Back in 2010, it was announced Mill Creek was going to release WOMEN OF THE HOUSE on DVD, but it kept getting delayed and nothing ever came of it. Now, eight years later, Questar puts out the series in a two-disc set that surprisingly includes the original music (a cover version of Bonnie Raitt’s “Something to Talk About” that opens several episodes, as well as the DREAMGIRLS number that was used in the pilot episode). The video quality varies—some episodes look fine while a few are terribly grainy and look similar to bad VHS dubs. The menu features clips from the series and the audio is noticeably louder while it plays.
This series proves you can’t go home again and that Suzanne Sugarbaker is best left remembered from DESIGNING WOMEN. There is almost no chemistry between her and the other ladies of “the house” and the sparkling, witty dialog that was a hallmark of the parent series is totally absent here. Questar should have released DELTA (1992-93) instead of this. THAT was a fun show and Ms. Burke had great chemistry and solid support from the likes of Earl Holliman, Beth Grant, Bill Engvall and Gigi Rice.
The early episodes are strident, unfunny and TOO political and try too hard to be quirky. Anyone who thought the political references on MURPHY BROWN were too much is surely going to HATE this show. The characters are shrill and unlikeable and only begin to grow on you during the last few episodes. A stellar cast is let down by sub-par scripts. It’s almost painful watching Teri Garr reduced to hacking up fake nicotine coughing spells.
Valerie Mahaffey is grating here. Too bad too, since she played neurotic and insecure so brilliantly on THE POWERS THAT BE (now THERE’s a show that should be on DVD), a terrific, witty political satire that did everything right (but still got cancelled too soon). I’d love to know what went on behind-the-scenes since she disappears after 5 episodes, replaced by Julie Hagerty for one episode before the character disappears. Her replacement is the even more annoying Gen X intern Veda (Lisa Reiffel), whose name is constantly mangled by Suzanne in a running gag (a la Endora and “Derwood” in BEWITCHED). The retarded brother (Suzanne’s word—not mine) and adopted daughter are thankfully dropped after a couple of episodes as they added nothing to the show.
Ironically, the best episodes of the entire dozen are the last few, most of which move away from the political setting and allow the characters some humanity. Meshach Taylor makes a surprise guest appearance as Anthony from DESIGNING WOMEN, to help Suzanne out of a jam. The same episode features a real ‘90s jolt when Susan Powter (yes, the STOP THE INSANITY woman) shows up as a political rival out to expose Suzanne for misconduct. In another late installment , the ladies trek to Alaska and pair up with a trio of rugged lumberjacks in an episode that is kind of reminiscent of DESIGNING WOMEN’S famous Season Two entry “Reservations for Eight”.
So, CBS cancels the fabulous THE 5 MRS. BUCHANANS (which starred DESIGINING WOMEN alumna Judith Ivey) to make room for this—probably to meet an obligation to Harry Thomason and Linda Bloodworth-Thomason and ends up with another Washington-set misfire on their hands—not unlike HEARTS AFIRE—another show that boasted a brilliant cast but struggled with an unfunny premise. DESIGNING WOMEN completists will want it, but others will be sorely disappointed.