Designing Women is Born
Although there are no hard and fast rules for creating a sitcom, usually a writer or producer comes up with the idea for a show, then creates several pages of descriptive information about the proposed show, including the background that leads up to the present story, character descriptions, a story outline for the pilot episode, and maybe six or a dozen quick ideas for future episodes. The series creator then pitches the series idea to the network executives in meetings where the series proposal is discussed and reshaped.
After some deliberation, the network may tell the creator to write the pilot script. Some weeks (or even months) after receipt of the pilot script, the network executives decide to accept or reject the new show for production.
But when Linda Bloodworth-Thomason walked into CBS to present a concept for a half-hour show, her "pitch" consisted only of her interest in assembling four actresses---Delta Burke, Dixie Carter, Annie Potts, and Jean Smart--- and putting them in an environment where they could do battle with each other. The CBS executives looked at her and asked: 'What's the setting?' Off the top of her head, she ad-libbed: 'Uh....an interior design company' -- to which the execs responded: 'If you write the show, you've got a deal.'
Linda knew exactly what personalities she was looking to create in her Designing Women and tailor-made the characters to suit the actresses. She based the personality of the characters of Julia and Suzanne on roles that Dixie and Delta had played on Filthy Rich, her short-lived spoof on primetime soap operas. She also wrote the parts of Mary Jo and Charlene specifically with Annie Potts and Jean Smart in mind, having worked with them on an episode of Lime Street where they guest-starred together as international jewel-thieving sisters.
Network execs trusted Linda Bloodworth to make her concept into a hit but were concerned with reteaming Dixie Carter and Delta Burke again after Filthy Rich. So the CBS brass gave the go-ahead, but only if actress Lorna Patterson (Private Benjamin) was cast as Suzanne. Delta was crushed, particularly since she knew the part had been written for her.
After a week of rehearsal, Linda was finally able to convince CBS that Delta Burke was the final piece to a delicate puzzle, and she surprised the cast by bringing Delta to the soundstage a mere two days before the taping of the pilot. The ensemble was complete, and Designing Women was born.
This section of the Designing Women Online breaks down the history of the series by season, giving a brief description of each year's highlights -- plus looks at the awards and nominations earned by the show. Also included are detailed transcripts from The Designing Women Reunion and Entertainment Tonight's 'The Real Designing Women.'
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