Ivey's New League

Another lioness enters the Designing Women's den.

Source: TV Guide - November 7, 1992
Written by: Susan Littwin

Judith Ivey adds a new light touch to DW

Sugarbakers started the season in a bit of trouble: it looked as if the firm was about to fall victim to recession. That is, until a quick-witted Texan named Bonnie Jean Poteet (Judith Ivey) rode into town with enough cash to pull the Designing Women back from the brink.

Poteet's a widow made instantly wealthy when her millionaire husband died during the wedding reception. "He married her for her sense of humor," says Ivey. And B.J., a former court reporter of modest means, got the last laugh. But don't let that black setup lead you to believe she's there to fill the selfish slot vacated by Julia Duffy's Allison or Delta Burke's Suzanne Sugarbaker.

"I don't find value in humor based on the dark side of a character in a sitcom," says Ivey, who also shined in last weeks' follow-up to The Betty Broderick Story. She sees B.J. as somebody who has a good sense of humor and is trying to enjoy life. "The characters created before mine were intended to capitalize on the negative side of humor. It was important for me to play a character that had a positive side: one we laughed with, instead of at."

One place they're not laughing too hard these days is CBS, where moving DW from its cozy Monday night slot to the Friday night slate resulted in a major ratings drop. While it manages to win its time slot, it has fallen from roughly 4th to 40th overall. Admittedly, Friday shows draw fewer viewers. But insiders say they're counting on changes such as the new Ivey and Sheryl Lee Ralph (as Meshach Taylor's wife) characters to bolster the show.

Does Ivey see that occuring? "It would be pompous of me to say that my character will come in and turn a show around. The show has maintained itself, and I've sort of osmosed into the group, rather than making it a whole new show."

Time will tell whether DW's adding B.J. Poteet -- whom Ivey calls a mix of Texas governor Ann Richards and columnist Molly Ivins -- can make Friday a big night for CBS. But it will clearly move her profile up a notch. "It would be nice to say 'Judith Ivey,'" she notes, " and have people know who that is."


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