‘Designing Women’ Was a Series Ahead of Its Time. In 2019 It’s Still Revolutionary


After years of seeing even the most mediocre of series get featured on streaming platforms—or worse, a total reboot—it’s only fair one of the best TV shows in history is finally getting the same treatment. I’m talking, of course, about the return of Designing Women, which begins on Hulu today.

Nearly every Gen X woman I know has been waiting patiently for the moment when we can once again watch the CBS series, which ran from 1986 until 1993 and followed four Southern belles at an interior designing firm. Emphasis on that last part: Their careers were at the center—not their relationships with men and children. Even now, in 20-freaking-19, this feels like a revolutionary concept.

But as happy as I am for established fans like me, I’m even more excited for younger generations of women, gay men, wokeish straight guys, and a politically polarized nation to be reintroduced to one of the strongest and most progressive female TV characters of all time: Julia “The Terminator” Sugarbaker, a whip-smart icon whose takedowns are the stuff of legend.

Mary Jo Shivley (Annie Potts) and Julia Sugarbaker (Dixie Carter) in Designing WomenCourtesy Everett Collection

Another important reason to celebrate Designing Women‘s return: It’s a step toward justice for creator Linda Bloodworth Thomason. In 2018 she wrote a scathing op-ed for the Hollywood Reporter about Les Moonves that broke down how hard the disgraced CBS chairman and CEO worked to keep feminist programming like hers off TV. “People asked me for years, ‘Where have you been? What happened to you?'” she wrote. “Les Moonves happened to me.”

So while this resurgence of Designing Women is a nostalgic treat, it’s also happening at a critical moment in American history. One when the political divide between left and right has put our country slapdab in the middle of a cultural crisis that seems to have no solution. As a progressive Southern woman with relatives who voted for Donald Trump as well as a mother like Julia Sugarbaker, only nicer (I call her The Smiling Bulldozer instead of The Terminator), I know all too well about this divide. And I think this show has the power to inspire the liberal coastal “elites” just as much as those in the red states.

Allison Sugarbaker (Julia Duffy), Mary Jo Shivley (Annie Potts), Julia Sugarbaker (Dixie Carter), Carlene Frazier-Dobber (Jan Hooks), and Anthony Bouvier (Meshach Taylor) on Designing Women©Columbia Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

I know firsthand how folks on the left buy into the red states myth—in short, the assumption that everyone in “flyover” states is supportive of Trump and everything he stands for. The truth is, though, there are just as many who are like the characters on Designing Women, from the badass women running the firm to their progressive boyfriends. People who are proud of their Southern culture without denying its atrocities. People who are devoted to the church without wanting to deny a woman’s right to choose what to do with her body. And people who are dedicated to defending the most vulnerable, particularly LGBTQ+ people, women, and people of color.

This article was syndicated from glamour.com