MovieChat Forums > Designing Women Discussion > Julia Duffy and the 'Allison season'

Julia Duffy and the 'Allison season'


In another thread, I mentioned that I was present at the tapings for quite a few episodes of season 6. I thought it would be interesting to offer up a few observations.

At every taping I attended, Julia Duffy was a bit isolated from the rest of the cast and crew. I wouldn't go so far as to say she was ostracized, and I hardly think she was the one who was being intentionally stand-offish. But she did not really fit in there, sad to say.

Jan Hooks, to a lesser degree, didn't fit in sometimes either. I chalked it up to them being new and everyone else having five years behind them on the set. A lot of these people, in front of and behind the camera, worked on other Bloodworth-Thomason shows. So they already had their own brand of familiarity and their own sort of assembly line process to making the shows. But Duffy and Hooks were entirely new to this company, and they were still learning the ropes, especially in the first episodes of the sixth season. But even mid-year and towards the end, I could see that it was still not easy for these newest members of the cast, especially Julia Duffy.

Let me paint a brief picture of what would usually happen. First, keep in mind that the tapings were long. They started around 6 p.m. and never got done before midnight. Sometimes it went to 1 or 2 a.m. If Alice Ghostley was appearing as Bernice, there would be a lot of retakes. She flubbed lines in almost every scene. As great as she was on screen, it took a lot of effort for her to coordinate her memory with what she was trying to accomplish physically, and it never flowed perfectly. They were very patient with her (probably because they knew she was a fan favorite and she certainly was a very funny lady).

There would also be problems with the boom microphones not picking up some of the dialogue. So even if part of a scene had been reshot and it seemed like they were ready to move on, they would often have to halt filming, get the actor who had the line that didn't get picked up clearly, re-speak the line into the microphone. These are called audio pick-ups. Those had to be done on the spot, in order for the scene to be totally finished. And that is why on many of the episodes there are lines where their lips are not exactly in-sync with what they're saying or that the audio is a bit hollow sounding, like something was re-recorded, because it usually was!

At any rate, the scene would finally be completed and they could move on. Some episodes had around seven or eight major scenes. Other episodes had up to maybe ten scenes. There was one episode where Payne visits Julia that was aired out of order, because the Clarence & Anita episode was rushed into production and broadcast instead. Because the one with Payne was shelved for a few months and the hairstyles had changed, Dixie had to film an extra introductory scene where she was flashing back to the time that Payne had come home a few months earlier.

If they were using a newly created set on the side, like if the characters were stopping off in a restaurant or something, the cameras, lights and mics had to be moved over to the extra set (usually off to the right, beyond where the front door of Sugarbakers stood). In some episodes, they had to bring a car or van in, and have the characters climb inside and pretend to be driving and film that. There would be various adjustments if it didn't look realistic enough. Road scenes were always filmed in front of a blank wall and the background was filled in by the editors. That's a fairly standard production process.

One episode had Mary Jo and Julia on a bus, and they built the interior of the bus, which did look very realistic, and that was filmed with a group of extras playing the other passengers. But there were so many problems with that episode, because they felt it wasn't funny enough, so they were ad-libbing and throwing in new things to get bigger laughs. At one point, they had Dixie excuse herself to use the restroom and supposedly the john in the back of the bus is so full of foul odors that she gags. I can't remember if that stayed in the final edited version (I need to go back and watch it again) but I do know that a lot of lines were eventually cut. There was a Bette Midler joke that was suddenly out. Either it was not funny enough or considered too obscure a reference that audience members wouldn't get it. In short, they were molding and remolding the bus scene in this episode to make it work and that took a lot of time. If Alice Ghostley had been in that scene, it probably would have taken another hour to get it right!

Back to the actors-- Jan Hooks seemed to have her own personal assistant who would prep her for the next scene, so she would stay busy off to the side. But Julia Duffy knew her character inside and out and was always ready to go and would just wait quietly. Dixie and Annie were sort of in their own world, you know like girls in school, chatting on their part of the stage, adjusting make up and hair, talking with Linda if Linda was on the set, etc.

In the last episode, 'Shades of Vanessa,' Linda was what you might say an uncredited director-- she was very involved in the filming, probably because it was the final show of the sixth season, and as Meschach had told me, CBS hadn't renewed them yet (that announcement would come the following day). So if it was truly going to be the last episode of Designing Women, Linda wanted to make sure it came off right. By the way, that episode had a cliffhanger, which they filmed and then changed. Jackee, who plays Vanessa, was supposed to inform them she had bought the business and was now calling it Vanessabakers. In response, Dixie was supposed to pull her hair and there was a large sound effect that went BOING. I kid you not. Kind of like the cheesy sound effects on the old Batman TV series. Can you imagine if that had been the last thing we saw/heard on the show, if CBS had cancelled the program? Fortunately, wiser heads prevailed and the silly sound effect was dropped. And as we know, Jackee did not appear in any more episodes so there never was a Vanessabakers.

Anyway, it was obvious that during the production of 'Shades of Vanessa' that Linda and Harry were fawning over Jackee (who was rumored to be joining the cast and ultimately did not). At one point, during a break in filming, I looked over to the left of the bleachers (in front of the storeroom set) and noticed Julia Duffy was sitting there at a wooden picnic table by herself, while everyone else was down center stage, where the sofas were, hanging around Jackee. To say Julia Duffy looked miserable would be an understatement (though she was entirely professional). She probably knew she was being let go and that Jackee was supposed to replace her.

Sure enough, the very next day in the Los Angeles Times there was an article announcing that CBS had picked up Designing Women for a seventh season and that Julia Dufy would depart the cast. There was a quote from Linda making a strange comment about Julia Duffy pedaling as hard she could but that it wasn't enough to bring her back for another season. It was sort of like a back-handed compliment. I always thought Julia Duffy got a raw deal on this show, but the consolation is that her season-- the Alison season-- was the highest rated in the history of the series, and I like to think that Julia Duffy was somehow responsible for a major part of that success.

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This is fascinating stuff. Being in Britain when 'Designing Women' was still in production, I was never lucky enough to see any episodes filmed. Although I have seen BBC shows being tapped (including 'Absolutely Fabulous'). Unlike US Sit-coms British shows do not mess around when they film. You are shown into the studio at 7pm, taping starts at 7.30pm and you are out by 9pm - 10pm at the latest!

With regards to the scenes you mentioned, the toilet scene on the bus does stay in. Julia is trying to give Mary-Jo and her Mother some privacy. The hair pulling scene with the 'bong' was mentioned by Carlene earlier in the season finale episode. It would have been really silly for that episode to have ended with Julia pulling her hair.

I had also heard Julia Duffy say she found the set very difficult. I had also been lead to believe Jan Hooks found it uncomfortable too. Julia Duffy got a really, really raw deal. The Thomason's coaxed her to Designing Women because she was a very accomplished sit-com actress. They had her lined up and ready to go before they gave Delta Burke the elbow! Julia Duffy turned in exceptional performances, but Bloodworth-Thomason had failed to create a very good character and that role just couldn't be written for. They (the Thomasons) then set their cap at getting Jackee Harry to replace Duffy and clearly (judging by what you said) didn't even have the decency to hide this from Julia Duffy. To add insult to injury Linda Bloodworth-Thomason then attempts to blame Duffy for her own failures as a writer in the creation of a damn terrible character!

I used to really admire Linda Bloodworth-Thomason. However the advent of the internet and actually getting to see interviews with the woman has made me see things very differently. Bloodworth-Thomason is a plastic feminist who is supposedly making all the right noises but there is no sincerity in her words. Harry Thomason comes across as a red neck caveman! Both these people manipulated their positions in Hollywood to produce propaganda to get Bill Clinton elected. Namely via the scripts of their TV shows. When I got to see prolonged talks or speeches by Bloodworth-Thomason I was amazed at what she was like. She makes the ranting political speeches of Julia with the bombastic brasshness of Suzanne! In fact, out of all four characters she is most like Suzanne, just without the charm!

Anyway, that is my rant on the Thomasons over. Out of interest OP did you ever seen any episodes with Delta filmed?

Delta was apparently very professional when the cameras rolled, but she was suffering serious depression and panic attacks off set. Again, the Thomason's failed to give her any assistance and just believed she was temperamental! This lead to the feud that built up. Ironically starting because Delta spoke out against the ridiculously long taping hours of the show - which would generally (within the industry) be attributed to shambolic production management!

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Thanks Glinda. My memories of that time are rather vivid (it was during 1991 to 1992, over twenty years ago). I was in college, studying film and television. Several of my professors worked in the TV biz, mostly as writers. I used those connections to get on the sets I wanted to visit. A woman about ten years older than me that I met at an industry function was also a writer-- she had written a novel and was trying to break in to Hollywood as a scriptwriter. We both realized we loved Designing Women and that we'd like to try coming up with our own script-- we eventually wrote three different ones which we tried to use to land an agent, because there was no way to approach the Bloodworth-Thomasons professionally except through agency representation. We attended about ten tapings of Designing Women that year. We also went and watched two tapings of Evening Shade which was filmed nearby on a different night of the week. We wanted to learn as much about the Bloodworth-Thomasons and their production style as we possibly could.

Fun things happened. I got to meet Meschach after one of the episodes and I asked him to autograph a script for a relative, and he gave me an extra one which he autographed to me. He was very approachable and I could ask him questions about the show's production schedule, when he had time to talk. I also had a very memorable run-in with Jan Hooks and I thought about it earlier this evening when I found she died today. Like I said, these tapings were very, very long. Sometimes a person would have to sneak away to use the restroom. Once I wandered down the wrong hallway and out a door that led to the back of the soundstage where the dressing rooms/trailers were located. Jan was not on stage because they were filming a scene she was not appearing in. She was coming out of her trailer and heading back on to the soundstage to get ready for her next scene when we literally walked into each other. I was stunned because I was still trying to figure out what door I went out and where I was. I wound up shaking her hand and having a quick chat with her. I think I said something silly like how much I enjoyed her work, etc. When I found my way back inside, I told my writing partner what happened and that I would never wash my hand because the great Jan Hooks had touched it! We laughed about that for weeks.

Sometimes we would see Dixie over at the Evening Shade set. She and her daughters would actually sit in the bleachers near us. They were of course watching Hal (Holbrook, her husband) who played a key role on that sitcom. And Hal was in the Designing Women audience once or twice. They were both very supportive of each other's careers from what I observed.

I did not see any negative behavior from the Thomasons. Linda had very long hair, and when Dixie and Annie were getting their hair and make up fixed, Linda would get hers touched up, too! She was very feminine, but you could tell she meant business and everyone did their best around her and Harry (who usually directed).

The night that 'Shades of Vanessa' was filmed, I think they were swarming around Jackee, because they were afraid the show was going to get cancelled. They thought with Jackee's involvement, it might save them from the cutting block. At one point, I heard Linda tell Jackee how grateful she was that Jackee had agreed to play Vanessa. In a way, it's a shame that Jackee had commitments to another show and could not do season 7, because she would have been very good and Designing Women might have lasted several more seasons. As I said, though, on this particular evening, all the excitement was about Jackee and poor Julia Duffy was unceremoniously pushed off to the side.

When I mentioned the audio pick ups, a lot of those involved Alice Ghostley who ruined some of her line deliveries with slurred speech. I think she was on some sort of medication because she could be very loopy. I do not think that was part of her comedy routines or her act. But she was hysterical as Bernice, so it all worked. And of course, she was not the only one who flubbed lines, because they would all do that from time to time.

Another thing I remember is that we found out somehow what the salaries were that they were each making. This stands out in my memory, because I was surprised to learn that Annie was actually the highest paid one on this show. In the sixth and seventh seasons, Dixie has top billing (her name comes first in the credits after Delta's exit), but Annie was the top paid. At the time, she was earning $45,000 per episode and Dixie was getting $40,000. I think Julia Duffy and Meschach were in the mid-30 range and Jan Hooks was at the bottom end of that salary scale. I don't know what Alice Ghostley made. And by the way, Alice also had a recurring role on Evening Shade and she was there for one of the two episodes of that series we watched being filmed. I wonder if she had an exclusive contract with the Bloodworth Thomasons and that is why she appeared on both programs.

I asked why Annie was highest paid, and I was told it was because she had the most film credits. In the pecking order of Hollywood, it's not necessarily how much television you do, but how many films. Annie went on to star in another CBS sitcom 'Love & War,' shortly after this and I am sure she commanded an even higher salary then.

Some other notes-- 'A Little Night Music,' the one where Julia undergoes a hysterectomy was filmed right around the time that Annie was set to go on maternity leave. Annie was having a difficult pregnancy and not very much up to filming at that time so she was written out of several scenes, with her lines being given to Adam Carl who played Adam on Designing Women and Linda's other series Hearts Afire. They toyed with the idea of having Mary Jo get pregnant by in-vitro to accommodate Annie's real life pregnancy, but that idea was dropped because Candice Bergen was playing a pregnant sitcom character that season on Murphy Brown which was filmed in a nearby building (at the Warner Brothers lot in Burbank). Murphy Brown and Designing Women aired on the same night on CBS (Mondays) and the network did not want two shows on the same night to feature single mothers.

There is an episode, and I cannot remember which one it was-- where Bernice is answering the phones at Sugarbakers. In one scene she answers a call by saying 'Boogershakers' instead of 'Sugarbakers.' That was ad-libbed by Alice. It was so funny and brought down the house that they kept it in the episode. She really was a brilliant and talented actress.

At one of the tapings, they took a break (I remember this very clearly because it only happened this once)-- and Dixie sat in a directors chair in front of a Teleprompter. She read promos for Designing Women to air in markets across the country. Like it would say 'Hi I'm Dixie Carter and I hope you join us each weekday for Designing Women on Seattle's number one channel (whatever it was). These were done to help sell the show in markets around the country, because they had just reached the magic 100th episode earlier that spring before Delta was fired and they were now in national syndication. Those promos took a half hour, she had to do quite a few of them for all the major markets. And then she had to film a Public Service Announcement for CBS, too. I think they picked her because she was the top billed star, and she was in every episode.

I did not get a chance to go to any season 7 tapings, because I was working on another show at the time. But my writing partner went to see the first one with Judith Ivey. She liked Ivey as BJ, but I really did not. I guess I liked Julia Duffy too much. And I never did get to see Delta Burke as Suzanne, because she had just been fired when I transferred out west to go to film school. The show's sixth season was my first year in Los Angeles, and so I have very good memories of it.

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Jarrod, this is all very interesting stuff. I too wanted to be a TV comedy writer and actually wrote a spec script for 'Designing Women' in 1993. Ironically, even from the UK I had managed to get access to Linda Bloodworth-Thomason's office. Mozark Productions were based at an address in Culver City. When I first wrote to them, they were really kind and sent me a script for the episode 'The Rowdy Girls' and a cast autograph! I also got a 'Designing Women' T Shirt.

I've probably been a bit harsh on the Thomasons in my comments, I guess I felt disappointed when I got to see a lot of interviews and realised their opinions on stuff did not really equate to what I had believed they would be. I kind of felt Harry Thomason came across very bullying in footage where he was discussing Delta's behavior.

The reason Alice Ghostly would have appeared on 'Evening Shade' is because Linda Bloodworth-Thomason was a huge fan of hers due to 'To Kill A Mockingbird'.

I know the show went into syndication at the point Delta and Jean left. I also know that after Delta was fired, she actually had to go back onto the set and fulfill contract obligations to film those kind of promos you saw Dixie do. I believe it was an orchestrated affair, because they had to arrange for her to come on and do her pieces when everyone else wasn't around. She also had to wear a black wig as she was (by this point) blonde.

The billing for 'Designing Women' was alphabetical. The show did not originally have a star as all four women held equal position. So alphabetically it went Burke, Carter, Potts, Smart. When Delta and Jean left, they then kept the initial billing with Carter and Potts and added the others secondary.

I have to say, I am surprised at the per episode salary the actors got. That wasn't very much for a show that was so popular. By 1991/92 Candace Bergen and Roseanne Barr would have probably been making (easily) $100K an episode and their supporting actresses Faith Ford and Laurie Metcalf probably $50K per episode. By 1995 it was reported Sara Gilbert (who was only 20 at this point) has been given $50K per show to appear on 'Roseanne' as Darlene.

I am also not surprised Annie Potts was the highest paid actress. She would have really helped get the show sold overseas. Here in the UK (when I first saw 'Designing Women') the reason I started watching was because of Annie Potts. She was the only actress I had heard of 25 years ago. She was very famous because of 'Ghostbusters' and did other films like 'Harry Crumb'. She also got a lot of acclaim for her role in 'Texasville' which I think she was a hair away from getting an oscar nomination for.

It was also salaries that ended up causing the rift with Delta. As it neared toward the end of Season 5 all the four actresses options were up and they were free to walk away from the show. At this point, the agents go in and negotiate much higher salaries for their clients. This also includes the factor of syndication about to happen. The four women were clearly not very united. Because (as seen recently) with 'The Big Bang Theory' and previously with 'Friends'. When an ensemble cast hold out for equal pay or threaten to quit, they can get huge salaries. However, what happened with 'Designing Women' was Delta believed she was the star. This would have almost certainly been due to Gerald McCraney (who was appearing in his own sit-com at the time) telling her so and very much getting involved with what he believed his wife was entitled to.

In the closing of Season 5 contract negotiations, Delta knew Jean was going to leave. Jean had just decided she wanted out and really wanted to go back to playing different roles. Delta (believing she was the star) got her agent to go to the Thomasons and CBS and state that she wanted a huge salary increase, plus an agreement Suzanne would get her own spin-off if 'Designing Women' ended. She also had some other diva demands. However, matters backfired for Delta because she had previously suffered from some depression and anxiety issues and had stopped talking to the Thomasons who had become hostile with her. They had written her out of several issues, because she had not shown up. By Delta's admission she was overdosing on her medication and not functioning. Delta's ill health was professionally the responsibility of the Thomasons, who should have seen how much stress Delta was under (due to the press attacking her weight gain) and given her a leave of absence from the show and time to recover. However, Delta had been labelled as being 'difficult'. Therefore, when she had sorted out her mental health issues and went in with her 'diva' demands for high pay - CBS believed the Thomasons when they claimed she was difficult and dispensable. Delta absolutely believed she would have her demands met. Roseanne had played a similar tactic on her show and won. However, the Thomasons and CBS approached Julia Duffy about replacing Delta and she accepted. Therefore, when the show was on hiatus and Delta believed she would get the call saying they had met her demands and she would be back filming season 6, she was pretty taken back when she discovered the producers had called her bluff and told her 'thanks but goodbye'.

Annie's high pay would also not entirely be down to her film career but also the above. Annie's agent would also have been aware that Jean was leaving and Delta may not have gotten her contract renewed. Therefore, Annie would have also said she wasn't going to return to season 5 without a salary increase. Annie would have got hers without issue. I never once got the impression Dixie Carter played the 'Hollywood game' and I doubt she would have ever asked her agent to make any demands. Therefore, Dixie's salary would have stayed much lower. However, Dixie would have viewed the fact that her husband was probably making an equal amount on 'Evening Shade' and it just felt like a team effort.

In hindsight, Delta's firing went down in sit-com history as being one of the worst decisions ever. Delta was actually right, whatever she was asking for was probably merited and without her the show suffered a great deal. Had they met Delta's demands, the show would have easily ran for 8 seasons and made vast amounts more money in syndication. By 1993 The Thomasons were worth around $100 million!! At this point, it was only 'Designing Women' and 'Evening Shade' they had really established under their belt. Therefore, it's pretty fair to say 'Designing Women' had attributed to most of that $100 million and Burke, Carter, Potts and Smart should certainly have been seeing a lot more of that income than the figures they got!

Interestingly, Potts had stated she was leaving in Season 7 anyway. She was really angry they didn't write her pregnancy into the show and also felt the characters being created for the show were damaging it. I would say it would have been almost certain she would have left in Season 6 had it not been for the fact she was pregnant and possibly unable to make such a decision at that time. If Annie had stated she was leaving in Season 6 - there would never have been a season 7!

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Yes, I am sure that if I had been on the set near the end of season 5, it would have been a very different atmosphere. What impressed me during the season six episodes I saw being filmed was that it all seemed like orderly chaos. I had been to a Golden Girls taping, and that show was very much by the numbers and structured. But on Designing Women, it seemed more like a circus, and when the bell ring (like an old school bell) they would all assume their positions and it was perfect harmony and order. When I say circus, I mean that in a respectful way-- it was busy, they were all animated, and then the bell would ring and they were all calm and the director would soon call for action.

By the way, all of the sound effects are added in post production. So when they are inside Sugarbakers and they supposedly hear someone drive up outside, there would be a pause right before they get to that part in the script-- the director would say 'boom' (that was the word he used to signify the car had driven up), then the actor would say their line 'so and so just drove up' and whoever was playing the character that had driven up would come in the front door. Obviously, the part with the director saying 'boom' was dubbed over in the post-production process by inserting the correct sound effect (such as a car door slamming outside or whatever the effect needed to be). The BOING at the end of 'Shades of Vanessa' which was not used was written in the script (I had been given a copy of the script). Also, on screen it was supposed to be written 'To be continued...?' with a question mark, because again they didn't know if CBS was going to renew them for another season.

I find that interesting in itself, because the sixth season was the show's highest rated. Every week they were in the top ten. Even when occasional episodes were rerun during the new season, those repeats did well in the ratings. They clearly did benefit from all the hoopla surrounding Delta's fiery exit, and with the new cast additions people tuned in to see if it was the same show. Because the writing was still so good, people tuned and stayed tuned in and they had good momentum at that time. But I don't think CBS was happy with the show. I think they felt it had changed a little too much with Delta off the air and production costs were rising. They couldn't drop it yet because of its popularity. So they give the Thomasons a full season order for another (final) season, then moved it to an inferior time slot on a different night, intending to bury and end it. If Delta had been brought back after Julia Duffy's dismissal, that would have saved the show and probably given it a few more seasons. Delta had just flopped as a blonde in her self-titled sitcom at ABC.

I think the lead actor salaries were relatively low compared to other shows because the Thomasons were shrewd business people. And unlike Candice Bergen, none of these ladies or Meschach were involved with producing. Still, this was a fairly tight group and they had loyalty to the Thomasons, and the Thomasons did have loyalty in return. Using Alice Ghostley in two shows, using Adam Carl in three shows (I forgot he was also in Women of the House), using Hal Holbrook in two shows, using Delta in three shows (including Filthy Rich and Women of the House), using Dixie in two shows-- all this proves there was a sort of Bloodworth Thomason stock company of actors and crew (most crew worked on all the shows). The Thomasons rewarded loyalty by providing on-going employment to their friends in an industry with high unemployment. So even if the pay was not as high as it should have been, in the long run these people had good jobs and worked for quite awhile on shows that were ratings hits and favorites of audiences and critics.

I did want to mention a bit more about Evening Shade. I think I learned quite a bit on the set of Designing Women because I was there so often that year, but I learned a lot on Evening Shade in just the two visits I made to that set. This was because of Burt Reynolds. Burt was all about the fans. He starred and directed, so he was calling the shots. If there was a break in filming, he didn't go off somewhere, he came and sat right down with the fans in the bleachers. He liked doing question and answer sessions where he would hand a microphone to someone and they would ask a question either about the way the show was made or about his career.

Also, because he had made a lot of action movies, Burt liked it when these sitcom scripts had action in them. In one of the episodes I saw being filmed, there was supposed to be a strand of Christmas lights that exploded on the front porch. You would have thought they were filming a scene from a movie. Burt had brought in some of his old stunt buddies, and they rigged it up so that when the explosion occurred, part of the roof and fake (plastic) icicles fell down. It was very elaborate and fun to watch them do. Burt came back out to the audience and talked about safety with stunts, saying a buddy of his in the 70s had been killed on a set because of an unsafe stunt. So he really brought a lot of relevance to what was happening, to what we were seeing.

It was like getting a mini-education, and that sort of stuff did not happen on Designing Women, because the Sugarbaker gals were not that cozy with strangers in the audience. As I said previously, Meschach was very approachable but the women were more at a distance and kept in their own respective corners. So by comparison, Burt's openness on Evening Shade was like a breath of fresh air. In the second episode I saw, Dom Deluise was a surprise guest star, doing a brief cameo at the end. Burt kept teasing the audience that one of his famous friends was going to pop up. We weren't told who it would be. People in the bleachers were speculating that it would be Loni Anderson, his then-wife. In the last scene, when the door opens and Dom bursts on to the stage, the crowd went wild. Burt had fun doing that show, and he was for the most part in charge. The Thomasons would show up-- like Linda would briefly come on to the stage maybe to make sure the actors were delivering her lines the way she had written them, or Harry would consult with Burt about something. But Burt was the main attraction. So it was a decidedly different experience on the Evening Shade soundstage than on Designing Women. They were both good, of course, in their own ways.

I did not get to a Hearts Afire taping, and I wish I had (because it's actually my favorite of the Thomason programs). But there was one episode in the middle of DW's sixth season where Markie Post showed up. She was down on the floor with Linda. At first, I thought she was going to be a guest star but she was not. What I think happened is that Night Court was ending, and Linda had just cast Markie in the pilot for Hearts Afire (which probably hadn't been filmed yet). The reason I say this is because I think Markie had been invited to the Designing Women set to learn how the Thomasons filmed their shows, since it would have been quite different from the way Night Court was made. Markie was familiarizing herself with their assembly line process, so it would be easier for her when they did the Hearts Afire pilot. As we know, CBS did pick up the pilot for Hearts Afire and made it into a weekly show (as part of the Thomasons' development deal with the network).

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I just love reading all this insider stuff.

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It was mentioned by others hat they were thinking about replacing Julia Duffy with Jakee. Personally I'm glad they didn't. I find her too over the top and loud and kind of obnoxious. She was just too much and not in a good way. I think Jan Hooks was a good character but it was too late by the time she came in. The show just went downhill that season.

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Anyway, it was obvious that during the production of 'Shades of Vanessa' that Linda and Harry were fawning over Jackee (who was rumored to be joining the cast and ultimately did not). At one point, during a break in filming, I looked over to the left of the bleachers (in front of the storeroom set) and noticed Julia Duffy was sitting there at a wooden picnic table by herself, while everyone else was down center stage, where the sofas were, hanging around Jackee. To say Julia Duffy looked miserable would be an understatement (though she was entirely professional). She probably knew she was being let go and that Jackee was supposed to replace her.

That reminds me of the time Jackee (221) won the Emmy in 1987. It's not on YouTube anymore, so I'll just relate it to you. Bruce Willis presented, and the other nominees were Justine Bateman (Family Ties), Estelle Getty (The Golden Girls), Rhea Perlman (Cheers), and Julia Duffy (Newhart). The winner was, of course, Jackee, and while the other nominees applauded and acted happy for her, Duffy looked like she was giving her the stinkeye. I don't entirely blame her, because this was her fourth consecutive nomination, whereas it was Jackee's first nod. Duffy would receive three more nominations before the show ended in 1990, but she would never triumph.

I always thought Julia Duffy got a raw deal on this show, but the consolation is that her season-- the Alison season-- was the highest rated in the history of the series, and I like to think that Julia Duffy was somehow responsible for a major part of that success.

It was not only the highest-rated season, but it was the #6 show during the 1991-1992 season. Usually, Designing Women hovered in the #20s or #30s: Season 1 (#33), Season 2 (#34), Season 3 (#33), Season 4 (#23). It wasn't until Season 5 (#10) that it finally went below #20 and actually cracked the Top Ten, but I think that had more to do with the controversy involving Delta Burke and the behind-the-scenes banter. People tuned in to see if they could detect any animosity between the cast.

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THE BEST THREAD!!

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THE BEST THREAD!!

Thank you. That's nice of you to say. As I re-read this thread today, I had to chuckle at how long-winded I was in some of the posts. But I saw and learned a lot.

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Thank you so much for the insight of Designing Women. I was just looking for some information on a favorite past show whilst alone. Fortuitously I clicked into your post. Thank you again as well as the other posters for a fascinating read.

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Thank you so much for the insight of Designing Women. I was just looking for some information on a favorite past show whilst alone. Fortuitously I clicked into your post. Thank you again as well as the other posters for a fascinating read.

I am glad you've enjoyed my recollections. I was younger then, and it was a fun time. It was exciting when I moved out to L.A. and had a chance to see these shows being filmed. It was like being part of television history.

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This is so fascinating! You mentioned that you attended a "Golden Girls" taping. Have you shared any of your observations about that show?

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This is so fascinating! You mentioned that you attended a "Golden Girls" taping. Have you shared any of your observations about that show?

I don't think I did, and I should. There was a short-lived Norman Lear sitcom called '704 Hauser' where I visited the set in early 1994, and I wrote about it on the IMDb message board for that series. But yes, I should comment about the Golden Girls taping, because it was definitely a unique experience!

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