Belled


Spring is in the air, and that means that the networks are already thinking about the Fall! With that, we have some preliminary news regarding DW cast members' new projects. Fortunately, there are still some exciting things happening this season, including George Newbern's recurring role on a popular NBC drama and -- most significantly -- Delta's guest appearance on Dixie's show, Family Law!! In this Issue's Feature Presentation, Dixie shares her thoughts on the episode and working with Delta again, and we also have news regarding the show's current status and what you can do to help.

Plus, congratulations are in order for a DW Recurring Character who just won an Academy Award!


Dixie & Delta - Together Again On 'Family Law'

Episode spoilers, behind-the-scenes scoop, and a few words from Dixie Carter

Twenty years ago, Dixie Carter and Delta Burke co-starred in Linda Bloodworth's outrageous comedy, Filthy Rich. Several years later, Linda brought them together again to co-star in what would be a professional triumph for all of them -- Designing Women. On Monday, April 15, 2002, Dixie Carter and Delta Burke share the same television screen for a third time when Delta guest stars on Dixie's CBS drama, Family Law.

It is interesting to note that in all three professional collaborations, Dixie and Delta have played relatives. In Filthy Rich, Delta played Dixie's younger, step-mother-in-law; in Designing Women, her baby sister; and now, in Family Law, Dixie's cousin. Their familial rapport grew offscreen, as well, and over the years Dixie and Delta have personally both enjoyed and endured the rewards -- and complications -- of a close, sisterly relationship.

"Ties that Bind," the episode title of this week's Family Law, certainly seems fitting.

Delta's guest appearance on Family Law marks the first time she and Dixie have worked together in a dramatic genre. Though the series often infuses comedic shades into their storylines and dialogue, it is fundamentally a drama which focuses on the most intimate aspect of law and presents complicated, involved storylines about "everyman." This show isn't about criminal or corporate law (which most of us will never personally encounter); it is about us. As Dixie's character, Randi King, observed in the episode "Sacrifices" earlier this season: "Nobody wins in family law cases..... If we do our best job, our clients just lose less than they thought they would."

In "Ties that Bind," Randi's cousin, Marcie Dell (Delta), is accused of physically abusing her elderly mother who suffers from Alzheimer's disease and for whom Marcie is the primary caretaker. When Randi discovers that Marcie tied her mother up one evening in order to make it to a business meeting, however, Randi questions whether or not the mother should be under professional care away from Marcie.

Earlier this week, Dixie took some time while on the set of Family Law to talk to us about the episode and working with Delta again. Of the episode itself, Dixie told us: "It's an interesting storyline with dramatic potential and a chance for [Delta and I] to act. And it's interesting because this is going on in the world now; this is happening. Or it has been happening for a long time and nobody's talking about it."

Traditionally, Family Law isn't didactic in its storytelling. There is no line drawn between right and wrong, and viewers are always left to consider situations for themselves often resulting in continuing debates about an episode's primary storyline long after the episode airs. "Ties that Bind" promises to continue that tradition, especially considering the growing number of elderly parents whose primary caretakers are their own adult children -- many of whom are inexperienced in caretaking, as well as under their own stressors, including work and their own growing family. Like Delta's most recent dramatic role as the mother of a teenager who physically abuses her in Lifetime's Original Move, Dangerous Child, this episode of Family Law is apt to hit home with viewers in a way that other law shows simply cannot.

Despite the dramatic gravity of the episode itself, Dixie and Delta were light-hearted on the set. "I have to tell you, I was so happy to see Delta and to work with her again," Dixie told us, "that although it's a very serious story, we laughed a lot together and had a lot of fun."

Acknowledging the differences in format, such as the long hours shooting a one-hour drama, Dixie also commented on the employed difference inherent in dramatic versus comedic work for an actor: "There is nothing to be taken any more seriously than comedy. If you're going to get a laugh, you must be utterly earnest and sincere or the audience will not laugh. So where you could maybe slack off a little bit in that area in Family Law, in Designing Women you could not. Contrary to what people might think," Dixie adds, laughing seriously, "comedy is deadly serious business!"

In fact, Dixie was primarily instrumental in Delta's guest appearance on the show. "I asked the producers if they would have Delta on the show. [They] thought it was a good idea and asked me to call Delta and see what she thought. So I did." Since Delta was "favorably inclined," Stephen Nathan, an Executive Producer for Family Law, then spoke directly with Delta and reported to Dixie: "Five minutes on the phone, and I'm in love with her. She's the most charming and the sweetest [person]."

At that point, the storyline wasn't even determined! Executive Producers Stephen Nathan and David Shore agreed to work Family Law's production schedule in such a way that Delta could shoot a guest appearance, while also having time to shoot her Pilot for The WB (see Hot Off the Press), and the producers and actors involved wanted it to a be, as Dixie told us, "a very serious and dramatic story."

It seems they have all their objectives covered with "Ties that Bind." Now, in a twist not unfamiliar to Designing Women fans, the ball is in the viewers' court. Early this morning (April 12) this episode took on even greater significance when The Hollywood Reporter (Online) released news that this Monday would be Family Law's last aired episode of the season, despite two other segments previously set to air April 22 and 29. A publicist for the show clarified the report with us this morning, emphasizing that the last two episodes of the show's third season "may still air" prior to the end of the Network season, but that has yet to be determined.

Family Law is still officially under consideration for CBS' 2002-03 season, but based on this latest news, it is reasonable to assume that the Network will have to see considerably high ratings for this upcoming episode, as well as strong, written viewer response. According to the aforementioned rep for the show, this viewer response should come through the email feedback form on the cbs.com website (scroll to the bottom of the page, select "Feedback," and then Family Law from the scroll-down show menu). This feedback goes to all the executives throughout CBS on a daily basis, separated by show, and they do read it! Please take the time to show your support for Delta and Dixie's collaboration, the episode itself, the show in general, and Dixie's portrayal of Randi King specifically -- or whatever instance or combination applies to your feedback directly.

We asked Dixie in which direction she would like her character of Randi to grow, and it was just prior to this news. Her answer echoes the viewer response toward her character since she first -- quite literally -- burst on the scene of Family Law's Holt & Holt in September of 1999: "I'd like to see Randi have a life parallel to what's going on in the office. I'd like to see Randi have... a story -- a more filled-out world. I'd like Randi's character to continue to contain [the sentiment] 'I hate men, and I play very dirty,' which is the first thing Randi said." Despite the softening of Randi's edgy, no holds barred character by The Powers That Be since Family Law's early days, Dixie herself still holds on to that Randi King scene, and we can only hope we will all have the chance to see Dixie's wish for her character come to fruition.

No matter what the final decision is regarding the series, however, this episode will always have a personal significance beyond any Neilsen ratings or Network schedule."On the last day of the shoot, I gave Delta a silver ID bracelet from Tiffany with a heart on it which is right now while we're talking being engraved to read 'Dixie and Delta: Together Again, 4/15/02,' -- the date this episode airs."

**Max Mayer directed the episode from a script by Ashley Gable and Jan Nash. Photos and episode information courtesy of CBS Publicity and dixiecarter.com




Delta Burke Brings Some 'Sass' to The WB

In other Delta news, the actress is set to appear in a Pilot for Popular creator Ryan Murphy. Tentatively titled Saint Sass, the series will feature Delta as a troubled New York socialite who must choose between jail or community service. Opting for community service, she finds herself forced to oversee a gang of hilarious hell-raisers at an all-girls prep school -- which happens to be her alma mater. Other cast members include Heather Matarazzo (The Princess Diaries) as one of the bratty teens and Diane Delano (Popular) as the evil dorm mistress. Gregory Harrison is also set to star.

Murphy was responsible for creating Delta's memorable Cherry Cherry character on Popular (previously featured in Issue #3). The WB has ordered only a pilot so far, but Saint Sass looks like a shoe-in for next season.



Jean Smart Takes On Two New Series

Jean Smart also has two new TV projects in the works, including a Pilot for NBC and a new animated role for Disney.

The NBC comedy Pilot is being produced by Kelsey Grammer (Frasier) and creator Mark Reisman, who co-wrote Jean's Emmy-Award-winning Frasier episodes. The series stars Dennis Farina as the owner of an armored trucking company and overprotective father forced to deal with his daughter's new husband, played by Elon Gold. Jean will play Farina's wife, a real estate agent. Viewers can expect a sort of All In the Family/Meet the Parents sort of premise -- but with a Mark Reisman twist! Set to begin taping in April, the series reportedly already has a commitment from NBC for the 2002-03 season.

And coming in June, Jean Smart tackles brain surgery! Or at least her voice does -- in the new animated comedy-action series Disney's Kim Possible. The show follows the comedic adventures of Kim Possible, an average high school student with a brain surgeon mom and rocket scientist dad, who seeks odd jobs through a website ad declaring she "can do anything.'' Before long she is pressed into action to combat the world's evil masterminds. Jean will be featured in the core role of Kim's brain surgeon mother. The series will begin airing in June on the Disney Channel.

**Source: Smart Stuff: Officially Jean Smart



George Newbern Breaks Hearts & Busts Baddies

For those of you who haven't heard the news, George Newbern (Payne, DW) is currently enjoying a nine-episode guest run on NBC's Providence. Newbern joined the cast this year as Owen Frank, the attorney hired by lead character Dr. Sydney Hansen (Melina Kanakaredes) to defend her against a malpractice claim. The storyline thread continues to be front-burner as the attorney-client relationship starts to develop into something more romantic. Providence airs Fridays on NBC.

George is also flexing his muscles as the latest Man of Steel on the Cartoon Network hit series, Justice League. As the voice of Superman, Newbern and his superhero buddies will be busting up bad guys and alien invaders well into next season -- as the series has already been renewed for 26 additional episodes. Justice League currently airs on Sunday nights at 7pm ET/PT.



...Ray McKinnon

Ray McKinnon has certainly come a long way since Dwayne "Pull My Finger" Dobber! Last month, McKinnon won the Adademy Award for Best Live Action Short Film for the accountant, a film he wrote, directed, and starred in. In fact, he and his wife, actress Lisa Blount, launched their own production company, Ginny Mule Pictures, to fund the project. Beginning May 1, the accountant will be available for sale on the Ginny Mule website. Congratulations, Ray!

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!



(101) How many years in prison did Randi King serve for killing her abusive husband?

(102) Two of Dixie's relatives have played roles on Family Law. Who are they and what characters did they play?

(103) One of Suzanne Sugarbaker's ex-husbands has a recurring role in Family Law. Who is the actor and his roles on Designing Women and Family Law?

(104) Delta Burke made a guest appearance in one of Family Law's current stars' previous shows. What was the show?

* Answers will appear in the next issue.


Trivia Answers from Issue #25
'Romantic Serenades'

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

Alpha Ta Epsilon

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

Julia

(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?

"The Way You Look Tonight" performed by Meshach Taylor

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

"Make the World Go Away"