Season Three, 1988-1989
A transformation begins in the third season of Designing Women as Linda Bloodworth-Thomason starts sharing the writing duties with Pam Norris, and the characters each start to evolve somewhat from their original concept.
Mary Jo finally comes out of her shell and begins her trend of witty and sarcastic remarks -- the mousy insecure little thing from the first season is definitely gone. Julia completes her toning-down phase this season, evolving from her highly dramatic gestures and communication style into something more demure, yet seemingly more superior. Anthony, too, heads down that path -- becoming more involved with his schooling and community programs and transitioning into the moral compass against which everyone else is measured. His strange friendship with Suzanne grows more bizarre as he continues getting roped into helping her with her pig and becoming her errand boy.
Suzanne herself seems to drop several IQ points this season. Although Delta Burke has noticeably put on weight and begun suffering from panic attacks and serious bouts of depression behind the scenes, her performance on screen doesn't suffer, and the Suzanne character continues to score big with the audience. Suzanne has clearly become more dimwitted and childlike this season, but it only adds to the outrageousness of her self-absorbed little world. Charlene, too, becomes less sophisticated as her wardrobe and jewelry are toned down and her characterization and mannerisms start to reflect more of her rural background.
Season Three also gives us a new introduction -- a jazzy instrumental rendition of Georgia On My Mind that now includes Meshach Taylor, who had previously been credited as co-star only in the closing credits. Each of the characters is shown in several poses with an antiqued effect over the photos. By mid-season, the punchy and silly photos of the cast are replaced with more elegant poses as the theme music returns to a more classic version. This introduction continues through Season Five.
Julia tries her hand at local politics early in the season, pitting herself against a sexist commissioner with poor priorities and losing out when her temper gets the better of her. Although she is certainly not as dramatic as the character started out to be, she does let loose again later in the season when she repeatedly barrels her car through a newsstand because of a lewd poster it displays to advertise a men's magazine. And let us not forget the legendary moment when she walks down a charity fashion show runway with the back of her dress tucked in her pantyhose -- mooning the Mayor and the elite of Atlanta society.
Suzanne continues to be a major comedic presence in every episode -- including one where she is forced to deal with her own insecurities when a blind man takes an interest in her and she fears she has nothing to offer besides her looks. Also, her wayward accountant returns,
claiming to have used her life savings to purchase her a circus, and Suzanne starts carrying a gun when she begins getting anonymous calls from someone threatening to barbecue her pig.
Deliveryman Anthony gets himself into some precarious situations when he is nominated to run for homecoming "representative" at his college, and when he becomes Big Brother to a teenage hustler who gets Julia involved in a convenience store robbery. This episode is particularly interesting because it dives into parts of Anthony's childhood to which the series had previously only alluded.
This is also the season where Mary Jo contemplates getting breast implants -- spending a whole episode flaunting around different sized breasts and becoming more obnoxious with each size increase. Later in the season, she must overcome the trauma of being
mugged, leading the ladies to take a self-defense course. And by season's end, Mary Jo is forced to deal with boyfriend J.D. losing his job and his subsequent relocation to Cincinnati -- bringing their three-year relationship to a close.
While Mary Jo's relationship is ending, much of the season is spent nurturing Charlene's with Bill, which began last season. Meanwhile, Charlene's trusting nature continues to get her into trouble when she becomes involved with a "cult" of cleaning supplies salesladies, and later, a sleazy magazine photographer who tries to take questionable photos of the ladies. Plus, one of her baby brothers blows into town with plans to elope -- dragging a hillbilly feud into Sugarbaker's.
Alice Ghostley's occasional appearances as Bernice continue to endear her to the audience and provide solid laughs, including one episode where she mistakenly believes that she's engaged and starts fitting the ladies with gaudy pink "flower girl" dresses for her wedding, and another episode where she enrolls everyone in a wilderness training course -- dragging Julia, Mary Jo, Charlene and Suzanne into the forest
to become "woodsmen."
Other interesting episodes this year include a show surrounding the mystique of the late Elvis Presley, an episode where the crew is forced to become decorators for a cat, and a fun appearance by Dixie Carter's daughters as Julia and Suzanne's nieces -- who seem to have inherited their eccentric personalities from their aunts.
Series creator Linda Bloodworth-Thomason becomes the first American writer in television history to write 35 consecutive episodes of a series with Designing Women, and her 50th episode is commemorated by the lavish wedding of Charlene and Bill, which includes a touching bridal shower and wedding toast that are still favorite memories for many fans.
Designing Women Online, Designing Women Tribute, Women of the House Magazine
and Belled Online ©1998-Present. All Rights Reserved.