Welcome to the 25th edition of "Belled," marking our third year in publication!

With Valentine's Day romance in the air, we couldn't help but be reminded of the countless romantic moments Designing Women provides -- yet another distinction which sets this series apart from other situation comedies.

Because there are so many palpable romantic moments from which to choose and because "Belled" has such discerning readers, this feature focuses on the more subtle moments that often tug at our heartstrings in a less expected way. After much deliberation, we narrowed down the list to ten of our favorites -- plus tailored this issue's Trivia around romantic serenades!

Also in this edition, Love Letters makes an encore appearance, and we bid farewell to Annie Potts' critically acclaimed Any Day Now.

But first, sit back with your soft music and grab your Southern belle style handkerchief as we count down to Belled's favorite Designing Women romantic moment.

Romance -- 'Designing Women' Style

"Belled" Presents the Series' Top Ten Romantic Moments


Suzanne Opens Up to Anthony - "Stranded"

Strand two characters who couldn't be more opposite together, and what do you get? Aside from a hilarious situation, you also get our pick for one of Designing Women's most romantic moments! When Suzanne actually breaks down and admits to Anthony that she feels some comfort with him, it opens up a whole new viewer perspective on this relationship. Anthony may continue to find Suzanne extremely frustrating, and neither he nor Suzanne ever admit to having any attraction to one another in any future episodes, but from this moment forward their relationship is markedly different and an underlying, unique courtship begins.

Mary Jo Chooses Between Ted and J.D. - "Ted Bare"

Despite the substantial screen time shared by Mary Jo and J.D. involving her coming to terms with her insecurities about dating and sex during the first two seasons, it is actually J.D.'s smallest appearance at the end of this episode which makes our list as one of DW's most romantic moments. As Mary Jo struggles throughout the episode to reconcile how she feels about her ex-husband's new-found interest in / long-overdue appreciation of her with her growing feelings for J.D., J.D. calls from his business trip to say that he misses Mary Jo and will be home soon. He then refuses her offer to meet him at the airport because he is concerned that her tires are too low. The slight smile on Mary Jo's face in this moment conveys the value she places on their relationship and the love and appreciation she feels for J.D.. The moment is so significant for Mary Jo, in fact, that she is finally able to stand up for herself with Ted, walking away from him definitively with a new-found confidence in herself.

B.J. Confronts James In the Crypt - "Love Letters"

We can't think of a single other soliloquy in the entire series, so bravo to new woman in town, B.J., for taking and tackling the challenge with true Designing Women aplomb! B.J.'s love and respect for her "Sweet James" was quickly and solidly established upon her arrival at Sugarbakers, so that when she discovers (or thinks she has) evidence that he betrayed her, her devastation is incontrovertible. It doesn't matter that James has passed on or that the only place for B.J. to express her pain of loneliness and betrayal is to her husband's crypt; the comic situation is actually quite reasonable and in this one scene, B.J. expresses a whole range of emotions to James -- from anger to side-splitting laughter to the sheer agony of living without him.

Julia and Donald Stillman - "One Night With You"

Sometimes romance simply involves being open enough to get to know someone truly. Though Donald Stillman's request to spend one night with Julia, the woman he has loved from afar for thirty years, meets with much suspicion and even ridicule from everyone at Sugarbakers (including Julia at first), Julia complies. As a result, the very much in love Julia finds herself unexpectedly attracted to the person she comes to know during the evening, and Donald, too, has the chance to get to know the person who has been his dream for so much of his life. Though Julia could or would never betray Reese, the attraction between she and Donald is evident, and they spend their one night together... talking and slowly dancing.

Are You Lonesome Tonight - "E.P. Phone Home"

Though perhaps not romantic in the popular sense, this entire episode is romantic in the classical sense regarding the strong emotions Elvis and his memory elicits amongst legions. Trucker Vern's recollection with Julia of how Elvis touched his dying son's life certainly stands out in this episode; it is second only to the final moments when his dedication to Julia of Elvis' "Are You Lonesome Tonight" pours out over the car radio as the team drives back to Atlanta. The silence in the car allows the singular facial expressions of each of the characters to convey the romance of the moment, and the final camera pan to the "E.P. Phone Home" bumper sticker affixed to Julia's car is a final testament to the change the experience effected.

Julia Calls Reese - "The Mistress"

Julia and Reese shared many tremendously entertaining and touching scenes together, but Belled's pick for their most romantic moment occurred without Hal Holbrook even being on the screen! By the time Julia returns home in this episode from a terribly difficult day dealing with clients whose marital values are, at best, skewed, her relationship with Reese was already firmly established. Though Reese is not present in the entire episode, a weary Julia picks up the phone in the very last minute and all she needs to hear is his voice on the other end of the line. Reese immediately hears Julia's mood in her voice and offers to bring over dinner; pancakes for their breakfast instead is Julia's response, and she then switches off the light at Sugarbakers and slowly walks upstairs to wait for Reese.

You're So Good When You're Bad - "Reservations for Eight"

This famous episode pitting the men against the women in a battle of the sexes ranks among the series' most famous; it is all at once hilarious, revealing, thought-provoking, and, yes, romantic. By episode's end, their twenty-four-hour debate has the sides so infuriated with each other that not a single word is uttered by anyone throughout dinner. When Charley Pride's "You're So Good When You're Bad" starts playing in the restaurant, however, the deliriously-in-love Bill and Charlene take to the dance floor, leaving the other three established couples to continue to stew at the table. As the still-courting Charlene and Bill dance, the others slowly begin to realize what they have together -- despite their differences of opinion -- and to take their places on the dance floor: Mary Jo and J.D., a fairly new and now committed couple; Suzanne and Dash, ex-spouses who still love and respect each other; and, finally, the most reluctant but nevertheless in tact and stronger than ever, Julia and Reese. Eight very unique people and friends and four couples all dancing in their singular way together on one dance floor. By far, one of the most romantic and memorable moments of Designing Women!

Charlene and Bill - "It's A Wonderful Life"

This couple oozed old fashioned romance throughout the run of the series, but in this episode, Charlene has recently given birth to their daughter and is feeling downright unattractive. After emotionally jumping to the conclusion that her husband has been having an affair, Charlene's friends work together to whisk she and Bill away for a romantic evening. The evening itself may not go according to plan, but the end-result has the desired effect. Bill and Charlene, both admitting they would rather be together with their baby daughter, retire early from their evening out and veteran Designing Women director David Trainer then brings us one of the show's most poignantly romantic moments as the scene shifts back to the Stillfield home. The room is filled with the soft glow and crisp crackle of the fireplace with the camera focused in on Charlene's stockinged feet as we hear her giggles and whispers of "Oh, you Sweetie." As the camera pans out, we expect to see Charlene wrapped in Bill's arms, but instead she is holding and gently rocking baby Olivia while Bill sits behind her on the window ledge, offering an unprecedented family portrait.

The Hangar Picnic - "Second Time Around"

Feeling that his intensely budding feelings for Charlene are disrespectful to his late wife, Bill breaks off his relationship with Charlene, sending her into a tailspin of depression. It is obvious to everyone that Charlene has finally really met the man for whom she's been searching, and Julia takes an unprecedented step to "butt" into her friend's life and has a little talk with Bill which helps him come to terms with the guilt he feels. Bill then calls Charlene, asking her to meet him at his airplane, adding that he's been a fool and that he loves her. Still hurt and reluctant, Charlene agrees to meet him and, despite the current cold weather, she shows up at the hangar wearing the soft Southern Baptist dress that Bill previously mentioned wanting to see her in someday. Remembering Charlene's favorite things, too, Bill has Mickey Gilley playing in the background, and he tells Charlene that because of the weather conditions they will be having their picnic right there in the hangar. He apologizes again for having hurt her -- especially after Charlene tells him he was the first man she ever truly trusted. As they dance slowly, Bill tells her he doesn't care if they are standing up or laying down, as long as he is next to her for the next fifty years, and Charlene -- the designing woman best known for her love of romance and ardent search for true love -- admits her love for him, as well.

And finally.........Designing Women's Most Romantic Scene

Dash Goff Returns - "Dash Goff, the Writer"

Without question, this episode itself ranks as one of the most romantic of the Designing Women series. Not only does the chemistry between Delta and future-husband Gerald McRaney leap right off the screen, but the entire episode's dialogue exudes southern charm and romance -- from the excerpts of Dash's novel to each touching one-on-one between Dash and the main characters. Belled's pick for our #1 favorite Designing Women romantic moment, however, is the finale in which Julia reads Dash's letter -- arguably the sexiest and most risque moment of the series, complemented by the old-fashioned photographic backdrop of the "Belles" in luscious, gauzy lace while a soft rendition of the series theme plays in the background. The episode itself focuses on the beauty, truth, and romance each of us can find in another person if we only stop and look, and it culminates in this final moment. Is it any wonder why you're reading "Belled" now?

Do you have a favorite not included in this list? Please email "Belled" so we can include your choices in a future "What Ever Happened to...."!

**Photo credit: Columbia Pictures Television
Courtesy of Designing Women Tribute

'Any Day Now' ends with "Just the Beginning"

After seventeen consecutive and successful years in television series, Annie Potts is taking a well-deserved vacation.

Several weeks ago, the cast and crew of LIFETIME's Any Day Now concluded their production of the show, and the cable network is currently preparing to air the final episode of this controversial and critically acclaimed original series in March.

The four seasons of Any Day Now, starring Annie Potts and Lorraine Toussaint, have focused on the tumultuous and triumphant inter-racial friendship of Mary Elizabeth, aka M.E., (Potts) and Rene (Toussaint), persevering over the thirty years since the days of the Civil Rights struggle in Birmingham, Alabama. It has proven to be another mega-success for Annie Potts, as well as everyone involved with the show which is arguably one of the first critical and popular successes in original cable series programming. The series boasts two Screen Actors Guild Award nominations, multiple NAACP Awards, and a GLAAD Media Award. The show was also honored at the 2000 Racial Justice Awards, the 2000 Christopher Awards, and received an Honorable Mention at the 24th Annual Gracie Allen Awards.

An unequivocal hit since it first premiered, the initial concept for Any Day Now was hard to sell to network executives, who for several years rejected creator Nancy Miller's pitch for a show about two little girls during the Civil Rights Movement. Thankfully, the concept hit home with LIFETIME executives during their search for an original drama series, and they adapted it to include action set in the present, as well as in the past. The result has been a show which consistently entertains as much as it also enlightens. The LIFETIME cable deal has also afforded the writers more creative freedom than the networks more than likely would have, resulting in Any Day Now's freedom to explore the provocative and volatile subject matter that has earned the series such recognition and reward.

Any Day Now's final two-hour episode, "Just the Beginning," will air March 10, celebrating a marriage, a new home, and a life-long friendship that has truly stood the test of time.

The episode centers around Rene's wedding to Judge "Turk" Terhune (William Allen Young) where Rene and M.E. become caught in the middle of the racial tension that still exists between their mothers. Meanwhile, their friendship becomes further strained by a community controversy over the discovery of an old slave cemetery that ultimately leads to a debate about present-day slave reparations.

The episode also pays due attention to the Simms family who has been such a strong hub throughout the series. After having finally realized her dream of becoming a writer, M.E. is surprised when yet another exciting job offer comes her way, and she and Colliar (Chris Mulkey) finally move into their new house after losing their home in a tornado earlier this season. Plus, Kelly and Ajonie announce that they plan to reconcile.

As always, the series' present storyline subtly ties into the past, and the past scenes of "Just the Beginning" promise to be especially apropos. Rene's troubled older brother Elston (Victor Love) returns home for a brief visit and inspires young Rene (Maya Goodwin) and young M.E. (Olivia Hack) to explore each other's social circles in order to better understand themselves -- a journey we have seen continuously, creatively, and sensitively evolve throughout the four-year run of Any Day Now.

"Just the Beginning" is sure to be a fitting conclusion to this series which has not only raised the bar for original cable series, but will continue to keep it high long after its end.

**Photos and episode information courtesy of LIFETIME Television

...'Love Letters' -- starring Hal Holbrook and Dixie Carter

Mr. and Mrs. Holbrook's performance of A.R. Gurney's Love Letters in November was a smashing success! Now, Northwest fans have a chance to see it, as well.

On March 22 and 23, Dixie and Hal will reprise their roles as Melissa Gardner and Andrew Makepeace in Yakima, WA, as part of Capitol Theatre's "Best of Broadway" Series. Also, two August performances in Reno, NV, are tentatively scheduled.

Don't miss your chance to see this incredible production!

For more information:
The Cabaret:
Belled: Issue #023
Capitol Theatre's "Best of Broadway" Series

Don't forget to Email "Belled" with reader feedback and to tell us where you think the "Designing Women" characters would be today for future issues!

'Romantic Serenades'

(97) What was the name of the fraternity that serenaded the ladies in "A Big Affair"?

(98) Which of Anthony's partners serenaded him in his dreams?

(99) What song was playing in the background during the romantic Stillfield family scene described above from the episode "It's a Wonderful Life" -- and who was singing it?

(100) What song did Dr. Hacker sing when he romanced Julia while she was in the hospital?

* Answers will appear in the next issue.

Trivia Answers from Issue #24
'The First Day of the Last Decade of the Entire Twentieth Century'

(93) What was Suzanne's Christmas gift to Bernice?

Cotton jockey underwear

(94) Why did Bernice's New Years date cancel on her?

Actually, the old mand stood her up.

(95) What movie did Charlene fall asleep to before Dolly met her in her dream?

It's A Wonderful Life

(96) What song did Vanessa keep singing loudly in the hospital?

I Feel Good