“I Stayed Up All Night Watching a Designing Women Marathon…”

…”At first I hated it.And then I liked it. Then I hated it again. Then I got horny. And then I fell asleep. ” (Frank, 30 Rock)

The latest of the Shout Factory licenses (along with the even more welcome announcements of Peyton Place and The Dana Carvey Show, about which more later) is the first season of Designing Women, which has been kept off DVD until now, except for best-of collections, because Sony didn’t want to pay the music licensing fees.

I would expect this one to sell well, since the show still has a substantial fan base and is still sometimes seen in reruns (as 30 Rock already pointed out). I’m not as excited for it as I am for some other, lesser-known shows; I personally couldn’t get into it. I think one of the things that turned me off was the Meshach Taylor character, who was such a eunuch. The Golden Girls and Sex and the City were smart enough not to try to bring a male character into the core group — Golden Girls actually had a gay male character in the pilot, who was dropped by the second episode — because it’s the equivalent of bringing in a token female character who has no reason to be with an all-male group.

The creator of Designing Women and writer of most of the episodes, Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, was one of a number of female writer-creators who became famous for using their TV shows to address whatever was on their minds. Amy Palladino is another writer in the same mold, and Gilmore Girls was like a one-hour, less abrasive take on the Designing Women format. And of course, though he’s not a woman, David E. Kelley is the ultimate writer in this mold, someone who uses episodic television to work out his own obsessions. I think that a lot of what we now think of as “personal” television, TV shows where episodes are a reflection of the creator’s own neuroses and moods, owes something to the work of Bloodworth, Susan Harris, Diane English etc.; they helped raise the bar for the amount of his or her own personal self a showrunner could put into a show with continuing characters.

This clip is from David Mirkin’s short-lived Fox comedy series The Edge (after it was canceled, he took over as showrunner of The Simpsons). And yes, that is Jennifer Aniston in the cast.

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