Season Four, 1989-1990
The series continues to evolve this season, mostly due to circumstances that could not have been forseen when the show was conceived. In spite of this, or maybe because of it, this season produces some of the series' strongest episodes and allows the actors the opportunity to really spread their wings.
There is a lot of character development again this season: Charlene is very pregnant in the first episode to accommodate Jean Smart's real life pregnancy (explained that Charlene got pregnant on her honeymoon), and Suzanne's character gains a certain freedom after the weight issue is dealt with head-on. This season also gives us more of Mary Jo as a
single woman looking for a man, Anthony gets a semi-regular girlfriend -- besides Suzanne, and Alice Ghostley's appearances as wacky Bernice become more frequent and over-the-top, making her as much an audience favorite as the regular cast.
Though most of the episodes are definitely an ensemble effort, Season Four is the year of Suzanne. Delta Burke's weight gain, which to date has been taboo in the scripts, becomes a major subplot this season when Delta asks that it be addressed by Linda Bloodworth-Thomason in the show -- giving Delta the power of the fat jokes rather than making her the
butt of them. The episode They Shoot Fat Women Don't They is one of the most poignant and memorable of the entire series, earning Delta an Emmy nomination.
Delta, whose struggles with serious depression came close to shutting down production last season, comes back strong with some of her finest performances this season. The Suzanne character continues to be the focus of many of the show's gags as she finally finds a new niche as 'Grande Broad' and deals with the rigors of dieting and life without her runaway pig. She is also featured in episodes where pageant officials try to strip her of her Miss Georgia title, animal rights activists attack her for modeling a mink pull-over in a fashion show, and where she finds out the old pageant friend she has recently reconnected with is a lesbian.
Mary Jo continues looking for men in all the wrong places, finally buying a book on trapping a man and enlisting 'expert' Suzanne for advice. Continuing to become less inhibited, Mary Jo uses an out-of-town client's home to make an old rival believe she's wealthy, takes a job at a hamburger joint when her ex-husband's child support payments get behind, and begins to doubt her own character when she tries her hand at dating a minister.
Julia shows her wild side when she sticks her head through the Governor's mansion staircase as a prank and gets it stuck, and then again at her son's impromptu wedding as the possibility of becoming a
grandmother is thrust upon her. In this particular episode, Julia does a titillating dance while singing Sweet Georgia Brown at the wedding reception and wakes up hung over in a college student's bed -- not quite sure how she got there. In another episode she is the last request
of a dying man who has been in love with her since high school.
Meanwhile, Charlene is devastated to discover that her favorite cousin is a victim of spousal abuse, while she herself deals with the emotional ups-and-downs of pregancy. The character makes limited appearances in several episodes to accomodate Jean Smart, who gives birth to son Connor mid-season -- later returning for the birth of Charlene's baby in a special 60-minute New Year's episode guest-starring Dolly Parton. Postpartum, Charlene stuggles with feeling that she is no longer attractive to her husband.
In additon to his junior college and work at Sugarbaker's, Anthony gets
his contractors license and juggles two girlfriends this season. He also gets himself into several awkward situations thanks to Suzanne, including having to impersonate her maid to fool immigration, and accidentally getting shot by Suzanne just before his graduation
Other fun moments include a show where Bernice's niece tries to have her declared incompetent, the girls and their beaus get attacked by a group of hillbillies and made to dance, Suzanne shows up in 'black face' when the ladies play the Supremes in a charity talent show, and Julia and Suzanne get stranded in Japan after being mugged. In addition, the ladies compete with a sexist, male firm for the contract to decorate a bowling alley, get trapped in Sugarbaker's with a misfit group of eccentrics gone wild during a tornado, and start a wild mud fight in a fancy health spa after Julia and Mary Jo get pampered while Suzanne and Charlene are forced into a heavy exercise program.
Just as the season is coming to an end, the series also presents a one-hour retrospective episode composed entirely of clips from the first four seasons. The rarely seen episode is entitled Their Finest Hour and presents highlights of each character in some of their funniest -- if not always finest -- moments.
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