassuming demeanor belie her inner strength; and finally Charlene (Jean Smart). Charlene's rural background and naivete are the source of many a joke in the series, although one doesn't get much of a taste of that in these episodes.


Suzanne needs a new gynecologist, and Mary Jo recommends her ex-husband Ted. Soon Suzanne is dating him, and Mary Jo repeatedly assures her that she isn't bothered. But soon Ted begins to shower Suzanne with expensive gifts and vacations, and Mary Jo demands to know why did didn't treat her as well.

This certainly is not one of the best episodes of Designing Women, with fairly lame jokes and a less-than-interesting script, but since it's the pilot, the compilers of this DVD probably felt obligated to include it.It gets two perfume bottles.

Killing All the Right People

This episode from the second season is not only an excellent example of the show's willingness to tackle serious subjects, but also manages to be both moving and funny at the same time. Twenty-four year old Kendall Jackson asks the ladies to design a room in a funeral home for him, since he has AIDS. At the same time, Mary Jo has been elected to present the "pro" side of the debate over distributing condoms in high school at her PTA. Both plot threads come together in a thought-provoking, excellent episode. Five perfume bottles!

Reservations for Eight

Or, "The Battle of the Sexes." Confined to a ski lodge for the weekend after an avalanche has damaged the ski lift, the four ladies and their beaux argue about the differences between the sexes and the related topics of man-bashing, sensitivity vs. wimpdom, manipulation, and penis envy. Directed by Hal Holbrook, Dixie Carter's real-life husband, who also plays her boyfriend Reese, this episode has some incredibly funny observations on the war between the sexes.It gets four bottles.

Big Haas and Little Falsie

In this episode, whose title is a takeoff on the 1970 movie Little Fauss and Big Halsy, Mary Jo inherits $3,000 from her recently deceased uncle, with the stipulation that she spend it on something frivolous. Despite the hesitation of her co-workers, she settles on breast augmentation surgery, and gets fitted with several sizes of prosthetic bras. Will her plan of "scientific" research convince her of the right thing to do?Three bottles.

They Shoot Fat Women, Don't They?

Delta Burke's real-life wight problems were echoed in this episode, which garnered her an Emmy nomination. After Suzanne's (Burke) first night at her high school reunion, at which she overhears many jokes about her size, including "the reason her husbands left her is that they weren't getting enough to eat,", she is devastated and vows not to return for the second night. Meantime, Julia and Mary Jo embark on a fast, and will donate the money saved on food to charity. The two plot threads, although schematic, provide an effective counterpoint in one of the better episodes of the series. Four bottles.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The transfer of the Pilot episode is terrible—very soft, and with unnatural, faded colors. Thankfully, the quality improves greatly with the remaining episode, although the colors always appear a bit artificial. All in all this is a rather disappointing transfer.

Image Transfer Grade: C+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: The sound on the Pilot episode is as bad as the video, harsh and with a very limited range. As with the image, the quality improves in the remaining episodes, but never becomes more than acceptable. Although the audio is in two-channel Dolby, I could detect no stereo separation.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
0 Other Trailer(s) featuring Maid in Manhattan, Sleepless in Seattle, A League of Their Own
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Promo for CTHE's TV releases on DVD
  2. Printed insert with episode listing
Extras Review: Each episode is given four chapter stops, not counting the tacked-on 'Sony Pictures Television' logo at end of each, but no chapter listing is provided. The remaining extras show an amazing lack of imagination and effort.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

This five-episode compilation from the first four seasons of Designing Women is an excellent introduction to the series, and the less than ideal transfers don't seriously detract.


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