Release Date: June 5, 2012 (Shout! Factory)
Packaging: Viva Case
Number of Discs: 2
Number of Episodes: 20
Running Time: 480 minutes
Running Time of Features: N/A
Audio: English Stereo
Subtitles and Captioning: Closed-Captioned
Special Features: None
The women of Sugarbaker and Associates are back again with Designing Women - 20 Timeless Episodes! Although Shout! Factory has released six seasons of the series, with the seventh (and final) season on the way in just a little over a month, they've put together a new collection of 20 classic episodes of the series, all from the first five seasons. The episodes included in the two-disc set are some of the favorites of the series, featuring only episodes containing the original cast of the series: Dixie Carter, Delta Burke, Annie Potts, Jean Smart, and Meshach Taylor.
The episodes included among these "timeless" episodes are all from the first five seasons, and span from the very first episode of the series to the final episode of the fifth season. In the pilot episode, "Designing Women," Suzanne has a new gynecologist and boyfriend, and it just so happens to be Mary Jo's ex-husband. Charlene's special date for New Year's Eve will only be able to make it if he successfully escapes from prison in "New Year's Daze." In "Monette," the latest job for Sugarbaker's involves a house of ill repute. Suzanne offhandedly decides to offer a foster home for a Vietnamese child in "Oh Suzannah" while the child is waiting for her new parents to complete adoption papers, but things change when she finds herself becoming attached to the child. Mary Jo has to deal with the stepmother when her ex-husband remarries in "Ted Remarries." In "Killing All the Right People," the series tackles a topic which was uncharted territory for a sitcom in the '80s, AIDS, when an AIDS patient asks the women to decorate for his funeral. Julia's boyfriend Reese suffers a little setback in "Heart Attacks." In "Return of Ray Don," Suzanne is about to lose everything to the IRS, and goes to great lengths to save her assets. Mary Jo considers bodily enhancements when she receives an inheritance from her uncle in "Big Haas and Little Falsie." In "The Wilderness Experience," Bernice (Alice Ghostley) takes control during a wilderness survival course.
Mary Jo, Charlene, and Anthony really get down to the bare essentials with their latest job at a nudist colony in "The Naked Truth." In "Stand and Fight," the women take a self-defense course after Mary Jo is mugged. A canoe trip in the backwoods becomes a nightmare when the ladies encounter some "good ol' boys" in "Nightmare From Hee Haw." Julia poses for a gag photo (against her better judgment) in "Julia Gets Her Head Stuck in a Fence," and as the title suggests, the consequences are dire. Julia and Suzanne take a trip to Japan to visit their mother in "Julia and Suzanne's Big Adventure," which is unfortunate considering that their mother has gone to Paris. Suzanne's maid Consuela is threatened with deportation in "Foreign Affairs," but a little help from Anthony (when he disguises himself as the maid) might be what Suzanne needs. Sugarbaker's becomes a tourist destination (and impossible to live and work in) when it becomes part of a tour of Civil War era homes in "A Blast From the Past." Bernice gets her own show (on public access) in "And Now, Here's Bernice," and her first guests are going to be the ladies of Sugarbaker's. In "This is Art?," Julia's purse becomes the hot item at an art gallery. The set ends with the final episode of the fifth season (and final episode featuring the entire cast), "The Pride of the Sugarbakers," where Mary Jo and Julia take a bit too much control when Sugarbaker's sponsors a Little League team.
The episodes on the set are unedited as far as I can tell. There haven't been any real edits of any consequence to any of the episodes on the previous season sets, and these episodes all have the same runtimes as they did on the previous releases. Runtimes are as follows:
"Designing Women" (24:01)
"New Year's Daze" (23:59)
"Oh Suzannah" (23:12)
"Ted Remarries" (23:11)
"Killing All the Right People" (23:54)
"Heart Attacks" (23:13)
"Return of Ray Don" (23:19)
"The Wilderness Experience" (23:23)
"The Naked Truth" (23:30)
"Stand and Fight" (23:13)
"Nightmare From Hee Haw" (23:14)
"Julia Gets Her Head Stuck in a Fence" (22:40)
"Julia and Suzanne's Big Adventure" (22:59)
"Foreign Affairs" (23:23)
"Blast from the Past" (23:24)
"And Now, Here's Bernice" (23:26)
"This is Art?" (22:53)
"The Pride of the Sugarbakers" (22:53)
The packaging artwork for this set closely resembles some of the previous sets. In fact, if you pay close attention, the artwork for the cover art on this set includes all of the same art elements as the first season DVD set contains, just a little rearranged. On the back of the case (which is just a standard DVD case with a tray insert) is a brief description of the series, a listing of all of the episodes on the set, and a few episode snapshots. Inside the set, you'll find the two discs, along with a printed listing of all episodes with descriptions and original airdates. It is actually rather surprising that they included the details for the episodes, but it is nice to see. Each disc contains ten episodes, with a photo of Suzanne on Disc 1 and a photo of Julia on Disc 2. I understand that this is a value priced release, but it is interesting how the sixth season, for instance, had roughly 22 episodes on four discs, yet this set, with only two less episodes, only has two discs. Luckily, DVD technology has improved significantly to where this type of compression (10 episodes per disc) can actually be acceptable, and I'd certainly give Shout! a pass on that for this set, but I certainly hope that we don't see too many regular (i.e. season sets) with so many episodes on each disc.
Menu Design and Navigation:
This set has the most basic menus I've EVER seen and nothing exciting at all. The main menu has the series logo and a photo of the Sugarbaker house on top, and all ten episodes on each disc are listed on the menu, along with a Play All option. That is it, just one menu with every option on it. Chapters are placed within each episode at all of the appropriate places.
Video and Audio Quality:
The video and audio quality of the episodes is the same as it has been on the previous releases. As was the case with those releases, the quality has improved as the series progressed over the years, and some of the first season episodes (especially the pilot) looked a little rough and showed a bit of age, primarily with a (typical) mid '80s lack of sharpness in video quality. However, there aren't any serious issues of concern. The audio is a bit low on some of the earlier episodes as well, but it improves throughout the seasons. None of these issues, though, are really any worse than the way that the series looks when it airs in syndication. Every episode on the set is closed-captioned if you require those.
As this is a value-priced "best of" release, there are no special features on this set.
I think that most people would agree that many of these episodes are some of the "best" of the series, but I actually do have a few concerns with the lack of inclusion of a few episodes. For instance, one episode which absolutely should have been included was the season four episode "They Shoot Fat Women, Don't They?," which dealt with Suzanne dealing with cruel jokes about her weight (mirroring Delta Burke's own tabloid drama occurring at the same time) at her high school reunion. In fact, the episode was even included on the "Best of Designing Women" DVD released by Columbia Tri-Star in 2003. I also feel like the episode "Perky's Visit" from the first season should have been included, as it featured the very first appearance of Alice Ghostley as Bernice, and was also the first episode to really introduce audiences to Anthony (although it wasn't his first appearance on the series, we got our first true look into his past life in this episode). At the same time, there are some episodes on here, while good, I wouldn't classify as "timeless," such as "Ted Remarries," "The Naked Truth," "Foreign Affairs," and even though "The Pride of the Sugarbakers" was the final episode featuring the original cast, it was rather unremarkable and honestly a boring episode. I do think that it was wise to not include any episodes from the final two seasons. While there were some great episodes in those seasons, they simply would not have fit in on a collection with the first five seasons, as it would almost be like a few random episodes of another series. And finally, this is a much better approach than some of the "best of" releases out there which just include one random disc from a particular season of a series.
So, the question to answer here is whether or not you should buy this. If you own the previous season releases, there is no reason at all to own this set. Everything on here is included on those sets, and to own it would be rather redundant. If you do not own them but are interested in just the best of the series (albeit with at least one major omission for the "best"), then this value priced release may be right for you. For around $10, you really can't lose with this set, although it would be redundant if you already own the season sets. This would also make a good gift for fans of the series that do not collect their favorite series on DVD. In any event, fans of the series at all levels should be pleased to know that this is only a precursor to the final season, which will be released soon on DVD, thus bringing the women of Sugarbaker's to the end of their cycle on DVD.