Ready the saxophone and trumpets, because the Sugarbakers might be coming back to television. ABC has given a script commitment to what’s being described as a sequel to Designing Women, which went off the air 25 years ago.
The original series, which ran for seven seasons on CBS, centered on four women and a man who worked together at a Georgia-based interior design firm called Sugarbaker & Associates. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the sequel will see the return of executive producer Harry Thomason as well as series creator Linda Bloodworth Thomason, who just this week published a scorching op-ed about how former CBS chief Les Moonves allegedly sabotaged her career. Thomason said that for seven years, Moonves kept her work off the air—despite her contract with CBS, which included penalties for every pilot he rejected. “People asked me for years, ‘Where have you been? What happened to you?’” Thomason wrote Wednesday. “Les Moonves happened to me.” Now, with Moonves gone and her series likely returning to air, it appears Thomason is poised to have the last laugh.
“Normally, I'm not a fan of reboots, but Designing Women does seem to have the right fengshui for all that is going on right now,” Thomason wrote in a statement to T.H.R. “We could definitely have some fun.”
Per T.H.R., the new series will follow the same multi-camera format as its predecessor, and will focus on a new generation of women working at the same design firm. Despite the coincidental timing, T.H.R. notes that the sequel has been on ABC’s roster for months. Dixie Carter, who died in 2010, starred in the original series as the design firm’s president, Julia Sugarbaker—an exemplar of an outspoken Southern woman who knew how to knock the right people down a peg. In fact, it was the series’ bold and frequent “loud-mouthed speeches” that Thomason said Moonves hated most of all. As T.H.R. notes, Designing Women tackled several envelope-pushing issues as it depicted what Thomason described as the “New South” in its first iteration, including women’s rights, domestic abuse, homophobia, racism, and AIDS prejudice. A revival seems like a particularly good fit for ABC, which has emphatically stated its intention to court viewers on both sides of the aisle.
During the later years of its original run, which ended in 1993, Designing Women saw several on-set conflicts and cast changes. Some of its original cast members are still acting, while others are not: Meshach Taylor, who starred as Anthony Bouvier, died in 2014. Delta Burke, who played Julia’s younger sister Suzanne Sugarbaker, has been absent from the small screen since appearing in a 2009 episode of Drop Dead Diva. Annie Potts, who starred as Mary Jo Shively, is a series regular on Young Sheldon, but has previously expressed interest in stopping by the new Designing Women during her time off from her CBS sitcom. Jean Smart, who played Charlene Frazier-Stillfield, is a series regular on another network as well; she plays Dr. Melanie Bird on Legion. According to T.H.R., some of the original cast will, indeed, pay the new series a visit—but for the most part, it’ll be up to a new cast to win audiences over with its Southern charm.
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